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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Nikolai

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The dam has broken; the Deluge has begun. In hoping to make his power grab into a fait accompli, Zygmunt has rather badly overplayed his hand and played right into the worst fears of the pro-szlachta camp. Even if the clash really was inevitable, he's cost his own side a fair bit of credibility.
 
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The protestants are getting awfully close, blood will be shed before long and I'm looking forward to the fireworks especially if a protestant pretender were to arise.
With the commonwealth having access to warm water ports, conflict with the Ottomans is sure to only increase.
At last, the war has come! May the Commonwealth emerge all the stronger for the loss of its chains (whichever they may be).
 
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Let the vultures of the Sejm be annihilated by the power of the monarchy! Let those who would whore the Commonwealth to her enemies be hung by their entrails and punished for the world to see!
 
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Wow! Absolutely great AAR. Just read the entire thing over the past few days--love the blend of gameplay and history book-style narration. Can't wait to see what the next chapter holds.
 
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Three updates in a row! This is becoming even better!
 
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Part Fifteen: The Polish-Lithuanian Civil War

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Battle of Rawa.jpg


The Battle of Plock, 24 November 1612.

Part Fifteen: The Polish-Lithuanian Civil War

The nine year period from 1612 to 1621 has collectively been called the Polish-Lithuanian Civil War, but it was a series of multiple conflicts as the struggle between the nobles and the Crown brought the realm to he verge of collapse. Personal family vendettas, religious and regional tensions and outright banditry made for a confusing, bloody experience that saw some of the most prominent change sides, sometimes more than once.

In the first phase of the war the conflict was definitely between King Zygmunt and his supporters and the nobles led by Miesko Sierakowski and the Dambskis. The coalition of rebels struck hard and fast and almost ended the war before it could begin. A huge rebel army led by Sierakowski sprang up by Wilno in September 1612, defeated the unprepared and outnumbered royalists on 23 September and began besieging the capital. They also came with an ace of capturing the King and Queen but Zygmunt had departed Wilno only the afternoon before the revolt for the royal fortress of Troki to the west.

The war in and around Wilno was the key to this early war, but the royalists could not bring all their forces to bear against Sierakowski because the Dambskis were running wild in western Poland. The royalist victory at the Battle of Plock (24 November 1612) was not just a much needed boost to royalist to morale and the beginning of the end for the Dambskis but also marked the emergence of one of the greatest Polish generals in Zygfryd Gosiewski.

Gosiewski and the other royalist generals, Azulous Przebendowski, Prancikus Malski and Vytenis Patkul would prove the decisive figures for most of the war, arguably far more of a cause of early royalist success than the monarch they served. Of the group only Malski was a member of the traditional elite, a member of the schlatza himself and a noble officer whose family had been diehard supporters of the dynastic faction in the Sejm for years. The others were far more unusual, though equally gifted. Gosiewski was Jewish, at least in origin, and though his father had converted to the Roman Catholic Church before his birth rumours swirled about his true faith (both in the anti-royalist camp and among jealous royalist officers and courtiers [1].) Przebendowski, a superb cavarly officer, was the son of a rich merchant from Lublin who owed his position to an energetic sister who ranked high amongst the legions of royal mistresses. Patkul was a Calvinist landowner whose personal loyalty to his monarch won out over class and religious qualms. All of these men were brilliant in their own ways but the fact that Zygmunt was forced to depend on such eclectic people outside the normal warrior caste shows how the Crown scrambled around for loyal servants.

Two other great men played their part in the royalist cause even if neither was a combatant. Cardinal Lukasz Kalinowski remained with Zygmunt’s court. Personal relations between the monarch and the prelate were glacial but Cardinal Kalinowski was opposed to the heavy Protestant presence in the enemy camp and he dreaded the collapse of the Counter Reformation in Poland should they win.

The second great man was another outsider. Vilhelmas Grzymultoski was a Byelorussian noble from Vitebsk with a remarkable gift for diplomacy. Though he had long been a significant figure in local circles his rise to prominence was in 1616 when the King (and the rump royalist Sejm) made him Great Chancellor of Lithuania. An urbane and intellectual statesman who spoke five languages Grzymultoski effectively became monarch’s foreign secretary, able to speak to foreign courts and maintain the reputation of the government even during the darkest days of the war.

