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Battle of Grunwald
The Battle of Grunwald took place on July 15 1410 between the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania on one side (estimated 39,000 troops), and the Teutonic Knights on the other (about 27,000 troops). In the battle the Teutonic Order state was defeated and never recovered its former influence. The few eyewitness accounts of the battle are contradictory.
The battle was fought in what is now Polish territory (then in Teutonic Order state), in the plains between the villages of Grunwald (Žalgiris in Lithuanian), Stębark (Tannenberg in German) and Łodwigowo (Ludwigsdorf in German). The nearest city of any size was Dąbrówno (Gilgenburg in German). The names Žalgiris (from Lithuanian alia giria) and Grunwald (from German Grünewald), are both tentatively translated as Green forest.
The battle is also called Žalgirio mūšis (Battle of Žalgiris) by Lithuanians, Bitwa pod Grunwaldem (Battle near Grunwald) by Poles, Гру́нвальдзкая бі́тва (Battle of Grunwald) by Belarusians or Schlacht bei Tannenberg (Battle of Tannenberg/Stebark) by Germans, Grünwald suğışı by Tatars.
Eve of the battle
In the 13th century, the Teutonic Knights had been invited to the lands surrounding Chełmno to asist in the expulsion of the (pagan) Prussians. They stayed on, and, under the pretext of a papal edict which gave them effective carte blanche to act as they wished, established a power base in the region, occupying the Baltic coastal regions of what are now Latvia Lithuania and Estonia, and showed every signs of outward expansion. Their incursions into Poland in the 14th century gave them control of major conurbations such as Chełmno and Pomorze. In order to further their combat against the (pagan) Lithuanian state, the Teutonic Knights instituted a series of crusades, enlisting support from other European countries.
In 1385 the Union of Krewo joined the crown of Poland and Lithuania, and the subsequent marriage of the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Jogaila and the King of Poland Jadwiga (woman) was to shift the balance of power; both nations were more than aware that only by acting together could the yoke of the Teutonic Knights be broken. Jogaila accepted Christianity and became the King of Poland as Władysław Jagiełło, which made the ethos of Teutonic Knights' crusades against the pagans null and void.
However, in 1398 the Knights again invaded what was now a firmly united and christian Polish/Lithuanian state. At this time, the Poles and the Lithuanians had little option but to suffer in silence for they were still not prepared militarily to confront the power of the Knights.
In 1409 an uprising in Teutonic-held Samogitia started. The king of Poland backed up Lithuania and announced that he would stand by his promises in case the Teutons invaded Lithuania. This was used as a pretext and on August 14 1409 the Teutonic Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen declared war on the Polish-Lithuanian union. The forces of the Teutonic Order initially invaded Greater Poland and Kuyavia, but the Poles repelled the invasion and reconquered Bydgoszcz (Bromberg in German), which made both sides to sign a subsequent armistice which was to last until June 24 1410. However the Lithuanians and the Poles used this time to prepare themselves to remove themselves of the Teutonic threat once and for all.
The forces of the Teutonic Knights were aware of the Polish-Lithuanian concentration and were expecting the Poles to attack towards Danzig/Gdańsk while the Lithuanians towards Samogitia. To counter this threat, Ulrich von Jungingen concentrated part of his forces in Świecie/Schwetz while leaving large part of his army in the eastern castles of Ragneta/Ragnit, Ryn and Klaipeda/Memel. Poles and Lithuanians continued to screen their intentions by organising several raids deep into enemy territory. Ulrich von Jungingen asked for the armistice to be extended to July 4 in order to let the mercenaries from western Europe arrive. This however gave enough time for the Polish-Lithuanian forces to gather in strength.
On June 30, 1410 the forces of Greater Poland and Lesser Poland crossed the Vistula over a pontoon bridge and joined with the forces of Masovia and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Jagiełło's Polish forces and the Lithuanian soldiers of his cousin Vytautas the Great (to whom Jagiełło had ceded power in Lithuania in the wake of his marriage to the Polish queen) assembled on July 2 1410 and a week later crossed into the territory of the Teutonic Knights, heading for the enemy headquarters at the castle of Marienburg/Malbork. The Teutonic Knights were caught by surprise.
Ulrich von Jungingen withdrew his forces from the area of Świecie/Schwetz and decided to organise a line of defence on the Drwęca River/(Drewenz in German). The river crossings were fortified with stockades and the castles nearby reinforced. After meeting with his War Council, Jagiełło decided to outflank the enemy forces from the east and continue the march towards Marienburg through Działdowo and Dąbrówno . On July 13 both castles were captured and the way towards Marienburg was opened.
