Copyright © 1962 Lithuanian Students Association, Inc.
Vol. 8, No.3 - 1962
Editor of this issue: A. Mickevičius
VYTAUTAS AND THE LITHUANIANS THROUGH THE EYES OF A CHRONICLER
Juozas JAKŠTAS studied history at the universities of Kaunas, Berlin, and Vienna. He received his doctorate in 1938 at the University of Kaunas. Taught history at the universities of Kaunas and Vilnius. Known as author of books and numerous articles.
work by the author appeared in a Lithuanian historical magazine Tautos Praeitis,
Vol. I, Book 2, 1960. The author based this article on the following
works: Dlugosz, Joannis Dlugosii seu Longini, canonici quondam
Polonicae, libri XII, Lipsiae, 1711. Scriptores rerum Prussicarum,
Bd. 3, 1866 (abbr. Scr) J. Voigt, Geschichte
Preussens, Bd. 6, 7.
Great battles often signify a turning point in the process of history. A particular historical period of the involved countries, states, or nations is ended with such battles and a new period is begun. The battlefield quite often becomes the birth of a new way of life. Goethe made the following comment to his friends about the battle of Valmy (1792), in which he participated: "Here begins a new epoch and you are its witnesses." This comment applies to many a battle in the course of history.
Not too long ago we celebrated the 550-year anniversary of the Battle of Tannenberg, which basically changed the relationship of three east central European states: Lithuania, Poland, and the Order of the Teutonic Knights. With this battle ended the medieval crusades against the Lithuanians and the nearly two hundred years of aggression by the Order against the surrounding Slavic territories, which Poland was trying to encompass. If we will consider the entire political policy of the Order toward Lithuania and Poland to be the result of the German motto, "Drang nach Osten," then we will have to admit that this motto suffered a mortal blow at Tannenberg. The battle put an end to German aggression in this part of Europe and resulted in the Slavic nations' and states' coming into prominence. It was destined for Lithuania (even though it was not Slavic) to be drawn into their midst.
Certainly, the Battle of Tannenberg enabled Poland to win the Thirteen Years' War, to obtain West Prussia, and to make East Prussia its vassal. This battle also diminished the resistance of the Order in the eastern Baltic territory and several decades later made it easier for the Russians to reach for the Baltic and thus to increase the pressure on the Lithuanian-Polish republic. In other words, the Battle of Tannenberg changed the relations of the political powers in East Central Europe.
The Battle of Tannenberg finally liberated the Lithuanians from the terrors of the Crusades, set permanent western boundaries with Samogitia, or Low Lithuania, and with Užnemunė. Now the Low Lithuanians could be baptized and colonization was begun in Užnemunė. In this manner, two significant provinces were added to the old Lithuanian trunk of High Lithuania (Aukštaičiai). These provinces played a very honorable role in the more recent history of our nation (note the Low Lithuanians' romanticism in the period of the Vilnius University and the time of the "Aušra" publication).
Reference sources for the Battle of Tannenberg and the history of Dlugosz
In commemorating the decisive Battle of Tannenberg, first of all the attention of the historian is drawn to the sources from which he tries to recreate that event. The Tannenberg battle was widely known in West Europe as well as in East Europe and was repeatedly mentioned and discussed in various historical sources. It is noted everywhere that it was a "grande bellum", "maximum bellum", while in one source it was even described as "premaximum bellum". Often, however, it is ' described only in general terms, noting the out- come and results of the battle. Four sources describe it more exhaustively, with more or less strategic details. Two of them are in the form of letters: the letter of the bishop Andrew of Poznan to the Polish delegation in the Papal Curia1 and the so-called Cronica conflictus Wladislai regis Polonie cum cruciferis anno Christi 1410 2 The bishop of Poznan actually speaks less about the war itself, but justifies the king against the accusation of the Order that he used schismatics and pagan Tartars against the faithful. The manuscript was written right after the battle (on July 29) with very pronounced pro-Polish tendencies and expresses the exuberance of the Poles over the victory. The author of the Cronica conflictus writing a few months later, speaks about the battle itself and portrays it concisely, clearly, and soberly. Of course, he also adopts the pro-Polish viewpoint and shows that the Polish alone have finally demolished the Teutonic Knights.
