Battle of Warsaw 1656

By Maciej Rymarz  

Translated by Rick Orli with assistance from Radosław Sikora

©2002 Maciej Rymarz , english text ©2005 richard j. orli

Polish Version at:



The unexploited breakthrough charge of the hussars

(niewykorzystana szarża husarii)  

Note: this is still a draft under review!

The first half of 1656 found the Swedes in trouble. Throughout the Commonwealth, the rally call of "Whoever lives should mount his horse" ("kto żyw na konia siadał" ) had begun to give results. The Swedish Garrison in Warsaw had capitulated on 1 July. On the news, the Swedish King Charles Gustav X moved immediately to return to Warsaw.

The Army of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at Warsaw in late July 1656 was approximately (after the arrival of Lubomirski and Czarniecki’s men) 24,000 regulars, 10,000 levy and 2 000 Tatars.  In all 36,000, mostly cavalry. Only 4.000 were infantry, supported by 18 cannon.  The hussars totaled approximately 1000-1100 men, in eight banners (six Crown and two Lithuanian), so were quite few in number especially compared to the force that might have been raised in earlier years. Also, not all eight hussar banners participated in the battle.

One banner was with Grand Marshal of the Crown Jerzy Lubomirski together with other forces (approximately 8000) at Cracow, a second was with Castellan of Kiev Stefan Czarniecki, with 4500 men advancing toward Zakrocz.

The Poles planed to attack the Swedes camped at Modlin and Pomiechow from two directions, from the left (west) and right (east) bank of the Vistula.  Part was to move along the left bank to Kazun, to prevent the Swedes’ passage across the Vistula and in this way to protect Warsaw from that direction.

The main strength of the Polish army was to move along the right bank (the  Praga side), and was to join there the Lithuanian force. The Lithuanian commander Sapiech, after crossing the Narwa river, was to attack the camp of Douglas and Adolf John. It was necessary to engage the Swedes before they could join with the Brandenburg army.

This Plan failed, through negligence of Polish King John Casimir II (Jan Kazimierz 1609-1672), and the Swedish King Charles Gustav was able to achieve concentration of his own and the Elector of Brandenburg’s forces.

At this time, “allied" Swedish and Brandenburg forces totaled:

Swedish army

-cavalry (riters and dragoons) 37 squadrons 7500 horse

-Infantry 6 brigades 2000 men

Brandenburg army

-Cavalry (riters and dragoons) 23 squadrons 5000 horses

-Infantry 9 brigades, 3500 men

Together approximately 18000.

Jan Casimier II and Charles Gustav X, Cousins

King John Casimir, as we can see, had numerical superiority over the Swedish-Brandenburg allied army. However, considering the balance of arms, training and organization, the advantage was with the Swedes and Brandenburgers.  The allies significantly had a very large advantage in artillery, 47 cannon to only 18 in the Polish army.  John Casimier, despite being advised by Czarniecki to instead protect Warsaw by carrying the war to Prussia, decided to face the Swedes in battle.

The obstinacy of Polish King fit the agenda of the Swedes, who sought a decisive field battle since the Polish guerrilla-style war had been very effective.  The Swedes hoped to first attack the Lithuanians on to right bank, before the Poles could construct a bridge. After destroying the Lithuanians, the Swedes planned the return to Modlin, cross the Vistula at Zakrocz and attack, following the left bank of the river, toward Warsaw.

In the evening of 27 July the Swedish-Brandenburg forces crossed the Narew at Nowym Dworem. The attack on the Lithuanians had to be executed with speed and efficiency, therefore the baggage train was left at Nowym Dworem with 2000 men.  The main body took to the road with supplies of food for only three days. A damaged bridge slowed the completion of the crossing until the afternoon of the next day. The van of the Swedes crossed at Suchocin Jabłonnę. There, they met the French deputy de Lumbres.  A Swedish sympathizer, he undoubtedly shared with the Swedes many details concerning the disposition of the Polish armies and of the Crown army’s progress on the right bank.

