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Historical Background

Wybraniecka Infantry
End of the 16th Century

Stefan Batory
In 1576 the new King, Stefan Batory (Stephen Bathory), began reorganising the army. He ensured the disappearance of the knight and halted the hussars' increasing use of armour, keeping them a fast manoeuvrable heavy cavalry. Batory increased the training of the hussars and so laid down the basis of this superb cavalry. Batory was determined to improve the Polish infantry and it received the greatest reorganisation. He modelled the new infantry on Hungarian infantry (90% arquebusiers, 10% spearmen) and also ended the use of armour.

He also formed the wybraniecka infantry, literally translated as 'selected' infantry, but a more accurate term being 'draughted'. His proposals were for a peasant to serve in his new force for every 'lan' of land, but this was cut by the Sejm to apply only to leased Royal lands and so provided only a fraction of Batory's intended force. The Wybraniecka infantry were also organised on Hungarian lines; they had to supply their own weapons, arquebus, sabre and axe, and uniform to a specified colour. Batory introduced wooden cartridges for the infantry as well as axes, which were mainly used in the construction of fortifications.

Batory also made use of other infantry including Germans, Cossacks, and Scots, and made an unsuccessful attempt to form units of noble infantry which lasted only one year.

The expansion of both the artillery and the infantry gave the Polish army an increased besieging capability, illustrated by Batory's three successful campaigns against Muscovy. Unfortunately Batory died in 1586, tired with his constant struggle with the Sejm to obtain an army suitable in numbers for a country as large and with as many aggressive neighbours as Poland. Soon after his death the Polish army returned to its pre-Batory notions of infantry numbers.

Batory was a brilliant organiser and had laid down the basis for future successes (Byczyna, Kircholm, Kluszyn, Chocim). He had lightened the infantryman's load by removing the use of infantry armour and kept the cavalry mobile, giving the army a powerful offensive capability.


Polish-Muscovite War (1605–1618)

Dmitriads - Polish-Muscovite War of 1609-1618
Map of the war

The Polish-Muscovite War (1605–1618) is the name of the series of wars (16051618) between the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Muscovite Russia (or Muscovy), in the background of the Russian dynastic crisis known as the Time of Troubles (15981613). The sides and their goals changed several times during this conflict: the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was not formally at war with Muscovy until 1609, and various Muscovite factions fought among themselves, allied with the Commonwealth and other countries or fighting against them. Sweden also participated in the conflict during the course of the Ingrian War (16101617), sometimes allying itself with Muscovy, and other times fighting against it. The goals of the various factions changed as well, from minor border adjustment by influencing the choice of Russian tsar to creating a new state by forming a union between the Commonwealth and Muscovy.

The war can be divided into four stages. In the first stage, known to Poles as the Dymitriads (Polish: Dymitriady), certain Commonwealth szlachta magnates (high ranking nobility), encouraged by some Muscovite boyars — but without the official consent of the Polish king Sigismund III Vasa (Polish: Zygmunt III Waza) — attempted to exploit Muscovite weakness and intervene in its civil war. They thus supported the tsar pretenders False Dmitriy I and later False Dmitriy II (hence the Polish name of the war, the Dymitriads) against the crowned tsar, Vasili Shuiski. The first Dymitriad began in 1605 and ended in 1606 with the death of False Dmitri I. The second Dymitriad in 1607 and lasted until 1609, when Tsar Shuisky made a military alliance with Sweden. In response to this alliance, the Polish King Sigismund III decided to intervene officially and to declare war upon Muscovy, aiming to weaken Sweden's ally and to gain territorial concessions.

After early Commonwealth victories (battle of Klushino), which culminated in Polish forces entering Moscow in 1610, Sigismund's son, Prince Władysław, was briefly elected tsar. However, soon afterwards, Sigismund decided to seize the Russian throne for himself. This alienated the pro-Polish supporters among the boyars, who could accept the moderate Władysław, but not the pro-Catholic and anti-Orthodox Sigismund. Subsequently, the pro-Polish Muscovite faction disappeared, and the war resumed in 1611, with the Poles losing control of Moscow but capturing the important city of Smolensk (see Siege of Smolensk (1609-11)). However, due to internal troubles in both the Commonwealth and Muscovy, little military action occurred between 1612 and 1617, when Sigismund made one final and failed attempt to conquer Muscovy. The war finally ended in 1618 with the Treaty of Dywilino, which granted the Commonwealth certain territorial concessions, but not control over Muscovy. Muscovy thus emerged from the war with its independence unscathed.


Bar Confederation (1768 - 1776)

Kazimierz Pułaski at Częstochowa. Painting by Józef Chełmoński, 1875. Oil on canvas. National Museum, Warsaw, Poland.

The Bar Confederation (Polish: Konfederacja barska; 17681776) was an association of Polish szlachta formed at the fortress of Bar in Podolia in 1768 to defend the internal and external independence of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth against aggression by the Russian Empire and against King Stanisław August Poniatowski and Polish reformers who were attempting to limit the power of the Commonwealth's magnates (wealthy szlachta). The founders of the Bar Confederation included the magnates Adam Krasiński, Bishop of Kamenets, Kazimierz Pułaski and Michał Krasiński. Despite several victories against the Russians, the Confederation only succeeded in helping precipitate the First Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.


King Stanisław August was at first inclined to mediate between the Confederates and Russia, the latter represented by the Russian envoy to Warsaw, Prince Nikolai Repnin; but finding this impossible, he sent a force against them under Grand Hetman Franciszek Ksawery Branicki and two generals, who captured Bar. However, the simultaneous outbreak of the Koliyivschyna in Ukraine stimulated the extension of the Confederation throughout the eastern provinces of Poland and even into Lithuania. The Confederates appealed for help from abroad and contributed to bringing about war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire. So serious did the situation become that King Frederick II of Prussia advised Tsarina Catherine II of Russia to come to terms with the Confederates.

"Prayer of the Bar Confederates." Painting by Artur Grottger.

Confederation bands under Ignacy Malczewski, Michał Pac and Prince Karol Radziwiłł ravaged the land in every direction, won several engagements with the Russians, and at last, utterly ignoring the King, sent envoys on their own account to the principal European powers. In 1770 the Council of Bar Confederation transferred from its original seat in Silesia to Hungary, whence it conducted diplomatic negotiations with France, Austria and Turkey with a view to forming a league against Russia. Council proclaimed the king dethroned October22 1770.The court of Versailles sent Charles François Dumouriez to act as commander-in-chief of the Confederates, but neither as a soldier nor as a politician did this adroit adventurer particularly distinguish himself, and his account of his experiences does great injustice to the Confederates. Among other blunders, he pronounced King Stanisław August a tyrant and traitor at the very moment when he was about to accede to the Confederation. King was kidnapped in not clear circumstances for a few days by confederates in Warsaw 1771. The king thereupon reverted to the Russian faction, and the Confederation lost the confidence of Europe. Nevertheless its army, thoroughly reorganized by Dumouriez, gallantly maintained the hopeless struggle for some years; the last traces of it did not disappear until 1776.

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Prepared by: Waldemar J Wajszczuk & Paweł Stefaniuk 2000-2017
e-mail: wwajszczuk@comcast.net