Besides these two sources, we have two chronicles: that of the Teutonic chaplain Posilge3 and the History of Poland written by the Polish priest Dlugosz. The first cronicle relates quite precisely the circumstances of the battle and its course. It especially reveals the agressiveness of the Knights, saying that they had won the battle three times, and regrets their ultimate defeat.4 The History of Poland by J. Dlugosz far surpasses the other sources in its scope of presentation and the amount of detail.
John Dlugosz (1415-1480), a priest of aristocratic background, had first been a clerk in the chancery of Bishop Zbigniev Olesnicki and later became the secretary of the chancery. He kept in close touch with the royal court and was sent on diplomatic missions to West European nations. In 1467, he became the tutor of the sons of Casimir Jagiello (St. Casimir was one of the sons). Under the encouragement of Bishop Olesnicki he began to write and soon became a productive author. His History of Poland up to the year 1480, being of very large scope, is the most famous work of the 15th century. It is quite understandable that he should give much attention to an event such as the Battle of Tannenberg which in his time was still fresh in many memories. It is known that his own father and Zbigniev Olesnicki himself had taken part in the encounter. Thus the chronicle of J. Dlugosz, even though written 50 years after the battle, can be held as the primary source of knowledge and information about the majestic drama of Tannenberg.
His characteristic presentation of the Tannenberg encounter, especially in regard to Lithuania and Vytautas (Vitold), would become clear only if it is analyzed in relation to the leading ideas of his entire historical work. Such analysis cannot be accomplished within the limits of this study. Moreover, there is a shortage of literature on this topic. I know only one old work by W. Siemkowicz: Krytyciny rozbior dziejow Polskich J. Dlugosza (1832), in which the sources and their use by Dlugosz are more closely examined. A good start was made by prof. Z. Ivinskis, when he concisely described the view of Lithuania's past as represented by Dlugosz in the Lithuanian Encyclopedia.
Without delving into Dlugosz' entire historiography, this study will attempt to analyze only his presentation of the Battle of Tannenberg, paying special attention to the role of the Lithuanians under Vytautas' command.
The Battle of Tannenberg in the History of Poland by Dlugosz"5
In Dlugosz' history the battle's preparations, progress and outcome (events leading to the Peace of Thorn) are retold in fifty pages of a folio-sized manuscript (columns 208-309). Detailed representation is accomplished in the analytical form, in which events are told in chronological order, according to years, months or even days of the week. The author is especially faithful, and even scrupulous at times, in presenting the dates of various events. For example, the date of the Tannenberg battle is: "Feria tertia in die Divisionis Apostolo-rum, quindécima die Julii"6. In this way the account of the preparation, the course of the battle, and the outcome acquire the qualities of a diary. From the 30th of June, when the Poles crossed the Vysla river at the Cervensk monastery and merged with the army brought there by Vytautas, to the very day of the battle, the history presents the marching route as well as the camps with the names of the surrounding villages. A question arises concerning the validity of this detailed account. From Dlugosz, a medieval chronicler, an attentively critical attitude or absolute reliability cannot, of course, be expected. Like many of the medieval chroniclers, Dlugosz did not burden himself with the complete validity of the reported facts. Medieval chroniclers often intertwined the actual facts with fantastic events and various types of gossip. They were primarily interested in presenting an interesting and attractive account to their readers. The history written by Dlugosz actually savors of the novel, especially when one reads the long monologues or dialogues of the historical figures. Here Dlugosz follows the medieval chroniclers, who freely created speeches of the participators in accord with the examples of the classics (as Livy, for example). Dlugosz wrote his history for the Polish aristocracy, from which he himself had come, and he was anxious to please and interest them. In his account of the Battle of Tannenberg, therefore, he mentions many names of high personages, the titles and the offices they held, as well as their flag insignia. Exceptionally honorable mention is given to the Oles-nicki family, especially to the bishop of Crocow and the primate of Poland, Zbigniev, whom the author had previously loyally served. It is known, however, that this Zbigniev Olesnicki was the enemy of Lithuania and Vytautas in the conference of Luckas in 1430. Thus the thought suggests itself that under his influence Dlugosz tends to misrepresent the Lithuanians and Vytautas in his accounts of the battle and the events following it.'7
The Strange Actions of Jogaila (Jagiello)