28 July - first day of battle

Charles Gustav was delighted to receive word that the Poles were ready to accept battle. He was unconcerned with the numerical superiority of his opponent, because it was not a suitable field for using large masses of cavalry, the Commonwealth army’s main strength. He meanwhile had at his disposal a superiority of infantry and dragoons.

The battlefield was an area approximately 10 km square, from the West bordered by the Vistula, from to the North with the swamp, from east a line of dunes. The dunes offered a good position for infantry and they presented something like a natural fortress open to the North with an obstacle-free ‘entrance’ only approximately 1000m wide.

All night long on 27-28 July the Crown army marched, led by the infantry and artillery followed by the banners of regular cavalry.  By noon on the 28th of July the Levy cavalry had finally approached the battlefield.

The Poles had planned to attack the enemy camp further north. That the Swedes had advanced so near surprised the Polish leadership. After quickly evaluating the ground (and seeing no advantage in launching an immediate large attack cavalry) John Casimier elected a defensive posture, using the ground to best advantage.  Since the Polish position was open to attack from the North through the 1000 meter-wide open area, this field was protected by three small earthwork redoubts, and farther on to the north-east a small earthwork fort was built 600 meters north of the Żerań forest. Between the redoubts, open ground was left across which cavalry could maneuver.

The Tatars took advantage of the new situation to harass the rear of the allied armies.

The Swedish commanders were surprised at how little open ground lay between the forested areas and the Vistula near Tarchom, Świdre and Żeran. It would have been a considerably easier march on the other bank. It is notable that the Polish leadership chose to forgo the chance to attack their enemy still scattered on the march.  The Swedish vanguard skirmished first with a Lithuanian force. The moment of contact was recorded by John Leszczyński:

"The enemy was sighted two hours before the evening with the whole army “directe” (directly) along the Vistula  ‘lentissimo pasu’ (slow march) and begun to advance straight at the redoubts, disciplined infantry and cannon well manned ;  stepping easily, and sprightly with trumpets gaily blowing martial music with their cannon fire providing the accompanying tattoo. We eagerly waited to pay them back, and held fire, until they moved good and close, and then we fired to their discomforture; they recoiled in disarray, the music died away, and they retired"

Jan Leszczyński to prince J. Schonhoffa of Czestochowa, 9 -VIII 1656, s445; Kubala, war 15 brandenburska s.

On this day everything went according to John Casimier’s plan.  The Swedes vainly attacked the Polish redoubts, while still distant Swedish units could not participate in the fighting. At some point the Polish king decided to attack the Swedish reiter cavalry from the flank. One regiment of cavalry was to attack from a point at the margin of the Białołęcka forest near the fort. However, a difficult passage across the Skurcza stream caused that maneuver to be noticed and the Swedish king effectively counteracted it with four squadrons of reiter cavalry. Meanwhile more reiter units arrived at the right wing and infantry at the center. The Swedes now occupied the whole width of the corridor along the Vistula. The increasing darkness along with the dust and smoke made further fighting impossible.  The Swedish-Brandenburg army retired to a position 2 to 3 km distant.

The first day ended as a success for the Polish side. Elector of Brandenburg Frederick Wilhelm, shocked by events, tried to persuade the Swedish King to retire. We should remember that that the allies had left their supplies at Modlin and had only 3 days of food.  Charles Gustav was determined to continue with the fight. Orders were issued to build Swedish redoubts facing the Polish redoubts.

When the Polish King realized that he was facing the entire Swedish army, the crossing at Zakroczym no longer needed guarding, so he sent messengers to Czarniecki to immediately return. Unfortunately Czarniecki returned on the 29th only around 18:00, essentially missing the second day’s fighting.

29 July - Second day of battle

All night long from the 28th to 29th of July, the remaining Commonwealth and Levy banners passed across to the right bank. In the Polish camp there was much commotion and difficulty in organizing large quantities of the army according to some rational plan.

In the early morning the king of Sweden and the Elector launched a reconnaissance toward Białołęka. A frontal assault of the fortified Polish lines seemed impossible. Charles Gustav decided to bypass the redoubts and strike from the east after first occupying the dunes between Bialoleka and Bródno. This would make it possible to push the Polish cavalry to the Vistula.


