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Thread: Beyond Tannenberg II: The Knight's Tale

  1. #1
    Disciple of Peperna CatKnight's Avatar
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    Beyond Tannenberg II: The Knight's Tale

    0: The Central BAAr


    I didn't know how long it had been since I'd come here. Weeks and months dull memories, and even though I passed the narrow archway leading to this quiet tavern often enough, I'd been too busy to go in.

    Still, it's always amazed me what a simple touch, a chance smell or familiar voice can do for one's memory. Psychologists believe that, short of physical damage, we never actually forget anything but simply lose our ability to easily access it. I wouldn't know. The older I get, the less certain I am of supposed facts.

    The Central BAAR then, its stout wood door opening at my touch. It's quiet tonight: Most of its patrons, like me, simply got busy or found other distractions. I walk past the oak bar where I've seen everyone from Roman legionnaires to Cold War fighter pilots sharing beer, wine, ale, whiskey and a hundred other concoctions. Behind it, where another bar might have a mirror this had a number of shields, engraved on which were the winners of various awards and between the shields, its cold, grey metal barrel intimidating even when not in use, the dreaded quote gun.

    I don't know how many hours I spent in this room working on my own stories, or chatting with friends. Even after all this time the baar fills me with a warm glow, a sense of camaraderie and home. Perhaps they will come in later. Anyway, I'm here for another reason.

    He's sitting at a table in the corner, near the dormant fireplace and nursing a cup of something that smells like a mixture of beer and honey. he could have been anywhere between thirty and fifty, brown hair lightened by the sun, then silvered in the bargain. A big man, muscular and stout, his silver and black tunic did much to conceal him in the dim lamp light. His eyes, however, would have betrayed him even if he wanted to hide - a hazel so pale they were almost grey and piercing. He impaled me on his gaze and I paused.

    "I heard you were looking for me," he said.

    "Yes." I indicated the chair across from him. "May I sit?" He said nothing but continued watching me. I finally took his lack of reaction for agreement and sat. The silence between us lengthened, and if not for those eyes I'd have sworn he'd forgotten about me.

    "Why are you here?"

    I glanced at the 'tender, who nodded and headed for the tap. "I hear you're an authority on knights. You know I was writing about them for awhile."

    "Until you ran into a technical problem," he replied neutrally.

    "It was an accident!"

    "It stopped you." He paused as my drink was brought. "Are you planning to write about them again?"

    "I hope to," I said, "but I want to know more about them. As I said, I'm told you're an authority."

    "Perhaps." He lifted his honeyed beer in a half salute.

    "I hear you are one. A knight."

    "Perhaps." He sipped, then put down his drink. "Some would say you're a knight also. It's in your name."

    I looked down and flushed.

    "That wasn't a compliment," he said sternly. "Knight is just a title. By itself, the name means nothing. You say I'm an authority on knights? They are warriors trained in heavy cavalry tactics and operations. That's about it."

    "They live to a higher ideal," I protested.

    He waved his hand impatiently. "I've seen your writing. You aren't that naive." Abruptly he leaned forward. "Or is that why they've always fascinated you since you were a boy?"

    "I know not all live ... lived up to their expectations," I answered. "Nor many at all, really. The chivalric code in many cases was just a dream. I suppose I like to think that for awhile enough people believed it that it made a difference."

    The knight studied me for a long moment. "There are believers, idealists, call them what you will in any age. Not all of them wear armor. I think you've linked the ideals with the title of knighthood. You're enough of a historian to know better."

    "I'm also enough of a historian to know we tend to glamorize the past, to look at it through a rosy lens." I sat back and regarded him. "It's why I'm here. I want to hear the truth."

    "About knights?" he asked, smiling.

    "If what you say is true, about men in general."

    His eyebrow slowly rose. "The truth should be obvious. They tried their best. Some succeeded. Some failed. Some kept to their ideals, and some were happy just to survive. Read any story with any redeeming qualities and you'll see the same themes of hope, despair, betrayal and occasionally redemption over and over. It's the human condition, or if you prefer the danse macabre."

    "If it's the human condition, then that sounds like that much more reason to keep their stories alive," I said, leaning forward. "I told you: I don't want some glorified fairy tale. I want to know the truth."

    His lip curled in what may have been a sneer, or perhaps the beginning of a smile. "Very well," he said softly. He signaled for another drink, folded his hands and stared at me for a very long time.


    Once upon a time, there was a group called the Brothers of the German House of St. Mary in Jerusalem. You know them as the Order of Teutonic Knights.
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  2. #2
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    CK players know that whenever something knocks down the Teutons, they just get up again.

    Alright! Let's try this again!

