Lithuanian Wars of the Teutonic Order
The causes were, on the one hand, armed conflicts in the 13th century, which were triggered by devastating raids by Lithuanian troops in Livonia , and, on the other hand, the order's far-reaching expansion efforts in the course of the 14th century. The politically and militarily strengthened order of knights justified its territorial claims on Lower Lithuania from the middle of the 14th century onwards by wanting to enforce the Christianization of pagan Lithuania on behalf of the Curia .
After the lost battle near Tannenberg in 1410 and the peace treaty of Thorn in 1411 , the Teutonic Order had to renounce all ownership claims in Lithuania. It was also the time for the beginning of the decline of the order. The demarcation was finally established in the peace of Lake Melno in 1422, which finally meant the end of the armed conflict.
In the terminology of the order, the population of (old) Lithuania, with their independent, non-Christian Baltic religion, was classified across the board as incorrigible pagans, whose Christian conversion only helped the sword. The chronicle of the order, Peter von Dusburg, characterized the Lithuanians around 1326 from the perspective of the Teutonic Order as "[...] a powerful and extremely stubborn and war-trained people".
The most important war goal of the Teutonic Order in the Baltic States during the 14th century was the conquest of Lower Lithuania . With this, the order wanted to gain a land bridge between its two core areas, Prussia and Livonia .
On the part of the order, the concept of the struggle for the cross of Christ , originally coined in the debate with Islam , continued to play an ideological role. In Western and Central Europe, warfare based in the direct tradition of the Crusades came to a standstill after the loss of Acon in the Holy Land (1291) or was limited to Northern and Eastern Europe and the Iberian Peninsula . The armed struggle to convert unbelievers, however, remained enshrined in the statutes of the religious knightly order . In this way, the actors linked the urge to expand with ideological considerations. The conflict with the rulers of Lithuania, who vehemently rejected the sacrament of baptism and also tended to conquer, gave the Teutonic Order and the state structure it shaped the legitimation for armed conflict with the "infidels" in the spirit of the late Middle Ages.
Although Lithuania's grand dukes in the 14th century directed their expansion efforts to regional principalities of Belarus and the lands of the Ukraine due to the looming power vacuum in the east , they saw their position of power threatened by the aggressive policies of the Teutonic Order. Since a balancing consensus of interests could not be reached because of the order's claim to all-embracing baptism, the highly armed opponent was met in the same warlike manner. An offensive defense of the disputed Samogitias and thus the heartland of Lithuania always had the highest priority. From this point of view, the tactic of constant penetration into the enemy territories of the order proved to be effective. The prospect of rich booty from the economically prosperous Teutonic Order also played an important role in the persistent attacks by the Lithuanian cavalry.
Strategic starting position
The German Order
The Teutonic Order, which emerged from the Crusades in Palestine, was a religious knightly order . After 1230, the order established extensive territorial rule. It included the land of the Prussians because of the Golden Bull of Rimini awarded to the order of Emperor Friedrich II. In 1226 and the Treaty of Kruschwitz with the Masovian Duke Konrad Mazowiecki . In addition, large parts of Livonia were added after 1237 as a result of the union of the Teutonic Order with the Livonian Order of the Brothers of the Sword through the Treaty of Viterbo . In 1309 the Grand Master Siegfried von Feuchtwangen moved into his domicile at the Marienburg on the Nogat . During this time, the Teutonic Order finally turned away from its original goal of fighting for the grave of Christ in the Holy Land .
In the 14th century, the Teutonic Order was divided into two regional associations or branches of the order: Prussia and Livonia . Although the Malbork Castle and the seat of the Grand Master there was a nominal center of religious rule, Livonia's masters always held a special political and military status. In Livonia, in contrast to Prussia, there was a division of spheres of influence between the religious authority and various autonomous dioceses . This unusual power constellation went back to the Order of the Brothers of the Sword.
In addition, there was the different origins of the cadres of the two branches of the order: While Prussia was predominantly ruled by Central and West German monarchs, the corps of the Livonian branch of the order was mainly recruited from North German and Danish knights. This reflected the country's ties to the traditions of the violent proselytizing of the Livs and Estonians at the beginning of the 13th century: Christianity was spread in the northern Baltic region via pre-Hanseatic sea connections from bases such as Lübeck and the Danish Zealand . Coordinated activities of both branches of the order in the war against the Grand Duchy of Lithuania remained the exception in view of this constellation. An outstanding example is the absence of the entire Livonian branch of the order during the decisive campaign of 1410, which led to the catastrophe at the Battle of Tannenberg . The Livonian landmaster Conrad von Vytinghove invoked an armistice agreed with the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas .
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Lithuania's development into a Grand Duchy began to emerge in the first decades of the 13th century. Under Prince Mindaugas , the process of unification of the Lithuanian tribes was essentially completed by 1250. The regional sub-principalities recognized the suzerainty of a grand duke . Nevertheless, the Lithuanian ruling class retained a certain degree of autonomy.
