Function of the Jagiellonian army war camp in the 15th century Cover Image

Funkcje obozu armii jagiellońskiej w XV wieku
Function of the Jagiellonian army war camp in the 15th century

Author(s): Tadeusz Grabarczyk
Subject(s): Military history, 13th to 14th Centuries, 15th Century
Published by: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego
Keywords: war camp; fortifications; 15th century; Middle Ages; art of war;Poland – history;

Summary/Abstract: One of the basic functions of the war camp was to enable the army to rest during the campaign. For this purpose, a suitable place for a stop was necessary. It must have been above the water, in a place full of firewood and horse feed. It happened that the camp was set up in a place where there was a shortage of water, or it was contaminated, then it was immediately transferred to another place. Another important function of the war camp was to ensure the security of the army in it. Because of it, the camp was sought to be located in naturally defensive places: bends, lakes, hills, etc. During the expedition, even when stopping for a short layover, the camp was surrounded by carts that formed a kind of wall. When there was a threat of attack on the camp, it was additionally surrounded by a ditch or palisade. When the army was staying longer in one place, for example, during a siege, camp’s defences were significantly strengthened by raising ramparts and building wooden towers. For example, a camp of Polish forces near Košice (now in Slovakia) in 1491 in which 12 such towers were built. The article contains information about the battles for camps. The descriptions in the sources usually refer to the attack, which is the last phase of the battle, for example after the battles at Grunwald 1410, Grotniki 1439, Varna 1444, Chojnice (Konitz) 1454, Świecino (Schwetzin) 1462. After breaking the army in the field, the victorious army attacks the camp of the defeated opponent. In such situations, the fortified camp did not happen to be defended. The camps, which were located in hard-to-reach places, and were reinforced with ramparts and towers, were difficult to obtain. To take control of them, a regular siege had to be carried out. In 1473, the army of Hungarian King Mathias Corvinus stormed the Polish camps on Upper Hungary. Eventually he managed to get one after his fortifications were destroyed by artillery fire. The second Polish camp, however, was obtained by bribing the Polish officer commanding his defense. Only once sources mention the use of carts to cover the army in motion. It was on Silesia near Wrocław (Breslau) in 1474 during the Polish and Czech war with Hungary. We have no many evidence of using special combat vehicles, of the kind used by the Hussite army, in Poland in the 15th century. In the sources, there are only sporadically: currus fossati, meaning war wagons. Polish chronicler Jan Długosz recalls that in one of the battles in Prussia in 1457 Polish mercenaries used the car delivered to them by peasants from nearby villages. Hidden behind them, they repulsed the attack of the Teutonic forces and were victorious. Many specialists from the Bohemia were sometimes involved in managing the camp and setting up camps in the Polish army. Nevertheless, the use of Czech tactics of using wagons was not quite possible, probably due to the different composition of the Polish army, the main part of which was the knight’s cavalry.

  • Issue Year: 2018
  • Issue No: 101
  • Page Range: 53-68
  • Page Count: 16
  • Language: Polish