Battle of Lubieszow,  1577

By Radosław Sikora

Translated by Rick Orli 

©2006  Radosław Sikora, english text ©2006 richard j. orli

Polish Version at:"



(Extracted from: Radosław Sikora "Lubieszów 1577", Publisher: Inforteditions

Gliwice, Poland 2006  ISBN: 83-89943-05-0 

Illustrations  by Dariusz t.Wielec)  

Introduction and Summary (by anonymous author, corrections by translator)

The Battle of Lubieszow on 17 April 1577 was the cumulation of a 2 year war between the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania and the City of Gdansk.  Gdansk had not recognized the election of Stefan Batory as king, because they feared the impact on their relativehusarz independence, and of Batory’s implementation of the Karnkowski Constitution.  

In August Batory marched to Malbork and started a process of informally isolating Gdansk from the countryside. In January he marched to Tczew, and stormed the rebel defences at Glowa, then the fortress at Garabina, 15km from Gdansk. This cut off the city by land, while ships were ordered to start a sea blockade. A small force of Cossacks was sent to harry the Gdansk army as it advanced toward Tczew.

A Polish army of 1000 infantry and 1300 cavalry under command of hetman Jan Zborowski, faced a Gdansk army of 3100 landsknechts, 400 mercenary reiter cavalry, 400 city cavalry, 6000-8000 Gdansk militia, in total 10-12 thousand soldiers under the command of Hans Winckelburg von Kölln. The battle started with a cavalry attack. Polish-Hungarian Infantry captured a batteriy of Gdansk artillery, which was then turned around to fire at the Gdansk army.  Wherever the hussars moved to attack, the Gdansk men fled. Polish Cavalry kept up the chase right to the Gdansk city gate. Gdansk losses amounted to 4400 dead, while the Crown army lost 60 killed, 127 wounded. The results of the battle did not decrease the morale of inhabitant of Gdansk, but on the contrary, it strengthened the resolve of the townsman in defense of Gdansk’s independence.  

Details of the battle (by Radosław Sikora)

After King Henry Valois abdicated the Polish throne (to reclaim the French Crown as Henry III), an election was needed for a new King, under the laws of the Commonwealth. However, the election was contentious. Although Emperor Maxsmillian II Hapsburg was elected King first (12 Dec 1575) after some confusion and 3 days the Prince of Transylvania Stefan Batory  was elected (15 Dec 1575).  Batory was crowned in Krakow. In a piece of luck for Batory, Maxsmillian soon died (12 Oct 1576). The majority of those backing the Emperor then accepted Batory, but Gdansk did not recognize Batory as the new King (partially, Batory’s fault, who wanted to punish the proud city by making them pay a penalty for resisting). It had come to war, of which the climax was to be the Battle of Lubieszow.

The inhabitants of Gdansk hired professional mercenaries (about 3300-3500 German landsknecht infantry and 400 reiter cavalry) and mobilized all men able to bear weapons (in total, 400 Gdansk cavalry and no more than 10,000 infantry, armed with firearms, and 1600-1900 of whom bore armor ). The command was in the experienced hands of Hans Winkelbruch von Köln.  The ambition of the army was to take possession of the entirety of Royal Prussia, starting in April 1577 with Tczew.

At this time Batory’s army was camped at Tczew under command of Hetman Jan Zborowski, (730 infantry, 1220 cavalry, and about 1200 servants - some of these servants were sent with wagons to Gniew on April 16.  Zborowski had followed the actions of the inhabitants of Gdansk, and knew about the movements of his opponents. He chose a place of battle, several kilometers west of Tczew, at a ford across the river Motław. Then inhabitants of Gdansk, confident with their enormous numerical superiority (about 5 to 1), expected that the Crown army had avoided battle by withdrawing from Tczew. So, when on 17 April 1577 as they approached Tczew, they were surprised that their opponents had not fled. In spite of this surprise, they decided to attack.

(note: in the Polish system some hundreds of the servants may have been armed and serving as combatants such as camp guards or in close support of combatants, e.g. carrying spare lances, reloading guns, etc.). 

From the Tczew side of the Vistula was to attack the Gdansk “Flotilla” (4 ships on which were stationed 200-400 regular infantry. The townsmen levy militia of Gdansk (about 10,000) along with 200 cavalry troopers, screened Zborowski’s army at Rokitki. The rest of the army (3100 landscknechts + 600 cavalry), wanted to get around the Crown army  from the south and attack once it engaged  Rajtarthe Gdansk militia.