For the plan to succeed, the Poles had to remain convinced that a frontal attack was planned. The Swedes needed to screen their movement to the new positions.


Recall that at the north-east, jutting out from the Polish position, stood a little square fort. It was seen that occupying the dunes about the fort would allow the Swedes to maneuver around the Polish forces. The dunes were occupied after a two-hour march by Brandenburg units, about 11AM. The occupation of that position was a key event enabling further operations by the allied army.

Charles Gustov meanwhile fought off the attacks of the Polish cavalry along the Vistula. The Swedes had a very dangerous moment; because while the army was divided the Tatars seemed ready to attack their rear.

The Tartars initiated the Attack, but it was effectively waylaid.  The attack on the allied tabor wagon train and baggage was planned for a moment when the Swedes would be occupied fighting the Poles. The Tatars moved west toward Żeran, they ran against the Elector’s units. No battle with the Brandenburg force occurred; instead an unpleasant surprise in to the form of 2000 Swedish riters was waiting for them. The Tatars were compelled to retreat.

While the Tatars retired toward Białołęka, heavy fighting erupted between Swede and Pole along the Vistula. Banners of Crown cavalry streamed through the gaps between redoubts and charged with impetus at the first echelon of Swedish riters.


A Hussar banner also participated in this attack. The Polish attack was probably planned to include greater strength, but faced difficulties in deploying because of the limited space available.  John Casimier directed banners of the regiments forward, which were gradually introduced into action. The Swedes could not stand up to the Poles, and were forced after a brief fight to retreat, retiring behind the infantry positions.  There, the Artillery fire and massed musketry of the several infantry regiments under the command of Wrangle was so effective that the hussars, though initially triumphant, had to return with considerable losses.


According to Voivode (Palatine) of Poznan John Leszn, one reason for the failure to penetrate the Swedish position was the abandonment of the Tatars’ attack on the rear of the camp at Zerańsk. The attack from two sides was not coordinated in time, so each was beaten back in turn.  The Swedes did lose part of the baggage train with food, which fell prey to the Tatars: "The Tatars took small part, because they had to come ten miles from near the Bug River, for the passages they had gone, that they took the victuals carts". Meanwhile Charles Gustav, after losing contact with the Brandenburg force, moved toward Frederick Wilhelm, in order to survey the ground and inspect the Polish-Lithuanian positions. About 12:00, the Swedish sovereign met with his Brandenburg confederate. He achieved excellent insight into the situation for the upcoming battle. Apparently it was excellent, because he then understood the terrain from Białołęka to Bródno, the lay of the dunes which from the east shielded the Polish camp, and also the disposition of Polish forces near Bródno woods.


The Swedish King then decided that only by throwing all his strength at the Polish flank between Bialoleka and Bródno could he surprise the Poles and achieve victory. To achieve this he needed to move the main Swedish forces from along the Vistula, under the fire of Polish units. Charles Gustav also provided reinforcements to the Elector of Brandenburg, in order to solidify the forces which constituted the pivot of the maneuver. Three Brigades under the command of Major General Wolrad Waldec together with several cannon finally reached the fringe of the woods near Bialoleka soon after 13:00, joining the Brandenburgers.  

The march had been slow because of the muddy ground, and difficulties with hauling the cannon. During the crossing of the Skorcz they became stuck in midstream and the whole column stopped. This was a perfect opportunity for the Poles to strike, since this force was on the march, and Charles Gustav was reorganizing his other infantry and cavalry regiments. An attack did not materialize, since a considerable part of the army had participated in the morning skirmish with the Swedes, and were now taking a meal.

The Polish camp enjoyed high morale, taking the retreat of the cavalry of their opponent from their positions as an omen of victory, and as a precursor a general Swedish withdrawal.  The numerical advantage of the Polish forces, combined with unfounded belief that the Tatars had captured the Swedish camp, caused the regulars to relax sufficiently to take a meal, to give an example of what was seen:

"poszła starszyzna sobie obiadować, chcąc czegoć po obiedzie dokazać, ale i tam dłużej niektórzy jedli niż trzebą było, pod pretekstem czekania na zgromadzenie się ordy, która wprawdzie daleko była"

“The leaders had all gone to stuff themselves, while dreaming of their achievements-to-be after lunch; but they stretched out their meal past all need, under pretext of waiting for assembly orders, which in fact had already been issued"  

John Leszno to the Prince J. Schtinhoffa, j. in., s. 445.

