Polish-Lithuanian Army Against the Troops of the Moscow Empire

The main opponent of the Moscow kingdom in the western direction was the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and after the Union of Lublin in 1569 (when Lithuania became an integral part of Poland), the Commonwealth.

The Army of the Commonwealth was a European model, saturated with handguns and artillery. Their numerous infantry, including hired infantry, were trained in field battles, assault and defense of fortresses

The main strategy of the Poles in conducting offensive wars against the Muscovites was standard – the capture of fortified cities, which allowed them to leave garrisons there and control from there a certain territory. 

Therefore, the Poles and Lithuanians never left behind fortifications that were not taken and used to sit under them for a long time. This allowed the Muscovites, if they were confident in the strength of the walls and the sufficiency of the defenders, to slowly gather troops and go to the aid of the besieged. Often had time!

During the siege, the Poles and Lithuanians showed great ingenuity and mastery of technical methods. To destroy the fortifications, they used special “break-through” cannons, which exacted weaknesses were destroyed by fire. Special “minds” (engineers) perfectly defined them with the help of calculations. If the siege artillery did not help, the Poles made digs under the walls, installed charges with gunpowder in them and blew up the fortifications. Then, with the help of special “ravens” -hooks, the rubble was removed and only after that the infantry went on the assault.

The indicated tactics were good against small fortresses. But it showed its weakness in conducting the siege of Smolensk in 1609-1611. The powerful walls of Smolensk withstood all shelling, and mine galleries of the Poles were discovered and undermined. Only after the reduction in the number of defenders Smolensk was taken by the Poles. But then, during the siege, they suffered such losses among the gentry that they could no longer help the besieged Poles in the Moscow Kremlin.

It should be noted that both Russians and Poles tried to avoid general battles. During attacks by both sides on the territory of Poland and the Moscow kingdom, the main emphasis was placed on the maneuvering actions of light cavalry, which broke through to communications and cut off enemy units from each other.

There was no shortage of such parts of the light cavalry on both sides. In the army of the Commonwealth, the ratio of infantry and cavalry was 1 to 10. The nobility despised the foot soldiers and went only to equestrian banners.

But the heavy cavalry – a hussar among the Poles was not enough. She was cared for and not used for hassles. Its main purpose was a frontal strike, which really swept away any ranks of infantry and cavalry. The Russians knew about this and tried to avoid battles, mainly relying on fortified mobile fortifications (walk-cities) and artillery defense.

When organizing campaigns against the Muscovites, the Poles took into account the large number of Russian infantry and the great maneuverability of the Muscovite cavalry. Therefore, the main method was to send out numerous detachments of equestrian Cossacks and gentry with the goal of demoralizing the enemy, capturing “tongues” and obtaining fodder. The bulk of the army (small infantry, artillery and hussars), under the command of the crown hetman (commander in chief), advanced gradually and captured the fortresses.

Such tactics of the Poles were effective and allowed them to capture large territories.