    For those of you who didn't know, I tried one recent AAR with the Teutonic Knights: Beyond Tannenberg: Black Eagle Rising. It failed, because I installed the WATK map without realizing I wouldn't be able to continue my game. Now we're going to try again.

    This is 1.09, Normal/Normal (seems a fair compromise), WATK 3.2 I believe. I try to roleplay my countries somewhat, and I avoid known exploits or cheats. Short of a game crash there will be no reloads/redos, etc. I'm also not going to do much that's TOO ahistorical (though the Knights simply surviving would qualify.)

    We'll go at least until 1525, when historically Albrecht von Hohzenhollern secularizes the Order and founds Prussia. As we get near that time, depending on how the AAR is going, we'll sit down and discuss our options.

    I'm trying a slightly different style with this AAR. It'll be told in a fairly history book/narrative style by the storyteller/knight. I'm hoping this allows me to cover the general sweep of history while still allowing some characterization and role playing rationale for my decisions.

    To keep things relatively coherent:
    This is dialogue in the 'BAAR' (Cat and the knight talking.)
    This is the knight's narrative.
    If in parentheses, this is game detail as of course are any screenshots.

    Let's see what happens.
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  3. #3
    Disciple of Peperna CatKnight's Avatar
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    1410-1418


    I. Tannenberg and Beyond


    "You wrote about Tannenberg," the knight said somberly. "You know what happened."

    "I do. In 1410 a Polish/Lithuanian alliance crushed the Order. Some say it was their darkest hour. The grandmaster and most of the senior officers were slain."

    "Yes." His eyes grew distant. "But do you know why?"


    The Polish army was larger, but not by very much. You wrote they had forty thousand to the Teutons' thirty, but you were conservative. Remember the Knights spent that spring and summer swelling their ranks with western mercenaries, while the Poles and Lithuanians stripped their villages bare. Both needed this victory badly, and both threw everything they had into the fray. When Hochmeister Ulrich von Junginen learned he'd been flanked, he pulled everyone back to Grunwald to stop them from reaching the capital of Marienburg.

    The reason the Knights lost comes down to pride. Similar to Agincourt and Crecy, your knights were so certain of their invincibility and so unused to submitting to command that they pursued blindly when Jagiello pretended to quit the field. This allowed the Poles to gain an overwhelming local superiority in one part of the battlefield. Aye, Ulrich and his men fought bravely enough, but finally numbers told and the cream of the Teuton leadership fell. When Jagiello returned, retreat turned into rout and the slaughter began. The knights thought God would never let them lose to schismatics and peasants. They were wrong.

    I mentioned the Polish and Lithuanian villages had been stripped for this campaign, and it's now their lack of discipline told. They would have done well to take more of the knights captive. As it was, it took years for the Knights to raise the exorbitant ransoms Poland demanded, but it could have been far worse. Instead their peasants, who had no chance of joining in the ransoms, slaughtered most of the prisoners and blackened the names of their masters before the world. The Knights suffered grievous wounds for their pride. Poland and Lithuania would suffer in their reputations.

    There would be no conclave to decide a new grandmaster, not right away. There was still a Polish army deep within Teuton territory, and it was up to the acting master, Heinrich von Plauen, to stop them. He was a good tactician, but far more importantly he knew how to rally his men. He demonized the Poles and Lithuanians before the world, using their slaughter at Tannenberg as proof, and so convinced his soldiers that this wasn't a fight between nations so much as good against evil. Western Europe, though unwilling to intervene directly, voiced their support for the Order. Meanwhile Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor, warned that Hungary would intervene in the event of more gross misbehavior.

    Unable to secure an easy victory against the rallied knights, Poland and Lithuania finally agreed to peace at Thorn. Lithuania received Samogitia while Poland took the Dobrin Land. It was a pyrrhic victory for them - they'd hoped to destroy the knights once and for all and only ensured Hungary would protect them for the indefinite future. (Hungary, TO, Livonian Order, Luxembourg start in Alliance.)


    Post-War Borders

    Heinrich von Plauen may have been what the knights needed, but he clearly wasn't what they wanted. Merchants, especially the Poles of Danzig, tried to use the confusion to break away from their overlords. He ruthlessly crushed them, slaughtered the leaders of the nascent rebellion, and increased taxes throughout the land to ruinous levels to pay the ransoms Poland demanded for their captives. His no-nonsense authoritarian rule alienated his own knights, used to their noble privileges and wanting to revert now that the crisis had passed. Under pressure from several komturs, von Plauen finally conceded to a conclave in 1413. There they voted him out. It's too bad, for at the time the Teutons still needed someone with vision and daring. Instead, they elected Michael von Sternberg.



