Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chojnice AD 1657 - battle that confused Wikipedia editors :)

as I have been giving links here to various Wikipedia articles, and I have noticed that they do contain plenty of errors or misleading information when come to history and often even to geography.
 It is my intention to work on some of them, eg. Polish hussars, battle of Wojnicz (gathering sources and there are plenty of these, and Radek Sikora had found already quite a few), battle of Klecko (started correcting en.wikipedia.org/Battle_of_Klecko  ) battle of Golab, and many others.

.... about a week ago my good friend Radek Sikora noticed that something was seriously wrong with the Polish Wikipedia entry on the battle of Chojnice (1657) - he started correcting it but then his corrections are still not evident (waiting for approval by some authority :(  pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitwa_pod_Chojnicami_1657    ).

English Wikipedia version of the same topic was even worse (the title states erroneously that it is a battle of AD1656 - here you can see already somewhat corrected entry by truly yours en.wikipedia.org/Battle_of_Chojnice_(1656)  ) so I, with Radek's encouragement and comments, went to correct or rather write from the scratch the entire article.

 The battle took place during the so called Deluge or the 2nd Northern War, that involved Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Kingdom of Sweden, Kingdom of Denmark, Holy Roman Empire, Ducal Prussia, Brandenburg, Muscovite Russian Empire, Crimean Tatars, Ukrainian Cossacks etc.