In the early morning of June 15, 1410, both armies met in the fields near the villages of Grunwald, Tannenberg and Łodwigowo (Ludwigsdorf). Both armies were dislocated in line formations. The Polish-Lithuanian army was set up in front of the villages of Łodwigowo/Ludwigsdorf and Stębark/Tannenberg. The left flank was guarded by the Polish forces of king Władysław Jagiełło and composed mostly of heavy cavalry. The right flank of the allied forces was guarded by the army of Grand Duke Vytautas, and composed mostly of light cavalry. Among the forces on the right flank were banners from all over the Grand Duchy, as well as Tatar skirmishers and (probably) Moldavian mercenaries. The opposing forces of the Teutonic Order were composed mostly of heavy cavalry and infantry. They were aided by mercenaries from Western Europe, called the guests of the Order.
The exact number of soldiers on both sides is hard to estimate. There are only two reliable sources describing the battle. The best-preserved and most complete was written by Ioannes Longinus but does not mention the exact numbers. The other is incomplete and preserved only in a brief 16th century document. Shortly after the battle in December 1410 the new Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Heinrich von Plauen , sent letters to Western European monarchs, in which he described the battle as a war against the forces of evil pagans. This view was shared by many chronicle writers. Since the outcome of the battle was subject to propaganda campaigns on both sides, many foreign authors frequently overestimated the Polish-Lithuanian forces in an attempt to explain the dramatic result.
In one of Prussian chronicles it is mentioned that the forces of the Polish king were so numerous that there is no number high enough in the human language. One of the anonymous chronicles from Lubeck mentions that the forces of Jagiello numbered some 1,700,000 soldiers, the forces of Vytautas with 2,700,000 (as well as a great number of Ruthenians), in addition to 1,500,000 Tatars. Among the forces supposedly aiding the Polish-Lithuanian army were Saracens, Turks, pagans of Damascus, Persia and other lands. According to Enguerrand de Monstrelet the Teutons fielded some 300,000 men, while their enemies under the kings of Lithuania, Poland and Sarmatia fielded 600,000. Andrew of Regensburg estimated the Polish-Lithuanian forces at 1,200,000 men-at-arms.
More recent historians estimate the strength of the opposing forces at a much lower level. Ludwik Kolankowski estimated the Polish-Lithuanian forces at 16,000-18,000 Polish cavalry and 6,000-8,000 Lithuanian light cavalry, with the Teutonic Knights fielding 13,000-15,000 heavy cavalry. Jerzy Dąbrowski estimated the overall strength of the allied forces at 18,000 Polish cavalry and 11,000 Lithuanians and Ruthenians, with the opposing forces bringing 16,000 soldiers.
|Luebeck Chronicle||1 700 000||2 700 000||1 500 000|
|Enguerrand de Monstrelet||600 000||300 000|
|Andrew of Regensburg||1 200 000|
|Ludwik Kolankowski||18 000 heavy cavalry||8 000 light cavalry||15 000 heavy cavalry|
|Jerzy Dąbrowski||18 000||11 000||16 000 + 3 000 guests|
|Henryk Łowmiański||12 000 heavy cavalry||7 200 light cavalry||11 000 heavy cavalry|
|Andrzej Nadolski||20 000||10 000||1000|
Regardless of such estimates, most of the modern historians count only the cavalry units. Apart from 16,000 cavalry, the Teutonic Order also fielded some 9,000 infantry, archers and crossbow troops. Both armies also had large military camps , tabors and other units, which made up some 10% of their total strength.
Both armies were organised in banners. Each heavy cavalry banner was composed of approximately 240 mounted knights as well as their squires and armour-bearers. Each banner flew its own standard and fought independently. Lithuanian banners were usually weaker and composed of approximately 180 light cavalry soldiers. The structure of foot units (pikemen, archers, crossbowers) and the artillery is unknown.
Forces of both sides were composed of troops comming from a variety of countries and lands. Apart from units fielded by lands of Poland, Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Teutonic Order, there were also mercenaries from Western Europe (most notably Alsace, Lorraine, German Countries, Moravia, Bohemia and probably Moldavia. Historians of the Soviet Union attempted to overemphasize the Russian role in the battle. For example, they included some GDL banners, such as Smolensk, into the Russian list. They also phrased the desciption of the battle to make it appear that the support from Russian lands was decisive. In fact there was a joke that the battle with the fascist Teutons was won by joint Polish-Soviet forces (most of the territory of the Grand Duchy was part of the Soviet Union in 20th century).