The pragmatic prince Mindaugas also made use of religious means of power in the power struggle with opponents from within Lithuania. He was baptized as a Christian and, on the instructions of Pope Innocent IV, received the royal crown from the hand of the Archbishop of Riga. After overcoming his adversaries and not least under pressure from internal resistance, he declared baptism null and void and returned to the old faith. Mindaugas remained the only Christian crowned monarch in Lithuania.
Under Grand Duke Gediminas , a gradual centralization of Lithuania took place at the beginning of the 14th century, whereby the city of Vilnius (Wilna) founded by Gediminas gained in importance. Gediminas' successors built the Grand Duchy into an Eastern European great power. The rulers of Lithuania knew how to use the power vacuum in Eastern Europe resulting from the creeping disintegration of the Golden Horde to their own advantage. In the second half of the 14th century, the grand dukes were referred to as "Magnus dux Littwanie, Samathie et Rusie". The second part of the title (German: "Ruler of Russia") testifies to the profound expansion of the Grand Duchy in Eastern Europe. Regardless of this, the conflict with the Teutonic Order could only be overcome in the beginning of the 15th century and only in association with the Kingdom of Poland .
History of the conflict
With the arrival of the first Teutonic Knights under Hermann Balk in Kulmerland in 1230 , the power constellation in the entire Baltic region changed in favor of the Roman Catholic Church . So far, gods like the thunder god Perkūnas had been worshiped in the land of the Prussians as in Lithuania .
As early as the thirties of the 13th century there were serious clashes between Christians and the predominantly Shamaite Lithuanians on the southern borders of Livonia (Estonia). The Order of the Brothers of the Sword, founded in 1202, had gained a foothold there. Since Livonia bordered Samogitia, the first serious confrontation between Christian knights and Lithuania took place there. This conflict reached its climax in 1236 in the so-called Sun Battle at Schaulen , in which the Sword Brothers were devastated. After this meeting, the weakened Brothers of the Sword Order was integrated into the Teutonic Order by papal arbitration ( Treaty of Viterbo ). Even after the merger, the fighting continued. In the battle of the Durbe in 1260, the combined German-Prussian-Kurish armed forces of the order were defeated by the Samogites with heavy losses, especially among the Prussian nobles. The immediate consequence of the Lithuanian victory was the uprising of the Prussians in previously pacified Prussia, which the order was only able to end after heavy fighting in 1272.
In the meantime, around 1251, under Mindaugas , efforts were also made in Lithuania to embrace Christianity. This even earned the ruler the royal crown by papal decree. Domestic political struggles ended, however, at the end of the 13th century with the return to the old religious structures. In the decades up to 1303 there was calm on the European borderline between Christianity and the Baltic religious group , but the Lithuanians invaded Livonia again and again with smaller forays, mainly into Livonia.
History of the argument
The years 1303 to 1386
The conflict under Grand Duke Vytenis 1303–1316
After the armed conflicts in the middle of the 13th century, the Baltic conflict flared up again with the enthronement of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytenis after 1303. This grand prince (lit. didysis kunigaikštis ) sought confrontation with his western and northern neighbors by sending up to 2000 lightly armed, mobile riders to the border marks . The order, which seemed to be consolidated after the final victory over the Prussians in 1283, penetrated the Lithuanian territories from Zemgale and Schalau with forays of lightly armed horsemen, supported by a few heavily armored knights . So the war broke out in full force at the beginning of the 14th century. It remained characterized by irregular advances by both opponents.
Already in 1298 there had been an attack on the Livonian branch of the order, whereby Vytenis destroyed lands in Courland in league with the Archbishop of Riga. After initial success, this force was wiped out in the Battle of Turaida . The attacks of smaller Lithuanian patrols on Prussia from 1303 onwards drew the attention of the Prussian knights to the Lithuanian threat. The decision-makers of the order therefore decided to stop them by military force. The order initially planned to incorporate the whole of Lithuania, similar to Prussia, into the state of the order, but these plans soon had to be abandoned. They limited themselves to the occupation of Lower Lithuania , where they wanted to build permanent houses for a later continuation of the fight.
The actual fighting began in 1303 with isolated attacks by Lithuanian troops on the pacified Prussian heartland. After many years of relative calm, the order then took the initiative: the banners of the knights attacked in Lower Lithuania.
In the eastern Prussian border marks, on the one hand for defense purposes, on the other hand to hold back offensive actions in Lithuania itself, strongholds , in the parlance of the time called permanent houses , were built.
The garrisons stationed there consisted of a few knights, numerous soldiers and mounted squires . However, these garrisons were only called in for offensive actions in Lithuania when necessary. From a strategic point of view, the fortresses of the order represented a significant threat potential near the border with Lithuania. The most famous of these fortresses were Ragnit , Burg Splitter and Georgenburg .
The Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytenis reacted and haunted the Principality of Mazovia, which belonged to the Polish Imperial Union, and the previously unprotected southern Prussian border regions with his notorious horsemen . One of the worst Lithuanian incursions of those years occurred in 1311, when 4,000 mounted warriors crossed the Warmia to Braunsberg . The knights of the order under the order marshal Heinrich von Plötzke succeeded in repelling the intruders, but since then the general fear of the "wild heathens" has been deeply rooted in the rural population.
The last major attack of the Grand Duke Vytenis on the land of the Order took place in October 1315, and he died soon afterwards. The war went on anyway.
The conflict under the Grand Duke Gediminas 1316–1345
Knights of the order, often accompanied by so-called Prussian drivers , continued the raids under the sign of the cross in Lower Lithuania.
Under Grand Duke Gediminas of Lithuania, fighting intensified on both sides of the borders. This ruler concluded an armistice with the warring Polish king Władysław I. Ellenlang in the years 1325-1328 , which was underpinned by a dynastic marriage policy in order to counter the constant attacks of the knights. The Polish crown was increasingly hostile to the order due to the dispute over rule in Pomerania , which even led to a protective and defensive alliance between the Grand Duke Gediminas and the Polish king against the Teutonic Order in the years 1330/31 .
In the winter of 1329, the Bohemian King John of Luxembourg appeared with a strong army for the "pagan battle" in the land of the Order. In alliance with this powerful Prussian driver , the knights of the order succeeded in capturing some important fortresses in Samogitia / Lower Lithuania. Due to the escalation of the conflict with the Kingdom of Poland, the conquest of further territories had to be avoided for the time being, especially since Johann von Luxemburg considered his vow to crusade to be fulfilled and left the country of the Order.
Due to the armed conflict between the Teutonic Order and the Kingdom of Poland, which broke out in 1330, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania initially got out of the focus of the Knights of the Order. After successes of religious armies against Poland - according to the Polish was 1331 Kujawien busy - passed in 1336 a large force of the Order, in turn, with the participation of John of Luxembourg and his son- Heinrich XIV of Bavaria. The river Neman in Lower Lithuania and attacked the major castle Pilenai to . The castle was stormed and in honor of the Bavarian Duke, who was tried and tested in the field, the so-called Bayerburg , called "Raudonpilis" by the Lithuanians, was to be built as the future main base in Lower Lithuania. After a large part of the order's army had withdrawn, it was stormed and destroyed by the Lithuanians under Gediminas, who, according to local tradition, was fatally wounded under an oak that still exists today in front of the Bayerburg. The Grand Duke verifiably died in 1341, the fighting then subsided for the time being due to dynastic inheritance disputes.
The conflict between the Grand Dukes Algirdas and Kęstutis 1345–1382
After 1344 the conflict intensified again after the two sons of Grand Duke Gediminas Algirdas and Kęstutis were able to establish their rule. Lithuania expanded to the southeast under Algirda's rule, while Kęstuti's dominion extended into the western districts of Lithuania, including Samogitia . Kęstuti's presence caused devastating incursions of Lithuanian horsemen into the Order of the Land up to the end of the 1440s. In 1348 the Grand Commander at that time Winrich von Kniprode succeeded in dealing a severe blow to Kęstutis in the battle of the Streva , but the massive threat to the Prussian heartlands remained.
Under Grand Master Winrich von Kniprode, a period of rest began in 1352 within the boundaries of the Order. In 1358, Emperor Charles IV offered the Lithuanian Grand Duke peace if he adopted Christianity. Algirdas' condition for this peace treaty, however, was the withdrawal of the Teutonic Order from the Baltic region, which was not acceptable to the emperor due to the complex ties to the Teutonic Order. The mutual devastation continued unchanged. In 1361 the order marshal Henning Schindekopf and his "order guest" King Ludwig of Hungary managed to capture Kęstuti. The contemporary witness Peter suchtwirt remarks on the capture of Kęstutis:
"In Rewzzen lant the mutes vruet - For tzwir with some hero worth ..."
"Courage rests in Reussland - for (the) prince (Kęstutis), many a hero is (it) worth it."
Kęstutis was able to escape from the Marienburg in 1362 . Another success was achieved by an army of the order in April 1362 when it destroyed Kaunas Castle, which is located deep in the Lithuanian heartland .
Under the order marshal Henning Schindekopf began a period of mutual devastation without being able to weaken the respective opponent in the long term. Between 1362 and 1370 the Teutonic Order undertook about twenty larger "pagan moves" against Lithuania. In February 1370 there was a decisive battle. Kęstutis and his brother Algirdas gathered groups from Lithuania, tributary Russians and Tatars on the borders of the Order State not far from Königsberg. The Prussian branch of the order, under the grand master and the order marshal, faced the attackers who were plundering with their entire force in the battle of Rudau . With heavy losses, the order's army succeeded in defeating the numerically superior army of the Lithuanians and pushing them back. As a result, there was initially calm in the border areas.