    I don't imply for a second Michael was a bad man. When he became grandmaster he was already old, having served most of his adult life in minor roles throughout the Order and generally staying out of controversy. This was specifically why they elected him - he lacked the virulent rhetoric of Heinrich and seemed unlikely to go out of his way to alienate anyone. They meant for him to be a caretaker while the Order recovered its numbers.

    Fortunately, this Michael could do. He may not have been a great leader, but he was a fine administrator. Over time he restored the Knights' credit with neighboring realms and paid off the last ransoms to Poland/Lithuania. He won the Holy Roman Emperor's support by promising to fight in his wars 'for the rest of my natural life.' Without really granting many concessions, von Sternberg settled the merchants down and quieted tensions between the dominant German minority and the massive numbers of Poles and Baltic people who held the country together. Whereas Heinrich gave the knights something to rally around, Michael would give them something to rally with. Soon it would be time to dream again.

    Teutonic Knights: January 1419
    Population: 630,000 (EU2 x 10)
    Largest City: Danzig (30,000)
    Culture: Polish (47.6%), Baltic (42.9%), German (9.5%)
    Religion: Roman (100%)
    Military: 30,000 + 0 ships

    Stability: +2, Manpower: 10, Gold: 400
    VP: 0, A/N/I/T: 1/0/1/1
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  4. #4
    I'm very glad to see you begin this again, your last effort was one of my favourite. With a start like that this too is sure to become one. It was most enjoyable. You've set the scene nicely for the coming troubles of the Order. I like the inclusion of the dialogue in the BAAR. Does he represent any real person? Once again great start and good luck.

  5. #5
    Welcome back to the Knights.

    You have decided to change your style and the Baarroom is one of the most imaginative openings I have seen in this forum.

    Best of luck with this AAR. May the gremlins and imps of CTD file corruption stay well away from this AAR.

    Quite an alliance you start with.

    Crush the Poles, Pommeranians, Pskovians and anyone else whose countries begin with the letter B, D, L, N or S.

  6. #6
    Strategos ton Exkoubitores Fulcrumvale's Avatar
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    Huzzah! Avenge Tannenberg for the glory of the Knights!

    Great to see version 2.0
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  7. #7
    Private Askar's Avatar
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    Yay, the Knights are back! I'm definitely going to follow this AAR (my masochism shows here, as the Poles will probably get their butts kicked a lot ).

    I found a small mistake in your description of the Tannenberg battle. It wasn't Jagiello who fled the battlefield. The Lithuanian forces, under the command of Jagiello's brother, Witold/Vytautas, used the tactics taken from Mongols, simulating retreat to draw the Teutons into a futile pursuit.

  8. #8
    Disciple of Peperna CatKnight's Avatar
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    Duke of Wellington: I'm not sure what the knight represents yet. His most obvious role is simply as the one telling the 'story' of the Teutonic Knights. I've thought about whether to make him more, but I think that will remain his primary role.

    Chief Ragusa: Thanks, Chief! CTD....I hope not. I usually don't have that many problems with it. So long as I can keep from downloading more maps I should be okay.

    As for crushing all the P, B, D. L, N and S nations...that's quite a few. I'll get back to you

    Fulcrumvale: Thanks and welcome!

    Askar: You are correct! I had Vytautas' role correct in my first Teuton AAR, but I suppose I was so anxious to skim over history I'd already covered (Tannenberg, von Plauen, etc.) I didn't check my notes closely enough. Good catch! You're now my official advisor on Polish history if it comes up again!

    Short term I'm not looking for trouble with the Poles....but I may get it. I just started a dummy game to test some events (see below) and they DoWed me on January 1, 1419. This could be a violent AAR.
    -----------------------------

    Changes:

    After looking at WATK's setup and my notes from last game, I've made a few minor modifications. I hope you'll bear with me. Comments are welcome!

    1. Gotland: I've created an event adding Gotland as a core from game start. Gotland was Teuton territory as late as 1398, and as near as I can tell they were politically outmaneuvered for it by Denmark and Sweden. Further, it gives the 'Blues' (see below) something to fight for.

    2. Alliance: Kasperus has the Hungarian/TO/LO/Luxembourg alliance lasting to 1470. That's too long. His intent is to discourage the Polish AI from immediate warfare, which is fine, but historically Poland and the TO would fight again in the 1450s. I think the Alliance limits the AI's options and mine too much. I will scale the Alliance back to 1437, the death of Sigismund of Hungary.

    3. Prussian Confederation: In the first AAR I gave myself a nasty event in 1453 detailing attempts by merchants to first make the Knights repeal punitive taxes, then eventually try to break away. I think this event is important in explaining the downfall of the Knights, so I'm adding it back in with a trigger: April 1454 or later, Stability below 1 - set up two random revelts, reduce stability by 1, reduce relations with Poland by 150. I'll disable this event (and therefore # 4) if I don't control Danzig in 1454.