The overall commander of the joint Polish-Lithuanian forces was king Władysław Jagiełło, with the Polish units subordinated to Marshal of the Crown Zbigniew of Brzezie and Lithuanian units under the immediate command of Grand Duke Vytautas. Until recently it was believed that the Sword Bearer of the Crown Zyndram of Maszkowice was the commander in chief of the joint army, but this idea was based on a false translation of the description of the battle by Ioannes Longinus. The Teutonic Forces were commanded directly by the Grand Master of the Order Ulrich von Jungingen.
Course of the battle
The opposing forces formed their lines at dawn. At noon the forces of Grand Duke Vytautas started an all-out assault on the left flank of the Teutonic forces, near the village of Stębark. The Lithuanian cavalry was supported by a cavalry charge of several Polish banners on the right flank of the enemy forces. The enemy heavy cavalry counter-attacked on both flanks and fierce fighting occurred. After more than an hour, the Lithuanian light cavalry started to break and withdraw, but soon the withdrawal turned into a rapid retreat towards the marshes and woods. Only three banners of Smolensk commanded by Semen Lingwen , son of Algirdas and brother of both Vytautas and Jagiełło, remained on the right flank. One of them was totally destroyed while the remaining two were backed up by the Polish cavalry held in reserve and broke through the enemy lines to the Polish positions.
Heavy cavalry of the Order started a disorganised pursuit after the fleeing Lithuanians and entered the marshes, where Vytautas started to reorganise his forces. At the same time heavy fighting continued on the left flank of the Polish forces. After several hours of fierce struggles, the Teutonic cavalry started to gain the upper hand. According to Ioannes Longinus the Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen personally led a cavalry charge on the strongest Polish unit - the Banner of the Land of Kraków. The Polish ranks started to waver and the flag of the banner was lost. However, it was soon recaptured by the Polish knights and king Władysław Jagiełło ordered most of his reserves to enter combat. The arrival of fresh troops allowed the Poles to repel the enemy assault and the forces of Ulrich von Jungingen were weakened. At the same time his reserves were still busy pursuing the scattered Lithuanian cavalry. When they finally returned to the battlefield, it was already to late for the Teutonic charge to succeed and the forces of the Order started the withdrawal.
Ulrich von Jungingen decided to outflank the Polish forces by attacking the emptied right flank with 16 banners of heavy cavalry, until then held in reserve. Jagiełło threw in all his remaining reserves, as well as several already tired units. Soon Grand Duke Vytautas managed to reorganise part of his forces, returned to the battlefield, and also joined the fierce fighting. Despite heavy resistance, the 16 banners of the Great Master were surrounded and almost annihilated. Ulrich von Jungingen died in battle, probably killed by Polish peasantry. Seing the fall of their Grand Master, the rest of the Teutonic forces started a withdrawal towards their camp. Part of the routed units retreated to the forests where they were pursued by the Polish and Lithuanian cavalry, while the rest retreated to the camp near the village of Grunwald, where they tried to organise the defence by using the tabor tactics: the camp was surrounded by waggons tied up with chains, serving as a mobile fortification. However, the defences were soon broken and the camp was looted. According to the anonymous author of the Chronicle of the Conflict of Ladislaus King of Poland with the Teutons Anno Domini 1410, there were more bodies in and around the camp than on the rest of the battlefield. The pursuit after the fleeing Teutonic cavalry lasted until the dusk.
Despite the technological superiority of the Teutonic Knights, to the point of this being believed to be the first battle in this part of Europe in which field-artillery was deployed, the numbers and tactical superiority of the Polish Lithuanian alliance were to prove overwhelming.
Jan ika of Trocnov lost his eye in the battle.
After the Battle
The defeat of the Teutonic Order was complete. According to Andrzej Nadolski the Teutons lost ca. 8 000 soldiers killed in the battle and 14 000 taken captive. Most of approximately 250 members of the Order were also killed, including much of the Teutonic leadership. Apart from Ulrich von Jungingen himself, the Polish and Lithuanian forces killed also the Grand Marshal Friedrich von Wallenrode , Grand Komtur Kuno von Lichtenstein and Albrecht von Schwartzburg , the Grand Treasurer Thomas von Merheim . Komtur of Brandenburg, Markward von Salzbach and mayor of Sambia Schaumburg were executed by order of Vytautas after the battle. The only higher official to save his life was Grand Hospital Master and Komtur of Elbing Werner von Tettinger who escaped from the battlefield. Such a slaughter of noble knights and personalities was quite unusual in Medięval Europe and was possible mostly due to the fact that in the latter stages of the battle a large part of peasantry took part in destruction of the surrounded Teutonic troops. Contrary to the noblemen, the peasants did not receive any ransom for taking captives. Among those taken captive were Kasimir V (Kazimierz V ), duke of Szczecin (Stettin), and Konrad the White , duke of Oleśnica.