Further advances by the order, heavily supported by Prussian drivers , led in part to Vilnius and Trakai . They drew bitter "punitive expeditions" by the Lithuanians, who were again led by Kęstutis in the following years.
The years 1386 to 1409
Power struggles in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian Union
A change began in 1377 with the death of Grand Duke Algirdas. In Lithuania a power struggle broke out between the sons of Algirdas and his brother Kęstutis and his son Vytautas . Alternating alliances with the previous main opponent in the west and north were now concluded completely regardless of religious denomination. For example, after the secret contract of Daudisken around 1380, knights of the order supported Algirdas 'primary heir Jogaila by attacking Kęstutis' territory. While Kęstutis, the previously co-ruling brother of the late Grand Duke Algirdas, fell victim to the internal political conflicts with Jogaila in 1382, his son Vytautas escaped from his cousin's captivity. As a result, Vytautas agreed with the Teutonic Order on joint action in the power struggle against Jogaila and the Dutch allied with him.
The power struggle escalated until the summer of 1384, when a blatant change in the previous power constellations occurred. Jogaila (“Jagiello” in some history books) offered himself to the Polish nobility as a pretender for the vacant Polish throne by asking for the hand of Hedwig of Poland . However, this required both his conversion (and with it Lithuania) to the Roman Catholic Church , as well as a clarification of the internal political power constellation in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Jogaila was forced to reach an agreement with his cousin Vytautas, and he largely accepted his claims. Jogaila was elected King of Poland in 1386 as Hedwig I's husband . The Union of Krewo created a nominal monarchy in the form of a personal union with Poland and Lithuania. However, since the Lithuanian nobility insisted on independence, the new Polish king granted his cousin Vytautas additional powers in Lithuania. As a result of his policy of eastward expansion, Vytautas needed freedom of action, which is why he confirmed the ownership rights to Lower Lithuania to the order in the Treaty of Sallinwerder in 1398 . This treaty was also ratified by Jogaila in his capacity as King of Poland in 1404.
The strategic position of the Teutonic Order in the late 14th century
The main dignitaries of the order observed this political development with growing skepticism. Jogaila's accession to the throne as Wladyslaw II in connection with the now beginning Christianization of Lithuania presented the Teutonic Order with ideological and military problems. A violent proselytizing of pagans was his official legitimation, as it has always been proclaimed in the past decades. Therefore, the Order continued to question the Christianization of Lithuania, which began in the course of the Polish-Lithuanian Union. It was argued that this missionary work was carried out in the form of mass baptisms, so that a “real conversion to the good faith of Jesus” on the part of the Lithuanians was unlikely. At the request of Vytautas and Jogailas, Pope Boniface IX issued. 1403 a bull prohibiting the Order from waging war against Lithuania.
The reason for the lawsuit, however, had a different origin: The military threat to the Teutonic Order was dramatically exacerbated by the Kingdom of Poland bordering to the south . As a result of the annexation of Pomerania, which was never accepted, in 1309 and the resulting conflict in 1330, a hostile attitude towards the order prevailed among the Polish nobility. This latent threat potential has now been supplemented by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which has always been hostile, so that both the southern and the eastern borders of the Teutonic Order state seemed at risk.
With the crushing defeat of Vytautas in the Battle of the Worskla against the Golden Horde in 1399, a decisive change in his foreign policy began. So far he has tried to win the order in order to have support for his strategic ambitions in the East, but now he took the initiative in Lower Lithuania. With the support of the Dutch, who were dissatisfied with the rule of the order, the conflict escalated again.
The order, however, never did justice to the administrative law granted to it in the Treaty of Sallinwerder in Lower Lithuania. An official bull of the Pope from 1403 was also unable to prevent administrative attacks by local vassals of the order. The resistance of the indigenous Lithuanian population to the rigorous collection of church tithes and other canonically justified taxes provoked extremely restrictive measures by the order. This was followed again around 1409 by a widespread outrage of the Lower Lithuanian nobility, who until then had been loyal to the order.
1410 to 1422 - decisive battle near Tannenberg and peace treaties
Letters of complaint by the people of Lower Lithuania, who rebelled under the tyranny of the order, reached the curia as well as numerous offices of European princes and the important cities of Western Europe. Favored by Grand Duke Vytautas, the First Samogite Uprising broke out in Lower Lithuania from 1401 to 1404 , which Vytautas had to end with a peace treaty that confirmed the order's claims to ownership of Samogitia . In 1409 Vytautas also openly supported the Second Samogite Uprising , which Wladyslaw II (Jogaila) expressly approved as the royal representative of the Polish state. This open support for the rebellion in a territory claimed by the order caused the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order Ulrich von Jungingen to seek the decision on the battlefield. After a scandal at the Marienburg in August 1409 with the envoys of the Kingdom of Poland and the subsequent sending of the feud letter by the master's herald to the king, the so-called "Great Streythe" in order terminology occurred .