As far as Dlugosz is concerned, Jogaila is the central character in the entire drama of Tannenberg. This man, who was destined to be the chief commander, is portrayed as very indecisive and without the least hint of a belligerent attitude. It would seem that he was more of a saint than a soldier, and that even the war itself arose without his initiative: it was only dropped in his lap. In reading Dlugosz one can not help feeling sorry for this unfortunate grandson of Gediminas, who, against his own will, was forced to "Shed Catholic blood."8 It seems that circumstances forced him to enter a war which he had tried to avoid to the very last minute. Here we may well remember the famous scene related by Dlugosz, which is repeated in many textbooks. In this scene Jogaila, while in the midst of the battle and surrounded by the enemy, is rapt in prayer. With this scene Dlugosz begins to relate the decisive events of July 15th.9 At sunrise of this day, urged by Vytautas, Jogaila retreated from Gilgenburg (Dombrovo) to the villages of Grunwald and Tannenberg. Here Jogaila's army encountered the army of the Teutonic Order which had arrived earlier. Disregarding this, Jogaila ordered a field shrine built and was preparing to attend Mass (even though he had already attended Mass before leaving Gilgenburg). At least six messengers came to warn him of the proximity of the enemy, but the King, "first performing the divine things rather than the military", did not listen to them and retreated to the chapel to attend two Masses.10 Even after that he remained prostrate in the chapel, praying. Vytautas' messengers and even Vytautas himself could not distract him from prayer. During the King's prayer, the Polish army was prepared for battle by the Crocow sword-bearer Zindram Moskovicz and the Lithuanian army was readied by Vytautas himself. Only after that, Jogaila, being impatiently called by his soldiers and Vytautas, came to inspect his army. There is no reason to suspect the author of fictitiously creating this scene; its authenticity is also attested by other contemporary sources. The already mentioned Cronica conflictus states that Jogaila "ab oratione surgens,"11 began preparing the soldiers for war. One Silezian source, speaking more generally, states that from morning to noon the King attended nine Masses.12 These sources also support the further argumentation by Dlugosz, that the King avoided the battle and procrastinated entering into it.
Even though the King himself did not enter battle, Dlugosz does not suspect him of weakness. If the King did not participate in the battle after its initiation, he did so because it had been the decision of the council not to permit the King to participate in order to protect his person.13 With numerous personal bodyguards, therefore, Jogaila retreated to a location behind the front, where he would be unknown not only to the enemy, but also to his own. In addition, horses were stationed at designated distances, so that the King could escape if danger threatened. Thus, "the greatest King", according to Dlugosz, "fought more by sacrifices and prayers than by arrows."14 The King remained behind the front only in the initial stages of the battle, until the enemy broke through the Lithuanian lines (this shall be discussed later). After that, Vytautas persuaded him to go to the front, to boost the morale of the army.15 The chronicler's attempt to envelope his King in a halo of heroism becomes evident in his description of the King's first actions on reaching the front. Reaching the battlefield while hidden from the enemy eyes by bodyguards, Jogaila immediately rushed to the battle formations. When a Czech sentry stopped him by holding his horse, the King "gently" wounded the sentry with the tip of his spear and demanded to be permitted to enter the battle. Only by the power of all the guards was he stopped and "detained".16
Thus the King remained a passive observer throughout the battle. The author's attention however, is primarily focused upon the King and all the honor of victory goes to him and the Poles.17
Since he holds Jogaila in high esteem, Dlugosz does not in the least blame him for retreating from Marienburg even though he regrets the retreat from the capital of the Teutonic Knights. According to him, there was no reason for the Poles to retreat, since they lacked nothing. In the abandoned homes they found sufficient food and with it they could not only accommodate themselves, but even sell it at high prices in the marketplaces of the nearby towns.18 Near Marienburg the Poles had felt "at home", but the King decided to drop the honorable siege and to retreat. He returned to his own country "more as the conquered than the conqueror."19 Who is to blame for this tragedy? First of all, Dlugosz is inclined to blame Vytautas for beginning separate negotiations with the Master of the Knights of Livonia, who had come to help his Prussian brother. But the direct culprits of the retreat were the mercenaries, because they demanded their pay which could not be distributed right there. It is true, the King could have paid them from the tributes of the conquered cities, but he did not wish to irritate those who had voluntarily accepted the subjection. With such a demand the King would have pushed them over the brink to treason.