Their enemy did not pause for lunch and in a few hours all combat units were in their new positions.  On the march, the Swedes formed up for their attack on the fringe of  Białołęcka forest with the Brandenburg units, where they were set upon by Tatar and Lithuanian banners which were returning from their harassing action against to the Swedish camp. The attackers moved up the side of the slopes occupied by the Brandenburg units, i.e. from the direction of Białołęka. This was beaten off by the Brandenburg dragoons and infantry, supported by a squadron of Swedish reiters under the command of Horn. Meanwhile, toward the direction of the Bródno, through a narrow passage between the line of dunes and morasses, charged the Lithuanians, aided by several Crown banners. The exact strength which attacked the allies we do not know.  This point is controversial among historians. While Prussian sources set the attacking force at 4000-5000 cavalry, Polish sources estimate 2-3 regiments, 1000-1500 men.  It appears that this attack used mainly Lithuanian units. Strong fire of the infantry and dragoons repulsed two charges, and then the attackers began slowly to retire toward the Polish positions

Failure of both the cavalry charges must have cooled somewhat the enthusiasm of the Poles, since they no longer disturbed the assembly and march of the allied columns.  Perhaps the Polish leadership was careful, uncertain of the opponent’s intentions pushing between the belt of the dunes and the morasses and the muddy pools of the Zązy watershed. After the two charges had been beaten back, after 15:00, it was quiet. Charles Gustav took advantage of the break to move almost all his strength from near the Vistula to the fields between Bialoleka and Bródno. The idleness of the Polish side is puzzling.  

The possibility that Jan Casimier had no knowledge about the allied movements seems unlikely considering the quantity of light cavalry in the Polish army well suited to reconnaissance.

Jan Casimier had sent orders to the Tatars, to harass any movements. But instead of facing the fire of the infantry and dragoons, they set fire to Bialoleka and Bródno.  Their presence forced the allies to deploy considerable strength to cover both formations’ wings. Near Bialoleka the Swedes had to detach Horn’s riters, in order to enable the movement of the remaining units toward Bródno. Here also they left part of the infantry with several squadrons of cavalry because of concerns of the chance of attack from the Polish-Lithuanian force (from along the Vistula) and the Tatars (from the northeast through narrow passages with between the mud and pools of Zązy). While using the cover of the third line of Swedish cavalry, consolidating the main force, Charles Gustov had the two remaining lines of reiters together with the infantry and artillery to continue the march along the the Bialoleka -Bródno road. These forces remained under command of the king’s brother Duke Adolf Jan.

While the Swedes advanced along the road form Białołęcka toward Bródno, the Brandenburg force simultaneously began to move down hill, along the margin of the dunes.  Neither army was harassed; the Brandenburgers passed between the dunes and the swamp and pools of the  Zązy. Numerous tributaries of that stream would not have interfered with concentration of the allied forces, had they been suddenly struck by Polish-Lithuanian cavalry, since both columns marched in view of each other and only a kilometer apart in a straight-line. Had the Poles attacked, they would have been able to quickly fill the gaps between allied units with cavalry.   

The Poles responded to the allied maneuver only when the Brandenburgers began to march out of the woods near Białołęcka and the Swedes had reached Bródno. The fire at both villages, Białołęka and Bródno, warned the Polish leadership, but because their units were resting they were helpless to act immediately.

An opportune moment to strike, when the allies approached their new position and they begun to reorder units according to Charles Gustav’s plan, passed irrevocably. At just that time, while the Swedes were disorganized and on uncertain ground, the cavalry might have struck from a distance and claimed a victory. But the Poles seemed surprised by the arrival of the allies on fields of Bródno, and did nothing.   

