Stanisław Koniecpolski

Stanisław Koniecpolski

Stanisław Koniecpolski (1590/1594Ref_label|a|a|none – 11 March 1646) was a Polish nobleman (szlachta), magnate, official (starost and castellan), voivode of Sandomierz from 1625, and Field and later Grand Crown hetman (second highest military commander, after the king) of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Stanisław Koniecpolski lived a life that involved almost constant warfare, and during his military career he won many victories. Before he reached the age of 20, he had fought in the Dymitriads and the Moldavian Magnate Wars, where he was taken captive by the forces of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Cecora in 1620. After his release in 1623 he defeated Ottoman vassals the Tatars in 1624. With inferior forces himself, he was aided by Imperial forces sent by emperor Ferdinand and in June 1629 the forces clashed at Honigfeld(e) with the Swedish forces of Gustavus Adolphus to a stalemate in Prussia. Koniecpolski tried several more times, July 15 and Aug 9, but was repelled by the Swedes, during the second phase of the Polish-Swedish War (1626–1629), which ended, when the tired hungry troops and diplomats arriving from several countries finally convinced Sigismund III, who kept delaying, because he wanted to force Gustav Adolph to renounce the crown of Sweden, which he wished to re-gain for himself, to sign the Truce of Altmark. Koniecpolski defeated a major Turkish invasion at Kamieniec Podolski (Kamianets-Podilskyi) in Ukraine in 1634, and during his life led many other successful campaigns against the rebellious Cossacks and invading Tatars. He is considered to be one of the most skilled and famous military commanders in the history of Poland and Lithuania.



Stanisław Koniecpolski was born between 1590 and 1594Ref_label|a|a|none into the szlachta and magnate family of Koniecpolscy, likely in their seat of Koniecpol. His father was Aleksander Koniecpolski, voivode (palatine) of Sieradz, a staunch supporter of king Sigismund III of the Swedish House of Vasa. His mother was Anna Sroczycka, daughter of Stanisław Sroczycki, voivode of Kamieniec Podolski, who brought into the Koniecpolscy family large estates in Podolia. Stanisław's brothers were Krzysztof Koniecpolski ("chorąży koronny", voivode of Bełsk from 1641), Remigiusz Koniecpolski (bishop of Chełm, died in 1640), Jan Koniecpolski (castellan and voivode of Sieradz) and Przedbor Koniecpolski (died in 1611).Podhorodecki, p. 14-15]

Stanisław Koniecpolski had a speech impediment since childhood, and throughout his life he stuttered on longer words. At the age of 15, his father's influence at the royal court got him the Commonwealth district office of starosta (mayor) of Wieluń. Around that time he also studied at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków (from 1603).Podhorodecki, p. 22-23] After several years of studies he was sent by his father to the royal court, to continue his education in a more practical fashion; he stayed there for a year or two.Podhorodecki, p. 28] He also might have undertaken, over a period of several months, a tour of Western Europe (mostly France). Afterwards Koniecpolski would return to his family's estates.

Early career

Koniecpolski chose to follow a military career, and in 1610 he took part in the Dymitriads against Muscovy, including the Battle of Kłuszyn. During the siege of the Smolensk fortress on 8 July, 1611, the collapsing walls killed his brother Przedbor and Stanislaw returned to Koniecpol with his body.Podhorodecki, p. 33-34] In the autumn of the same year he rejoined the army and under the command of Grand Lithuanian Hetman Jan Karol Chodkiewicz, he took part in the effort to relieve and bring supplies to the besieged Polish forces in the Moscow Kremlin.Podhorodecki, p. 35] During that time he was entrusted by the hetman with the important command of the right flank of the Polish forces.

In 1612 Koniecpolski joined the units of "wojsko kwarciane" (regular Commonwealth army) in Ukraine under the command of hetman Stanisław Żółkiewski, who greatly influenced his career.Podhorodecki, p. 36] In 1614 he was given the responsibility of destroying rebellious units of "wojsko kwarciane", who were led by Jan Karwacki.Jerzy Besala, "Stanisław Żółkiewski", PIW, 1988] Podhorodecki, p. 42-43] On May 17, together with Jan Żółkiewski, he won a victory at Rohatyn and captured Krawacki. In 1615 he married the daughter of Żółkiewski, Katarzyna. Soon after the marriage, he received an official rank of podstoli koronny.Podhorodecki, p. 44]