After the battle Polish and Lithuanian forces stayed on the battlefield for three days. All notable officials were interred in separate graves while the body of Ulrich von Jungingen was covered with royal coat and transported to Marienburg. All the bodies from the battlefield were gathered in several mass graves. There are different speculations as to why Jagiello decided to wait that long. After three days, the Polish-Lithuanian forces moved on to Marienburg and laid siege upon the castle, but the three days time was enough for the Teutons to organise the defence. After several weeks of siege, the Lithuanian Grand Duke withdrew from the war and it became clear that the siege would not be effective. Also, the nobility from Lesser Poland wanted to end the war before the harvest time and the siege was lifted.
After the battle a Peace of Toruń (1411) was concluded in which Poland recovered Dobriner Land ( Dobrzyń Land ) and Lithuania recovered Samogitia. This is thought to be a diplomatic defeat of Poland and Lithuania as there were attempts to dismantle the Teutonic Knights state altogether. All in all, the great military victory was a diplomatical failure. However, the indirect results of the battle were much worse for the Teutons. The massacre of Teutonic troops made it impossible to defend their country with own troops and the Grand Masters from then on had to rely on mercenary troops, which proved too expensive for their budget to sustain. Although Heinrich von Plauen , the successor to Ulrich von Jungingen, managed to save his state from complete breakdown, the opposition to his rule both in the burghers, the knights and within the Order itself rose and soon he was ousted.
Eventually, the tragic internal situation lead to constant taxes increase, which lead to the uprising of the Prussian Confederation. After this battle the power of the Teutonic Knights waned and never recovered; this decline resulted in a series of wars culminating in the Thirteen Years' War. The victorious order myth perished.
Influences of the Battle of Grunwald on modern culture
To commemorate the medieval battle thousands of modern knights from all across Europe gather every year in July at the Grunwald fields to reconstruct the battle again. Great care is put to the historical details of the armour, weapons and the conduct of the battle.
The battle of Grunwald is regarded as one of the most important battles in the Polish history. In Poland, there is commonly known a symbol of two swords, which were supposedly given to king Jagiello before the battle by the Teutonic envoys to "raise Polish desire for battle".
Leading Lithuanian basketball and football teams are both called "Žalgiris" to commemorate the victorious battle (BC Žalgiris and FC Žalgiris). Also in Poland there are teams named "Grunwald"' like Grunwald Poznań. Moreover one of administrative districts of Poznań was named after this village - Grunwald.
The events of the battle are depicted in the film The Teutonic Knights (Polish: Krzyżacy) by Aleksander Ford .
The exact Order of Battle of the Polish forces is unknown. However, Ioannes Longinus in his Historię Polonicę written after 1455 recorded 51 Polish banners, together with their description, blazoning and commanders. It is not certain whether the list is full.