The order first invaded Wielkopolska and took several castles. In autumn 1409 an armistice was negotiated with the mediation of the Roman-German King Wenceslaus . The following year came the decisive battle with the catastrophic defeat of the order in the Battle of Tannenberg (Polish historiography speaks of the Battle of Grunwald; Lithuanian history describes the location as Žalgiris) on July 15, 1410. In an unsuccessful one that lasted several months After the siege of Marienburg , the Poles were unable to take the headquarters of the order.
In the First Peace of Thorn in 1411, the Teutonic Order had to renounce ownership of Samogitia and, in addition to immense reparations payments, was forced to refrain from further proselytizing attempts in Lithuania, which in the meantime had largely converted to Christianity due to Polish influence. This set in motion an internal crisis for the order and ended the expansionist ambitions of the Teutonic Order towards Lithuania.
When the new Grand Master Heinrich von Plauen opposed the arbitration ruling of the imperial ambassador Benedikt Makrai in 1413, who had awarded the right bank of the Memel to the Lithuanian Grand Duchy, he was deposed by Michael Küchmeister , who, in view of the current weakness of the order, wanted to seek peace with Poland. Since he refused the award Makrais, the Poles were in hunger war in 1414 in the Warmia one, but ended up back retreat.
There followed several extended armistices by various conflict mediators, which were extremely costly for the Order, since it was weakened by the past wars and reparations, had to conduct expensive negotiations at the Council of Constance and later elsewhere and for the annually conceivable breakdown of the negotiations Had to raise and equip troops. It was not until 1422 that the borders with Lithuania were finally determined in the peace of Lake Melno . These should last until the end of the First World War .
Army and tactics of the opponents
The Order's army in the 14th century
An army of the order attacking Lithuania was divided, as was customary in the late Middle Ages, into knights, squires, squires, riflemen and spearmen. The heavily armed riders formed a vanishingly small minority (knights and squires); Only up to ten percent of the army generally consisted of heavily armed men on horseback.
A specific peculiarity of the order's army was that the heavily armored knights attacked in one formation. This approach, based on the tactical experiences of the fighting in the Holy Land, also proved to be successful in north-eastern Europe against the Lithuanian army ban. Such an attack, on the other hand, only happened under favorable conditions, such as open fields or light forests. Since the Lithuanian warriors quickly learned to evade the devastating cavalry attack, mostly lightly armed squires or simple servants fought the battles with the Lithuanians, now from ambush.
In the world of thought of the late Middle Ages, the fight for the cross was in harmony with the goals of a knight in a time of increasingly decaying ideals of chivalry . Especially for younger knights of the order the active fight against the "pagan" enemy was the focus of their existence. In contrast, everyday tasks in administration or administration were perceived as a chore. The extremely conservative liturgy of the Order contributed to this point of view. The daily routine in peacetime was meticulously regulated.
Such internal conditions within the corporation of the order corresponded to the tendency of the Western European nobility to identify with the traditions of the Crusades from 1300 onwards . Princes and their entourage, as well as counts, knights and their squires then went on so-called “ war journeys ” to Prussia for the “Heidenkampf” . The Teutonic Order knew how to use this not inconsiderable increase in its military potential in the interests of its goals and promoted these inclinations in every way. The respective Grand Master gave so-called "honorary tables" for particularly deserving religious guests, who mostly came from the Western European nobility.
In addition to the arrival of noble guests, the lively contact with western Europe, which increasingly developed via the Hanseatic League, enabled the order to provide its armories with excellent technical equipment. Firearms in the form of stone cans were used as early as 1362 when Kaunas was bombarded . Due to the trade monopoly of coveted goods such as amber , the order achieved a liquidity with taxes and customs duties that enabled it to always remain superior to its Lithuanian opponent in terms of armaments.
Tactics of the Knights of the Order
Attacks by the knights and the retinue initially followed tactics that were tried and tested in Prussia. The orders of the knights of the order moved along rivers, whereby the necessary supply of the fighters could be secured via grained barges. In the interior of Lithuania, this approach proved ineffective, since navigable waterways alternated with swamps . Therefore, the knights of the order changed their tactics and postponed their attack operations in the winter months. Due to the prevailing frost, the swampy landscape became much more passable for mounted people. Most of the army consisted of mounted detachments using sledges and national scouts advancing ahead of the army . These departments usually had a strength of up to 1,000 men. Under favorable circumstances, such as extensive influx of Western European travelers to Prussia, however, up to 5000 fighters could be mobilized under the command of the order. These forays mostly lasted around four weeks and secured the order's army in the hard-to-reach Lithuania a temporary numerical excess. The armies generally faced little resistance on these forays. Due to the local and only temporary superiority of the knights of the order, the Lithuanians limited themselves to passive resistance and fled the scattered settlements in so-called fortresses .