The King, therefore, retreated from Marienburg not by his own will, but by decision of the barons who were influenced by Vytautas. Thus, according to Dlugosz, public interest was betrayed by an individual. But Dlugosz even though shielding the King from responsibility, did not refrain from thinking that this happened because Jogaila could not control the army and the internal affairs.20 Thus, even though our author blames others, and especially Vytautas, for that fatal mistake and although he tries to make the King appear uninvolved and innocent, he attaches an indictment of human weakness. Undoubtedly, the necessity to exclude Jogaila from a grave mistake probably dictated a correct characterization of him.
The Poles are also mentioned with respect in the history and much attention is given to them. This tendency is understandable and excusable. A Pole wrote the Polish history and dedicated it to Polish readers. He was anxious, therefore, to represent the Battle of Tannenberg as the battle of Poles against the Order, and to interpret its result as a Polish victory. Lithuanians to him are no equal partners with the Poles; they are one of the ethnic groups led by Vytautas. Usually Dlugosz mentions four national groups led by Vytautas: Lithuanians, Russians, Samogitians, and Tartars; sometimes he mentions two: Lithuanians and Tartars, or Lithuanians and Russians. At other times he speaks only about Lithuanians being alongside the Poles. That Dlugosz did not consider Lithuanians and Poles as equal partners becomes evident from one scene before the beginning of the battle. Here he relates how, in formation, on one side there stood Lithuanians and the Poles, and on the other — the Teutonic Knights. On this occassion, for the honor of his countrymen he notes: "The Polish soldiers firmly made up their minds to conquer or to die".21 He does not take a similar notice of the Lithuanians, though he had just mentioned them.
The Unquestionable Merits of Vytautas
Even though Dlugosz does not consider the Lithuanians equal to the Poles, he does not question the primary role of their leader, Vytautas. Vytautas was the exact opposite of Jogaila. While Jogaila is the more passive, as if a saint who is forced to fight only by circumstances, Vytautas is the driving soldier, full of courage and initiative. His demonic, never-calming, furiously active personality cannot contain itself within the limits of the army of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Vytautas rises to the leadership of the entire allied army.
According to Dlugosz, it was on the way to the battle that Jogaila appointed Vytautas and seven Poles to a council whose mission was to prepare the routes and to provide the army with sleeping and camping accomodations. Vytautas was placed in charge of this council. He is described by Dlugosz as a "man of rare activity", investigating everything, acting, and confering with his seven advisors.22 In this manner, Vytautas led the army to the vicinity of Grunwald and Tannenberg and he chose this area to be the battlefield. Just before the battle Vytautas himself prepared his army and occupied the wing on the far right, which reached the village of Tannenberg. The Poles held the left wing, approximately near the headquarters of Ulrich Jungingen, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights.
The praise showered on Vytautas by the author sounds like a majestic prelude to the battle: "But Alexander Vytautas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, having rendered his own head and body safely into the custody of God, flew among the whole army, often changing his horse, rarely having companions, and never body guards. He often reformed the broken lines of the Lithuanians and forbade their retreat in an extremely strong voice and cry, though in vain."23 These remarks, when made by Dlugosz, say very much. They are especially significant, because they praise Vytautas immediately after describing Jogaila's retreat to safety behind the front. Dlugosz, therefore, dares to place Vytautas opposite the Polish King. Perhaps this little excerpt has inspired Matejka to represent Vytautas as a flying rider above the armies in the famous painting of Tannenberg. This sight arouses in us a feeling of pride and also of irritation when we remember that the Poles claimed the laurels of victory, for we tend to identify Vytautas with the Lithuanians and to say that the honor belonging to Vytautas also belongs to his countrymen. The historian Dlugosz, however did not reason thus. In the preceding quotation he mentions that Vytautas had rearranged the broken lines among the Lithuanians. He does not say anything to this effect about the Poles, though Vytautas flew among their lines as well. In other words, the Polish lines were intact, while those of the Lithuanians were not — they broke under the blows of the enemy. In the same place Dlugosz makes even a greater condemnation. It would seem that Vytautas, even in the loudest voice, could not check the desertion of his soldiers. Dlugosz was careful to present this desertion by the Lithuanians most impresively and returns to it in the description of the battle itself.