|Banner of||Battle sign||Origin||Remarks|
|Army of The Crown - Court Banners|
|Great Banner of Kraków and the Kingdom of Poland||Arms of Poland||Elite troops, under Zyndram of Maszkowice|
|"Gończa" Court Banner||Goncza Coat of Arms||under Andrzej of Ochocice of Osorya|
|Pogoń Court Banner||Pogoń||under Andrzej Ciołek of Żelechów and Jan of Sprowa of Odrowąż|
|Saint George||Bohemian and Moravian mercenaries, under Sokol and Zbyslavek|
|Army of The Crown - Regional Banners|
|Greater Poland||Coat of Arms of Greater Poland|
|Land of Sandomierz||Flag of Sandomierz|
|Kalisz||Flag of Kalisz|
|Land of Sieradz||Flag of Sieradz|
|Land of Lublin||Jeleń|
|Land of Łęczyca||Flag of Łęczyca|
|Land of Cuyavia||Coat of Arms of Cuyavia|
|Land of Lwów||Banner of Lwów|
|Land of Wieluń||Flag of Wieluń||Reinforced with mercenaries from Silesia|
|Land of Przemyśl||Flag of Przemyśl|
|Dobrzyń||Coat of Arms of Dobrzyń|
|Land of Chełm||Coat of Arms of Chełm|
|Three banners of Podolia||Coat of Arms of Podolia||Split up due to large number of knights|
|Land of Halicz||Coat of Arms of Halicz|
|Army of The Crown - Masovian Banners|
| Two banners of |
Duke Siemowit IV of Masovia
|Coat of Arms of Masovia||Masovia, mostly Płock area||Dukes of Masovia|
|Duke Janusz I of Masovia||own||Masovia, mostly Warsaw area||Dukes of Masovia|
|Army of The Crown - Personal Banners|
| Archbishop of Gniezno |
| Archbishop of Poznań |
|Jastrzębiec||under Jarand of Brudzewo|
| Castellan of Kraków |
Krystyn of Ostrów
| Voivod of Kraków |
| Voivod of Poznań |
Sędziwój of Ostroróg
| Voivod of Sandomierz |
Mikołaj of Michałowo
| Voivod of Sieradz |
Jakub of Koniecpol
| Castellan of Srem |
Iwo of Obiechów
| Voivod of Łęczyca |
| Castellan of Wojnice |
Andrzej of Tęczyn
| Marshal of The Crown |
Zbigniew of Brzezie
| Chambelain of Kraków |
| Castellan of Wiślica |
Klemens of Moskorzów
| Castellan of Śrem and mayor of Greater Poland |
Wincenty of Granów
|Dobko of Oleśnica||Dębno|
|Spytko of Tarnów||Leliwa|
| Lord High Steward of Kalisz |
Marcin of Sławsko
|Dobrogost Świdwa of Szamotuły||Nałęcz|
|Krystyn of Koziegłowy||Lis|
| Master King's Cup-Bearer |
| Deputy Chancellor of the Crown |
|Mikołaj Kmita of Wiśnicz||Śreniawa|
|Gryf Clan||Gryf||Family of Gryf, under Zygmunt of Bobowa|
|Zaklika of Korzkiew||Syrokomla|
|Clan of Koźlerogi||Koźlerogi||Family, under Castellan of Wiślica Florian of Korytnica|
|Jan of Jičķn||Beneovec||Moravia||Volunteers from Moravia, commanded by certain Helm|
| Steward of the Crown and starost of Lwów|
Gniewosz of Dalewice
|Strzegomia||Silesia, Bohemia and Moravia||Only foreign volunteers and mercenaries|
|Duke of Lithuania Zygmunt Korybutowicz||Pogoń|
Due to different system of feudal overlordship, as well as lack of heraldic traditions, the units of Grand Duchy of Lithuania were all grouped under banners of two types: the Vytis and the Poles of Gedyminas. The only difference between various lands using the same emblem was the blazon. The hareness and the colour of the horse on the Vytis differed.
Note that the number of Lithuanian banners is uncertain. According to Ioannes Longinus there were 40 banners on the right flank of the Polish-Lithuanian forces, 10 flying the Poles of Gedyminas and 30 flying the Vytis. However, he also mentions that there might have been 2 additional banners from Smolensk and up to six additional banners of Samogitia. German authors also mention that there were three auxiliary banners of Moldavia flying their own flags. In addition, it is probable that the units of Trakai, Volhynia, Smolensk, Kiev and Nowogródek used their own emblems.
- Stefan Kuczyński , Szymon Kobyliński , Chorągwie grunwaldzkich zwycięzców (The Banners of the Victors of Grunwald); WAiF, Warsaw, 1989. ISBN 8322104677
- Ioannes Longinus, Annales seu Cronicę Incliti Regni Polonię; PWN, Warsaw, 2000. ISBN 8301133015
- Ioannes Longinus, Bitwa grunwaldzka; Ossolineum , Wrocław, 2003. ISBN 8304046326
- Henryk Sienkiewicz, Krzyżacy (The Teutonic Knights ); Tygodnik Ilustrowany, Kraków, 1900. ISBN 0781804337
- James A. Michener, Poland; Random House, 1984. ISBN 0449205878
- Analysis of the battle
- Battle of Grunwald 1410
- Account of the battle by Jan Dlugosz, secretary to the Bishop of Cracow, written sixty years after battle
- Grunwald Commune (with pictures of the Grunwald Battle 1999 and 2000)
- Grunwald village on the map of Poland
- Ignacy Paderewski speech at the Grunwald monument inauguration in Cracow 1910 (500 aniversary)
- Battle of Grunwald, a painting by Jan Matejko
- Gospelcom Summary
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