    4. The Fate of Danzig: Kasperus deals wtih Danzig becoming a CoT through a Polish event, vs. Teuton last time. That's fine, but I believe that should a resurgent TO manage to survive the Prussian Confederation revolts (above) then that signifies a final defeat of the Polish 'rebels' within Danzig. If I still own that province in 1470, Poland's never owned it, nor controlled it after 1460, then I will give it German culture. If the Confederation event never fires or Poland owns Danzig/controls after 1460, then it'll remain Polish.
    Last edited by CatKnight; 14-09-2006 at 05:17.
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  9. #9
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    1419


    II. A New Direction

    "A raison d'etre, you called it: That's what your knights lacked after Tannenberg, a cause beyond simple survival or, for some like Heinrich von Plauen, spiteing Poland/Lithuania." The knight sipped his honeyed mead. "Nations, like people, seem to do best when they have a goal, whether it's restoring or bringing freedom, civilizing natives, or glorifying God."

    "Given they were a religious order, I'm surprised serving God wasn't enough."

    "The problem was there wasn't any consensus on how best to serve Him when it came to secular politics. The Baltic Crusades were long over, the pagans Christianized by force. There were schismatics in Lithuania, but the Grand Duchy itself was Catholic. A true 'crusade' would have meant invading the Rus. Second, by 1419 we're already seeing waning support for the Papacy. The Teutons technically held their land by the grace of the Pope, but he'd done little more to stop Poland and Lithuania than urge everyone to remember the Peace of God. Papal legates controlled a number of seats at each conclave, but by now the Order was used to its own autonomy and less willing to hear the commands of those half a continent away."

    "Are you saying they were ready to break from Rome?" I asked, astonished.

    "No, of course not. The Protestant Reformation is still a century away at this point. On the other hand, Tannenberg had taught the Knights that if God meant for the Order to prosper, it would be up to them to make it happen. In the Spring of 1419, Michael von Sternberg gave the Teutons perhaps his greatest gift."

    "What was that?"

    "He called a conclave."


    Michael knew that God would sooner or later call him to His side, and he wanted to ensure his Order regained some of its vitality. He didn't want the Knights to choose his successor based on whatever might be happening when he passed, and Michael wanted time to train the man in his new role. He therefore summoned the officers, komturs and bannerets of the various kommanderettes (provinces} to Marienburg.

    Here the knight grinned: "For sheer entertainment it had no equal. There are few things on this Earth more absurd than one hundred monks trying to be politicians while acting like they're too holy for politics. The records of their double talk set back scholarly knowledge of Low Middle German an entire generation. Where was I? Oh yes."

    With Michael still very much alive, the Conclave wasn't a quick endorsement of a successor so much as a drawn out debate on where the Order should focus in the future. Younger bannerets quickly learned the advantages of deferring to their elders or the price of not doing so, and in time four distinct views emerged. They certainly weren't political parties in the modern sense, but the parallels proved surprising.

    Plan Red won no senior officers and so quickly died. A few young men who either hadn't fought at Tannenberg or didn't know enough about the pragmatic workings of the Order to realize how badly they'd been hurt favored renewed action against Poland, Lithuania and Masovia. They invoked the rhetoric of Heinrich von Plauen, denouncing Lithuania as a land of evil pagans, but by now passions had cooled somewhat. If their southern neighbors gave them an opportunity to reclaim Samogitia or the Dobrin Land, certainly, but they didn't want to start it.

    Plan White, named for the Rus winter, was the Baltic Crusade. Endorsed early by the papal legates and representatives, the Whites favored closer ties to the Livonian Brotherhood of the Sword, and pushing east into the Rus city states. Though the Papacy did not say so, the Whites generally assumed this meant a long term showdown with Lithuania as well if they proved unsuccessful at dealing with their Orthodox population. Though the Whites received a lot of promises and general goodwill at the Conclave, as I mentioned by now the Order was wary of blind obedience to Roman policy.

    Plan Blue, for water I suppose, assumed that the Teutonic Knights represented the northeastern extent of God's Church. Poland did not factor in, and anyway was hostile. Lithuania still had a large Orthodox population. Sweden, while Catholic, was underpopulated and in some cases hadn't managed to civilize Lappland. The Blues therefore wanted the Order to strengthen their holdings throughout the Baltic Sea and dominate it economically and militarily, starting with regaining Gotland, which had been promised to the Order following a campaign against pirates in 1398. Blue's biggest problem was that it absolutely insisted on a navy, and the Teutonic Order had none worth talking about.