The Lithuanians' desertion of the battlefield is the most well-known episode related by Dlugosz. It became widely accepted even today.24 It is, therefore, useful to consider it for a while. For this purpose it is necessary to present the account of the battle itself and to compare it with other sources.
Lithuanians initiate the Battle
As already noted, the Lithuanians formed the right wing near the villages of Grunwlad and Tannenberg, while the Poles formed the left wing. The battle began after the Poles sang "Bogarodzicza" which Dlugosz calls "carmen patrium". The battle was initiated by the Lithuanians on the command of Vytautas, who "was impatient because of the general procrastinations." With the imagery devices of a true novelist, our author portrays the fierce man-to-man battle.25 An hour later, when the results were still unpredictable because neither side had moved forward, the Teutonic Knights were convinced that in the left (Polish) wing they will have a hard and dangerous battle, especially since their more elaborate formations were already broken. Therefore the Germans decided to direct their strength at the right wing, that is, at the Lithuanians, whose "formation was not as dense and who were poorer in horses and weapons." Therefore, the Lithuanians seemed easily conquerable. Having pushed them back, the Germans could more easily rage in the Polish lines. In assuming this German intent, the Polish author wrote in honor of his people: "Hope did not quite correspond to their plan."26
Now the Lithuanians, having a less advantageous position, could not withstand the increased pressure of the enemy. They moved back one "iuger" (Roman term of measurement), then another and another, and finally were forced to flee. Even Vytautas could not gather the runaways, even though he called loudly. Here the author lets his fancy wander, apparently trying to exaggerate the impressions of the Lithuanian retreat. Such horror, it seems, overcame the runners that many stopped only when they reached Lithuania. They announced that the King was dead, that Alexander and the armies were defeated and completely demolished.
From the defeated and runaway Lithuanian detachments, Dlugosz excepted three detachments of Smolensk, each one fighting under its own flag. These alone stood firm and merited honor by fighting fiercely. They continued fighting even after one flag was lost and crushed under the enemy's foot. Having lost their flag, the remaining men of the detachment united with the other two, who did not retreat and stayed on with the Poles.
This particular exception of the Smolensk detachments from the entire army of Vytautas remains a mystery. One cannot tell what secret thoughts the author had. At least a hypothetical speculation is made possible by the use of the word "Rutheni" in regard to the Smolensk detachments. Did not Diugosz perhaps want to shame the Lithuanians by saying to them: "Here, the Russians held out while you, Lithuanians ran away"? And particularly, which Russians? Those, who rebelled six years ago and were forced into compliance by Vytautas. The words of Diugosz ring out as if to shame the Lithuanians, while repeatedly he honors the Smolenskians: "(They) were the only ones in Vytautas Alexander's army on that day who bore the honor of a strong and heroic battle."27 The intention of the Polish patriot becomes more evident when he says that, by running away, the others (Lithuanians) left the Poles to fight alone.28 In other words, the Poles had to sustain the heavy burden of the battle alone and won: this is the conclusion Diugosz reaches.
To evaluate and understand the preceding account by Diugosz, it is necessary to analyze the battle according to the other accessible sources.