In 1615 and 1616 Koniecpolski gained experience in Ukraine fighting against Tatar hordes, but he failed to break or capture any sizable enemy units.Podhorodecki, p. 45] In 1616 his first wife, Katarzyna, died in labor with his first son, Andrzej.Podhorodecki, p. 46-47] In 1617 alongside Żołkiewski he took part in the Moldavian Magnate Wars and stood against the powerful Turkish army of Iskander Pasha (high official in the Ottoman Empire), a conflict which that year ended in a negotiated cease-fire. He also negotiated with Cossacks near Olszanica, Russia, where the Cossack register (list of privileged Cossacks in the Commonwealth military) was limited to 1,000 and Cossack raids on the Black Sea were forbidden.Podhorodecki, p. 48-49] Those raids, often reaching and pillaging wealthy Ottoman cities vastly contributed to the Cossack income, but provoked retaliation raids back into the Commonwealth territory.Podhorodecki, p. 40-41]

In 1618, during the session of the Commonwealth parliament (Sejm) and ignoring the opposition of magnate Krzysztof Zbaraski and his allies, king Sigismund III Vasa granted the buława (ceremonial mace or baton) of Grand Crown Hetman to Stanisław Żółkiewski and the baton of Field Crown Hetman to Koniecpolski.Podhorodecki, p. 51]

Soon afterwards Koniecpolski was defeated by the Tatars near Oryn, where he made a mistake of charging in front of his army against overwhelming odds and consequently barely made it out of the battle alive.Podhorodecki, p. 56] Koniecpolski thereafter married Krystyna Lubomirska, who in 1620 gave birth to Aleksander.Podhorodecki, p. 58]

In 1620 Koniecpolski and Żólkiewski led the army to Cecora to fight against the horde of Kantymir (Khan Temir). The army numbered over 10,000, which consisted of such important regiments as the private forces of magnates Koreccy, Zasławscy, Kazanowscy, Kalinowscy and Potoccy. Koniecpolski commanded the right flank of the Commonwealth forces during the Battle of Cecora. On September 19 the Polish forces were defeated, but were able to retreat in an organised fashion. The morale of the army was low, and while Koniecpolski stopped the army from disintegrating on 20 and 21 September, during the later retreat the army collapsed and ran towards the river. In the ensuing battle Żólkiewski was killed and Koniecpolski and many magnates (Samuel Korecki, Mikołaj Struś, Mikołaj Potocki, Jan Żółkiewski, son of Stanisław and Łukasz Żołkiewski) were taken captive.Podhorodecki, p. 65-100 (very detailed account of the battle)] The prisoners were transported to Białograd, to Iskander pasha, then near Constantinople to the Castle of Seven Towers and held in the Black Tower. They returned to Poland on spring of 1623, in the aftermath of the Ottoman defeat at Khotyn and stabilization of Polish-Ottoman relations, helped by the diplomatic mission of Krzysztof Zbaraski which bought the freedom of captives for 30,000 talars.Podhorodecki, p. 101-110]

Koniecpolski soon had his revenge. In July 1623 he took part in the skirmishes against Tatars near Tremblowla. Around February 1624, the Kantymir's forces ("horda budziacka") attacked southern Poland once again. One of its armies was intercepted and destroyed on February 6 by Koniecpolski near Szmańkowice and Martynów (battle of Martynów around 20 June), forcing the forces of Ali pasha to retreat towards Bukowina. Kantymir's forces crossed the border on June 5 and hetman Koniecpolski crushed them on June 20. Kantymir barely made it out alive. Koniecpolski used a new strategy - light Cossack cavalry that was as fast as the Tatars' had driven the enemy towards fortified positions called the tabors. For his victory the Sejm awarded him 30,000 zlotys and made him voivode of Sandomierz in 1625.

In 1625 Zaporozhian Cossacks rebelled, allied with Szanhin Girej, and tried to form an alliance with Muscovy. Koniecpolski reasoned that the Tatars had their share of trouble with Porta and that the budziacka horda of Kantymir would not be able to send major assistance. He gathered a 12,000-strong army of wojsko kwarciane and private units. He promised all Cossacks loyal to the Commonwealth fair treatment, and death to the rebels remaining under Mark Żmajła. On October 25, 1625 near Kryków he attacked the Cossacks, who managed to stop the first attacks of cavalry and retreated towards Lake Kurukowski. They managed again to stop the second assault and Koniecpolski was "in grave danger at one moment". The conflict ended with a ceasfire, the Treaty of Kurukove; the Cossack register was set at 6,000; and again they promised to stop raiding the Black Sea and provoking the Tatars.

