Battle of Grunwald

Battle of Grunwald

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Grunwald
partof=the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War

caption="Battle of Grunwald", by Jan Matejko, 1878. Oil on canvas.
date=15 July 1410
place=Grunwald (Grünewald) or Tannenberg (Stębark), Prussia, present-day Poland
result=Decisive defeat of Teutonic Order
combatant1=, "Tannenberg 1410 Disaster for the Teutonic Knights", 2003, London: Osprey Campaign Series no. 122 ISBN 9781841765617, pp.27-28]
combatant2= and mercenaries and various knights from the rest of Europe
commander1= Władysław II Jagiełło, supreme commander of the allied hostStephen Turnbull, "Tannenberg 1410 Disaster for the Teutonic Knights", 2003, London: Osprey Campaign Series no. 122 ISBN 9781841765617, pp.26]

, commander of the Lithuanian army

Lengvenis commander of the Ruthenian banners from Smolensk,

, Tatar commander, exiled Khan of the Golden horde

Frederic von Wallenrode† Grand Marshal

Kuno von Lichtenstein† Grand Komtur

strength1=39,000 men
strength2=27,000 men
casualties2=8,000 dead
14,000 captured

The Battle of Grunwald (or 1st Battle of Tannenberg) took place on 15 July 1410 with the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, led by the Polish king Władysław II Jagiełło, ranged against the Knights of the Teutonic Order, led by the Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen. It was the decisive engagement in the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War (1409-1411) and the greatest battle of medieval Europe and one of great importance.

The battle saw the Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights decisively defeated — their order never recovered its former power.

The few eyewitness accounts are contradictory. It took place near several smaller villages, and different names in various languages are attributed to it.

Names and Locations

The battle was fought [,00&y=625000,00&zoom=2 in the plains between the villages] of Grunwald ( _lt. Žalgiris), Stębark ( _de. Tannenberg), and Łodwigowo ( _de. Ludwigsdorf) in Prussia, which at that time was territory governed by the Teutonic Order, but which is now in Poland. The nearest city of any size was Gilgenburg (since 1945: Dąbrówno). The names "Žalgiris" (from the Lithuanian "žalia giria") and "Grunwald" (from the German "grüner Wald") both translate as "Green Forest"; it was also called "Zielone Pole" ("Green Field") in Old Polish, and, in German, "Grunenfelde" or "Grunefeld" ("Green field") in the oldest texts.

The battle is called:
*"Schlacht bei Tannenberg" ("Battle of Tannenberg") by Germans
*"Bitwa pod Grunwaldem" ("Battle of Grunwald") by Poles
*"Žalgirio mūšis" ("Battle of Žalgiris") by Lithuanians

In languages of other involved nations the battle is called: _be. "Гру́нвальдзкая бі́тва", "Grúnvaldzkaya bі́tva", _uk. "Ґрю́нвальдська би́тва", "Grúnvaldska bítva", _ru. "Грю́нвальдская би́тва", "Grúnvaldskaya bі́tva", _tt. "Grünwald suğışı", _cs. Bitva u Grunvaldu, _ro. Bătălia de la Grünwald.

Eve of the battle

In the 13th century, the Teutonic Knights, subject directly to the Pope, had been requested by Konrad of Masovia to come to the lands surrounding Culm (Chełmno) to assist in the Crusade against the pagan Prussians. Preceding that were several years of attacks and conquest attempts by Konrad on the Prussians, which were unsuccessful. The Teutonic Order was called in to stabilize the territory between the Prussians and the Duchy of Masovia. The Teutonic Order received the territory of Prussia via golden bulls from the Emperor and papal edict, which gave them effective "carte blanche" as owners of a new Christianized state of Prussia, instead of the pagan native land of Terra Prussiae. They later received the territory of further north Baltic coastal regions of what are now Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and showed every sign of further expansion.

The Order of Dobrin was established by Konrad of Masovia previously and had received land around Płock. They were just a handful and were therefore ineffective, so by papal order they were combined with the Teutonic Order. They built many towns, including Culm. The Prussians fought against takeover of their territory. In order to further their war efforts against the (pagan) Lithuanian state, the Teutonic Knights instituted a series of crusades, enlisting support from other European countries.

In 1385 the Union of Kreva joined the crown of Poland and Lithuania, and the subsequent marriage of Grand Duke Jogaila of Lithuania and reigning Queen Jadwiga of Poland was to shift the balance of power; both nations were more than aware that only by acting together could the expansionist plans of the Teutonic Order be thwarted. Jogaila accepted Christianity and became the King of Poland as Władysław Jagiełło. Lithuania's conversion to Christianity removed much of the rationale of the Teutonic Knights' anti-pagan crusades. It can be said the Ordenstaat lost its "raison d'etre".

The Knights, however, invaded again in 1398 what were now Christian states of Poland and Lithuania. At this time, the Poles and the Lithuanians had little option but to suffer in silence, for they were still not prepared militarily to confront the power of the Knights.

