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


1512 to 1577                                       (links to map of Poland)

1512 Tartar Attack
In March 1512, reconnaissance units deduced that the Tartars were preparing a major raid and soon a large force had setup its kos near Busk, some 50km East of Lvov. By the time Polish forces had concentrated the KOs had been raised and the heavily laden Tartars moved East. At Lopusz (28 April 1512) the Polish-Lithuanian forces caught up with them and defeated them, freeing most of the captured. However the Tartars themselves were able in the main to escape intact.

1512-1520 War with Muscovy
Infantry at the battle of OrszaIn 1512 Muscovy broke the peace by attacking Lithuania again with the aim of capturing Smolensk. In December 1512 Grand Duke Basil himself went to Smolensk, but it was ably defended and when a relief force approached the Muscovites retreated. The Polish-Lithuanian Commander, Ostrogski, ravaged the lands around Seversk and destroyed a 6,000 Muscovite force.

In September 1513 Basil returned to Smolensk with more powerful forces, and a six week siege of repeated assaults was withstood. Polish forces drove the enemy from Vitebsk and Polock and defeated a 14,000 force near Orsza thereby relieving Smolensk.

In June 1514 the Muscovites returned and on this occasion the slow response of Polish-Lithuanian forces led to the surrender of Smolensk. The Polish-Lithuanian army, of over 30,000 troops, led by Ostrogski, arrived and on the 8th September crushed the 80,000 strong Muscovite army at Orsza (8 September 1514). However this spectacular victory was not fully exploited and Smolensk could not be retaken.

Polish artillery at the battle of OrszaIn March 1515 Muscovy formed an alliance with the Livonian Knights, but failed to take Vitebsk, while Polish forces recaptured Wielkie Luki and Torpiec (1516). In 1517 the Polish expedition to Pskow ended in defeat at the siege of Opoczka while the following year brought a comprehensive victory for the Poles against the besieging Muscovites at Polock.

In 1519 three Muscovite armies devastated Lithuania as far as Krewno where the Polish-Lithuanian army was assembling. While allied Crimean Tartars attacked Lvov and Lublin. However the Muscovites failed to gain any significant results and a peace treaty was signed in 1520.

1519-1521 Last Teutonic War.
The Grand Master, persuaded by the Tsar, demanded changes in the 1466 treaty. In 1519 border skirmishes turned into a war, and the Grand Master narrowly escaped an early defeat by the timely arrival of Danish and German mercenaries. The Truce of 1521 coincided with the Reformation, and the Catholic crusading order was decimated by mass conversions to Lutheranism and the army melted away.

1524 Tartar and Turkish Invasions
In the Summer of 1524 first the Tartars and then the Turks pillaged Volhynia, Podolia and Polish Ruthenia, reaching as far as the rivers San and Bug. Hetman Tarnowski with meagre forces posted them further East than before and managed to prevent the Tartars from continuing any serious incursions into the Polish border lands. Battle of Obertyn 1531However this only diverted them into the less protected Lithuanian lands.

1530-1531 War with Moldavia
Disputes for the throne of Hungary impacted upon Moldavia, once Polish but now Hungarian, which was being pressurised by Turkey. Peter Rares attacked Pokucie which he occupied in 1530. Zygmunt sent Royal Grand Hetman Tarnowski, with 4,800 cavalry, 1,200 infantry and 12 cannon, on a campaign to remove the Moldavians. At Gwozdziec he defeated a force of 6,000 and while returning home was surrounded by a 50,000 with 50 cannon at Obertyn (22 September 1531). Using the tabor to superb effect Tarnowski swept them from the field.

Hussar cavalry at the battle of Orsza1534-1537 War with Muscovy
In March 1534, with civil strife in Russia, Hetman George Radziwill with 20,000 Lithuanian forces attacked Muscovite territory, but failed to gain any fruits. On the contrary during the winter of 1534-35 three Muscovite armies invaded Lithuania, devastating as far as Wilno and Nowogrodek. The Lithuanians obtained Polish support and 7,000 men under Tarnowski were sent to assist. In July their forces penetrated the Seversk region and the fighting continued until the summer of 1536. Early in the following year a 5 year peace was concluded.King Zygmunt II Augustus - Painting by Jan Matejko


While his father Zygmunt Stary was still alive
Zygmunt II Augustus Jagiello was crowned
King and in 1548 he took over the
reigns of power.


1563 First Northern War.
Polish cavalry in 1567In 1558, despite an armistice, I
van invaded Livonia, devastating the countryside. The Livonian Knights sought Polish-Lithuanian protection, but the Lithuanian forces struggled to keep the Muscovites in check and succeeded only to defend Southern Livonia. Poland agreed to come to the Order's aid and a voluntary union was agreed. In January 1562 Muscovite forces invaded the Mscislaw area which started a bitter war between Poland and Muscovy until a peace in 1570. Initially Sweden was allied with Muscovy and Poland with Denmark. Poland realised a fleet was needed to defend Livonia and in 1563 a squadron of Polish privateers was formed. The war only took a turn for the better, for Poland, in 1568 when Sweden left the Muscovite alliance due to troubles with the Finns. A diplomatic solution led to peace.

1569 Act of Polish-Lithuanian Union
In July the 'Act of Union' was sealed between Lithuania and Poland making them one 'Rzeczpospolita' (Republic or Commonwealth). Extracts:-
". . . For closer Union, common and mutual brotherly love, in eternal common defence of both countries, for the eternal glory of God, with eternal thanks to the glory of these two excellent countries, Poland and Lithuania . . . we have renewed that old alliance and agreed upon the rules hereto set forth: . . . That the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania are now a body one and indivisible, a Republic one and indivisible consisting of two States and Nations, which joined to form one People . . ."

Henri de Valois - Painting by Jan MatejkoKIng Stefan Batory - Painting by Jan MatejkoKing Zygmunt August died on 7th July 1572, and with no heir the period of elected Kings began.

Poland's first elected King - Henri de Valois fled for the French throne three months after coronation.

His successor was
Stefan Batory (Stephen Bathory) of Transylvania who was crowned on 14th December 1575.


1576-1577 Gdansk Rebellion
Late German 'Landsknecht' infantry at the seige of GdanskThe port of Gdansk, which supported the Emperor's candidature, sought the protection of the King of Denmark, rather than swear allegiance to Batory, but
Batory was not a man to be trifled with. In September 1576 he stopped all commerce with the city, moving all trade to Elbing, and declared the leaders rebels. Gdansk retaliated by plundering the Abbey of Oliwa and the Poles sent Jan Zborowski to deal with them. On 17th April 1577 Zborowski with 1,350 cavalry, 1,050 infantry and a few cannon crushed rebel mercenaries, comprising 3,100 landsknechts, 800 cavalry, 6-8,000 town militia and 7 cannon, at Lubieszow. However further attacks and the blockade failed. It looked like developing into a war of attrition, which suited neither side, and the Peace of Malbork was negotiated in December, where Batory received a hefty subsidy and Gdansk retained much of its freedom.

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