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Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War

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Title: Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Battle of Grunwald, Thirteen Years' War (1454–66), Siege of Marienburg (1410), Peace of Thorn (1411), Polish–Teutonic War (1431–35)
Collection: 1409 in Europe, 1409 in the State of the Teutonic Order, 1410 in Europe, 1410 in the State of the Teutonic Order, 1411 in Europe, 1411 in the State of the Teutonic Order, 15Th Century in Lithuania, 15Th-Century Conflicts, History of Poland (1385–1569), Polish–teutonic Wars, Warfare of the Middle Ages, Wars Involving Poland, Wars Involving the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Wars Involving the Teutonic Knights, Wars Involving the Teutonic Order
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War

Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War

Battle of Grunwald by Jan Matejko (1878)
Date June 1409 – February 1411
Location Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights
Result Peace of Thorn (1411)
State of the Teutonic Order Kingdom of Poland
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Commanders and leaders
Ulrich von Jungingen 
Heinrich von Plauen
Władysław II Jagiełło
Grand Duke Vytautas

The Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War or Great War occurred between 1409 and 1411, pitting the allied Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania against the Teutonic Knights. Inspired by the local Samogitian uprising, the war began by Teutonic invasion of Poland in August 1409. As neither side was ready for a full-scale war, Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia, brokered a nine-month truce. After the truce expired in June 1410, the military-religious monks were decisively defeated in the Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg), one of the largest battles in medieval Europe. Most of the Teutonic leadership was killed or taken prisoner. While defeated, the Teutonic Knights withstood the siege on their capital in Marienburg (Malbork) and suffered only minimal territorial losses in the Peace of Thorn (1411). Territorial disputes lasted until the Peace of Melno of 1422. However, the Knights never recovered their former power and the financial burden of war reparations caused internal conflicts and economic decline in their lands. The war shifted the balance of power in Eastern Europe and marked the rise of the Polish–Lithuanian union as the dominant power in the region.[1]


  • Historical background 1
  • Course of war 2
    • Uprising, war and truce 2.1
    • Strategy and march in Prussia 2.2
    • Battle of Grunwald 2.3
    • Siege of Marienburg 2.4
  • Peace and aftermath 3
  • References 4
  • Bibliography 5

Historical background

Poland and Lithuania (1386–1434)

In 1230, the Teutonic Knights, a crusading military order, moved to the Kulmerland (today within the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship) and, upon the request of Konrad I, king of the Masovian Slavs, launched the Prussian Crusade against the pagan Prussian clans. With support from the Pope and Holy Roman Emperor, the Teutons conquered and converted the Prussians by the 1280s and shifted their attention to the pagan Grand Duchy of Lithuania. For about a hundred years the Knights raided the Lithuanian lands, particularly Samogitia as it separated the Knights in Prussia from their branch in Livonia. The border regions became uninhabited wilderness, but the Knights gained very little territory. The Lithuanians first gave up Samogitia during the Lithuanian Civil War (1381–1384) in the Treaty of Dubysa. The territory was used as a bargaining chip to ensure Teutonic support for one of the sides in the internal power struggle.

In 1385, Grand Duke Jogaila of Lithuania proposed to marry reigning Queen Jadwiga of Poland in the Union of Kreva. Jogaila converted to Christianity and was crowned as the King of Poland thus creating a personal union between the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The official Lithuanian conversion to Christianity removed the religious rationale for the Order's activities in the area.[2] However the Knights responded by publicly contesting the sincerity of Jogaila's conversion, bringing the charge to a papal court.[2] The territorial disputes continued over Samogitia, which was in Teutonic hands since the Peace of Raciąż of 1404. Poland also had territorial claims against the Knights in Dobrzyń Land and Danzig (Gdańsk), but the two states were largely at peace since the Treaty of Kalisz (1343).[3] The conflict was also motivated by trade considerations: the Knights controlled lower reaches of the three largest rivers (Neman, Vistula and Daugava) in Poland and Lithuania.[4]

Course of war

Uprising, war and truce

In May 1409, an

  • Christiansen, Eric (1997), The Northern Crusades (2nd ed.), Penguin Books,  
  • Ekdahl, Sven (2008), "The Battle of Tannenberg-Grunwald-Žalgiris (1410) as reflected in Twentieth-Century monuments", in Victor Mallia-Milanes, The Military Orders: History and Heritage 3, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.,  
  • Ivinskis, Zenonas (1978), Lietuvos istorija iki Vytauto Didžiojo mirties (in Lietuvių), Rome: Lietuvių katalikų mokslo akademija,  
  • Jučas, Mečislovas (2009), The Battle of Grünwald, Vilnius: National Museum Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania,  
  • Kuczynski, Stephen M. (1960), The Great War with the Teutonic Knights in the years 1409–1411, Ministry of National Defence,  
  • Разин, Е. А. (1999), История военного искусства XVI – XVII вв. (in Русский) 3, Издательство Полигон,  
  • Stone, Daniel (2001), The Polish-Lithuanian state, 1386–1795,  