In 1626 the Tatars invaded again, razing and pillaging territories as far as the voivodeships of Belz, Halych and Lviv, while some advance units reached the cities of Ternopil and Tremblowla. A small army of wojsko kwarciane under Koniecpolski managed to defeat the rear guard of the main Tatar army, which crossed the borders with many treasures and slaves in jasyr. Later that year, fearing a repeat of the invasion, Koniecpolski violated a Sejm declaration and recruited and fielded an army of 8,000 against the expected Tatar second wave.

New year, new war

Though the Tatar second wave was keenly anticipated, in 1626 the Tatars did not invade again but Swedes under Gustavus Adolphus crossed the Commonwealth borders instead, rekindling the Polish-Swedish War. Koniecpolski's forces (4,200 light cavalry, 1,000 dragoons, 1,000 infantry) moved to the Prusy Królewskie with amazing speed. Strengthened by other units, he had 10,000 men against over 20,000-strong Swedish force. Using the tactic of maneuver warfare, with small mobile units striking at the enemy's communication lines and smaller units, he managed to stop the Swedish attack and force the units under Axel Oxenstierna into a defense.

The Sejm agreed to raise money for the war, but the situation of the Polish forces was difficult. Lithuanian forces were dealt a serious defeat in December 1626 near Koknese in Inflanty Voivodeship and retreated behind the Dvina river. The Swedes planned to strike Koniecpolski from two directions - Oxenstierna from direction of the Vistula and Johann Streiff von Lawentstein and Maxymilian Teuffl from Swedish held Pomorze. The flooding of the Vistula disrupted their plans and allowed Koniecpolski to intercept the enemy units coming from Pomorze. In March/April (dates vary, 12 March being most common) of 1627 near Czarne (Hamersztyn) they forced the Swedish forces to retreat inside the city, and three days later to surrender, leaving behind their banners and insignia. Some Swedish soldiers and mercenaries changed sides at that time. This victory also convinced the Elector of Brandenburg to declare his support for the Commonwealth, and the Lithuanian forces resumed the offensive in Inflanty.

In May 1626 the Swedes were reinforced by Gustavus Adolphus, who landed in Piława with over 8,000 soldiers. During the crossing of the Vistula near Kieżmark, in the vicinity of Danzig, he met the Polish forces and in the ensuing battle was wounded in the hip and forced to retreat. In July he led forces to lift the siege of Braniew, and lay siege to Orneta. Koniecpolski responded with the sudden attack and capture of Gniew. Gustavus was reported to be impressed by the speed of Koniecpolski's reaction. With about 7,800 men (including 2,500 cavalry and hussars, Commonwealth elite heavy cavalry), Koniecpolski tried to stop the Swedish army from reaching Danzig, near Tczew. On 7–8 August, battle with the Swedish forces (10,000 men including 5,000 infantry) took place near the swamps of Mołtawa. The Swedes wanted to provoke the Poles into an attack and then destroy them with infantry fire and artillery, but Koniecpolski decided not to attack. The Swedes then took the initiative and attacked with cavalry, but did not manage to draw the Poles within the range of their fire. The consequent Swedish attacks dealt severe damage to Polish cavalry units, but did not manage to cripple the army (whose morale was kept high, thanks to Koniecpolski). The battle ended when Gustavus Adolphus was once again wounded and the Swedes retreated.

After the battle, Koniecpolski saw the need to reform the army and strengthen the firepower of infantry and artillery to match the Swedish units. The Swedes, on the other hand, learned arts of cavalry attacks, charges and melee combat from the Poles. Koniecpolski's tactics led to the defeat of a Swedish flotilla by the small Polish Navy on 28 November, 1627, at the battle of Oliwa.

In 1628 the Polish forces, lacking funding, were forced to stop their offensive and switch to defense. Gustavus Adolphus captured Nowy and Brodnica. Koniecpolski counterattacked by using his small forces most efficiently - fast cavalry melee attacks combined with the supporting fire of infantry and artillery, and using fortifications and terrain advantage. The Sejm decided to increase the funds for the war after the battle of Górzno, where Stanisław Potocki was defeated. Austria sent help to the Commonwealth in the form of units under field marshall Jan Jerzy Arnheim. Nonetheless, Koniecpolski was forced to withdraw Commonwealth forces from many strategic Polish strongholds in Prussia.

In time, hetman Koniecpolski managed to recapture Puck. The final battle took place on 27 June, 1629 near Trzciana (or Trzcianka). The Swedes attacked in the direction of Grudziądz, were stopped, and retreated to Szturm and Malbork. Koniecpolski attacked the rear guard led by Jan, count of Ren, and destroyed it. He also repelled a counterattack by Swedish raitars, who were pushed in the direction of Pułkowice, where another counterattack was led by Gustavus Adolfus with 2,000 raitars. This counterattack was also stopped, and the Swedish forces were saved by the last reserve units led by field marshall Herman Wrangel, who finally managed to stop the Polish attack. Gustavus Adolfus said after the battle "I have never been in such a bath". 1,200 Swedes were killed, including the count of Ren, Jan Wilhelm Reingraff, and a few hundred were captured. Polish losses were under 200 killed and injured.