Larger fighting in the interior of Lithuania therefore mostly took place in the vicinity of such solid castles as Pistene or Veliuona . The mostly lightly fortified castles of Lithuania, consisting of ramparts and wooden fortifications, were stormed or burned several times, such as the castle of Kaunas in 1362 . In many cases, however, the armies of the Teutonic Order refrained from extensive (because supply and time-consuming) sieges. In most cases it was limited to the devastation of unprotected hamlets or villages and the bringing in of high-ranking prisoners.
“The hend man in tzu seed pant; This is how one pounds them; like the iagund dogs ... "
“The hands were tied together; So one leads them bound; like hunting wounded dogs ... "
In defending Lithuanian attacks on the religious land use was short of the banns of state-owned resources. An example of this approach is the course of the Battle of Rudau , in which members of the Königsberg craft guilds decisively influenced the course of the meeting. This fact found its inclusion in the legend of Hans von Sagan , a journeyman cobbler who was ennobled for his daring.
The armed forces of the Lithuanian grand dukes in the 14th century
In the 14th century, the core of Lithuania's military contingent consisted for the most part of professional warriors who were recruited from the boyar class (nobilis satrapa). These men, who were excellently trained for the war effort, formed the immediate vicinity of the respective Grand Duke. In the feudal hierarchy, which is relatively weak in Lithuania, these warriors had a special status. It was about a lower warrior nobility, which is essentially comparable to the knighthood of the early Middle Ages in western Europe. In contrast to the Western European equestrian status, the status of a knight was not determined by economic efficiency, but solely by the knight's ability to handle weapons and horses. In contrast to Western Europe, the social status achieved by the aristocracy was not passed on to descendants. If necessary, this elite was often supplemented by badly equipped and trained serfs .
Only particularly energetic grand dukes like Vytenis around 1311 succeeded in uniting the regionally divided Lithuanian forces under one flag to attack. In spite of this, a merged army unit of regional armed forces remained only nominally united, which made a united offensive approach difficult in the event of an energetic counter-defense.
The widely dispersed armed forces also proved to be disadvantageous in defense. In general, there was no time for a short-term, comprehensive mobilization of fragmented military potential. Therefore one limited oneself mostly to the defense of inaccessible refuge castles.
From the middle of the 14th century, the expansion plans of Lithuania's grand dukes turned to the east after the collapse of the Golden Horde . Grand Duke Algirdas needed an army that was always ready for action in order to sustainably subdue the East. The prince therefore began from 1364 to keep his subordinates under arms. In principle, the beginnings of a standing army can already be seen here .
Nevertheless, an attack by this force, tried and tested in the fight against the Golden Horde, failed. Despite significant reinforcements by tributary peoples, such as Belarusian foot troops and mounted Tatars , the Lithuanian armed forces were repulsed by the Order on February 17, 1370 at the Battle of Rudau . Only the devastating losses of the allies prevented the failure of the Lithuanian claims to power in the east.
The Lithuanian commanders such as Skirgaila always preferred light cavalry, which is superior in terms of mobility and flexibility, as their main weapon . First and foremost, riders who were armed with leather or chain armor as well as lighter hand weapons fought with the armies of the Teutonic Order in the late 14th century.
Tactically, the tradition of archaic duels was initially cultivated in Lithuania, which ultimately turned out to be fatal with regard to the orderly attacking knights of the order. The general equipment of the fighters, consisting of swords , axes , javelins , arrows , wooden clubs , light helmets and wooden shields , proved to be inferior to the knights of the order, who were best equipped according to the point of view of that time, and their Western European "guests". So fought Lithuanians generally comparatively small horses against on armored warhorses riding heavily armored knights, mostly vorgingen in formation.
Nevertheless, Lithuanians were open to military innovation. The Lithuanian side used stone rifles in addition to throwing guns such as an over-heavy trebuchet when shelling the Gotteswerder Order Castle in 1368 .
The Lithuanian fast equestrian formations generally preferred a tactic that can best be described as modern hit and run combat tactics. Lightly equipped cavalry units attacked opposing troops or villages like a raid, withdrew immediately in the event of stubborn resistance without engaging in a lengthy fight. Regardless of this, heavy equipment, such as siege engines, was also carried in larger operations.
In view of the existing tactical inferiority, based on inadequate armament and tactical indiscipline on the part of Lithuanian troops, a full field battle was avoided as far as possible after 1370. Only in the Battle of Tannenberg in 1410 was it possible to counter the permanent threat posed by the Teutonic Order in conjunction with the Poles who were effectively fighting according to western tactics.
