Battle of Chojnice

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This article is about the 1454 battle. For the 1656 battle, see Battle of Chojnice (1656). For the 1939 battle, see Battle of Chojnice (1939).
Battle of Chojnice
Part of the Thirteen Years' War
Date September 18, 1454
Location Near Chojnice, Poland
Result Teutonic Victory
Belligerents
POL Przemysł II 1295 COA.svg Kingdom of Poland
Prussian Confederation
Den tyske ordens skjold.svg Teutonic Order
Commanders and leaders
POL Przemysł II 1295 COA.svg King Casimir IV Jagiellon
POL Przemysł II 1295 COA.svg Jan Taszka Koniecpolski
POL Przemysł II 1295 COA.svg Piotr of Szczekociny
Den tyske ordens skjold.svg Bernard von Zinnenberg
Strength
16,000 cavalry,
over 3,000 infantry
9,000 cavalry
6,000 infantry
Casualties and losses
Over 3,000 killed
300 captured
~100 killed

The Battle of Chojnice (Battle of Konitz) occurred on September 18, 1454 near the town of Chojnice, between Poland and the Teutonic Knights during the Thirteen Years' War; it was won by the latter.

Background[edit]

The Teutonic army had around 9,000 cavalry and 6,000 infantry under Bernard von Zinnenberg. The Polish army had 16,000 cavalry, a few thousand servants (who could and usually were used in battles), a few hundred infantry plus 500 mercenaries and burghers from Gdańsk and 2,000 mercenaries hired by the Prussian Confederacy, all under the command of King Casimir IV, advised by chancellor Jan Koniecpolski and Piotr from Szczekociny.

The Polish commanders were counting on the battle being won by the Polish heavy cavalry, not caring much about either artillery or infantry. They had not thought that their opponents could change their traditional strategy, or that the Teutonic soldiers besieged in Chojnice could be anything more than spectators. Bernard von Zinnenberg, nonetheless, had planned a totally different kind of battle.

The battle[edit]

At the beginning everything went as expected, following the pattern of many other battles between the Poles and Teutonic Knights. The Polish cavalry charged, breaking the Teutonic lines, killing Prince Rudolf of Żagań and even capturing Bernard von Zinnenberg. The Teutonic cavalry tried to break through the Polish lines and escape to Chojnice; however, infantry grouped at the Teutonic Wagenburg broke with tradition and offered a very good defense against the mounted troops.

Then a sudden sally from Chojnice at the back of the Polish army caused panic. Bernard von Zinnenberg managed to release himself and organised the pursuit; hundreds of Poles, including Piotr from Szczekociny, were killed during the rout or drowned in nearby marshland. The Polish King fought on with great personal courage and his knights had to force him to leave the battlefield.

Aftermath[edit]

The Polish defeat was complete. 3,000 bodies were left on the battlefield, 300 knights were captured by the Teutonic Knights, including three main commanders: Mikolaj Szarlejski, Łukasz Górka, and Wojciech Kostka from Postupice. The Teutonic Knights lost only around 100 men. Bernard von Zinnenberg, was however, formally a Polish prisoner, since he gave a knight's word.

The battle proved that discipline and improved tactics, combined with a talented commander could win against a larger, but more traditional army. The Poles paid the price for ignoring terrain, infantry and artillery.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Jacek Knopek, Bogdan Kuffel: Bitwa pod Chojnicami 18 IX 1454 r. w tradycji historycznej i regionalnej. Chojnice: Biblioteka Chojnicka, 2004.

Coordinates: 53°42′00″N 17°34′00″E / 53.700000°N 17.566667°E / 53.700000; 17.566667