    Plan Black dealt with the Holy Roman Empire. The Blacks believed the Order's purpose, rather than guarding the northeastern flank of the Church, was to serve her Empire. They favored closer relations with the German states, which sat well since most of the Order's officers were of German heritage. Depending on who you spoke with, their plans also included strengthening Teuton holdings with Germany or supporting one of the states into a dominant role in the area. The Blacks split almost before the vote, uncertain whether serving the Empire meant helping the German states or the currently Hungarian emperor.



    It was Michael who reminded the Blacks that he'd given his word on behalf of the Order to serve the Emperor during his lifetime. Satisfied with this explanation, at least for the duration, they rallied and dominated the Conclave. Even the Livonian representatives supported the Blacks, though it did not favor them. They'd arrived late to the Conclave and it was already obvious how the vote would turn out. They didn't want to alienate the man who would one day be Hochmeister.

    Conclave of 1419

    Black: (HRE) 67 votes (Danzig, Turon, Neumark, Livonians)
    Blue: (Baltic) 22 votes (Marienburg)
    White: (Russia) 12 votes (Papacy)
    Red: (Poland) 0 votes - candidacy withdrawn
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  10. #10
    A wise choice there in plan black. For now at least. It is the most conservative which should help the Order to survive the early troubles but will it weaken them int he long run as enemies to the east grow?

  11. #11
    Plan Black did seem the only non-suicidal option available. Consolidating the north German shoreline under the Order and drawing Brandenburg's fangs early mean the Order can choose the don't sell Kustrin option.

    After 1437, the Order can make another strategic choice.

  12. #12
    Strategos ton Exkoubitores Fulcrumvale's Avatar
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    I agree; military "expansion" is probably the best way to kill the Knights in their cradle. Diplomacy will have to work in its place.
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  13. #13
    Compulsive CommentatAAR stnylan's Avatar
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    Excellent to see this finally get started again CatKnight. Interesting internal political discussion there.
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  14. #14
    Colonel Bismarck1's Avatar
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    this is good, I don't think I seen a knights aar.

  15. #15
    Conclaves are the coolest.

    Looks like a good AAR so far, as usual.

  16. #16
    Disciple of Peperna CatKnight's Avatar
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    Conclaves:

    I thought I'd discuss briefly how and why I did that this way. Going into the AAR (and last one) I was confused which way the Knights should go. I wanted to give them *A* direction...any direction, but they are in a very unenviable position. Roleplaying a Baltic crusade can be done...it has been done, quite well, but the Rus winter is brutal. Fighting Poland and Lithuania is rather mad. The Baltic's an interesting variant, but the Kalmar Union isn't much better. Working with Germany...takes patience and a little luck.

    So, I remembered the Knights chose their grandmasters in conclaves. I know very little of how they actually worked, or who had voting privileges and so forth, but I thought I could use this to my advantage and tap into my admiration for some of the election maps I've seen in Victoria and HOI AARs.

    Since the Teutons really did divide their territory into districts run by komturs (commanders), I assumed the number of eligible voters (knight bannerets, officers, church officials, what have you) would consist of a minimum number for 'administration' plus a variable number based on population. For example, if we pretend that an eligible knight banneret leads a territory that can feed ten thousand folk...it would make sense there would be more of them near Danzig than say Neumark. This gave me a number of 'votes' by province. I also assumed that as in any political group, the more powerful members (the komturs) would go out of their way to secure the obedience of their lessers ... thus each province voting as a block.

    At that point it was a series of die rolls weighted on what I thought the priorities of each province would be...and I had some surprises. (Black should not have had 67% of the Conclave.) I added votes for the Papacy (as their liege lords) and Livonia (as vassals), and thus Plan Black - the HRE - won. The next conclave will be in 1440 when von Russdorf dies. Perhaps then they will choose a new direction...I can tell you that this next post strengthens the 'Reds' considerably.

    Yeah, uhoh.

    --------------

    Duke of Wellington: That of course is the problem. My Knights don't know the Rus should unify soon, nor that Poland and Lithuania will one day be one. Will they wake to the danger in time?

    Chief Ragusa: I think you're right that it's the only non-suicidal option. Sometimes, of course, the best laid plans of mice and men.

    Fulcrumvale: Diplomacy is limited of course. The Knights aren't strong enough to diplovassalize anyone. A pure diplomatic solution would mean building a strong enough alliance to ensure no one wants to take them on, and then hoping for opportunities.

    Good idea.

    stnylan: Thanks. Let's hope these Teutons make it past the 1460s!

    Bismarck1: There are a few out there. If you look at either the voting or nomination thread, you'll find an old one by ParanoidTsar where he makes the Baltic Crusade against the Rus work. I think that's probably the best one I've seen.

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  17. #17
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    (Oh, and before I forget: Askar - the knight's reaction is in no way a personal reflection. Enjoy!)