Between the boundaries of the Order state and Lithuanian districts over time was a wide, uninhabited "wilderness" (lit. due to the devastation and then forced abandonment of the indigenous population dykra ) emerged. This “ no man's land ” was made even more impassable by the Lithuanian side through extensive cutting of trees. This made surprise attacks by the order extremely difficult. In the case of clearly recognizable superiority, smaller wooden castles were often burned before the enemy approached and the flight started. Often the population fled into boggy terrain, where heavily armored armored riders were extremely difficult to access, even in severe winters. Since a wooden refuge could be rebuilt within a few days or weeks, this was generally not a great loss, especially since the immediate threat remained present for two to three weeks at most.
Causes for the long period of conflict
Both the strategy of the order, which aimed at Lower Lithuania , as well as the warfare of the Lithuanian grand dukes, who tried to break the power of the order with their own strength, failed. The reasons for this lay not only in the low use of tactical means but also in the insufficient Lithuanian potential to survive against the order, which is massively supported by Western European feudal lords. Numbers of 3,000 to 8,000 fighters are assumed for the order's armies. Neither side took any extensive offensives. Exceptions were the order's enterprise in 1336, which led to the establishment of the Bayerburg , as well as the Lithuanian campaign of 1370. However, even the latter did not bring any lasting result due to the battle of Rudau lost for Lithuania .
After peace negotiations on both sides at the beginning of the 15th century, the severity of the conflict became clear in 1409 when the Teutonic Order declared war on the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which is now in a personal union with the Kingdom of Poland .
Military and religious characteristics of the fighting
The fighting was extremely brutal even by medieval standards. They were ultimately directed against the vulnerable population of both opponents. While the Lithuanian light cavalry mainly undertook raids on unprotected settlements, the armies of the Order used the same tactical principles in Lithuania. The result was the merciless murder, plunder and capture of the unarmed rural population.
The course of the war was marked by skirmishes , sieges and pursuit battles. Combat operations among larger armies remained the exception. There were major battles in the years 1311, 1348, 1370 and 1410. Overall, the Teutonic Order undertook around three hundred more extensive military campaigns against the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the years 1303 to 1410 compared to an estimated 45 major incursions by Lithuanian armies into the Order's land. The argument of the conversion of the Lithuanians "falling into dark paganism" had no effect, as it was all too obvious that Christian " proselytizing " was only a pretext for the expansionist intentions of the Teutonic Order.
The Teutonic Order vigorously questioned the Christian proselytizing of Lithuania that began after 1386. The reasons lay in the fact that the knights always had a firm position of power in the Baltic States more important than the Christian commandment to love one's neighbor. A peaceful administration of Lower Lithuania based on the Treaty of Sallinwerder ultimately turned out to be more dangerous for the order's positions of power than the forcible conquest of this country. The Order's strict rule in Lithuania set in motion processes that its dignitaries had not foreseen. The latent dissatisfaction of the Lithuanians resulted in open resistance: the general uprising in Samogitia in 1409 brought the Teutonic Order into great political and military distress due to the escalating conflict with the Kingdom of Poland.
With the political union of Poland with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1386, largely reluctantly brought about by the Lithuanian ruling class, the Lithuanians were ultimately able to resolutely counter the aggressive claims of the order. In principle, however, this process did not take place until shortly before the Battle of Tannenberg in 1410. In this decisive battle, the basis of the power of the Teutonic Order, its military strength, was initially broken. As a result, his permanently weakened force was used almost exclusively defensively. This ended the century-long threat of permanent occupation of the Lithuanian heartlands.
The historiography of the opposing parties evaluates the disputes differently.
In Germany, the conflict has largely been forgotten or is limited to the dispute between the Teutonic Order and the Polish Kingdom (e.g. the battle of Tannenberg and Grunwald and the relationship between the Order and Poland in the Thorn peace treaties). In the history books reflecting national sentiments, the Lithuanian War of the Teutonic Order was withheld as early as the 19th and early 20th centuries or downplayed to individual outstanding events such as the Battle of Rudau - despite a time in which chivalry was romanticized and the German eastern settlements were glorified. The less prominent reception was perhaps due to the aggressive goal setting, but possibly also to the persistent unsuccessfulness in the persistent struggle of the Knights of the Order with the Eastern Grand Duchy.
The conflict is viewed fundamentally differently in today's Lithuania. Especially in connection with the recent history of this state, the late Middle Ages are seen as the "great times" of Lithuania. This view is primarily the result of the great gains in Lithuanian territory in the east during the 14th century and the victorious outcome of the generational conflict with the Teutonic Order in the first decade of the 15th century. Last but not least, a permanent loss of Samogiti would have influenced Lithuanian history in such a massive way that the outstanding role in Lithuanian historiography becomes understandable.