This my blog version of this article, still in development, in the spirit of the winter season we have right now in the Northern Hemisphere, 3 days before Christmas :
Prelude to the battle
Towards the end of 1656, Swedish army was blocking our Polish King John Casimir in Gransk/Danzig, who was there conducting diplomatic negotiations with French King Louis XIV envoy Antoine de Lumbres. His wife and  Polish Queen Marie Louise Gonzaga wanted to join her husband there, but she needed the Polish armies to open a passage to Gdańsk through the blockading Swedish armies. According to some sources her enemy but supposedly very chivalrous Charles X Gustav of Sweden was willing to allow Her Majesty to cross over from Wielkopolska to her husband in Pomerania, but she refused this courtesy relying instead on her regimentarz and very famous cavalry commander and zagonczyk Stefan Czarniecki (he will be a subject of my future writings, among other things  since his saddles are said to be at the National Museum in Cracow and Polish Army Museum in Warsaw, and he was depicted in many fine paintings), stationed with his division at Piotrków Trybunalski (old Polish, albeit short-lived, capital) in western Poland. 
Czarniecki ordered his cavalry and dragoons to quit winter quarters and soon they came to Wolbórz,  where she was stationed with her court (and wagons) and together they begun so called 'Gdańsk expedition.' 
Before January 1, 1657 Czarniecki with his division and Her Majesty the Queen and her courtiers with her own wagon train iwithin army's wagon train came to Chojnice. Also other Polish army divisions of Grand Crown Hetman Stanisław Rewera Potocki and Field Crown Hetman Stanisław Lanckoroński joined them at Chojnice about the same time, although they came south from Pomerania. As it was military custom then, the Polish cavalry companies settled across the surrounding countryside, occupying villages and hamlets, and each company being separated one from another by some distance, with the need for fodder and food in mind, and the winter snows adding more separation.
The Battle
Swedish King must have received information about these winter movements and concentration of the Polish army divisions around Chojnice during the last days of 1656 and  perhaps grew worried as they could have been preparing to assault the Ducal Prussia, then his ally etc. Apparently Swedish forced started marching towards Chojnice,  while good and brave Swedish king Carolus X Gustavus ordered  other Swedish forces near the town to scout and reconnoiter the Chojnice area, perhaps intending to surprise Poles in their winter lodgings.
Swedish cavalry command  under Rutger von Ascheberg, stationed around  the castle at Złotow, came up to Chojnice on the night od January 2, 1657, and using a captured peasant as a guide to lead them this cavalry force of 950 horsemen (reitars) comenced to attack.  His command attacked the following Polish formations: pułk of prince Dymitr (according to Pamietniki Losia) Wiśniowiecki, banners of Jan Sobieski and Koniecpolski, that were stationed 'in the middle' of the Polish wintering and spred out cavalry forces.
 According to Polish writer and participant of this battle Loś these Polish cavalry commands were very small, understaffed and spread out, also perhaps in their cups having celebrated New Year with drink and food, and thus rather pretty much unprepared for the surprise night or early morning attack.  Polish losses, listed for the battle, were sustained during that phase of the battle - according to des Noyers' reports. 
Runaways, often without saddles and only in their undergarments, from the Wisniowiecki's command spread the alarm across the entire town of Chojnice and surrounding Polish war camps. 
Meantime Swedish cavalry did  what they would normally do - collected booty, especially fine Polish horses, foodstuffs, captured goods and equipment, several prisoners, and sent them to the rear. It must have slowed their pursuit of Polish cavalry and it  gave ample time to other Polish units to assemble in more orderly fashion and meet the enemy on equal terms and finally to use the advantage of their numerical superiority. 
At some moment of this night and early morning fighting the Swedish advance might have reached the queen's wagon train and she had to seek shelter, perhaps in the town itself (?). But other memoirists do not write  about HMQ being in danger, but rather encouraging her soldiers to stand and fight and actually 'sending' the Czarniecki division into the battle. Once HMQ  gave blessing to Czarniecki, then his command went to the rescue of what was left of prince Wisniowiecki pulk. And perhaps other Polish army divisions came to give more coordinated response to the Swedish vanguard onslaught, and as the break of dawn of January 3, 1657 was slowly approaching.
 As winter day  of January 3, 1657 came then the quite victorious Swedish commander must have realized, that he had stepped into the hornets' nest and begun hasty retreat - according to des Noyers 'bride abattue.' 
His command retreat was made towards the old Teutonic Knights fortress at Czŀuchów, then in Swedish hands. The surprise night attack came to cost him dearly, as Czarniecki's cavalry pursued him without mercy, and Swedish command never turned their head to face their pursuers, and his retreat turned into run-and-chase battle, and thus Swedish cavalry became in turn the Polish prey,  sustaining some 300 dead and many taken prisoners - including 50 Frenchmen serving with the Swedes ( Czarniecki brought them back to his queen and she secured their release, most likely directly  into the Polish army not-so-voluntary enlistment), and among other trophies our Poles captured 3 cavalry banners) .
As stated, the Swedish cavalry found refuge in the Czŀuchów castle and the fortress soldiers fired their artillery at the pursuing light Polish cavalry that then naturally abandoned their pursuit after chasing the Swedes for at least 2 Polish miles or some 14 kilometers. Being the light cavalry  unprepared to assault this old Teutonic stronghold and perhaps in light of rumors about  the king Charles X Gustav forces on a march towards Chojnice they turned away. 
Therefore, shortly after their disengagement from the pursuit of the Swedish cavalry, the Polish commanders decided to avoid any further engagement with the Swedes and to withdraw their force and wagon trains from Chojnice towards Nakło nad Notecią, which they reached marching through the winter roads on January 7, 1657. 
Polish army sustained rather  light causalities: less than 50 killed and wounded, and 9 taken prisoner, as I said before unknown numbers of horses and  Polish wagons were also taken in this Swedish initial surprise attack.
It appears that this Swedish cavalry command sustained some 35-45% losses of their initial numbers and perhaps their losses was severely missed during later weeks when pursing Czarniecki and our brave Queen on their march towards Gdansk.
From their camp at Kcynia near Nakło Polish commanders and her majesty queen haggled a bit about the pay for the soldiers with the soldiers themselves, who had demanded it or threatened to march away. HMQ Marie Louise Gonzaga decided to take matters in her own hands (she was a great 'statesman' and of warrior's heart) and promised to pay soldiers from her own sources. As a result of this pay arrangement Czarniecki (with 6000 cavalry or some others say 2000 cavalry) and Her Majesty Queen (and her wagon train and courtiers) went on to complete their Gdańsk Expedition and eventually joined their Polish king at Gdańsk after some more feints and scrimmages with the 'blinded' Swedish commands.
 The other Polish commanders stayed south of Gdansk Pomerania. They were to fight many more battles against the Swedes and their allies in the upcoming months and years, as one of the heaviest fighting was awaiting them yet.


