Battle of Płowce

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Battle of Płowce
Part of the Polish-Teutonic War (1326–1332)
Płowce 1331 Juliusz Kossak.jpeg
Juliusz Kossak, Płowce
Date27 September 1331
Location52°36′56″N 18°38′38″E / 52.615556°N 18.643889°E / 52.615556; 18.643889Coordinates: 52°36′56″N 18°38′38″E / 52.615556°N 18.643889°E / 52.615556; 18.643889
Result Kingdom of Poland victory
Belligerents
Kingdom of Poland Teutonic Order
Commanders and leaders
Władysław I the Elbow-high
Casimir III of Poland
Strength
5,000 2,300, another 4,000 late stage of the battle.
Casualties and losses
1700-1900 2400-2600

The Battle of Płowce took place on 27 September 1331 between the Kingdom of Poland and the Teutonic Order.[1]

Background[edit]

The Teutonic plan was to support John of Bohemia in an invasion of Silesia. Władysław I the Elbow-high had claimed lordship over Silesia, but John of Bohemia believed that he equally valid claim to it. The Bohemian king marched in with an army and occupied Silesia. Luther von Braunschweig believed that Władysław I the Elbow-high so outraged by this move, that he would muster all of the Polish forces to kick John of Bohemia out of Silesia. Leaving the German Grandmaster free to invade Samogitia without Polish interference.

In order to increase the chances of John of Bohemia securing Silesia. Luther von Braunschweig did his best to aid the Bohemian army with his own forces, and any other force he could muster. A rather large army consisting of Bohemians, Knights from the Teutonic order, rebel Polish noblemen who wished to make a stand against Władysław I the Elbow-high, mercenaries from the Holy Roman Empire and even a bunch of English crusaders, all set of for Poland. Władysław I the Elbow-high scrambled to get the Polish forces along with fighting men from Lithuania and Hungary into position. And decided to allocate a significant portion of the command to his son, Casimir III of Poland. Since the Polish king was elderly at this point in time, he thought that a lengthy campaign on horseback may be beyond him. Many of the Polish soldiers were not confident of Casimir III of Poland's military capabilities, and large-scale desertions occurred when Władysław I the Elbow-high put in measures that increased Casimir III of Poland's authority. It turns out that the Polish troops were quite justified to hold such concerns. Casimir III of Poland didn't offer much resistance to the invasion of Poland by the Teutonic Order, who he was ordered to oppose, and were nearly captured by the Teutonic knights at one point before narrowly escaping into a nearby forest.

Władysław I the Elbow-high led the remainder of the Polish forces south towards the Bohemian army. The Teutonic army made its way down to Silesia successfully and met up with the Bohemians. Władysław I the Elbow-high found out that he had insufficient forces to throw out the invaders, so John of Bohemia set him self up as the occupier of Silesia. John of Bohemia then set off to matters in Italy, when there still was a pocket of resistance in Silesia. Well-fortified Polish castles in the region held out and not much would be done to capture them. This led to Luther von Braunschweig believing that Poland would still be a major threat and his order could not act as they wished in the Baltic region. As Poland also had many interests in the region. Luther von Braunschweig sent word to John of Bohemia and wanted to start a second invasion of Poland. And hoped it would be more decisive than the previous invasion attempt.

Battle[edit]

Because of the misunderstanding between the Teutonic and Bohemian forces. The plan for the Teutonic army, led by Marshal Dietrich von Altenburg was to pull back from Poland. Władysław I the Elbow-high who by this time was suffering from poor health, was leading the Polish forces. Which by the time all the Polish forces had gather together, ended up being numerical larger than the Teutonic force, but less well equipped. The Polish king followed the Teutonic army and found an opportunity too good to miss when Marshal Dietrich von Altenburg split his forces into three sections. Władysław I the Elbow-high decided to attack the weakest of these three sections which had descended upon the small village of Płowce.

A heavy fog had descended over the area when Marshal Dietrich von Altenburg gathered his forces, and divided them into five divisions. Then proceeded to face the Polish royal forces which Władysław I the Elbow-high had also divided into five divisions. A lengthy hard-fought battle ensued, which lasted from sunrise until 3 pm on the same day. The reason why the battle raged for most of the day, was the fact that both armies were fairly evenly matched. The deadlock in fighting was only broken when the horse carrying the marshal's banner was pierced by a spear. The horse fell and the soldier charged in carrying the banner, had nailed the banner to the saddle. To save him from to physically carry it for so many hours. The position of the fallen horse made the banner impossible to remove. When the Teutonic Army saw the banner fall, they assumed that their leader had fallen and began to flee the battle.

The Polish forces took full advantage of this and struck hard. Turning the tide of the battle in their favor. By the time the battle was over, Władysław I the Elbow-high and his son Casimir III of Poland had in their custody 56 Teutonic knights, along with Dietrich von Altenburg. Instead of ransoming the knights, Władysław I the Elbow-high ordered them to be executed on the spot. But he did spare the marshal and a handful of wealthy Teutonic Noblemen, whom he intended to ransom. The reason why Władysław I the Elbow-high did this, soon became apparent.

An army of Teutonic knights were dispatched from Prussia to relieve the Teutonic forces at Płowce and were fast approaching the scene of the battle. The exhausted Polish troops were ordered to reform and they faced the fresh Teutonic men. With another hard-fought battle, continuing until nightfall, the Polish forces were eventually crushed. Marshal Dietrich von Altenburg was released after he was found chained to a wagon. The marshal immediately gave the order that all Polish captives were to be executed.

Aftermath[edit]

Płowce memorial

The 600 Polish fighters that had been captured by the Teutonic forces, were then killed while still wearing their armor. Both Władysław I the Elbow-high and Casimir III of Poland managed to flee the battlefield. After the battle 4187 bodies were laid to rest in mass graves.

The Battle of Plowce is commemorated on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Warsaw, with the inscription "PLOWCE 27 IX 1331".

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Cambridge history of Poland. Octagon Books. 1978. ISBN 978-0-374-91250-5.