    1419-1422


    III. Forging a Legacy

    By now the air in the BAAR was cool. Outside the sun set, and I could feel the early autumn chill in the air. A boy carrying a bundle of twigs hurried past us and began laying them at the base of the hearth.

    The knight seemed impervious to the cold. Perhaps, in truth, he was the source. A small group of patrons had gathered near us, sitting at nearby tables and clearly listening to what he had to say. I knew most of them and smiled at old friends. One of the newcomers though proudly bore a white Polish eagle on his tabard though, and the knight's expression soured noticeably.

    It seems absurd to still care about something that happened six hundred years ago, like Tannenberg. Still, when I look at men arguing over the American Civil War, or the Crusades, or even 'Who killed Christ' for that matter perhaps it isn't so surprising. When we identify ourselves with a people or a nation we instantly pick up alliances and hatreds that were forged long before we were born. Perhaps that, too, is part of the human condition.

    Still frowning at the Pole, the knight regarded me.


    The King of Poland at the time was Wladyslaw II. He had other names, including Jagiello as that is the dynasty he forged. He was the last of the Lithuanian pagan grand princes having converted to Catholicism after the Union with Poland in 1386. It was a political move: His mother wanted him to marry into Muscovy and so become Orthodox, but he concluded that would only encourage the Teutons to war with him. He was probably right.

    Whatever his motive, you know that Poland and the Knights had long standing disputes dating back to 1226. That was the year they united with Konrad of Masovia to crush the then pagan Prussian people. Konrad, and therefore the Poles, assumed the Teutons would either leave afterwards or else submit to their rule. The Knights held their land under the authority of the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy.

    It didn't help that your knights didn't do much to endear themselves to the native population. Simply put, if you did not bend your knee to Rome, you were a pagan. If you were a pagan, the Knights intended to convert you - or kill, torture, rape, and enslave you instead. They bred resentment and hatred, and as the Papacy weakened in the late fourteenth century, so did tolerance for the Knights' excesses. It boiled over at Tannenberg, but it didn't end there.

    Wladyslaw II learned of the conclave in 1419. Early reports told him the 'Reds', those favoring action against Poland and Lithuania, were unusually vocal and had...enthusiastic opinions on what to do with him and his kin. Perhaps that was all his spies told him, or perhaps he rebelled at the idea of the Knights unifying in any direction. Even before news reached Rome of the Knights' decision, Thirty-five thousand Poles gathered in the Dobrin land near Danzig. Wladyslaw intended to finish your knights once and for all.

    Fortunately, Michael's alliance held. In the time it takes pigeons and messengers to cross a continent, it was suddenly an Imperial war for control of eastern Europe. Sigismund answered Michael's plea for help with armies - and a disturbing letter: Apparently the Wittelbachs of Bavaria saw fit to turn against him, and he in turn expected Teuton support. True to his word, Michael declared war - but with a heavy heart, for he saw no way for his knights to escape from the maelstrom unbroken and his faith wavered.
    {Jan 5: POLAND and Lithuania vs TEUTONS, Hungary, Bohemia, Luxembourg, Siebenburgen, Livonia)
    (Jan 7: BAVARIA, Saxony, Brandenburg, Magdeburg, Hannover, Palatinate vs LUXEMBOURG and above)


    At the time the Teutons had about thirty thousand men under arms. Michael split this into two commands: The greater force, under Hans von Darmstad, was to guard Danzig while Andreas von Hagen would secure Samogitia, thereby forming a border with the Brotherhood and perhaps forcing Lithuania out of the war.



    It was an ambitious plan. (Some might even call Innovative +1 - Jan 1419) Von Hagen quickly went to work, seizing nearby castles. In April he received reinforcements from von Leuw, komtur of Danzig, and sent them to Podlasie. Only now did the Lithuanians counterattack, engaging this new army of some ten thousand with two. Von Leuw won easily, having learned quite a bit about Lithuanian tactics from Vytautas' false retreat in 1410.

    In the west, the German traitors, led by Brandenburg sieged Neumark. Michael made the unpopular, but probably correct decision that he had no chance of holding it, and thus made no move to defend it. He did recall Herr von Darmstad from Danzig however, upon word the Poles intended to bypass him and attack Warmia. If Warmia fell, then the road to Marienburg would be open.

    Hans von Darmstad received unexpected help from the Emperor himself. Hungary ambushed reinforcements for the proposed attack on Warmia and there was a terrible battle involving some fifteen thousand Magyars and eight thousand Poles. Poland won, but it delayed them long enough for von Darmstad to cross the Vista and take up defenses around Torun.