On 31 May 1613 Wilno fell to the rebels. Sierakowski accepted the surrender of the royalist garrison and managed to keep control of his soldiers so it was an occupation rather than a sack but the humiliation was and Zygmunt resolved to re-capture his capital. In July the rebels moved on Troki, leaving their own garrison to hold the capital. Zygmunt split his forces, sent twenty five thousand to besiege and retake Wilno and attacked Sierakowski at Troki.



Battle of Troki.jpg


The Battle of Troki, 17 September 1613. A disaster for the royalists that saw them suffer nearly twenty eight thousand casualties - twice as many as the enemy.


The Battle of Troki (17 September 1613) was the greatest royal catastrophe of the entire war. The rebels under Sierakowski had taken up positions on the far bank of Lake Galvė and an attempt by the royalists to cross in boat and barge went terribly array as the small craft, groaning under the weight of men and horse got lost and ran aground in the early morning mist. Those soldiers that reached the shore found themselves attacked before they could join up with their fellows. The result was a slaughter that forced Zygmunt into full retreat and nearly saw his own younger Prince Karol Ferdynand captured by rebels before he managed to doff his armour, jump into the cold waters and swim to safety.

Troki was a triumph for Sierakowski but as gifted a tactician as the rebel leader was he was not a natural strategist. After capturing Troki itself he could have followed the weakened army under Zygmunt or pivoted to the east and struck at the royalists besieging Wilno. Instead he moved on Kowno to the west of Troki – an important fortress no doubt but not a prize that could win the war. This breathing space allowed the King to lick his wounds and regroup and Prancikus Malski to recapture Wilno for the Crown in December.

Early 1614 would see the main rebel army still besieging Kowno and the emergence of a new faction in the war, if faction is the right word. The so-called ‘Particularists’ do not easily belong to more traditional categories of rebel. Mostly they were townsmen and peasants, unaffiliated with the schlatza who demanded local autonomy. The ‘Particularists’ who rose in Troki and Ryga that April seemed willing to fight Sierakowski and Zygmunt alike, though in practice their revolt favoured the noble rebels as it forced the royalists to deal with this problem first. On 4 June General Malski crushed the revolt at Ryga and six weeks later defeated the ‘Particularists’ of Troki who with a confidence bordering on delusion had marched on Wilno herself.



Battle of Kowno.jpg


The Battle of Kowno, 11 December 1614. The turning point of the war.


The brief era of the ‘Particularists’ would foreshadow the emergence of side factions later on but in the Autumn and Winter of 1614 the main war between the nobles and the Crown continued. The royalist forces, having gathered the bulk of their strength struck the rebel army at Konow on 11 December. Though the King was present on the field he delegated active command to Gosiewiski, trusting in the talents of his general (and perhaps also concerned another defeat would cost him his crown and perhaps his head.) It was a bloody, confused fight but in the end the rebels broke and the royalists held the field.

A month later a royalist army under Patkul cornered Sierakowski and his diminished forces at Grodno and destroyed them, taking the rebel noble and most of his inner circle prisoner. When the rebel garrison at Konow surrendered on 6 February 1615 it seemed that the war was over.

Unfortunately for Zygmunt even if the official rebellion of the Sejm appeared over the realm remained truculent. In May the Protestants of Kraków revolted under the influence of the radical preacher Bogumil Radziejowski. Like the ‘Particularists’ the Kraków zealots had no strong link with the Dambskis and Sierakowski, though they did perhaps have ideological sympathy with them. It fell to the omnipresent Gosiewiski to crush this rising.

Kraków proved the first roll of the dice for a series of secondary rebellions across the Commonwealth. In September 1615 a fresh clique of nobles declared against Zygmunt in Lublin. Like the Dambskis and Sierakowski these rebels were members of the Sejm and many of the followers of the first flocked to their banners. As if this was not bad enough the same year saw an outbreak of Danziger separatism in Prussia, forcing the Crown to send soldiers to Tucola, south of Gdańsk proper.



War in September 1616.jpg


The war in late 1616; rebel nobles in the south, Prussian separatists in the north.