Zborowski had accurate and timely knowledge of this opponent’s movements. He closed a narrow crossing point at Rokitki by ordering the bridge taken down.  To further block this route he left artillery (2 cannon plus 27 hackbuts or ‘wall guns’ 

(note: 'hakowice' are super-sized muskets usually crewed by 2 men each) 

, a platoon (“rota”) of infantry (30 haiduks) and 60 light cavalry. To defend Tczew against the Gdansk fleet he stationed 100 infantry and 4 cannon. He moved the rest of army (1160 cavalry + 600 infantry ) south, to the approaches of Lubieszow. 

Hans Winkelbruch von Köln chose a poor route for his army of German professionals, who were to attack the Crown troops from the south.  Fearing that Zborowski would escape from the field of battle, Winkelbruch chose the shortest way of getting around.  Instead of circling around the lake, he decided to try the difficult Motlawa river rout to Lubieszow. However, Zborowski’s army moved quickly, so that the German troops were left strung out along the road. Before it came to battle, only the whole cavalry (600 horse) and half (about 1500-1600) of the landsknechts had time to reach the eastern side of the Motlawa river.  The army was arrayed as follows.  On right wing stood the reiters and behind them the landsknechts.  On the left wing stood the German landsknecht formation with 3 cannons; they also started to build a picket fence "palisada" of palings but did not finish before battle was joined. The landsknechts also had at their disposal 3 wagons, on which were mounted 30 small cannons.

 (Note: these cannon were probably various sizes but mostly 1 pounder or smaller).  

Zborowski arrayed the Crown army as follows. He placed haiduks on the right wing, cavalry on the left wing, and more cavalry in reserve. The battle progressed in several phases:

1. On right wing of the Crown army  – Fire fight between the Hungarian haiduks and German landsknecht musketeers.

(Note: These Haiduks were the 600 Transylvanian infantry (100 Polish infantry were in Tczew and 30 near Rokitki). All this type of  infantry is sometimes called ‘Hungarian’ following the convention of the time, because they were organized and trained in the Hungarian style.  In fact 600 infantrymen were from Batory's Transylvania - the part of Hungary not under Ottoman control; of the cavalry, 40 of the Hussars were Transylvanian and the rest were Polish)  

2. On left wing of the Crown army - first charge of Crown cavalry  ( about 300 hussars and petyhorse) against the Germans  (600 reiters and Gdansk cavalry ); this charge did not break the Gdansk position.

3. On right wing of the Crown army – capture of 3 German cannon by Hungarian infantry.

4 On right wing of the Crown Army, exchange of fire between the haiduks (shot with 3 captured cannons) and the Landsknechts (shot and small cannons mounted on wagons).

5. On right wing of the Crown Army– attack of German infantry wielding pikes against the haiduks. Hand-to-hand combat between Hungarian infantry and the Germans. Hungarians got the upper hand in the fight; breaking the landsknecht pike.

6. On Left wing of Crown Army –when the foote on the right wing were fully engaged in close fighting, the Crown cavalry (200 hussars) attacked again. The attack smashed through the reiters. The reiters, fleeing, entangled with the formation of landsknechts standing behind them. The Hussars, after breaking through the reiters immediately pressed on and broke through the ranks of the German infantry.

7. On both wings, - the German soldiers fled from the battlefield. The Crown cavalry chased the fleeing opponents.

When the defeated German professionals on the east side routed toward Lubieszow, the Gdansk militia also panicked and rushed to escape. The landsknechts which had not yet managed to cross to the east bank of the Motława panicked and ran as well. Now the Gdansk flotilla moved up to Tczew and fired at the town, but seeing that battle had been resolved, turned and sailed away.

Before the battle the Gdansk leaders and their German troops had great courage and confidence in their strength. After the battle they counted 4400 corpses (it was determined that the majority of these soldiers perished during the rout and pursuit). To these would have to be added those wounded and captured. Losses of Crown troops were in comparison insignificant – 60 killed, 127 wounded, horses killed 44, horses wounded 64.

Batory’s soldiers had won the battle, but they did not move on the city at once. Gdansk did not surrender, in spite of a long siege and the battle.  In December 1577 an agreement was reached between the city and Batory. Gdansk apologized to Batory and recognized him as King, paying a fine of 200,000 zloty.  Batory in turn confirmed Gdansk’s privileges and struck sanctions that had been imposed previously on the city. He also put aside the legislation which would have enacted the so-called Karnkowski Constitution, most important to Gdansk.



 After the battle, Zborowski asked for permission to immediately attack Gdansk but Batory declined. 

A siege train of 22 cannon arrived, but efforts to take the `Lighthouse' harbor fortification were rebuffed. 