    On April 6, just two weeks before von Leuw's battle in Podlasie, the 'retreating' Hungarian army fought a second pitched battle outside of Torun with the Pole invaders. Von Darmstad leapt to their aid, flanking and trapping them against the river. Twice in May the Poles would try again, first with eight thousand than five more. Each time the combined Teuton/Hungarian force, now numbering some thirty thousand, easily threw them back.



    Throughout the spring, Michael von Sternberg worried about suffering a cataclysmic defeat that would doom his Order. It hadn't happened. Indeed, thanks in no small part to Hungarian interference and a great deal of confusion between Brandenburger and Polish commanders over who actually would seize the Neumark in the event of its eventual capitulation (Hah!} the knights were doing well. He continued to urge caution though, requiring von Darmstad to stay behind his river and protect the capital while von Hagen continued to work towards Lithuanian capitulation.

    Hans von Darmstad did not listen. He was a 'Red' through and through, and young at that. Chafing at the restrictions of defensive warfare and thinking the Polish front broken by his three rapid victories, he counter invaded Kusavy and Kolisz.



    Mistake. Spies warned Wladyslaw of his enemy's intentions, and so he rushed seven thousand cavalry north. They met von Darmstad's southern army as they passed through Konin on the Waria River, inflicting a decisive defeat. The northern army fought a minor battle against a surprised garrison, but even this worked against the Order. Two thousand Poles slipped between the two armies and so sieged Torun in Warmia. Worse, they caught the retreating southern army, defeated it again, and sent the scattered, despairing remnants to Marienberg.

    This was August 1419, perhaps the darkest time of the war. Wencesalas of Bohemia died and they fell into Hussite anarchy, alarming most of the Order. Was it truly God's intention, they wondered, to be fighting so many nations, all bending their knee to the Pope, with apostates at their side? What would happen if Wladyslaw continued to push through the gap in Teuton defenses? I've found faith, for some, is at their weakest when they need it most.

    For others, it is at their strongest. Having finally been thrown out of the Dobrin Land in September, von Darmstad retreated to Danzig. There he received curt orders to rendezvous with Teuton reinforcements who, by the time he received this, expected to be control of Torun and Warmia.

    This new army, mostly raw troops, had indeed repelled the Poles at Torun. Von Darmstad came there fully expecting to lead this new united western army in another attack deep into Poland. Imagine his surprise when he didn't find a junior commander...but Paul Bellizer von Russdorf, leader of the 'Blacks' at the Conclave that spring and appointed successor to Hochmeister von Sternberg. He told the young man that they would defend the Vista River, and 'I will personally condemn any man in this army who crosses into Poland again without my personal authorization!'

    The east was surprisingly silent during all this. Von Hagen seized Samogitia in September. Not wanting to lose momentum, and with Lithuania proving difficult in negotiations, he advanced on Vilnius, defeated a small Lithuanian garrison and so sieged their capital.



    On October 22, 1419, Andreas von Hagen learned of a large Lithuanian army moving to reclaim their capital. He was outnumbered and, for once, outclassed. His army consisted of some ten thousand, perhaps half of that knights and properly trained warriors. The twelve thousand Lithuanians formed the cream of their army. Other than a series of attacks deep into Brotherhood territory they'd managed to stay out of the fighting - and perhaps that was the difference, for by now von Hagen's men were veterans used to the hardships of war.

    By burning the fields close to Vilnius, von Hagen denied both the city and approaching army badly needed supplies. Worse, he provoked the more mobile Lithuanians into a frontal strike to best the invaders. After several hours fighting von Hagen's center pierced their vanguard, split the Lithuanians and so demolished them.

    By now they wanted peace, which had been von Hagen's goal, but now he too saw a chance for glory - and anyway Michael von Sternberg was reluctant to abandon his allies. 123,000 123 ducats marks Lithuania offered, a princely sum as by now the Knights' economy was faltering under the pressures of keeping so many soldiers under arms, but this Michael refused. He demanded Samogitia, which the Lithuanians were unwilling to discuss. For the next year they would continually trade diplomats with similar offers.

    The Lithuanian winter is never easy nor gentle, and 1419-1420 was no exception. Both von Hagen and von Leuw's army, the latter now advancing south with Podlasie secured, faltered. Occasionally Lithuanians tried to break the sieges, but now their army was beaten and they could do no more than attack scouting patrols.

    It was April 1420 when the Poles made their last serious attempt to invade Teuton territory. Ten thousand veterans attacked Paul von Russdorf at Torun. His discipline and refusal to be drawn across the river, despite the growing demands of younger knights like von Darmstad, bore fruit and his army of sixteen thousand pushed them back.

    Desperate for help, in April and May Wladyslaw invoked his lordship over Masovia and forced their entry into the war. This, von Russdorf, could be problematic as to now the Polish/Lithuanian war consisted of two concrete, narrow and easily defended fronts separated by the duchy. He finally relented and allowed Hans to cross the river with five thousand men and orders to keep the Masovians busy.