However this victory was not followed up politically and militarily. A cease-fire in Stary Targ (Truce of Altmark) on 26 October, 1629 was in favour of the Swedes, who got the right to tax Polish trade moved through the Baltic (3,5% on the value of goods), kept control of many cities in Prusy Królewskie and for the time were generally recognized as the dominant power on the southern Baltic Sea coast. Koniecpolski had no major influence over the negotiations, as he was quickly called back to Ukraine to crush yet another uprising of Cossacks, this time led by Taras Fedorovych.

Grand Crown Hetman

In 1630 Taras executed Hryhoriy Chorny, who opposed the uprising, and captured the fortress of Korsun. Koniecpolski laid siege to Pereyaslav, but lacking the support of artillery and infantry, he could not break its walls. The Cossacks, lacking supplies, agreed to negotiations, and on 8 June the Kurukow agreement was reinstated. Koniecpolski's opinion was that harsh punishment should be dealt to all rebels but the Cossack situation in the long run was better remedied not by military suppression, but by fairer and more equal treatment, such as an increase in the number of Cossack soldiers (rejestr) and the regular payment of wages.

In 1632, few months before his death, Zygmunt III Waza awarded to Koniecpolski the position of Grand Crown Hetman. After the king's death, the hetman played a major role directing political affairs in the Commonwealth and supported the free election of the son of Zygmunt, Władysław IV Waza in 1632. In return, a year after the election, in 1633, Władysław rewarded Koniecpolski with the office of the castellan of Kraków, the most prestigious office among the Commonwealth district offices. Since then, Koniecpolski became an influential advisor to the new king, often encouraging Wladyslaw to direct Polish foreign policy against the Tatars. Over the coming years, Koniecpolski, together with kanclerz Jerzy Ossoliński, would become an important supporter of Władysław as long as the king's actions were carried out according to the law; Koniecpolski never supported any of Władysław's actions that were not supported by the Sejm, as required by Commonwealth law.

In 1633 Koniecpolski thwarted the Turks' attacks on the Commonwealth, defeating their forces on July 4 under Sasowy Róg and later that year, on October 22, with an army of 11,000 valiantly resisted and repulsed a larger Ottoman invasion force of over 20,000 at Kamieniec Podolski. Those defeats and the tough stance of Koniecpolski convinced the Turks to sign a new treaty on September 19, 1634, which repeated the statements of the Treaty of Chocim from 1621. This ended the Ottoman-Commonwealth War (1633-1634). In 1635 after Cossacks under Ivan Sulima had destroyed the Polish fort "Kudak" (near modern Dnepropetrovsk), Koniecpolski led an expedition that retook the fort and punished the insurgents; Sulima was taken prisoner and later executed. That year he was also present at the Treaty of Sztumska Wieś.

Koniecpolski understood the need to modernise the army and actively cooperated with Władysław IV on various projects leading to this goal, like drafting mercenary units experienced in the western art of war, and further development of artillery (he supervised the construction of arsenals in Kudak, Bar and Kamieniec Podolski, and built forges on his Ukrainian estates). He was the patron of many talented artillery and engineering officers. It is possible that he also sponsored cartographers like William le Vasseur de Beauplan, who created a map of Ukraine, and Sebastian Aders, who created a map of the Crimea. He also supported the plan to create the Commonwealth Baltic Fleet.

Koniecpolski became the "de facto" unofficial ruler of Ukraine, as king Władysław entrusted him with most political decisions about this south-eastern region of the Commonwealth. Some foreigners indeed referred to him as the 'viceking of Ukraine', although such a position never existed in the Commonwealth. With the knowledge and support of the king, Koniecpolski sent and received diplomatic missions from Istanbul, carried out negotiations and signed out treaties, and as a hetman, had a direct control over a significant part of Commonwealth military. He had his own espionage network stretching from Muscovy to the Ottoman Empire itself.

The magnate

Over the course of his life, Koniecpolski gathered much wealth. He was a possessor of 16 districts ("starostwa"), and his yearly revenue was over 500,000 zlotys (Polish coins). He sponsored the construction of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw. He founded the town of Brody, which became an important local commercial center, fortified it with a citadel and bastions in 1633 and set up workshops (a manufacture) producing Persian-type samite fabrics, carpets and rugs there. He also constructed a fortified palace in Podhorce with beautiful Italian gardens. More than 100,000 people lived on his estates in Western Ukraine.

