Battle of Mewe, 22 September and 29 September-1 October 1626

The battle of Mewe was a lengthy battle that came late in the Polish-Swedish War of 1600-1629. Gustav Adolf of Sweden had invaded Prussia in 1626, quickly capturing a number of cities in northern Prussia, amongst them Mewe. In the autumn of 1626 a Polish army under Sigismund III besieged Mewe, and Gustav Adolf moved to relieve the city.

The battle was fought to the west of the Vistula. Sigismund III had an army 15,000 strong, outnumbering the Swedes, but he only had 20 guns and 300 hussars. Worse, most of his hussars were inexperienced, as 1,500 of the more experienced troops were absent in the Ukraine. Sigismund was able to choose his ground, occupying an escarpment west of the river.

Gustav Adolf had 12,200 men, and 74 guns. He was able to use flood defences along the Vistula to strengthen his position, which gave the Poles very little chance to use their cavalry to its best.

At the start of the battle, on 22 September, Gustav Adolf sent out his skirmishers, in the hope that Sigismund would respond by coming out of his field fortifications. Sigismund did just that, sending his hussars to attack the Swedish left. The hussars were able to drive away the Swedish horsemen, but were driven off by a salvo of infantry fire after their charge was slowed by soft sandy ground.

There was then a gap of a week before the next significant action came on 29 September. This time Sigismund launched two great Hussar charges, both of which drove away the Swedish horse before being driven back by the Swedish infantry, who were now well established behind their fortifications. Despite the impressive Swedish firepower, only 18 Hussars were killed during this fighting.

The course of the battle changed on 1 October. Late in a day that had seen serious fighting on the plains a Swedish infantry unit was able to climb the escarpment. The Polish infantry on the high ground believed the Swedes to be a Polish unit retreating from the battle, and so held their fire. A salvo from the Swedish infantry then drove the Poles off the hilltop.

Sigismund was able to persuade his cavalry to make one more charge, in an attempt to drive the Swedes back off the escarpment. Tomasz Zamoyski’s hussars swept the first line of Swedish infantry off the hill while they were reloading but were then repelled by the second line. With the high ground lost, the Polish camp was vulnerable to Swedish artillery, and Sigismund was forced to abandon the siege of Mewe.

Together with a second defeat at Dirschau (17-18 August 1627), the battle of Mewe convinced the Polish-Lithuanians that it would be best to avoid open battle. Instead, the infantry defended its camps while the cavalry attacked Swedish supplies.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (28 July 2007), Battle of Mewe, 22 September and 29 September-1 October 1626 , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_mewe.html

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