It is difficult to describe the perturbation that arose among the units lined up behind the Polish earthworks to the north.  John Casimier had only a short time to shift the orientation of his army 90 degrees to align with the enemy.  Several individual regiments of the Polish-Lithuanian cavalry, infantry and artillery had to be quickly placed along the line of dunes northeast of the Praga woods. Many senior officers were not present with their own unit, while the levy had to be rousted from the feast in their tents.

Placing the Polish-Lithuanian units into position took substantial time, giving the opposing force plenty of time to finish their flanking maneuver and form up the army according to the Swedish battle plan.

Disposition of the allied armies

On the left wing, the Swedish battalions were arrayed in three lines. In front of the first line of reiters stood three battalions of infantry (approximately 1000 men) under command of Col. Adolf Wrangle (Smaland), Col. Nisbet (the Upland) and Lt. Col. Andrew Szoge, commanding the Royal Foote Guards. This entire formation of infantry was under the command of Maj. General Bertord Hartwig Bulow.

Swedish riter cavalry guarded both wings. In the first line stood these regiments: Graf Eryk Oxenstierna’s under command of lt. Col. Rosen (Smaland), Maj. General Charles Gustav Wrangle  (Upland) under Planting, Graf Ludwig Lówenhaupt (Ostgoth) and  Prince Adolf John. Near them were other squadrons of reiters: those of Pfalzgraf Philip von Sulzbach (the commander of the first line), Prince John Jerzy von Anhalt-Dessau, Col. John James Taube, plus Sulzbach’s dragoons. The two remaining lines consisted of Swedish reiter squadrons and Dragoons under command of Marquees Charles Magnus von Baden-Dudach and Major General Henric Horn (Nyland).

The center consisted of six battalions of Brandenburg infantry, along with squadrons of graf Otton Christopher Sparr, Col. John Jerzy Sieberg (Syburg), Mjr. General. Wolrad Waldeck and Major General Joachim Rui Goltz. These were also organized in three lines and with to both flanks covered by squadrons of Prussian and Swedish reiters.

The right wing was commanded by Frederick Wilhelm together with support from Field Marshall Charles Gustav Wrangle. Units were again laid out in three lines. The first line included reiter squadrons under command of graf Frederick Waldeck, also commander of the while directing whole Prussian cavalry. The first line also included squadrons of major general Christopher Kannenberg (the commander of the first line of Brandenburg reiters) and also the Brandenburg lifeguard (leibgward kurfiirst) under command of Col. Alexander von Spaen. The Brandenburg infantry brigades were to the front with the Guards, commanded by Peter de la Cave, the line of which curved so as to face the Polish fort.

The second line was made up of the Prussian-Swedish reiters ' under command of major general Tott, and the third was constituted of reiter squadrons of Col.. Jerzy Schónaicha, Col. Christopher Brunette, Col. Dietricha Lessgewang, the duke of the John Jer von Weimar and Col. Wolfram Ernest von Eller. This line also included a regiment of dragoons under Col.. Christian Ludwik Kalkstein.

In front of the infantry brigades were placed cannon, 24 on the right wing, and 23 on the left. The artillery fire was to discourage a Polish attack while forming up and then to support the planned advance, which they hoped would drive their opponent into the Vistula. The firepower of the allied infantry and artillery was hoped to counterbalance the advantage the Poles enjoyed in cavalry, especially the hussars, whom they feared.

At 16:00 the armies of the Commonwealth and Sweden-Brandenburg stood opposite each other.  The Polish forces were deployed along the line of dunes, facing Bródno village.  The combined strength of the cavalry regiments was approximately 15000 Crown troopers and 5000 Lithuanians.  The infantry and artillery rushed to deploy.

The Polish king perceived the chance of routing his opponent by means of strong charge of a few thousand cavalry. In the plan, the first breach of the Swedish defense would be achieved by the hussars with a strength of approximately 900 to 1000 lances, to be followed by a blow by the Pancerni cavalry to complete the breakthrough.  This attack would also catch the Swedes as they were on the march near Bródno, on level ground favorable to a charge by large quantities of cavalry. In case of success of this plan, the army of Sweden-Brandenburg faced complete extermination, since they would be driven into the mire and deep waters of rivers Zęzy. John Casimier also hoped to take advantage of the fatigue of the enemy’s march, and any disorganization that might result in regrouping in haste.  He ordered the attack, and at approximately 16:00 the hussars moved to charge.