In 1409, an uprising in Teutonic-held Samogitia started. The king of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania announced that he would stand by his promises in case the knights invaded Lithuania. This was used as a pretext, and on 14 August 1409 the Teutonic Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen declared war on the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The forces of the Teutonic Order initially invaded Greater Poland and Kuyavia, but the Poles repelled the invasion and reconquered Bydgoszcz (Bromberg), which led to a subsequent armistice agreement that was to last until 24 June 1410. The Lithuanians and Poles used this time for preparations to remove the Teutonic threat once and for all.

The forces of the Teutonic Knights were aware of the Polish-Lithuanian build-up and expected a dual attack, by the Poles towards Danzig (Gdańsk) and by the Lithuanians towards Samogitia. To counter this threat, Ulrich von Jungingen concentrated part of his forces in Schwetz (Świecie) while leaving the large part of his army in the eastern castles of Ragnit (Ragainė, Rhein (Ryn) near Lötzen (Giżycko), and Memel (Klaipėda). Poles and Lithuanians continued to screen their intentions by organising several raids deep into enemy territory. Ulrich von Jungingen asked for the armistice to be extended to July 4 in order to let the mercenaries from western Europe arrive. Enough time had already been given for the Polish-Lithuanian forces to gather in strength.

On 30 June 1410, the forces of Greater Poland and Lesser Poland crossed the Vistula over a pontoon bridge and joined with the forces of Masovia and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Jogaila's Polish forces and the Lithuanian soldiers of his cousin Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas the Great (to whom Jogaila had ceded power in Lithuania in the wake of his marriage to the Polish queen) assembled on 2 July 1410. A week later they crossed into the territory of the Teutonic Knights, heading for the enemy headquarters at the castle of Marienburg (Malbork). The Teutonic Knights were caught by surprise.

Ulrich von Jungingen withdrew his forces from the area of Schwetz (Świecie) and decided to organise a line of defence on the river Drewenz (Drwęca). The river crossings were fortified with stockades and the castles nearby reinforced. After meeting with his War Council, Jogaila decided to outflank the enemy forces from the East and on his attack on Prussia he continued the march towards Marienburg through Soldau (Działdowo) and Neidenburg. The towns were heavily damaged and Gilgenburg was completely plundered and burned to the ground, causing many refugees. On 13 July the two castles were captured and the way towards Marienburg was opened.

Opposing forces

In the early morning of 15 July 1410, both armies met in the fields near the villages of Grunwald, Tannenberg and Łodwigowo (Ludwigsdorf). Both armies were formed in opposing lines. The Polish-Lithuanian army was positioned in front of the villages of Ludwigsdorf and Tannenberg. The left flank was guarded by the Polish forces of king Jogaila and composed mostly of heavy cavalry. The right flank of the allied forces was guarded by the army of Grand Duke Vytautas, and composed mostly of light cavalry. Among the forces on the right flank were banners from all over the Grand Duchy, as well as Tatar skirmishers under Jalal ad-Din khan, Moldovan light cavalry sent by Alexandru cel Bun and allegedly Serbs.Fact|date=June 2008 The opposing forces of the Teutonic Order were composed mostly of heavy cavalry and infantry. They were to be aided by troops from Western Europe called "the guests of the Order", who were still on the way, and other Knights who had been summoned to participate by a Papal Bull.Fact|date=June 2008

The exact number of soldiers on both sides is hard to estimate. There are only two reliable sources describing the battle.Fact|date=June 2008 The best-preserved and most complete account, Banderia Prutenorum, was written by Ioannes Longinus, but does not mention the exact numbers. The other is incomplete and preserved only in a brief 16th century document.Who|date=June 2008 Months after the battle, in December 1410, the Order's new Grand Master Heinrich von Plauen the Elder sent letters to Western European monarchs in which he described the battle as a war against the forces of evil pagans. This view was shared by many chronicle writers. Since the outcome of the battle was subject to propaganda campaigns on both sides, many foreign authors frequently overestimated the Polish-Lithuanian forces in an attempt to explain the dramatic result.

In one of the Prussian chronicles it is mentioned that "the forces of the Polish king were so numerous that there is no number high enough in the human language". One of the anonymous chronicles from the German Hanseatic city of Lübeck mentions that the forces of Jogaila numbered some 1,700,000 soldiers, the forces of Vytautas with 2,700,000 (with "a great number of Belarusians and Ukrainians, or Ruthenians, as they were called then"), in addition to 1,500,000 Tatars.Fact|date=June 2008 Among the forces supposedly aiding the Polish-Lithuanian army were "Saracens, Turks, pagans of Damascus, Persia and other lands".Fact|date=June 2008 According to Enguerrand de Monstrelet, the knights fielded some 300,000 men, while their enemies under the kings of "Lithuania, Poland and Sarmatia" fielded 600,000. Andrew of Regensburg estimated the Polish-Lithuanian forces at 1,200,000 men-at-arms. It must be noted that medieval chroniclers were notorious for sensationally inflating figures, and armies of the sizes quoted were actually impossible with the logistics technology of the day.

