Battle of Warsaw (1705)
The Battle of Warsaw (also known as Battle of Rakowitz) took place on 31 July 1705 near Warsaw. Swedish forces under Carl Nieroth defeated the Polish-Lithuanian-Saxonian forces under Otto Arnold von Paykull.
Part of the Great Northern War constituted a civil war in Poland (1704–1706), between the forces of the Warsaw Confederation, supporting the pretender king Stanisław Leszczyński, and the Sandomierz Confederation, supporting king August II the Strong. Sweden supported Leszczyński against August, and sent a contingent of troops to Leszczyński's aid, under Carl Nieroth. In July 1705 the Saxon commander Otto Arnold von Paykull and his allies from the Warsaw Confederation decided to take on the numerically inferior Swedish forces loyal to Leszczyński.
The battle was part of the campaign plan created by Johann Patkul and Otto Arnold von Paykull to crush Charles XII's army with overwhelming odds in a gathered allied offensive, which was to be executed in order; the Russian general Boris Sheremetev would engage the Swedish general Adam Ludwig Lewenhaupt in Courland and there beat him to secure the march under Georg Benedict Ogilvy, towards the strongly fortified Grodno. Here Ogilvy was believed able to withstand Charles long enough for the Saxon stationed army under Johann Matthias von der Schulenburg to flank through Krakow, and subsequently engage the Swedes from behind – creating a strategic "hammer and anvil" strike, together with Ogilvy's frontal 'Grodno' troops. At the same time, Paykull would gather a force of Saxons, Poles and Lithuanians and march towards Warsaw to interrupt the coronation of pretender king Stanisław Leszczyński.
The plan was executed in July 1705 by Peter I, and with a superior force of 120,000 allied soldiers against only 40,000 Swedes who were able to stand between their achievements, the Russians launched their first assault according to the plan. General Sheremetev immediately engaged Lewenhaupt at the battle of Gemauerthof on 26 July. However, the Swedish general was able to repulse the attack, suffering heavy casualties, before withdrawing to Riga. Paykull then marched with his combined Saxon-Polish-Lithuanian army against Carl Nieroth's force protecting Warsaw. The two armies clashed near Warsaw, just five days after the battle of Gemauerthof.
The Swedish forces consisted of three cavalry regiments and a small force of 60 infantrymen. The total size of the Swedish army under Carl Nieroth was around 2,000 men. The Polish-Lithuanian-Saxon army consisted of 3,500 Saxon cuirassiers and 6,000 Polish cavalrymen. Its main commander was the Saxonian general Otto Arnold von Paykull; the Polish-Lithuanian forces were led by Stanisław Chomętowski, Stanisław Rzewuski, Adam Mikołaj Sieniawski, Michał Serwacy Wiśniowiecki and Stanisław Ernest Denhoff.
The Swedes sent out two reconnaissance forces of 180 men each, and a detachment of 20 men from one of them led by Bonde stumbled into a unit of 500 men in the front ranks of the Polish army at dusk on 30 July. The unit was attempting to cross the Vistula River. Bonde ordered a sudden charge on the unit that was crossing the river, but it failed and resulted in a massacre due to the large disparity in numbers between the two forces. Later, the remaining 160 cavalrymen in the reconnaissance force repeated the assault on 5,000 crossing Poles without success. However, some cavalrymen were able to return to alert the rest of the Swedish army.
On 31 July, the two armies faced each other outside Warsaw. Nieroth decided to charge the numerically superior Polish force. The charge was split up into two wings because the Swedish army was partly encircled. The Swedish order of battle was made of 'Upplands tremännings Regiment (400 men)' on the right, 'Smålands Cavalry Regiment (740 men)' in the center and 'Östgöta Cavalry Regiment (800 men)' on the Swedish left flank. The 60 Swedish infantrymen from the 'Skaraborgs Infantry Regiment' hid in a field of tall rye so that they could execute surprise attacks on the Saxons later on.
The initial Swedish charge made by the Smålands cavalry regiment was so successful that they managed to rout 3,000 Lithuanian cavalrymen, pursuing and harassing them for 20 kilometers. However, the other Swedish regiments ran into trouble after early successes; Paykull ordered an attack through the center of the Swedish lines against the flanks and rear of the Swedish forces. Six Saxon squadrons suddenly swung to the left through the center and charged Upplands cavalry in the flank as they were advancing, causing disorder in the unit. The Swedish Östgöta cavalry on the left flank, however, then charged the bulk of the Saxon cavalry, attempting to sweep through the center, but were halted as the 3,000 Saxons defended themselves long enough for the Poles to regroup. The Poles rapidly executed "attack-on-attack" maneuvers in the flank and rear of the Swedish regiment which was engaging the Saxons to the front. Astonishingly, the heavily outnumbered Östgöta cavalry then managed to attack with such ferocity that the Saxons were forced to retreat and regroup.
The Swedish Upplands regiment on the right flank had managed to repulse the Saxons attacking the flank and, together with Östgöta regiment, they now renewed the attack on the Saxons. The Swedish infantrymen who were hidden in the tall rye then also launched a surprise attack, firing on the regrouping Saxons, soon after which the allied army was defeated.
End of the battle
Swedish casualties were some 150 killed and 150 wounded, against 500 dead and 1,000 wounded Saxons and Poles. Some 300 Poles had also drowned in the Vistula River under pursuit by the Smålands cavalry. Captured allied forces included General von Paykull. The Swedes also captured important documents including letters about the 'Johann Patkul and Otto Arnold von Paykull campaign' against the Swedes, which informed of a possible attack by Peter I against Warsaw to dethrone the Polish king Stanisław Leszczyński. Charles XII then moved with his army to secure Leszczyński's coronation and foil the enemy tactic.
- after a village Rakowiec that later became part of the Ochota district of Warsaw
- Northern Wars, the battle of Warsaw 1705, Oskar Sjöström (pdf)
- Hammer and anvil strike against Charles, 2:32
- Sjöström (2008), p.72
- Sjöström (2008), p.69
- Ullgren (2008), p.127
- Sjöström, Oskar (2008). Fraustadt 1706. Ett fält färgat rött (in Swedish). Lund: Historiska Media. ISBN 978-91-85507-90-0.
- Ullgren, Peter (2008). Det stora nordiska kriget 1700–1721 (in Swedish). Stockholm: Prisma. ISBN 978-91-85507-90-0.
- Bitwa warszawska w 1705 r.., "Stolica", nr 1 (315), 3 stycznia 1954 r., p. 12-13