  1. ^ Ekdahl 2008, p. 175
  2. ^ a b c Stone 2001, p. 16
  3. ^ Urban 2003, p. 132
  4. ^ Kiaupa 2000, p. 137
  5. ^ Turnbull 2003, p. 20
  6. ^ a b Ivinskis 1978, p. 336
  7. ^ Urban 2003, p. 130
  8. ^ Kuczynski 1960, p. 614
  9. ^ Jučas 2009, p. 51
  10. ^ a b Turnbull 2003, p. 21
  11. ^ Kiaupa 2000, p. 139
  12. ^ Christiansen 1997, p. 227
  13. ^ a b Turnbull 2003, p. 30
  14. ^ a b c Jučas 2009, p. 75
  15. ^ Jučas 2009, p. 74
  16. ^ a b Turnbull 2003, p. 33
  17. ^ Urban 2003, p. 142
  18. ^ a b Turnbull 2003, p. 35
  19. ^ Turnbull 2003, pp. 36–37
  20. ^ Urban 2003, pp. 148–149
  21. ^ Jučas 2009, p. 77
  22. ^ Jučas 2009, pp. 57–58
  23. ^ Разин 1999, pp. 485–486
  24. ^ Turnbull 2003, p. 43
  25. ^ Turnbull 2003, p. 45
  26. ^ Turnbull 2003, pp. 48–49
  27. ^ Turnbull 2003, p. 64
  28. ^ Turnbull 2003, p. 66
  29. ^ Urban 2003, p. 157
  30. ^ a b Turnbull 2003, p. 68
  31. ^ Jučas 2009, p. 88
  32. ^ Urban 2003, p. 162
  33. ^ Paweł Jasienica (1978). Jagiellonian Poland. American Institute of Polish Culture. pp. 108–109. 
  34. ^ Urban 2003, p. 164
  35. ^ Stone 2001, p. 17
  36. ^ Ivinskis 1978, p. 342
  37. ^ Turnbull 2003, p. 75
  38. ^ Turnbull 2003, p. 74
  39. ^ Urban 2003, p. 166
  40. ^ a b Christiansen 1997, p. 228
  41. ^ Kiaupa 2000, pp. 142–144
  42. ^ Christiansen 1997, pp. 228–230
  43. ^ Stone 2001, pp. 17–19


The Peace of Thorn was signed in February 1411. Under its terms, the Knights ceded the Dobrin Land (Dobrzyń Land) to Poland and agreed to resign their claims to Samogitia during the lifetimes of Jogaila and Vytautas,[40] although another two wars – the Hunger War of 1414 and the Gollub War of 1422 – would be waged before the Treaty of Melno permanently resolved the territorial disputes.[41] The Poles and Lithuanians were unable to translate the military victory into territorial or diplomatic gains. However, the Peace of Thorn imposed a heavy financial burden on the Knights from which they never recovered. They had to pay an indemnity in silver, estimated at ten times the annual income of the King of England, in four annual installments.[40] To meet these payments, the Knights borrowed heavily, confiscated gold and silver from churches, and increased taxes. Two major Prussian cities, Danzig (Gdańsk) and Thorn (Toruń), revolted against the tax increases. The defeat at Grunwald left the Teutonic Knights with few forces to defend their remaining territories. Since both Poland and Lithuania were now Christian countries, the Knights had difficulties recruiting new volunteer crusaders.[42] The Grand Masters then needed to rely on mercenary troops, which proved an expensive drain on their already depleted budget. The internal conflicts, economic decline, and tax increases led to unrest and the foundation of the Prussian Confederation, or Alliance against Lordship, in 1441. This in turn led to a series of conflicts that culminated in the Thirteen Years' War (1454).[43]