The royalist response to the new rebellions was aided by the fact that the Sejm was as hostile to separatists as to Zygmunt. In February 1616 a Slovak uprising in Trenczyn was defeated not by royalists but by forces loyal to the Sejm. The rebel nobles had sometimes conflicting aims beyond the unifying desire to overthrow Zygmunt but none of them wished for the Commonwealth to fracture.

1616 was also the year that saw the Commonwealth treasury officially exhausted. Not long before the outbreak of the war Zygmunt had increased the size of the army by twenty five thousand which almost certainly saved the Crown during the conflict but put strain on even the peacetime revenue. The war had obviously cost the Crown a fortune and on 4 March Zygmunt was forced to debase the red złoty, the golden currency of the Commonwealth. The move temporarily rescued the royalists, at a sharp cost in prestige but the money continued to flow out at a terrifying rate. In late 1617 the Crown was forced to apply for a loan by using the crown jewels of Poland as security, and a year and a half later even this proved too little to pay the shortfall and the crown jewels of Lithuania had to be used to win a second loan.

In September 1618 after a succession of local rebellions in Kraków (again) and Lwów some in the royalist camp suggested the King open up negotiations with the Sejm. Zygmunt refused point blank to speak with the enemy. The King, though in declining health (he was now fifty two and almost constantly in the field) and aware of the desperate straits of the Commonwealth treasury was determined to fight on. Beyond personal pride the monarch viewed the question as existential; if he conceded anything to the Sejm, even the most nominal of gestures his position would be ruined. The entire conflict was to determine who ruled, the Crown or the Sejm. A triumph over the Polotskian separatists at Sluck, south of Minsk in November rallied some of the waverers.

In fact by the start of 1620 the rebel nobles had grown increasing quiet. That year still saw violence, but it was in the hands of separatists in Livonia and Psków, both crushed by the royalists. Zygmunt, exhausted buy triumphant remained with his armies during the earlier part of the year. If he could not compare with the superb generalship of his officers he had at least earned a reputation for hard work, personal courage and determination that impressed many at least in the royal ranks. Even the once ubiquitous cohorts of mistresses and sycophants had faded like phantasms.

And then Zygmunt died.



Death of Zygmunt.jpg


The death of King Zygmunt I, 7 July 1620.


The King was with his army at Wilkimierz and was suffering from a summer fever that had hit him hard. On the evening of 6 July 1620 he went to sleep in his command tent and never rose.

Had Zygmunt died in 1617 or 1618 the Sejm would probably have won the war then and there. But he died in 1620 when the nobles were already beaten and they knew it. The Dambskis and Sierakowski were dead [2]. Their replacements had scant reputations and scant resources to fight a ruinous war. The royalists might have been weary too, but they had the whispers of victory in their ears and they had a new monarch. Within weeks the rump royalist Sejm elected Zygmunt’s brother the forty two year old Prince Karol Ferdynand Lanckoronski as King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania [3].



The Pacification Sejm.jpg


The Pacification Sejm of September 1621 that marked the end of the war.

It would not be until September of 1621 that the rebel Sejm would concede defeat to the new monarch. In the intervening year they had suffered the humiliation of their own capital of Warsaw being seized by separatists and having to be re-conquered by the King. The negotiations would see the surviving rebels treated leniently, with some long held captives released. Karol was not his brother and lacked the streak of cruelty that might have made him rub salt into the wounds of the nobles. He also had the voices of Chancellor Grzymultoski and Cardinal Kalinowski urging restraint.

For all that and for all the sighs of relief across the Commonwealth that the war was over there was no disguising the change that had taken place. The Sejm remained, humbled and stripped of many of her powers, including the right to elect a king. Henceforth the Crown would rule Poland and Lithuania.



Submission of the Sejm.jpg


The submission of the Sejm before King & Grand Duke Karol I Ferdynand.

Footnotes:

[1] The Commonwealth had a very large Jewish minority (by one estimate two thirds of all European Jews lived within Poland, Prussia and Lithuania) that tried to keep out of the war while being alternately wooed and mistrusted by both sides.

[2] Bogumil Dambski died of lingering wounds sustained at Plock while his youngest brother Władysław died of fever while a prisoner in Minsk in 1618 (their middle brother Kazimierz was a priest, did not take part in the war and survived.) Count Sierakowski was beheaded for treason in 1617 - an unusually harsh punishment which adds credence to the story Zygmunt had personally quarrelled with him over a courtesan both men were acquainted with.

