On This Day In History: Battle Of Kirchholm Was Fought – On Sep 27, 1605

On September 27, 1605, one of the major battles in the Polish–Swedish War was fought.

The battle was decided in 20 minutes by the devastating charge of Polish cavalry, the Winged Hussars.

It ended in the decisive victory of the Polish-Lithuanian forces, and is remembered as one of the greatest triumphs of Commonwealth cavalry.

The location of the event was a small town Kirchholm (now Salaspils in Latvia, some 18 km south East of Riga).

The forces of Charles IX of Sweden were superior. The Polish Crown declined to raise funds for defence, although Great Hetman of Lithuania Chodkiewicz promised to pay out army wages from his own fortune, thereby gathering at least some army.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth army under Jan Karol Chodkiewicz was composed of roughly 1,000 infantry and 2,600 cavalry and only five cannons. The Polish-Lithuanian forces had a small number of Polish cossack light cavalry and Lithuanian tatars light cavalry (cossack and tatar cavalry is a class of light cavalry in Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth at this date not to be confused with the Ukrainian/Russian Cossacks or Tatars), used mostly for reconnaissance.

Chodkiewicz tried for four hours to lure the Swedes from their positions with his light cavalry sent out to skirmish between the two armies.The Swedes under Charles thought that the Lithuanians and supporting Poles were retreating and therefore advanced to the bottom of the slope, using his second line of cavalry to cover his flanks while the first line of infantry closed up. This is what Chodkiewicz was waiting for.

Within 30 minutes, the Swedish cavalry was in full retreat on both flanks exposing the infantry in the center to the hussars and the firepower of Polish infantry.

The Swedish defeat was utter and complete. The army of Charles IX had lost at least half, perhaps as much as two-thirds, of its original strength. The Polish-Lithuanian losses numbered only about 100 dead and 200 wounded.

After the defeat, the Swedish king was forced to abandon the siege of Riga and withdraw by ship back across the Baltic Sea to Sweden and to relinquish control of northern Latvia and Estonia.

The Battle of Kircholm is commemorated on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Warsaw, with the inscription «KIRCHOLM 27 IX 1605».


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