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Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War
Date 1409–1411
Location Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights
Result Peace of Thorn (1411)
Belligerents
Den tyske ordens skjold.svg Teutonic Knights PB Piast2 CoA.png Kingdom of Poland
COA of Gediminaičiai dynasty Lithuania.png Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Commanders
Teuton flag.svg Ulrich von Jungingen
Teuton flag.svg Heinrich von Plauen
Teuton flag.svg Michael Küchmeister von Sternberg
PB Piast2 CoA.png Władysław II Jagiełło
COA of Gediminaičiai dynasty Lithuania.png Vytautas
Strength
unknown unknown
Polish Knights 1333-1434

The Polish-Lithuanian–Teutonic War or Great War (Polish: Wielka Wojna) occurred between 1409 and 1411, pitting Poland and Lithuania against the Teutonic Knights. The crusaders were crushed in the Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg) and never regained the strength or prestige they had before the war. The First Peace of Thorn ended the war.

Contents

Causes

In the 13th century, the Teutonic Knights had been invited to Culmerland to assist in the defense of Masovia and the conversion of the pagan Old Prussians. Under a papal edict which gave them effective carte blanche to act as they wished, they established a power base in the region, occupying the Baltic coastal regions of what are now Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, and showed signs of further expansion. Their incursions into Poland in the 14th century gave them control of major towns in Pomerelia and Kuyavia. 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 Krewo joined the crown of Poland with Lithuania, and the subsequent marriage of Grand Duke Jogaila of Lithuania and Queen Jadwiga of Poland was to shift the balance of power; both nations were more than aware that only by acting together could the expansionary plans of the Teutonic Order be thwarted. Jogaila accepted Christianity and became King Władysław II Jagiełło of Poland. Lithuania's conversion to Christianity removed much of the rationale of the Teutonic Knights' anti-pagan crusades.

In 1398, however, the Knights invaded the 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.

Overview

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Start of the war

In 1409, an uprising in German-held Samogitia started. The Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas the Great, who claimed the patrimony in Samogitia and Prussia 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 Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen declared war on the Polish–Lithuanian union. The forces of the Teutonic Order initially invaded Greater Poland and Kuyavia, but the Poles repelled the invasion and reconquered Bromberg (Bydgoszcz), which led to a subsequent armistice agreement that was to last until 24 June 1410. The Lithuanians and Poles used this time in preparations to remove the crusading threat once and for all.

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 (Neman), Rhein (Ryn) near Lötzen (Giżycko), and Memel (Klaipėda). Poles and Lithuanians continued to screen their intentions by organising several raids deep into German territory. Ulrich von Jungingen asked for the armistice to be extended to 4 July in order to let mercenaries from western Europe arrive. Enough time had already been given for the Polish-Lithuanian forces to gather in strength.

On 30 June, 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. Władysław's Polish forces and the Lithuanian soldiers of his cousin Vytautas the Great (to whom Władysław 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 Castle Marienburg (Malbork). The Teutonic Knights were caught by surprise.

Ulrich von Jungingen withdrew his forces from the area of Schwetz 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, Władysław decided to outflank the enemy forces from the East and continue the march towards Marienburg through Soldau (Działdowo) and Gilgenburg (Dąbrówno). On 13 July, these two castles were captured and the way towards Marienburg was opened.

Battle of Grunwald

The Battle of Grunwald took place on 15 July 1410 between the forces of the combined Polish–Lithuanian army, led by King Władysław Jagiełło of Poland, and the Teutonic Order.

The Polish–Lithuanian army was an amalgam of nationalities and religions. The Roman Catholic Polish and Lithuanian troops fought side by side with Eastern Orthodox Christians, Muslim Tatars, and Hussite Bohemians. The Bohemians were there because Władysław and King Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia had signed a defensive treaty earlier due to invasions by Teutonic Knights. The Bohemian mercenary Jan Žižka later became the general of the Taborites in the Hussite Wars.

In this decisive battle of the war, the Teutonic Order was defeated in the battle and never recovered its former influence. Ulrich von Jungingen and much of the leadership of the Teutonic Order were slain in the battle.

After the Battle of Grunwald

The Teutonic Knights were shattered as a result of the battle, and many fortresses surrendered to Władysław. Forces of Michael Küchmeister von Sternberg were defeated in the Battle of Koronowo in September. Władysław delayed in attacking Marienburg, however, giving Heinrich von Plauen time to prepare a successful resistance to the Siege of Marienburg (1410). The First Peace of Thorn in February 1411 ended the war on terms favourable to the Teutonic Order considering their defeat at Grunwald.

Further reading


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