On July 3 the rebels launched a successful sortie which destroyed several cannon and caused much other damage to the attackers..


towarzysz lekkiej jazdy wedlug ryciny Zundta 1568. Akryl. Mal.Dariusz t.Wielec (darioTW)

Battle of Orsha, 1514

Battle of Kircholm, 1605

How the Hussars Fought - Tactics

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I looked at: "The Battles of Lubieszow 1577, Bycsyna 1588 and Kokenhauzen 1601 (Battles of the Polish Commonwealth) by A Michael Sayce. Hamlet Models, 2004"

******************* Sayce reports, without citing a specific source, that Cavalry was 1134 hussaria in at least 6 banners, 215 cossaks, 100 tatars. Artillery: a few cannons. Sayce reports also that The Gdansk force was partially recruited from Scots, including Scottish soldiers serving in Holland, as well as a few Dutch. (However, reading his cited source, below, it appears that this is a replacement force for what was lost at the battle)

From Scots in Eastern and Western Prussia, 1903 edition by Otto Schulze & Co., Edinburgh For this war Scotland, the great recruiting depot of Europe, furnished a force of six or seven hundred men. They were drawn not, however, from Scotland itself, but from the Scottish forces in Holland. The first indication of it we find in the Calendar of State Papers when, (August 3, 1577) Walsingham writes to the Regent: "It may please you, therefore, to stay such of that (the Scottish) nation as lately served in Holland, who, as I am informed, are otherwise minded to repair to the service of the town of Danske, for unless the matter be speedily compounded their cause requires speedy relief." To Danzig they went, anyhow, and, as it appears, by sea. [Some of them under Gourlay Trotter and Tomson, arrived at Danzig in the middle of June 1577; others on the 20th of August.] They were commanded by Colonel William Stuart and the Captains Gourlay, W. Moncrief, John Crawford, John Tomson, John Dollachy (?), Alex. Morra and Will. Rentoun. Their engagement was to last till May 1578; good pay and plenty of ammunition and provision was promised. We also hear that their sergeant-major was called Ambsteroder (Anstruther), their surgeon (Feldscheer), John Orley, their Provost, Robert Schwall, and their preacher (Predikant), Patrick Griech (Greig), the latter drawing two hundred gulden as his pay. Now powder and shot seems to have been forthcoming in abundant quantities—we are told in the treasury-accounts of Danzig that at one time fifty-four schock (i.e. three score) of slow-matches at an expense of eighty-one gulden were handed out to the forces—but it was somewhat different with the officers' pay, and some little pressure was required on the part of the claimants. Captain Murray addresses the Magistrates on this matter, and scornfully states that he has wasted a whole week and got nothing, and William Moncrieff writes a long letter with respect to the same business. "Gestrenge, edle, ehrveste, erbare, nahmhaffte, grossgunstige Herren!" he begins with that waste of adjectives which delighted the soul of the German official at that time. "After offering you my very willing and humble services, I beg to draw your attention to the fact that I have, a few weeks ago, brought all the men under my standard from the Netherlands at my own expense to this good town to serve against her enemies. I have thus laid out in food, conveyance and other expenses more than six hundred thaler, by which I was compelled to pawn my best clothes at Holschenorel in Denmark. Though I did formerly apply to you for a reimbursement, I received only the answer that I must put down all my expenses with regard to the soldiers serving under me, carefully in writing, and send it to the magistrates, when I should duly receive what was right. Now to put down every item in connection with my said expenses clearly and distinctly, is quite impossible, for I have kept no account-books. I therefore leave it to you and to your decision, and trust that I shall receive what is due to me, with which I shall be well content. Hoping to receive a favourable reply, your humble servant, WILHELM MONKRIEFF, Captain." Matters, however, seem to have been settled amicably, for we soon read of the valiant deeds of the little Scotch garrison. They were the chief stay of Danzig in all her troubles, say the State Papers, "They have done so much noble service that they have got great fame for their country in these parts." Poor Gourlay had to pay with his life. An old chronicler of Danzig tells us that he, being wounded under the arm, wanted to jump into a boat, but he jumped short, and in his heavy armour he was drowned. His funeral was a very solemn affair. "All the Scots, with their muskets under their arms, went first with their colours, and drums beating. After the coffin came the magistrates, the bailies and the burgesses." Colonel Stuart himself had a narrow escape. "On this Saturday, December 7th, 1577," writes an old chronicler, "the Scottish colonel, a handsome and imposing warrior of royal blood, went for a ride with the horses he had lately bought, outside the town, and exercised them opposite the hills near the shooting range of the citizens. But when the enemy noticed this, he rushed out of his cover, wanting to attack him. He, however, with his men, quickly galloped towards the Heilige Leichnams Thor, where he was under the cover of the guns, and the enemy dared not follow him.