Battle of Ula
|Battle of Ula|
|Part of the Livonian War|
|Grand Duchy of Lithuania||Tsardom of Russia|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Mikołaj "the Red" Radziwiłł||Pyotr Ivanovich Shuysky †|
|Casualties and losses|
|20 dead, 700 injured||150–700
9,000 (Lithuanian claim)
The Battle of Ula or Battle of Chashniki was fought during the Livonian War on 26 January 1564 between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Tsardom of Russia on the Ula River (tributary of the Daugava River) north of Chashniki in the Vitebsk Region. The Lithuanian surprise attack resulted in a decisive defeat of the numerically superior Russian forces.
Livonia was invaded by the Russian army of Tsar Ivan IV. After the defeat in the Battle of Ergeme in 1560, the weakened Livonian Order was dissolved and the Duchy of Livonia and Duchy of Courland and Semigallia were ceded to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania according to the Treaty of Vilnius (1561). Russia then launched a campaign against Lithuania, capturing Polotsk in February 1563 and threatening further invasion against Vilnius, the capital city. The Lithuanians attempted to negotiate a truce, but the talks failed in November 1563.
Two large Russian armies from Polotsk and Smolensk, commanded by Pyotr Ivanovich Shuysky and Pyotr Semenovich Serebryany-Obolensky, were to meet near Orsha and jointly march against Vilnius. The army was well-prepared for a long campaign; Velikiye Luki received supplies sufficient to provide the army for half a year. Shuysky moved on January 23, 1564. Mikołaj "the Red" Radziwiłł, Grand Lithuanian Hetman, who at the time was in Lukoml, quickly organized cavalrymen without waiting for infantry or artillery. His men included Field Hetman Hrehory Chodkiewicz and many future military leaders: his 16-year-old son and future grand hetman Krzysztof Mikołaj "the Thunderbolt" Radziwiłł, future field hetman Roman Sanguszko, future Livonian hetman Jan Hieronimowicz Chodkiewicz, and others.
The details of the battle vary based on source. There are at least 15 contemporary sources, including three official reports written within days after the battle and four artistic works glorifying the winners, but they all provide different and often conflicting details and statistics. Two main versions of the battle can be identified. The first version claims that Radziwiłł attacked Shuysky's army while it marched from Polotsk to Drutsk – the Russians were caught in the woods and unprepared. A small Lithuanian detachment engaged the vanguard units, while the main forces attacked the Russian troops in marching formation. The second version claims that Shuysky positioned his army for an attack in an open field and was ready to attack the Lithuanians as soon as they emerged from the woods. However, perhaps overconfident in his numbers, he delayed the initial attack and allowed the Lithuanians enough time to position their troops.
All sources agree that the Lithuanians achieved a decisive victory and that Russian commander Pyotr Shuysky was killed in action. There are several versions of Shuysky's death. The most popular version claims that he was injured and retreated from the battlefield and was later axed to death by a local peasant. Another version has it that he was found in a well with a bullet hole in his head. Mikołaj "the Red" Radziwiłł claimed that it was his client Kasparas Šveikovskis who killed Shuysky. His body was transported to Vilnius and buried with full honors in an Orthodox church. Many other boyars were killed or taken prisoners. According to one witness, so much loot was taken that soldiers gave away bread for free and armor was sold for one Hungarian gold coin.
In the following days the army of Serebryany-Obolensky was attacked by Filon Kmita and Jurgis Astikas near Orsha. Believing that they were attacked by the main Lithuanian forces, the Russians hastily retreated. These two victories averted the Russian invasion and restored the power balance in the Livonian War. The Lithuanians devastated a wide area around Sebezh, but did not have enough momentum to recapture Polotsk. The Lithuanians used this victory to derail negotiations for the Union of Lublin, which were initiated in hopes to obtain Polish military support in the war with Russia. The defeats contributed to further deterioration of Tsar Ivan's mental state, leading to the establishment of Oprichnina in 1565.
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