The Charge

The hussar charge was under Lithuanian field orders under command of a lieutenant of the royal hussar banner with the Lithuanian regulars- Alexander Hilarego Połubiński. He would not have been in command but for the absence of the two Lithuanian Hetmen: Paweł Sapiech because of an injury caused by a fall from a horse, and Vincent Gosiewski, who had been sent with a force to Podlas.

Połubiński was an experienced commander who had participated in the Cossack wars and in the Moscow campaign of 1654, and the winter-spring 1656 campaign against the Swedes. Substantial debate concerns the numbers of hussars joining in this attack. It is certain that there were at least six banners, four of Crown and two Lithuanian.

Crown rotas included:

- Hussar rota (company) of the Grand Hetman of the Crown,  Stanisław Rewery Potocki (188 horses)

-rota of field hetman of the Crown Stanislawice Lanckoroński (98 horses)

- rota of the Cracow provincial governor Wladyslaw Myszkowskiego (171 horses)

- rota of  Serif of Sandomier John Zamosc (126 horses).

After counting "ślepych" (unseen or undocumented) fighting retainers (15 %) we can estimate 500 crown lances.

Lithuanian Rotas included:

-Royal banner under Pałubiński (147 horses)

- rota of Grand Hetman Pawła Sapiech under command of Mozyrian (?) Bannerette Hrehorym Kruniewiczem (193  horses)

It may be that the attack included two other Lithuanian Banners, namely

- rota of Pawła Sapiech (a second unit, formerly of the traitor Jan Radziwił)

The participation of these last two rotas indicates the return to service of larger numbers of Lithuanian soldiers and Lithuanian leadership. It is known that the lieutenants and the commanders of the Crown hussars were reluctant to be under the command of the Lithuanians when fighting on Crown soil, the more so that these were " old ", known and valued senior and noble officers. Be that as it may, taking into account the retainers and the Lithuanian banners we can estimate the number of hussars at over one thousand.


Pałubiński began the charge on receiving fire from the Swedish artillery. The distance from the enemy was about 500 meters.  To avoid tiring them, the hussars trotted their horses until they reached a distance of 200 meters. Thereafter they advanced in a controlled canter to approximately 80 meters (the edge of effective musket range) when they began to gallop. 80 meters in a gallop takes about 10 seconds - only enough time for the opponent to fire one salvo. In that moment, if the majority of the men and horses fall than it could lead to failure of the attack; this time this attack did not falter. Hussars in full impetus struck their ‘iron fist; at the center of the left Swedish wing, consisting of the elite Uplandder infantry regiment and the Smalandder cavalry.   (Commanded by Planting and Rosen); these broke almost immediately.  This first charge also routed the reiters of the Queen’s lifeguards under Col. Anhalt. The riters of the Swedish King’s own lifeguard under Sulzbach also suffered heavy losses, as they were driven back.  At that moment came an event pregnant in potential, as King Charles Gustav narrowly avoided death at the point of the lance of the legendary James Kowalski. Only thanks to iron discipline was total panic avoided among the Swedes. Meanwhile the hussars pressed through the second line where 4 squadrons had intermingled, but still pressed on.  To this point the plan of the Poles had been realized.  The hussars had deeply shattered the Swedish formations.   