[3] Zygmunt had in fact a legitimate daughter Anastazja, born around 1595 (and numerous illegitimate children of both sexes) but she was in fact married to a rebel noble and had long since gone native. After the war her uncle King Karol pardoned her and her husband and they subsequently retreated into rural obscurity.
 
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Hope everyone is safe and has had a happy start to the New Year! :)


~~~~~~~
In some ways maybe it is better to get this out of the way earlier rather than later. If the Commonwealth is to have any truly long term stability the sejm will have to be put in it's proper place once and for all.

That's a good way of looking at it and I have to admit watching the Sejm act petulant every time I had a new monarch was daunting.

I hope Zygmunt can put the Sejm in its place... and maybe acquire some ability to compromise while he's at it. Unfortunately, the former is likely to preclude the latter.

Well, the point is moot now but it was a nice thought at least!

This was a long time coming (narratively and gameplay wise of course) and though historically having the confused mix of powers stagnated the Commonwealth, Zygmunt's cruelty and trying to provoke things really makes the case that there should be a check on the royal power.

Of course, I have a feeling he'll live up to the 'August' part of his name and emerge victorious from the ashes. Though it would be wonderfully ironic if after asserting royal power that the Lanckoronskis lost power. (Maybe I am reading foreshadowing into Miesko Sierakowski's royal relationship where there is none.)

Great read, thank you.

Thank you, glad you are enjoying it! :)

I did consider negotiating with the rebels (which might have led to a republic), but I think Zygmunt would have fought on.

And so it begins. May the best royalty win.

Heh, well Karol did! :)

Meeting the Sejm head-on is probably wise. Zygmunt is worryingly... malevolent. A bit of sociopathy doesn't make him Vlad Tepes but in the midst of a civil war defined by royal power and religion, I worry he'll be more deserving of epithets like 'bloody' and 'black' than his father was.

That's a good point. Ironically in some ways the distraction of the war might have prevented decadence and cruelty going further in his court.

The king of course

Heh!

The dam has broken; the Deluge has begun. In hoping to make his power grab into a fait accompli, Zygmunt has rather badly overplayed his hand and played right into the worst fears of the pro-szlachta camp. Even if the clash really was inevitable, he's cost his own side a fair bit of credibility.

It's not the most promising start to the Sixteenth Century I'll grant you.

The protestants are getting awfully close, blood will be shed before long and I'm looking forward to the fireworks especially if a protestant pretender were to arise.
With the commonwealth having access to warm water ports, conflict with the Ottomans is sure to only increase.
At last, the war has come! May the Commonwealth emerge all the stronger for the loss of its chains (whichever they may be).

Hurrah! :)

Let the vultures of the Sejm be annihilated by the power of the monarchy! Let those who would whore the Commonwealth to her enemies be hung by their entrails and punished for the world to see!

Zygmunt is that you? ;)

Wow! Absolutely great AAR. Just read the entire thing over the past few days--love the blend of gameplay and history book-style narration. Can't wait to see what the next chapter holds.

Thank you so much! I'm glad you like it! :)

Three updates in a row! This is becoming even better!

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Cora Giantkiller

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A bloody war but imo a necessary one, and hopefully the Commonwealth will be better positioned in the future.
 
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InvisibleBison

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So the szlachta are beaten, but the Commonwealth as a whole is not in much better shape itself. Hopefully Karol will be able to put his house in order before his foreign enemies get any ideas.
 
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generalis Julius Caesar

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It is over, but at what cost?
 
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HistoryDude

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Zygmunt was a cruel and terrible monarch.

Hopefully Karol is better.

Are separatists still infesting the Commonwealth? If so, the war is far from over...
 
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slothinator

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That is an impressively long civil war, one hopes that foreign powers did not take advantage of the thing.
A new world arises for King Karol, one where the commonwealth can finally be run efficiently. Will the Sejm be reduced to a mere rubber stamp or will it still maintain some powers?
 
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Viden

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A strong rule should mean a quiet Commonwealth, I hope.
 
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Cromwell

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A bad start to the war but it got turned around in the end! Let's hope Poland can rebuild its finances quickly now that it's at peace. With your internal troubles put to bed it's time to look outwards and that will require a mighty warchest.
 
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