Siege of Kraków (1655)

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For the uprising in 1846, see Kraków Uprising.
Siege of Kraków
Part of the Second Northern War and The Deluge
Stefan Czarniecki defending Kraków 1655.PNG
Stefan Czarniecki defending Kraków in 1655
Date September 25 – October 13, 1655
Location Kraków, Poland
Result Swedish victory
Belligerents
Flag of Sweden.svg Sweden Herb Rzeczypospolitej Obojga Narodow.svg Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Commanders and leaders
Charles X Gustav of Sweden
Arvid Wittenberg
Stefan Czarniecki
Strength
13,000-14,000
few dozen cannons
2,200 soldiers
2,300 militia
160 cannons

The siege of Kraków was one of the battles during the Swedish invasion of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Second Northern War / Deluge). It started on 25 September 1655 and ended on 13 October 1655. Capitulation treatment was signed 4 days later. Polish troops marched out the city on 19 October. The city's defense was led by Kiev's castellan Stefan Czarniecki, while Swedish forces were commanded by king Charles Gustav and Arvid Wittenberg.

Background[edit]

On August 2, 1655, when news of Swedish victories reached the city, the mayor of Krakow Andrzej Cieniowicz urged residents to organize defense of the ancient Polish capital. He also collected taxes for employment of 1,000-strong infantry unit. The garrison of Krakow was ordered to watch the city walls and control foreigners, especially Germans, who resided in the city. Furthermore, works on the fortifications were initiated under city engineer Izydor Affaita, and Krzysztof Mieroszewski of the local nobility. To cover the cost of the works, queen Marie Louise Gonzaga handed over some of her jewelry.

On August 27, Bishop of Krakow Piotr Gembicki urged residents to pledge allegiance to the king and to defend the city. The bishop paid for 300 soldiers, who strengthened the garrison, while city council created armed militia, which consisted of students and other residents.

On September 19, King Jan Kazimierz came to Krakow, after the lost Battle of Zarnowiec. The king brought a few thousand soldiers and levee en masse, but the morale of his army was low. Several members of the nobility abandoned the king, while the army, concentrated at Pradnik, organized itself into a confederation, demanding money and renouncing Hetman, Stanislaw Lanckoronski. On September 20, the Council of the Senate had a meeting, in which allegiance to the king was confirmed. Soon after the meeting, the queen, together with Primate Andrzej Leszczynski left the city.

On September 24, Jan Kazimierz, who had initially planned to stay in Krakow, decided to leave the city as well. Together with Bishop Gembicki, the king at first headed eastwards, to Wojnicz. He then turned south, to Nowy Wisnicz, Nowy Sacz, and the Polish border.

The Siege[edit]

The garrison of Krakow, under Castellan Stefan Czarniecki and colonel of infantry Fromhold Wolff, consisted of some 5,000 men - soldier of the regular army, plus city militia. In order to prepare the defence, Czarniecki burned the suburbs of Kleparz, Biskupie and Garbary, and constructed a system of Earthworks.

On September 25, the Swedes attacked Kazimierz, pillaging it after capture. On the same day, they tried to enter Krakow itself, but Polish counterattack forced them to retreat. On the next day, Charles Gustav ordered an artillery barrage, leaving Arvid Wittenberg with 8,000 soldiers. The Swedish king himself headed with a smaller army towards Wojnicz, where he once again defeated the Poles in the Battle of Wojnicz (October 3). News of this battle quickly reached Krakow, together with Swedish demands for capitulation. Since Polish royal army units, scattered around the city, did not engage themselves in any skirmishes with the Swedes, the defenders of Krakow felt abandoned, without hope of any support. Nevertheless, they continued to fight.

On October 6, Charles Gustav returned to Krakow, and while inspecting Swedish positions, his horse was killed by a Polish bullet, near St. Florian's Gate. As the siege progressed, morale among the defenders sank even lower. Czarniecki, well aware of this, on October 12 initiated negotiations. Further resistance meant destruction of Krakow and starvation of its residents, so on the next day, Czarniecki agreed to capitulate.

Capitulation[edit]

On October 17, a truce was signed with the Swedes. It guaranteed freedom of religion, safety of the Roman Catholic clergy, civil servants and residents, keeping all privileges of the city and its university, and exchange of prisoners of war. The Swedes allowed Polish units to leave Krakow, and march to winter quarters in western Lesser Poland, near Oswiecim, Zator, Slawkow and Siewierz. These forces were to remain neutral until November 18. After that date, they were to decide whether to join the Swedish or the Polish king.

On October 19, Czarniecki’s forces gathered at Krakow’s Main Square. Some 1,800 men with 12 cannons left the city, while Czarniecki was invited by Charles Gustav to a feast. Soon afterwards, 2,500 Swedish infantry plus 500 reiters entered Krakow. The Swedish king came to the city on October 19 in the afternoon. After meeting the city council, Charles Gustav visited Wawel with its Cathedral church. The Swedes immediately broke the agreement, imposing high taxes and robbing churches. Altogether, the booty stolen by the Swedes was estimated at 5 million zlotys.

Sources[edit]

  • [Pawel Jasienica]], Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów. Calamitatis Regnum, ISBN 83-06-01093-0
  • Dariusz Milewski, Szwedzi w Krakowie, Mówià wieki, czerwiec 2007.
  • Leszek Podhorodecki, Rapier i koncerz, Warszawa 1985, ISBN 83-05-11452-X, str. 251-260

External links[edit]