POLISH HUSSARS VS JANISSARIES. THE TRIUMPH OF THE SLAVS
The audacity and military successes of the Turks on the European front at the beginning of the 17th century prompted them to actively expand to the northwest.
Fierce janissaries, arrogant viziers, numerous soldiers of the Ottoman Empire from the poorest strata were eager to march, plunder and profit.
The victory of the Ottomans at Chekor in 1620 prompted Sultan Osman II to send a huge army north to invade Ukraine (then part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth). The size of the army is not entirely clear, but it numbered at least 100,000 and may have reached 250,000. Unseen for those lands of the armada!
The fame of the Turks as cruel to sadism, invincible warriors, went far ahead of their troops, devastating the provinces and prompting the nobles to flee away from their armies.
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth responded to the defeat at Chekor and the threat of invasion by raising an army much larger than in 1620.
The Polish-Lithuanian contingent numbered 30,000 people, supported by the same number of Zaporozhye Cossacks. However, the Cossacks themselves were the least reliable link in the chain, which often changed sides of the conflict, as past wars showed.
In any case, the Turkish army was 3-4 times larger …
An army of Polish, Lithuanian, Russian and Cossack units took up a defensive position at Chokim, building an elaborate series of fortifications that would enable them to use their cavalry to counterattack during the battle. Deaf defense would be a losing strategy for the Poles and Cossacks accustomed to attacking, but the forces are too unequal!
The Turks initially planned to bypass this army altogether, aiming a blow further north, but then, having learned about the large number of Poles, they decided to exterminate their army there.
The janissaries alone in the Turkish army had 30,000 sabers! And also horse sipakhs, swift Crimean Tatars, mad in cruelty bashibuzuks, excellent artillery. All this instilled fear in the hearts of the Poles, and it was reinforced by the cute Turkish tradition of chopping off all prisoners’ heads and putting them in pyramids …
The Ottoman army arrived at Hotim on September 2.
Without waiting for the plan and survey of the area, the Turkish horde immediately went into battle, like lava …
The Ottoman cavalry launched a series of attacks on the Polish camp. On the first line of the Poles was the camp of the Cossacks and, surprisingly, even the Cossacks themselves, this mad avalanche was crushed and thrown back!
The whole first day, the Turks unsuccessfully rolled on the Cossacks and retreated, washing themselves with blood – a discouraging beginning of a great army!
On the second day, the Ottomans had already tightly surrounded the camp and managed to break through to the camp, where they were met not only by the Cossacks, but also by cooks, small traders, food supplies, who were marching with the army. And again the Turks retreated, suffering heavy losses …
And then they learned that in the dark, the Cossacks made their way to the Turkish camp on the heels of the retreating ones and left there with a lot of booty!
“In the morning … the enemy struck powerfully on the Cossacks … to chop them up and defeat them. Colonel Ernst Dengof’s 3,000 infantry began to ferry their banners (across the Dniester) on rafts and on a ferry, since there were no bridges to come to the aid of the Cossacks who were standing by the forest. “
The threat was experienced not only by the Cossacks, but also by the Turks themselves, whose pashas and beys risked losing their heads or being impaled because of such a shameful failure in battle.
By the third day, the Turks blocked access to the water for the camp, and they surrounded the palisade with cannons, determined to suppress the resistance with fire.
A volley of Turkish artillery showed that the skill of their shooters was low! The response of the Cossacks was much stronger, Polish hussars and German mercenaries in the ranks of the Poles attacked the flanks of the Turks. 9 hours of shelling led only to the exhaustion of the Turks.
“Towards evening, when the Turks wanted to retreat, they (the Cossacks), along with three German banners of Colonel Weier and Colonel Lermuth, pursued the enemy, put him to flight and captured four excellent guns. True, the fifth cannon, due to the fact that it was very large and therefore, in a hurry, it could not be quickly taken away, and the enemy began to return, they abandoned it, having previously broken its wheels.
