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

Summary of Conflicts

Part 1 - from
1454 to 1510

Part 2 - from
1512 to 1577

Part 3 - from
1577 to 1618

Part 4 - from
1618 to 1647

Part 5 - from
1648 to 1655

Part 6 - from 1655 to 1660

Part 7 - from
1660 to 1672

Part 8 - from
1672 to 1699


1454 to 1510                                       (links to map of Poland)

Kazimierz  IV Jagiello - Painting by Jan MatejkoAt the beginning of our period the King of Poland was Kazimierz IV (Casimir) Jagiello who was crowned in 1447 and succeeded the young Wladyslaw Jagiello who had fallen at Varna against the Ottomans.

1454-1466 The Thirteen Years War
In 1440 the nobles and towns of the Teutonic Order formed the Prussian Union and when support from Poland was not forthcoming they revolted against the Order. The wealthy city of Torun led the way followed by Gdansk, Elbing and Konigsberg and soon only the Order's Capital Malbork (Marienburg), Stum and Chojnice remained in the Order. In February 1454 King Kazimierz incorporated Prussia into Poland promising the inhabitants equal rights with the Poles. Poland thought that the decaying Order would not require too much effort to defeat.

Poles vs Teutonic knightsThe King crossed the frontier and was greeted enthusiastically by the Prussian union towns and with their small forces Stum was taken and Malbork, a formidable fortress, besieged. Chojnice remained a strategic link between Prussia and Germany and the Order hired 8,000 mercenaries to save the vital town. Led by professional generals they were more than a match for the small Polish forces, so Kazimierz called-up the noble levy of Greater Poland. These nobles extracted various rights from the Crown before they would agree to fight. They advanced, without assistance from the small regular forces, and on 9th September 1454 the ill disciplined force of 16,000 met 15,000 Teutonic Knights and a decisive defeat at Chojnice (18 September 1454), with the King only just escaping capture.

On the news of the Polish defeat most of the towns east of the Vistula reverted to the Order, while others wavered. The noble levy of all of Poland was raised, but proved ineffectual, and increasing reliance was made on, mainly Czech, mercenaries. The war took on the character of a contest between professional armies. Poland continued involvement was mainly due to the stubbornness of the King and particularly Gdansk's support in its desire to break the oppressive power of the Order. When Denmark aided the Order the Gdansk fleet defeated a combined Danish-Teutonic squadron off the island of Bornholm in 1456. Malbork was bought off the mercenary leader holding it while the Prussian lands were devastated.

Siege of Malbork 1460In 1462 Gdansk was relieved by an able commander Piotr Dunin, who with 2,000 troops defeated 2,700 men of the Order at Swiecino near Puck on 17th August. This proved to be the turning point. In 1463 the Order's fleet of 44 ships met defeat off Elbing at the mouth of the Vistula (15 September 1463), by 25 ships of the combined Gdansk-Elbing fleet, while Dunin captured Gniew. The leader of the Order's mercenaries turned neutral, while a year later the Bishop of Warmia joined the Union. Finally in 1466 Staragard and Chojnice were captured by Dunin and other forces cleared Pomerania of the enemy. Surrender for the Order became inevitable and in the Peace of Torun (19 October 1466) the Order lost its independence, the Grand Master became a Vassal to the Crown, retaining Eastern Prussia (called Ducal Prussia). After a century of foreign domination Pomerania was recovered.

1497 Turkish-Moldavian Expedition
In 1484 the Ottoman Empire tore from Stephen the Great of Moldavia two strategic ports, Killia at the mouth of the Danube and Akkerman at the mouth of the Dniestr, and so approached the borders of Poland and Lithuania. The Crimean Tartars came under Turkish control and became a scourge to the RuthenianJan I Olbracht - Painting by Jan Matejko border lands of Poland and Lithuania.

In 1492 King Kazimierz died and was succeeded
by his eldest son Jan Olbracht (John Albert).