On the other hand, the role of Poland - which admittedly has to be viewed indirectly - is neglected.
- 1230: Arrival of seven Teutonic Knights and their entourage (approx. 750 men in total) under the landmaster in Prussia , Hermann Balk , in the Vistula knee, south of the Kulmerland
- 1231–1234: arrival of numerous other papally appointed crusaders; Conquest of the Kulmer Land and the neighboring districts; the Teutonic Order established itself in the Kulmer Land
- 1236: Battle of Schaulen on September 22nd; crushing defeat of the Brotherhood of the Sword in Lithuania
- 1237: Integration of the weakened Order of the Sword of the Sword into the Teutonic Order under Hermann Balk due to the Treaty of Viterbo
- 1242: Defeat of a contingent of the Teutonic Order under the orders of the Bishop of Dorpat on Lake Peipus on April 12th against the Novgorod prince Alexander Nevsky
- 1242: First general uprising of the Prussians under the impression of the Mongol attack by Batu Khan in Poland and Hungary and the victory of the Russians on Lake Peipus over the Teutonic Order
- 1251: Lithuanian prince Mindaugas I (Lithuania) converts to Christianity; probably in 1260 he will return to the old faith
- 1259: Battle of Skuodas on August 5th; Victory of the Livonian branch of the order under the Landmeister Burkhardt von Hornhausen over attacking Shamaites
- 1260: Battle of the Durbe on July 13th; Occasion for the Great Prussian Uprising in 1260–1272
- 1275–1299: irregular military campaigns by Lithuanian troops, partly on behalf of the Archbishop of Riga , through Semgallia to Riga
- 1279: Battle of Aizkraukle on March 5th between knights of the Livonian branch of the order and Shamaite Lithuanians; 71 knights fallen; Lithuanians victory
- 1303: First Lithuanian forays into Prussian border demarcations such as Schalauen
- Around 1311: massive Lithuanian invasion under Vytenis into Warmia
- 1312–1322: Attacks by the Teutonic Order in Samogitia
- 1324: Alliance between the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas and the Polish King Wlasdyslaw Lokietek
- 1329: King John of Luxembourg moves as a "Gentile driver" against Lithuania
- 1329: Conquest of some strategically important castles in Lower Lithuania
- 1334–1341: Trains of the Lithuanians under Gediminas to the Prussian border region of Schalauen and Livonian Semgallia
- 1336: Extensive campaign of the order against Lithuania; Destruction of Pilenai ; Establishment of own bases
- 1341–1344: Power struggles in Lithuania among the descendants of Gediminas
- After 1344: The power position of two Lithuanian grand dukes was re-established: Algirdas (eastern areas) and Kęstutis (west and north)
- 1346–1348: Lithuanian attacks on Schalauen under the leadership of Kęstutis
- 1348: Battle of the Strėva on February 2nd; heavy defeat of Lithuania
- 1361: Kęstutis is captured by the order for the first time; In 1362 he fled
- 1362–1369: Invasions of the Knights under Order Marshal Henning Schindekopf in Lithuania
- 1362: Kaunas is destroyed on April 16 by the Order's forces
- 1370: attack on the religious order; Battle of Rudau on February 17th; with heavy losses, the forces of the Order repulsed Lithuanians along with their auxiliaries
- 1372: Battle of the Holy Aa (near Sventaja ) between knights of the Livonian branch and Shamaites
- 1377: Death of the Grand Duke Algirdas on May 24th
- 1377–1382: violent power struggles between Algirdas' heirs and Kęstutis with constant interference by the order
- 1382: Kęstutis died in captivity in August
- 1386: Algirdas' son Jogaila ascends the throne of Poland as Wladyslaw II on March 4th , his cousin Vytautas establishes himself as Grand Duke of Lithuania after further power struggles
- 1387: The beginning of a comprehensive Christianization of Lithuania under Rigide Jogailas
- 1398: Treaty of Sallinwerder on October 12th, Vytautas transferred to the Order of Lower Lithuania in order to gain back freedom for wars in the east
- 1399: Battle of the Worskla on August 12; the Lithuanian defeat put an end to Vytauta's ambitions in the east
- From 1400: guerrilla warfare against the order in, pledged to the order, Lower Lithuania
- 1409: general uprising in Lower Lithuania , declaration of war by the order on Poland-Lithuania
- 1410: Battle of Tannenberg on July 15th; a united Polish-Lithuanian armed force defeats the army of the order
- 1410: Unsuccessful siege of Marienburg from July 26th to September 19th by the Polish-Lithuanian army
- 1411: In the First Peace of Thorn , the Teutonic Order renounces all ownership claims in Lithuania (pro forma initially for the lifetime of Jogailas and Vytautas)
- 1422: Sealing of the Peace of Melno Sea on September 27; "Eternal renunciation" of the order of Szamaites
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- things recognizable by the outdated armor
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