The greatest blow to the Lithuanians
From the very beginning the Lithuanians had the hardest battle because their right wing was facing St. George's flag of the Teutonic Knights29. Since this most honorable flag belonged to the patron of all knights, the guest-knights usually carried it to the battlefield and fought beneath it. These western guests were the strongest force in the war ventures of the Teutonic Knights and in this battle. Their ranks consisted of the more or less select knights with their experienced leaders. They were the professional soldiers of their day. The leaders of the Order, perhaps intentionally, directed the guests against the wing of Vytautas, thus hoping to demolish him first. This is acknowledged by the author of the Cronica Conflictus 30 in which he states that the greatest part of the Teutonic Knight army, its choicest detachments, were aimed against Vytautas. The Lithuanians made their position even more difficult, because they initiated the battle. The chronicler of the Order, Posilge, says that Jogaila sent Lithuanians into the battle while the Poles were not yet ready.31. Besides, after an hour of fighting, as Diugosz says, the Order transferred a detachment from the Polish to the Lithuanian wing. Perhaps the Lithuanian right wing was such a danger to the Order that they decided to strengthen the opposition there, thus weakening the forces against the Polish wing. Thus the Order, having decided from the very beginning to gather its strongest forces against Vytautas, reached initial victory: the Lithuanian front broke and had to retreat with the enemy in pursuit. In this Diugosz is right, since his testimony is in harmony with that of his contemporaries.32 The already mentioned Posilge writes that the pagans (since the Lithuanians had been baptized only a few decades before, to the Order they were still pagans) were "taken off their feet".33 The statement was formed in a sophistic manner and could be interpreted in two ways: either the Lithuanians were forced back, or they were permanently destroyed, that is, their ranks were broken. According to the Cronica Conflictus they were forced to draw back. The Teutonic Knights pursuing them considered themselves winners of the battle.34 The hope of the knights seemed to be not without basis. The initial steps of their plan to break Vytautas' ranks had succeeded; by following this plan they seemingly hoped to win. And really, the entire enemy fell apart. Diugosz himself acknowledges that the Lithuanians "drew many Poles with them, who were confused together with the Lithuanians."35 The intent of this statement is clear: the Poles were not inclined to run, they were only drawn along by the Lithuanians in whose lines they fought. It is true, Diugosz speaks about the retreat in the ranks of the Poles in "this storm", this is how he describes the moment of the Lithuanian retreat. Thus the Polish flag of St. George separated from the royal detachment and disappeared into the nearby woods. To Diugosz the flag symbolized the detachment. Only Czech and Moravian mercenaries fought under this flag, and the flag-bearer was a Chech.36 They were seriously shamed by the Polish vice-chancellor and his companions. The mercenaries soon returned and rejoined the fighting Poles. The retreat of the Czechs mentioned by Diugosz attests to the more or less general scattering of the Polish ranks when the Lithuanian ranks were forced back. Evidently, the situation was also critical in the Polish ranks. It was not clear which side was to be victorious. Therefore, a Polish source such as Cronica Conflictus37 speaks of the victory of Poles. Posilge38 speaks differently; according to him, it seems that the Poles came to the aid of the beaten Lithuanians and a fierce battle began. The enemies were locked three times before the King was forced to retreat. The Germans, being sure they had won, began singing the joyous Easter hymn "Christ is entstandin." Posilge's account is acknowledged by the neutral Silesian source "Catalogus abbatum Saganensium", which states that the Teutonic Knights permeated into the army of the King three times and killed 60,000 men.39 Diugosz describes this instance very widely, but very haphazardly, and digresses into unnecessary details. He declines to say what was happening in the Polish lines after the retreat of the Lithuanians. To him the beginning of the battle consisted of the crushing of the Lithuanian forces and of the Lithuanians' retreat. The Poles are said not to have felt the blow suffered by the Lithuanians. (It is just that the dust raised by the retreat made the fighting harder, but even this was alleviated by a light shower.)40 They fiercely continued the battle, as if nothing had happened. Just after the description of the retreat, we find his significant reference to Vytautas: "Alexander Vytautas, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, painfully suffering the retreat of his own and fearing that the souls of the Poles would not be affected (perculsos) by the unfortunate battle, repeatedly sent runners, asking the King to hurry without delay. After their unsuccessful pleas, he himself, without attendants, came running (cognito cursu) and fervently pleaded with the King to go into battle and, by his presence, to inspire (collatutas) the fighters with courage and boldness."41 By this Dlugosz states very clearly that after the Lithuanian defeat Vytautas intervened in the Polish wing and at last succeeded in making Jogaila leave his retreat behind the front and enter the battlefield. During the further events of the battle, Dlugosz describes Jogaila as standing hidden from the eyes of the enemy by a strong guard. According to Dlugosz, Vytautas was still fighting in the Polish ranks. It is possible that Vytautas, "the man of rare activity", as he was characterized, not only pushed Jogaila into battle, but reorganized the scattered Polish front. Of course, a Polish author, interested in portraying the immovable Polish force which brought victory, does not mention this.
