Introduction page Battles and campaigns 1450 to 1697 Army composition
main conflicts 1450-1697 Maps of Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth Army's development 1450-1697

Army Composition


Hetman Commanders

Battle Tactics (17thC)

Army Sizes

'Cossack' Cavalry

Hussar Cavalry


The "Hetman" Commanders

Until the 15th Century the command of the Polish army was usually held by the King or delegated to a suitable knight, however a more permanent position for an experienced commander was needed. Already in 1410 the term "Hetman" appears, being derived from the Czech hejtman (German - hauptmann). The title was generally used to describe a higher command, but in 1433 the title Hetman of the Grand Royal army is mentioned and from then on becomes quite common. By the start of the 16th Century the structure of the army's command had evolved. There were two Grand Hetmans, one for the Royal and one for the Lithuanian army; each had an assistant called a Field Hetman who would command the artillery or the army in the Grand Hetman's absence. The Grand Hetman's position became very powerful and the command included a military court with powers to judge and punish. Later the position became even greater, with land titles and significant independence. In the late 16th Century Jan Zamojski was made Grand Royal Hetman until "the last hour of his life" and this status remained for all later Grand Hetmans. Some famous Hetmans:

Jan TarnowskiJan Tarnowski (1488-1561, Grand Royal Hetman from 1527). Victor at Obertyn (1531) against the Moldavians and at Starodub (1535) against the Muscovites. He developed, among other things, headquarters services, horse artillery, field hospitals at Royal expense and a corps of sappers. He preached a doctrine of flexibility.


Jan ZamojskiJan Zamoyski (Grand Royal Hetman 1581-1605). He successfully defended Krakow (1587) against the Austrians, defeating them at Byczyna (1588). He defeated the Wallachians at Bukowa (1600) and captured the Swedish held towns of Wolmar, Felin and Bialy Kamien in the war for Livonia (1601-1602).



Jan Karol ChodkiewiczJan Karol Chodkiewicz (1560-1621, Grand Lithuanian Hetman from 1605). Victor against the Swedes at Bialy Kamien (1604) and Kircholm (1605), and at Chocim (1621) against the Turks, where he died of illness.


Stanislaw ZolkiewskiStanislaw Zolkewski (1547-1620, Grand Royal Hetman from 1613). Smashed a massive Muscovite army at Kluszyn (1609) which opened the road to Moscow, was killed at Cecora (1620) against the Turks. With Chodkiewicz he defeated a rebel army at Guzow (1607).



Stanislaw KoniecpolskiStanislaw Koniecpolski (1591-1646, Royal Field Hetman from 1618 and Grand Royal Hetman from 1632). He was present at Cecora where he was captured. Victor against the Tatars at Martynow (1624) and Ochmatow (1644), he fought a successful campaign against a Cossack rebellion (1625) and halted Turkish invasion forces at Kamienic Podolski (1634 and 1635). With only weak forces he fought Gustav Adolphus to a stalemate in Prussia, defeating him at Trzcina (1629).



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