In 1497 a major expedition was organised by the new King to the Black sea with the original intention of recapturing Akkerman and Killia from the Turks. Some 40,000 troops were involved with 200 hundred cannon including two great mortars. But Moldavia now answered to Turkey and the King, though advised by the army's leader to limit the objective to capturing the Moldavian frontier town of Chocim, still wanted to strike at the Turks. He turned against Stephen to protect his flank and besieged the capital, Suczawa. The siege was unsuccessful (due at least partly to Hungarian intervention) and a truce was agreed whereby the Polish army would be afforded an unhampered retreat. However Moldavian forces supported by Ottoman troops attacked the Poles at Kozmin in Bokovina defeating them, though with not too great a loss to the Poles. Without the efforts of the Royal Guard or the later assistance of Lithuanian Grand Duke Alexander at15th century Polish artillery the crossing of the river Prut the situation could have been far worse. Though the defeat had not been serious and the Truce was honorable the result was that Tartar and Turkish invasions increased dramatically.

In 1498 Poland suffered two retaliatory attacks from the Ottomans and a smaller Tartar incursion. Two large Tartar attacks occurred in 1500 and the following year, until a Truce was agreed with Bajazet II.

1500-1503 War with Muscovy
In 1500 Ivan III was active along the Lithuanian borderlands, capturing extensive parts of the Ruthenian provinces and destroying local Lithuanian armies and auxiliary Teutonic forces. The Lithuanians, allied to the Livonian Master and the Volga Tartars, did achieve some success but were unable to regain the lost lands.King Alexander Jagiello - Painting by Jan Matejko

In June 1501 Jan Olbracht died and his brother
Aleksander (Alexander) Jagiello
succeeded him
as King in December 1501.

King Alexander proceeded to Novogrod in July 1502 to find a worsening situation. The 'allied' Volga Tartars had been routed by the Crimean Tartars and the Muscovites had occupied the defeated Tartars' lands. Ivan III attacked Smolensk, his main objective. But in the North the Livonian Order defeated the Muscovites and relieved Smolensk. In 1503 Ivan III agreed to a six year truce, giving up on Smolensk but retaining much of the border lands.

1506 Tartar Invasion
Attacks continued by Mengli-Girey of the Crimean Tartars, in Spring 1506 they invaded Lithuania with 10,000 men camping at Kleck, near Nieswiez, sending forces to Minsk, Nowogrodek and Lida. Glinski, an experienced commander, was sent with a comparable sized force, including the new hussars and two canons, smashing the encampment and routing the whole Tartar army (5 August 1506).King Zygmunt I - Painting by Jan Matejko

King Alexander died and his brother King Zygmunt I (Sigismund) Jagiello known as "The Old" was crowned on 24th January 1507

1507-1508 War with Muscovy
The Muscovites restarted their expansion westwards when in April 1507 two armies entered Lithuania devastating as far as the Berezyna. As the Poles and Lithuanians prepared to repulse the attacks Glinski led a rebellion with assistance from Muscovy. His aim to stir up the local population failed, and the Glinski-Muscovite forces attempted to take Minsk, but withdrew to join further Muscovite forces when the Polish-Lithuanian army approached. The Muscovite force besieged Orsza, but again retreated in front of the Royal army. The Poles attacked and Glinski fled. Peace negotiations were concluded in October 1508 where Moscow conceded Lukecz, but Lithuania recognised the conquests of Ivan.Polish heavy cavalry at the battle of Orsza

1509-1510 War with Moldavia
Meanwhile Bogdan of Moldavia invaded Pokucie and in June 1509 defeated a counter attack of the Kamieniec garrison and advanced on Lvov, however they failed to take any important strongholds and retreated, plundering as they went. A 4,000 strong force of the pospolite ruszenie, was sent to Suczam and completely destroyed the Moldavian army on 4th October 1509 at the Dniestr ford. Peace was concluded in January 1510 where Moldavia gave back Pokucie as well as their prisoners and the spoils of war.

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