The Turkish camp suffered so much that it was decided to move it deeper to the rear, and to give the army two days of rest. At this time, a messenger arrived to the Turks with the news of the outing of the Cossacks by sea to Istanbul, where they scuttled many Turkish ships and went home!
September 7 greeted the parties with the understanding that this day will be decisive. The Turks pulled up all the Janissaries and all the might of their Sipah cavalry. The Poles responded with the banners of the Polish hussars: chained in steel, well-coordinated and quick to maneuver, “the last knights of Europe” – as they were called in the 17th century.
Dawn had not yet come, and the Turks had already attacked the Poles, who had not yet formed. With great difficulty and great blood, the Poles managed to push the Janissaries behind the palisade, while the Cossacks were cut off from their Turkish troops.
However, 10,000 janissaries were already rushing down the hill, ready to complete the success of their fellow tribesmen at dawn. They were struck in the flank by 600 winged hussars of Khodkevich.
The attack broke and grind the Turkish elite units so much that they fled, pursued by Polish horsemen. Having suffered small losses, the hussars inflicted a heavy defeat on the Turks and, to a greater extent, defeats the spirit and will to win.
For another two days, the Turks will try again to arrange a massive onslaught, but they constantly fail, but they do not give up at all!
At the same time, there is a riot in the Cossack camp – the former hetman is being removed and executed, and the Cossacks themselves are dissatisfied with hunger and the lack of booty, because it is clear that even with a victory, there will be nothing to profit from …
The Ottomans cut off the camp from the roads and rivers and conduct incessant shelling; however, they did not dare to go into a direct attack.
Karakash Pasha, the strongest commander among the Tatars, arrives to the aid of the Sultan’s army with his units. The sultan, desperate to leave alive, comes out to meet him himself and listens to the oath of the inappropriate defeat of the kafirs!
The funnier was the finale: we will storm the fortifications of the Poles, Karakash Pasha was one of the first killed, after which the Turks retreated again.
Responding to the insolence, the Poles and Cossacks burst into the Turks’ camp at night and almost capture the Grand Vizier!
They will repeat such raids for two more nights in a row, causing panic in the ranks of the Turks. But already both troops are suffering severely from hunger and fatigue.
On September 25, Hetman Chodkiewicz dies – an elderly great warrior could not stand so long a siege, the Poles decide to retreat deeper to the rear so that their line is less stretched in the face of a falling army size.
On September 28, the Sultan goes all-in: throwing all his forces into battle, under a hurricane of cannon fire, his armies go to win or die. At 14:00, the Turks attacked, making 9 raids, but the viziers themselves see that their soldiers are already demoralized, they do not want to attack, their spirit has fallen …
Having lost 40,000 people, the sultan did not object to the proposal of the Polish envoy for negotiations.
They restored the pre-war situation by confirming the border between Rzeczpospolita and the Ottoman Empire (and leaving Moldova under the control of the Ottoman Empire). However, the great campaign itself failed and it was a much greater defeat for the Ottomans than for the land.
After the unsuccessful invasion of Osman, he began to look for a scapegoat and settled on the janissaries. His attempts to reform them, and in fact to dissolve them, ended with a revolt of the Janissaries, as a result of which Osman was overthrown and replaced first by his uncle Mustafa, and then by Murad IV. Meanwhile, the absence of most of the Polish army in the south prompted Gustav Adolf of Sweden to invade Estonia, renewing the Polish-Swedish War of 1600-1629.
In Poland itself, the battle was considered the greatest victory over the pagans in history. In honor of the Battle of Khotyn, Pope Gregory XV and Pope Urban VIII for their courage, the troops dedicated a memorial day – October 10, and the Catholic Church celebrated a special service on this day until the end of the 19th century.
But in Turkey, according to eastern slyness, the battle was declared victorious and celebrations went on for three days! However, the inner circle knew the real situation and therefore started reforms that were disastrous for themselves.