Swedish Polish War 1600 to 1609
1601 Spring Summer Campaign (2)
The Battle of Kokenhausen (23 June 1601)
On the approach of the Swedes, Radziwill left 500
infantry in entrenchments opposite the town under Otto Denhoff,
who had orders to maintain fire on the town. 150 men guarded the
camp, and with the rest he entered the field of battle. His force
comprised around 3,000 men, of which some 400 were infantry with
Gyllenhjelm, with 900 infantry and his artillery,
occupied a ruined farm in the centre of his formation and commenced
its fortification. He placed 2,000 cavalry on each wing, with about
1,200 horse in each first line. To protect his right flank he positioned
a line of wagons.
The Poles and Lithuanians arrived on the field of
battle once the Swedes had formed up and Chodkiewicz sent out some
hundred skirmishers to cover the deployment of his forces:-
The first line was composed 1,000 horse commanded by Chodkiewicz.
They comprised two regiments - Chodkiewicz's own and Radziwill's.
(B) In the second line were two
regiments of 300 horse each, on the right Christopher Dorohostajski,
on the left Stabrowski.
(C) The Huf Walny in the third
line was the Royal Grand Lithuanian Hetman's own forces (1,000-1,200
men, including 400 infantry) positioned on the highest ground from
which the whole battlefield could be seen.
The Swedes also deployed a similar number of skirmishers
to counter the Polish-Lithuanian skirmishers.
Radziwill, observing the Swedes with both flanks
protected either by the Dwina or the forest and wagons, decided
to break them on his right wing. He ordered both his first lines
to attack the Swedish left wing sending almost half his army. He
had no intention of opposing the immobile enemy infantry. While
the Swedish right wing was to be tied up by Stabrowski assisted
by 200 infantry and 5 cannons. In reserve Radziwill left some 800-1000
men and 4 cannon.
just after 7:00, on seeing the size of Polish-Lithuanian forces
forming up against his left wing, Gyllenhjelm reinforced this wing
with his skirmishers. With the lack of a reserve it was the only
way to strengthen them. Shortly after being struck by both of Chodkiewicz's
regiments the left Swedish wing became disorganised but were soon
supported by the second line. At this point the Swedes had a numerical
superiority (2,000:1,300) and the Poles and Lithuanians were checked.
Soon however Dorohostajski's unit quickly passed the weak fire of
the infantry and artillery and struck the engaged Swede's flank.
The force of the attack and its location ensured the collapse of
the Swedish horse who routed and their pursuit began.
Gyllenhjelm, glimpsed a chance of success leading his right wing
in a quick attack against Stabrowski.
The Polish-Lithuanian cannons managed only a salvo and the cavalry,
seriously outnumbered, fled on being struck.
The Swedes, in their pursuit of the Polish-Lithuanian cavalry, became
dispersed and on reaching the flank of Radziwill's forces were met
by three hussar banners. Disorganised the Swedes broke and fled.
It took some time for Radziwill to collect his tired
units after their pursuit and strike the infantry. The cavalry failed
on the pikes and musket fire. It was only after the arrival at about
noon of the Polish-Lithuanian artillery that their resistance was
broken. Most of the infantry were killed.
the Swedes lost 2,000, the Poles and Lithuanians 200. Gyllenhjelm
managed to gather 2,000 cavalry some 14km from the battlefield and
wanted to return to Kokenhausen to help the infantry but his men
would no agree.
The Battle was won by powerful hussar charges. Where
this battle differs from many others in this period was the high
economy of strength utilised. The decisive point for the battle
was selected and there half the army was directed while the enemy
centre was completely ignored. The importance of a powerful reserve
cannot be underestimated and its large size was also exceptional
for this era.
Following the battle the worn out garrison of Kokenhausen
capitulated while the Swedish siege artillery, which included six
large cannons, was captured.