Whatever the case may be, the second and decisive stage of the battle was now begun. Let the Polish author of Cronica conflictus speak first. He states, that after the Teutonic Knights were defeated, the Grand Master brought forth the rest of the knights, with about fifteen flags, from the nearby forest and set them against the ranks of the King.42 This time he lost completely. Dlugosz also repeats the same thing, but in great detail and very expansively. He speaks about 16 flags being sent into battle.43 They are said to have been new, untouched detachments, unseasoned by battle.44 The combined attack by Poles and Lithuanians was now launched, and the Knights were completely demolished. This is described by Posilge, who is neutral to both enemies of the Teutonic Knights.
Having related the victory of the Teutonic Knights in the first stage of the battle, Posilge continues: "Soon his (i.e. the King's) unexpected guests and mercenaries came and stood with him on one side, the pagans stood on the other side and surrounded them (Teutonic Knights). They killed the Grand Master, a higher superior (grostin gebitiger), and many brothers of the Order. This brought great disaster on the Order and joy to the King and his people."45 We see from this statement by Posilge that the front recovered from the crises, that the Poles sent into the battle their reserves of friends and mercenaries and surrounded the enemies from one side while the Lithuanians did the same from the other side. Thus, the Lithuanians-Poles resorted to new tactics in the second stage: they surrounded the enemy and won the battle. Unfortunately, the sources do not tell us who was the author of this new strategy. Keeping in mind the leadership of Vytautas in the council, it would not be without grounds to suppose that he devised this strategy.
The Battle of Tannenberg was therefore won by the joint front of Lithuanian-Polish allies. An indirect witness to this is an anonymous author who continues Posilge's chronicle and states: "The running people (The Order) were being beaten by the Tartars, Pagans, and Poles."46 As far as Dlugosz was concerned, however, neither the pagans nor the Tartars were present at the end of the battle. The only victor was King Jogaila with his army.47 Right here he also mentions a miracle, in which St. Stanislaus, the patron of Poland, appeared in the air blessing the Polish soldiers. Such an honorable victory came to the Poles "by his intervention and aid" exclaims Dlugosz.48 Having stated that the Poles were victorious, he further speaks only of the fruits of their victory. He portrays the Prussian cities surrendering to the Poles or to their King and tells how nearly all the lands belonging to the Order became theirs. The victor is Jogaila and his army. But in this joyous account we also find a significant observation about Vytautas. Dlugosz relates that the King wished to reach an elevated place to view the battlefield where the Poles chased and conquered the enemies. While the King was observing the field, Vytautas came before him. Vytautas is described here as follows: Vytautas "who in the course of the battle flew among the Polish flags and detachments, where he replaced the tired and the sick with new and fresh ones, demanded that victory must be attributed to both."49 This statement is presumed to explain Vytautas' demand that the comtur of Brandenburg, Markvald Salchbach, be granted to him as prisoner. (The comtur, had insulted Vytautas' mother, Birutė, in one meeting near Kaunas.) This action, however, also reflects upon Lithuania's role in the battle; is it not an attempt to stop the Poles from claiming the fruits of victory? The policy later followed by Vytautas up to the Peace of Thorn would perhaps justify this intention. On the other hand, Dlugosz rings up again, even if not directly, the intention of the Poles to claim all the glory of the victory for themselves.