    Summer 1420 would be a string of unbroken successes. Now, despite the final capitulation of Neumark to the Polish/Lithuanian alliance that spring, Poland offered reparations for peace. 21 gold in June. Hmf. A superior Masovian force tried to push von Darmstad out in July, and failed. Also in July, seven thousand Lithuanians tried to force von Hagen away from the capital - they also failed, though at least there it forced him to ask von Leuw to combine forces and finish Lithuania off. The capital would fall in November. Finally, reassured by a large Hungarian force besieging Kalisz and thus distracting the Polish army, Paul von Russdorf crossed the Vilna in August.

    Now diplomats rode between the capitals almost daily. Lithuania continued to prove stubborn about Samogitia, to the point of insulting von Sternberg's intelligence for making such foolish proposals. (Scandal at Court: Lithuania -25.) By now, however, Wladyslaw realized he needed to end this war or risk complete dismemberment. On December 14, 1420 he offered 78,000 marks and the Dobrin Land back to Michael von Sternberg and the Knights.



    Reluctantly, von Sternberg accepted - reluctant for leaving his allies to continue the war alone, but it was a good peace and would hopefully make the Poles think twice about a rematch. That Christmas bells rang from the now Teuton (again) and connected Neumark to Marienberg in thanks for the victory.

    Immediately Michael von Sternberg turned to the German question and the ongoing war there. It was starting to break into smaller fights there, with Bavaria seizing Strasbourg from the Luxembourg family, and the Hussite Bohemians paying their way out so they could focus on dealing with the Catholic 'problem' at home.

    In Spring 1421, however, it became obvious Brandenburg still had ambitions regarding Neumark and were building a powerful invasion force. Michael sent Paul von Russdorf and eleven thousand veterans to hold the city. Brandenburg answered with twenty-eight thousand, but those mostly mercenaries or undertrained conscripts. He ambushed them trying to cross the Oder River, with half their army trapped on the Brandenburger side of the border and demolished their army. He then chased the survivors all the way to Berlin, there routing them again and beginning a siege.

    That autumn, Brandenburg made a serious attempt to force von Russdorf back, sending twenty-one thousand men against him. By that time however, he'd been reinforced by some eighteen thousand from Siebenburgen.

    Put bluntly, the Battle of Berlin on October 20, 1421 was the largest battle for your knights since Tannenberg. Paul von Russdorf commanded the center, while von Darmstad had the left wing. The powerful Siebenburgen army held the right. There's little to say for the tactics themselves - von Russdorf deployed in a series of lines to protect his artillery, while the Brandenburger army opted for direct assault to try and relieve the city. More than any of the impressive victories over Poland and Lithuania however, it proved that a disciplined Knight army could still stand against any country in Europe.

    Bavaria agreed. In December 1421, they paid 156,000 marks for peace. Michael accepted, again feeling bad for his allies, but the Knights needed the money...and the break.

    Through that autumn and winter, he'd worked to consolidate the Order for Paul von Russdorf's benefits. He secured alliances (RMs) with most of western Germany and used the monies gained in two peace treaties to rebuild Teuton infrastructure (Tax collectors all). In March of 1422, Michael von Sternberg finally went to God, having restored Knight prestige and leaving them secure for the first time in twelve years.

    "There is a lesson in that, of course," the knight said then. "Michael von Sternberg was not a great orator. He was not a great warrior. On the other hand, he knew his strengths, which were organization and administration. He learned to trust the counsel of men who could cover his weaknesses, such as warfare. Perhaps most importantly, he held to his vision of a strong Order and to his faith. Even when it looked like he could not win, he kept trying, and through God's grace persevered anyway." The knight finished his mead. "Fair enough for one lifetime."

    I considered his words. An administrator..a manager...held the Knights together? "So what happened next?"

    "There is no next. Michael died."

    "No, I meant Paul von Russdorf. What happened to him?"

    "Oh. Well, that is another story. Bring me another drink and I'll tell you."




    Teutonic Knights: March 1422
    Population: 712,000
    Largest City: Danzig (31,000)
    Culture: Polish (53.0%), Baltic (38.6%), German (8.4%)
    Religion: Roman (100.0%)
    Military: 24,000 + 0 ships

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  18. #18
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    WOW!

    CatKnight comes again

  19. #19
    Compulsive CommentatAAR stnylan's Avatar
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    That was a fairly large war, but all to the good. A small revenge in some respects for Tannenberg.
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  20. #20
    A victory is a victory. That was hard won but well done. Getting Poland beaten early is a real key to surviving as the knights.

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