Battle of Klushino, 4 July 1610

The battle of Klushino saw a small Polish-Lithuanian army defeat a much larger Russian and Swedish army that was attempting to relieve the siege of Smolensk (1609-1611).

The Polish-Lithuanian army was commanded by Hetman Stanislaw Żólkiewski. It was basically a cavalry army, containing 5,556 hussars, 679 Cossack horse and 290 Lithuanian horse and only 200 infantry with two small field guns.

The combined Swedish-Muskovite army was six or seven times larger. The Swedish force, under Christop Horn and Jakob de la Gardie was at least at large as the entire Polish army, with 5-7,000 professional mercenaries. The Russia army, under Dmitrii Shuiskii, was 30,000 strong, with a core of 16,000 more modern troops and a large number of peasant auxiliaries.

Żólkiewski decided to launch a surprise attack on the Russian-Swedish camp. Overnight on 3-4 July 1610 the Polish army made a difficult march through the woods. It reached the allied camp in time to attempt the surprise attack, but the Polish advance was delayed by a palisade. As the Poles began to clear away the palisade the allies were able to deploy ready to fight a defensive battle.

In a five hour fight that lasted all morning the Russian cavalry was slowly broken by repeated Polish attacks. Shuiskii requested help from his Swedish allies, who sent their reiters into the battle. The Swedish cavalry attempted to use the caracole, a manoeuvre designed to make the best use of their guns. Each rank of cavalry would advance, fire and then retreat to the back to rearm while the next rank moved forward the fire. In contrast the Polish Hussar’s charged with lance or sabre, sweeping away the ineffective reiters. The entire allied cavalry force fled the field, taking Horn and de la Gardie with them.

The Swedish mercenary was now isolated. For some time it fought on, but the small force of Polish infantry finally arrived on the battlefield during the afternoon with their two field guns. The Swedish infantry was forced back towards their camp, where it was then forced to surrender.

The victory at Klushino temporarily handed the advantage in the Polish-Muscovite War to the Poles. On 8 October the Poles captured Moscow, and for a short period it looked like Sigismund’s son Wladyslaw might become Tsar. Smolensk fell to the Poles in 1611. That was perhaps the high point of the war for Sigismund. By 1612 much of Russia had risen against the Poles, and by the end of the year the Poles had withdrawn from most of Russia, only holding on to the border areas.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (26 July 2007), Battle of Klushino, 4 July 1610, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_klushino.html

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