More recent historians estimate the strength of the opposing forces at a much lower level. Ludwik Kolankowski estimated the Polish-Lithuanian forces at 16,000-18,000 Polish cavalry and 6,000-8,000 Lithuanian light cavalry, with the Teutonic Knights fielding 13,000-15,000 heavy cavalry. Jerzy Dąbrowski estimated the overall strength of the allied forces at 18,000 Polish cavalry and 11,000 Lithuanians and Ruthenians, with the opposing forces bringing 16,000 soldiers. If these figures are accepted, this would make the battle less well attended than the Battle of Towton fought in Yorkshire, England, in the same century, which engaged two armies of around 40,000 men, 28,000 of whom died.


Due to different system of feudal overlordship, as well as lack of heraldic traditions, the units of Grand Duchy of Lithuania were all grouped under banners of two types: the Vytis and the Columns of Gediminas. The only difference between various lands using the same emblem was the blazon. The hareness and the colour of the horse on the Vytis (Pogoń) differed.

Note that the number of Lithuanian banners is uncertain. According to Ioannes Longinus there were 40 banners on the right flank of the Polish-Lithuanian forces, 10 flying the Columns of Gediminas and 30 flying the Vytis. However, he also mentions that there might have been 2 additional banners from Smolensk and up to six additional banners of Samogitia. German authors also mention that there were three auxiliary banners of Moldavia flying their own flags. In addition, it is probable that the units from Trakai, Volhynia, Smolensk, Kiev and Nowogrodek used their own emblems.



* Stephen Turnbull, " [ Tannenberg 1410 Disaster for the Teutonic Knights] ", 2003, London: Osprey Campaign Series no. 122 ISBN 9781841765617
*Разин Е. А. (E. A. Razin), История военного искусства XVI — XVII вв. — СПб.: ООО «Издательство Полигон», 1999. ISBN 5891730413 (XVI — XVII вв.), сс. 485-489.
*V. V. Boguslavskii (ed.), Slavianskaia entsiklopediia: Kievskaia Rus' - Moskoviia. V 2-kh tomakh. Tom 1: A-M, Moskva, 2001, Olma Media Group, T. 1, ISBN 5224022509, p. 317
*Johnson, Lonnie, "Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbors, Friends", Oxford University Press (US), 1996, ISBN 0195100719
* Mickunaite, Giedre, A Medieval parade, in The Man of Many Devices, Who Wandered Full Many Ways:festschrift in honour of János M. Bak, Balazs Nagy, Marcell Sebők, Central European University Press, 1999 ISBN 963911667X

Further reading


* Stefan Kuczyński, Szymon Kobyliński, "Chorągwie grunwaldzkich zwycięzców" ("The Banners of the Victors of Grunwald"); WAiF, Warsaw, 1989. ISBN 83-221-0467-7
* Ioannes Longinus (Jan Długosz), "Annales seu Cronicæ Incliti Regni Poloniæ"; PWN, Warsaw, 2000. ISBN 83-01-13301-5
* Ioannes Longinus (Jan Długosz), "Bitwa grunwaldzka"; Ossolineum, Wrocław, 2003. ISBN 83-04-04632-6
* Mečislovas Jučas, "Žalgirio mūšis" ("Battle of Grunwald"); Mokslas, Vilnius, 1990. ISBN 5-420-00242-6
* Sven Ekdahl, Die Schlacht bei Tannenberg 1410. Quellenkritische Untersuchungen. Bd. 1: Einführung und Quellenlage. ISBN 3-428-05243-9
* Sven Ekdahl Die "Banderia Prutenorum" des Jan Długosz: Eine Quelle zur Schlacht bei Tannenberg 1410 : Unters. zu Aufbau, Entstehung u. Quellenwert d. Hs. : mit e. ... Klasse ; Folge 3, Nr. 104). ISBN 3-525-82382-7


* Henryk Sienkiewicz, "Krzyżacy" ("The Teutonic Knights"); Tygodnik Ilustrowany, Kraków, 1900. ISBN 0-7818-0433-7
* James A. Michener, "Poland"; Random House, 1984. ISBN 0-449-20587-8
* Robert L. Stevenson, "Prince Otto" in "Seven Novels"; Barnes & Noble, 2006. ISBN 13:978-978-0-7607-8012-1 ISBN 10-0-7607-8012-9

ee also

* Grunwald Swords
* Battle of the Ice
* Banderia Prutenorum

External links

* [ Analysis of the battle]
* [ Battle of Grunwald 1410]
* [ Account of the battle by Jan Dlugosz, secretary to the Bishop of Kraków, written sixty years after battle]
* [ Grunwald Commune (with pictures of the Grunwald Battle 1999 and 2000)]
* [,00&y=625000,00&zoom=2 Triangle of villages near Grunwald on a map of Poland]
* [ Ignacy Paderewski speech at the Grunwald monument inauguration in Kraków 1910 (500 aniversary)]
* [ Battle of Grunwald, a painting by Jan Matejko]
* [ Gospelcom Summary]
*pl icon Dariusz Gałązka, Leszek Marks, [ Bitwa pod Grunwaldem w 1410 r.—oczami geologa] , Przegląd Geologiczny, vol. 55, nr 1, 2007
*de icon [ Schlacht bei Tannenberg- Historical account by Jörg Dendl]

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