Koniecpolski was regarded as an honorable and fair person, and liked by most of the szlachta. What was especially rare for a Commonwealth magnate, he was said to have almost no enemies. His main opponents in politics were those who opposed king Władysław, and on Ukraine, magnate Jeremi Wiśniowiecki, who vied with Koniecpolski about the control over Ukraine region.

Last years

After 1635 Koniecpolski's declining health made him more and more reliant on the younger hetman Mikołaj Potocki, who successfully crushed Cossack uprisings in 1637 and 1638, and a Tatar uprising in 1639. Koniecpolski's influence also protected the outlaw Samuel Łaszcz, another able commander.

One of the Koniecpolski's greatest victories was during the winter campaign against the Turks in 1644. This was the largest army he had commanded so far: 19,000 soldiers (60% of them were private forces of the magnates, Koniecpolski's own forces numbered 2,200). He dealt a crushing defeat to Toğay bey's (Tuhaj Bej) forces near Ochmatów and pursued them. Many Turks drowned near Sina Woda when the ice cover on the water collapsed. This campaign brought more fame to Koniecpolski, who had not only predicted the place and time of the Turks' attack, but also destroyed their forces before they used their usual strategy of splitting the main forces into highly mobile and difficult to intercept units ("czambuls").

This victory led Władysław IV to consider waging an offensive war against the Turks. Koniecpolski supported the limited war against the Crimean Chanate, but opposed Władysław's plan to wage the war on the entire Ottoman Empire, considering it an unrealistic folly. He set forth his strategic concept in a plan he titled "Dyskurs o Zniesieniu Tatarow Krymskich" ("A Discourse on the Destruction of the Crimean Tartars"). Koniecpolski also strongly advised that a coalition with Moscow would be useful for this campaign.

Unfortunately, king Władysław continued to push for a crusade against Turkey, but with little internal support failed to achieve anything except to spread false hopes among the Cossacks, to whom he promised privileges and money for participation in that crusade. An astute statesman, Koniecpolski foresaw danger in the discontent of the Cossacks and advocated a policy designed to accommodate their demands, unfortunately with little support and success.

After Koniecpolski's wife Krystyna died, Koniecpolski soon married the 16 year old Zofia Opalińska, daughter of future Crown Marshal Łukasz Opaliński on 16 January, 1646. Koniecpolski died on 11 March, 1646 in Brody. Many sources point to his new marriage as the source of his death. Joachim Jerlicz wrote in his diary that he overdosed on an aphrodisiac.



a. Note_label|a|a|none The year of Koniecpolski's birth is not certain since there are several conflicting sources. For some reason, people paid relatively little attention to their dates of birth in that place and time. Leszek Podhorodecki, in his biography "Stanisław Koniecpolski ok. 1592–1646", chose the date 1592, which is likely the "average" of other sources (1590 being the earliest, 1594 the latest given by various sources). As he notes, the date 1591 is the most common ( [ used] for example by Encyclopædia Britannica, 7 August 2007), and the date 1593 or 1594 was proposed in Polski Słownik Biograficzny by historian Władysław Czapliński, whom Podhorodecki calls 'a great specialist of that era', noting however that Czapliński fails to justify this date.

Further reading

*Davies, Norman, "God's Playground", ISBN 0-231-05353-3 and ISBN 0-231-05351-7 (two volumes).
*"Hetmani Rzeczypospolitej Obojga Narodów" (1994). Warsaw: Bellona. ISBN 83-11-08275-8.
*Podhorodecki, Leszek (1978). "Stanisław Koniecpolski ok. 1592–1646". Wydawnictwo Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej. ISBN B0000E946H.
*Jasienica, Paweł, "Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów", 1982, ISBN 83-06-00788-3
*Czapliński Antoni, Topolski Jerzy, "Historia Polski" (History of Poland), 1988, ISBN 83-04-01919-1

External links

* [ The Koniecpolski Family]
* [ Short biography at the Polish-American Journal]
* [ Another short bio at]
* [ Koniecpolski entry in 1911 Britannica] and in [ modern Britannica]
*pl icon Entries at Encyklopedia PWN: [] , Encyklopedia Interia: [] , Encyklopedia WIEM: [,,,,koniecpolski_stanislaw,haslo.html]

NAME= Koniecpolski, Stanisław
SHORT DESCRIPTION= Polish nobleman
DATE OF BIRTH= between 1590 and 1594
DATE OF DEATH=11 March 1646

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