Primary sources
  • Lettres de Pierre Des Noyers, secretaire de la reine de Pologne Marie-Louise de Gonzague, pour servir a l’histoire de Pologne et de Suede de 1655 a 1659, p. 289 - 290.
  • Pamiętniki Łosia, towarzysza chorągwi pancernéj Władysława margrabi Myszkowskiego, wojewody krakowskiego, obejmujące wydarzenia od r. 1646 do 1667, z rękopismu współczesnego, dochowanego w zamku podhoreckim. Wydal Zegota Pauli, Kraków.Nakładem księgarni D. E. Friedleina.1858
  •  Pamiętnik Mikołaja Jemiołowskiego towarzysza lekkiej chorągwi, ziemianina województwa bełzkiego, obejmujący dzieje Polski od roku 1648 do 1679 spółcześnie, porządkiem lat opowiedziane, Zaklad Narodowy Ossolinskich, Lwow 1850. 
  • Jan Stefan Wydżga i jego pamiętnik, spisany podczas wojny szwedzkiej od roku 1655 do 1660, ed. Kazimierz Wojscicki, Księgarnia G. Senewalda, 1852.

    I am yet to read Patrick Gordon's account (Scottish mercenary in Swedish, Polish and Muscovite service) – he served in the Swedish army during that time – winter 1656/67.
    I wish for some Swedish and German sources, but they tend to vastly exaggerate Polish losses and diminish their own – eg Pufendorf whose writing always has thousands of Poles perishing and Swedes with almost no casualties. 
  • Secondary sources
  • Leszek Podhorodecki, Rapier i koncerz, Warszawa 1985, ISBN 83-05-11452-X, p. 331-332
  • Adam Kersten, Stefan Czarniecki 1599 - 1665, Warszawa 1963, p. 316 - 317.
  • Michał Dymitr Krajewski, Dzieje panowania Jana Kazimierza od roku 1656 do jego abdykacyi w roku 1668. S. Orgelbrand, 1846, p.27-29.
  • Michał Dymitr Krajewski, Historya Stefana na Czarncy Czarnieckiego, wojewody kijowskiego, hetmana polnego koronnego,Nakład Wydawn. Biblioteki Polskiej, 1859. p.87-88

In Fiction – but based strongly on sources and scientific literature
Bohdan Królikowski, Błażeja Siennickiego przypadki wojenne osobliwsze, Warszawa 1978, p.147-153. - this is a very fine work of literature written by Lublin-based university professor, academician and fine historical writer, with many books on the history of Polish horsemen and cavalry.

post scriptum
according to the sources the Polish banners and companies fighting at Chojnice came from the light cavalry and pancerny (raised mostly to substitute the ever-lacking winged hussar cavalry) cavalry, and some dragoons - in fact Polish dragoons just used horses to get to and from the battle, being mounted infantry. Here I tried to paint, using Gimp and MyPaint, a winter clad pancerny companion, armed with a 'dzida'  or rohatyna with a small pennon, bow and arrows, pistols and sabre. He has chain-mail armor and vambraces to protect his forearms. 


Dario T. W. said...

Polish soldier J.C.Pasek in his Memoirs wrote when at Chojnice 'the Swedes attacked us in the night' two companions,Jan Wojnowski and Rubieszowski, 'both of them were hacked, pierced with rapiers,' and 'left on the battlefield' only to recover and received 600 zloty each from our king Jan Kazimierz...

FarkingAnnoyed said...

They're not 'dragons' = smoki, i.e. beasts from Lord of the Rings, but 'dragoons'.

Kadrinazi said...

Great drawing Dario, one of the best You've ever done, at least in my opinion! I'm just wondering about rohatyna - not sure if it was frequently used during that war

Dario T. W. said...

super dzieki - thank you for your comment, Michal!
well, I gave this guy a lance via frequent references and depictions to it in Dahlberg drawings... mine is perhaps too short...

Kadrinazi said...

I remember discussing problem of 'petyhorcy' on Dahlberg drawings (identified in that way by colonel Gembarzewski) on historycy.org - I think that there is still question mark in regards to frequent usage of that sort of weapon during 'Deluge'. You wrote about 'frequent references and depictions' - do You mean only Dahlberg or any other sources as well?