At this moment the main Polish force was to advance to the charge, including several thousand pancerni (medium armored cavalry) and light cavalry.  They did not, in fact, join in the fight.  About this wrote Stanislaw Wierzbowski;

"Nie posiłkowali nasi. Odiął Pan Bóg rozum i męstwo dla grzechów"

" They did not aid us. Lord God gave us reason and valor for our sins " 

S. Wierzbowski Konnotata; (events of home and country from 1634 to 1689 , wyd J.K.Zaluski, Leipzig 1858, s 103.

The event was likewise captured in James Łoś’s memoirs:  “Just watching the troops (hussars)  leap forward with their kopia (lances) on ufy (hufce) reiters so bravely, already the whole Swedish army edged backward, with thoughts of  surrender, and began to run from their earthworks spreading panic to the Swedish reiters. There was one varlet who set about the king of Sweden; after cutting a path through the whole army, he tried to gore the king with his lance, and would have succeeded,  but was finally stopped by Prince Boguslaw Radziwił ‘s pistol. King Charles Gustav requested that this slain cavalier be given an honored burial.  But if a few more men had managed to follow this man’s lead, they would haveutarczka_Karola_Gustawa.jpeg (53909 bytes) given the Swedes a crippling blow."

Memouirs of Łosia s. 19

In the event, the hussars were taking heavy fire from the infantry and had to extract themselves.  They had born substantial casualties, approximately 16 % fallen and wounded, with the losses among the horses undoubtedly considerably larger. The charge of the pancerni banners was stopped before striking the Brandenburg wing. Although they had seriously threatened the Brandenburgers, so that the Elector was himself placed in danger, it had not been pressed.

After 18:00 the Polish army was reinforced by Czarniecki’s detachment returning from Zakroc. The defensive positions were manned by infantry and dragoon units, readying to fight back the counterattacking Swedish. No attack materialized, and the Allies retreated back to Bródno.

30 July - third day of battle

Under these circumstances King John Casimier understood that his opponent’s great advantage in infantry artillery made it unwise to count on victory from a sustained defense.

He decided to withdraw the infantry and artillery to the left bank of the Vistula under the cover of his cavalry. 30 July witnessed, often in dramatic circumstance, the passage of the infantry and artillery under the cover of detachments of Polish infantry and Cavalry in the rearguard, in contact with the attacking Swedish-Brandenburg armies. The Battle was that day finally ceaded to Charles Gustav.  The cavalry retired to Kamion, Grochów and Okuniew.

However, the battle did not weaken relative Polish strength, and the Swedish strategic situation would soon prove to be so weak that they were forced to withdraw their field army.  Losses totaled approximately 2000 men, while the Allies lost approximately 1000 allied. Nevertheless, the largest battle in the history of the Polish-Swedish wars ended as a Swedish victory.

1.Mirosław Nagielski "Warszawa 1656" Bellona 1990
2.J Cichowski A. Szulczyński "Husaria" MON 1981
3.Leszek Podhorodecki "Rapier i koncerz" Książka i Wiedza 1985
warsaw3d.gif (957734 bytes)

days 1,2,3warsawa.gif (849510 bytes)





 This exhibit from the Warsaw Army Museum shows artifacts from the time of the battle.  The cannon in foreground is a Polish regimental 6 pounder.  The 3 pounder against the wall and the wheel were recovered from the Vistula, and are believed to have been lost off the bridge during the retreat of the Polish army.



While the Swedish-Brandenburg force gained a famous victory over the Polish-Lithuanian forces, in the long term the victory achieved little.  Polish-Lithuanian losses were not significant, and even though Swedish forces were able to reoccupy Warsaw, they had to abandon it soon afterward. It is clear in hindsight that only the catastrophic destruction of their army would have deeply hurt the Commonwealth cause – highly unlikely because of their great mobility.  The allies however fought with great risk.  If they had been soundly defeated so deep in a hostile country swarming with powerful cavalry, the King and Elector would have been lucky to escape with a handful of their best horsemen.

The fact that the Swedish-Brandenburg force had 12,500 cavalry and only 5,500 infantry was unusual for the Swedes who typically relied on their excellent infantry forces for victory. The balance might be explained by the strategic situation in which the Swedes controlled towns in central and northern Poland while the Poles controlled the countryside.  This called for infantry to garrison towns, but cavalry was needed in the field to challenge highly mobile mounted forces that used mostly guerilla war tactics.

Battle of Kircholm, 1605

Battle of Yellow Waters, 1648

How the Hussars Fought - Tactics

Reenactment 2006

Homehusik.gif (7235 bytes)