Peace of Thorn

Peace and aftermath

Jogaila, meanwhile, also sent his troops to other Teutonic fortresses, which often surrendered without resistance,[34] including the major cities of Danzig (Gdańsk), Thorn (Toruń), and Elbing (Elbląg).[35] Only eight castles remained in Teutonic hands.[36] The Polish and Lithuanians besiegers of Marienburg were not prepared for a long-term engagement, suffering from lack of ammunition, low morale, and an epidemic of dysentery.[37] The Knights appealed to their allies for help and Sigismund of Hungary, Wenceslaus, King of the Romans, and the Livonian Order promised financial aid and reinforcements.[38] The siege of Marienburg was lifted on 19 September. The Polish–Lithuanian forces left garrisons in fortresses that were captured or surrendered and returned home. However, the Knights quickly recaptured most of the castles. By the end of October, only four Teutonic castles along the border remained in Polish hands.[39] Jogaila raised a fresh army and dealt another defeat to the Knights in the Battle of Koronowo on 10 October 1410. Following other brief engagements, both sides agreed to negotiate.

After the battle, the Polish and Lithuanian forces delayed their attack on the Teutonic capital in Marienburg (Paweł Jasienica speculated that this was likely an intentional move by Jagiełło, who together with Vytautas preferred to keep the humbled but not decimated Order in play as to not upset the balance of power between Poland (which would most likely acquire most of the Order possessions if it was totally defeated) and Lithuania; but a lack of primary sources precludes a definitive explanation.[33]

Castle of Marienburg, capital of the Teutonic Knights

Siege of Marienburg

The defeat of the Teutonic Knights was resounding. About 8,000 Teuton soldiers were killed[29] and an additional 14,000 were taken captive.[30] Most of the brothers of the Order were killed, including most of the Teutonic leadership. The highest-ranking Teutonic official to escape the battle was Werner von Tettinger, Komtur of Elbing (Elbląg).[30] Most of the captive commoners and mercenaries were released shortly after the battle on condition that they report to Kraków on 11 November 1410.[31] The nobles were kept in captivity and high ransoms were demanded for each.

The Knights hoped to provoke Poles or Lithuanians to attack first and sent two swords, known as wagon fort. However, the defense was soon broken and the camp was ravaged and according to an eyewitness account, more Knights died there than in the battlefield.[28]

The Battle of Grunwald took place on 15 July 1410 between the villages of Grunwald, Tannenberg (Stębark) and Ludwigsdorf (Łodwigowo).[21] Modern estimates of number of troops involved range from 16,500 to 39,000 Polish–Lithuanian and 11,000 to 27,000 Teutonic men.[22] The Polish–Lithuanian army was an amalgam of nationalities and religions: the Roman Catholic Polish–Lithuanian troops fought side by side with pagan Samogitians, Eastern Orthodox Ruthenians, and Muslim Tatars. Twenty-two different peoples, mostly Germanic, joined the Teutonic side.[23]

The battle as depicted in the Berner Chronik of Diebold Schilling

Battle of Grunwald

The first stage of the Grunwald campaign was gathering all Polish–Lithuanian troops at Drwęca) near Kauernik (Kurzętnik).[18] On 11 July, Jogaila decided against crossing the river at such a strong defensible position. The army would instead bypass the river crossing by turning east, towards its sources, where no other major rivers separated his army from Marienburg.[18] The Teutonic army followed the Drewenz River north, crossed it near Löbau (Lubawa), and then moved east in parallel with the Polish–Lithuanian army. The latter ravaged the village of Gilgenburg (Dąbrówno).[19] Von Jungingen was so enraged by the atrocities that he swore to defeat the invaders in battle.[20]

[13] By December 1409, Jogaila and Vytautas had agreed on a common strategy: their armies would unite into a single massive force and march together towards Marienburg (

map of army movements during the Grunwald campaign

Strategy and march in Prussia

Wenceslaus, King of the Romans, agreed to mediate the dispute. A truce was signed on 8 October 1409; it was set to expire on 24 June 1410.[9] Both sides used this time for preparations for the battle, gathering the troops and engaging in diplomatic maneuvers. Both sides sent letters and envoys accusing each other of various wrongdoings and threats to Christendom. Wenceslaus, who received a gift of 60,000 florins from the Knights, declared that Samogitia rightfully belonged to the Knights and only Dobrzyń Land should be returned to Poland.[10] The Knights also paid 300,000 ducats to Sigismund of Hungary, who had ambitions for the principality of Moldova, for his military assistance.[10] Sigismund attempted to break the Polish–Lithuanian alliance by offering Vytautas a king's crown; Vytautas's acceptance of such a crown would violate the terms of the Ostrów Agreement and create Polish-Lithuanian discord.[11] At the same time Vytautas managed to obtain a truce from the Livonian Order.[12]

However, neither side was ready for a full-scale war. [6]).Klaipėda The Samogitians attacked Memel ([8]

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