The Siege of Marienburg
Having rested for two days and having collected the booty, the allies moved against Marienburg, the final objective of the battle. With the capture of the Order's capital, it was expected to destroy its entire state. Actually, it was not just false hope because of the great treasures accumulated in the capital, through which their state was becoming famous and which were the foundation of the Teutonic Knights power.50 It is not without reason that many sources note how the comtur Heinrich von Plauen rushed to Marienburg as fast as possible to save the treasures.51 The arriving victors immediately surrounded the castles into which the defenders had retreated after setting fire to the city itself. Here Dlugosz plainly states that the Lithuanians remained stationed in a certain sector of the surrounding lines;52 in other words, they came from Tannenberg and had not run away. The Poles and the Lithuanians met with such effective defense that their attack did not promise the expected results. The situation was even more complicated by the arrival of the Knights of the Livonian Order. Their Landmeister, coming to help their surrounded brothers, came to East Prussia; Jogaila sent Vytautas against him to block the way. According to Dlugosz, Vytautas began a separatist policy with the Landmeister, thus evidently betraying the interests of the allies. The initiator of this policy was the Landmeister of the Livonic Knights; he asked to see Vytautas. The audience was granted, the Landmeister came to the camp of Vytautas, and began secret negotiations without his advisors. The master lured Vytautas to the side of the Order with various promises, especially to return Samogitia (Low Lithuania) "for which these wars are fought."53. This observation by Dlugosz may be fundamentally right, because they did not come to an armed encounter. Posilge55 states, that the Livonic Landmeister drew East Prussia (Netherland, as it was called) to his side and that the bishop of Heilsberg warned Vytautas not to attempt an attack on the Livonic Landmeister. It is possible that it was not some secret agreement, but the greater power of the Landmeister after he took Netherland that deterred Vytautas from offensive actions. But some negotiations between him and Landmeister were still possible, as writes Dlugosz. That Vytautas remained faithful to the policies of Jogaila till the retreat from Marienburg is shown by his letter to the comturs of Balg and Brandenburg.56 Here he states that he is determined to conquer the Prussian lands along with the King of Poland. Could it be that the accusation brought forth by Dlugosz against Vytautas was the result of the Zbigniev Olesnicki school?
Determined to accuse Vytautas of being a traitor, Dlugosz makes him responsible for the unsuccessful siege of Marienburg. He says that Vytautas made sure that the Livonic Landmeister went into the castle to confer with Heinrich von Plauen.57 Here von Plauen became aware that Vytautas had changed and slackened.58 Dlugosz says that Vytautas even aspired to obtain for Lithuania the lands that the Germans had turned over to Poland.59 On the other hand, he speaks of the conference between Heinrich von Plauen and the Livonic Landmeister about recovery of the castles, cities, and lands.60 As we see, the account by Dlugosz is vague and foggy. It Is difficult to assume that Vytautas would try to acquire the Prussian lands which had just been given to Poland. On the other hand, if Vytautas had demanded them and had said so to the Livonic Landmeister, how could he confer with Heinrich von Plauen about the recovery of the lands? (Especially since, according to Dlugosz, the meeting between Vytautas and the Livonic Landmeister ended peacefully). Therefore, the role of Vytautas portrayed here can be considered to be a product of imagination which arose form a tendency to blame the Grand Duke for the failure of the Marienburg project. This tendency Is also evident in his account of Vytautas' retreat from Marienburg.
The author acknowledges Vytautas to be truthful in his complaints that dysentery cases began to appear from improper food. But Dlugosz does not consider this to be a serious motive for withdrawal. He says that, had there been good will, the sickness could have easily been cured. But the King yielded and permitted Vytautas to return the same way he had come.61 Vytautas himself used shortage of food and sickness as an excuse for retreating from Marienburg.62 The food shortage is not mentioned at all by Dlugosz; on the contrary, he even says that there were sufficient amounts of it. If we agree with Dlugosz and maintain that Vytautas' motives were not serious, then his retreat from Marienburg remains a riddle. In historical works, the opinion is repeated that at the time Vytautas retreated, the Livonic Order was in East Prussia, evidently ready to help their Prussian brothers. It is worth noting that, after Vytautas left, the Dukes of Mazovia also left for home. After ten days, on September 19th, Jogaila also retreated. As It was noted earlier, Jogaila's retreat provided Dlugosz with a reason for attacking Vytautas. Jogaila is said to have retreated on the advice of people who had been convinced by Vytautas through "bribery and promises."63
It is most likely that the attackers become convinced of the senselessnes of the battle and retreated. The Order's propaganda against the "pagans" and the Order's gold which drew allies and mercenaries from the West also must have had an effect.64 With the help of the West, the Order recovered quickly; this was something the Poles had not expected.65 Cities and provinces went back to the Order with the same speed as they had been taken by the King of Poland a few weeks before.66 Thus, the hope to correct an old mistake made by the Duke of Mazovia in inviting the Order into this part of Europe, suddenly vanished.67 The old enemy revived and once more became a threat to the country. The disillusionment, of course, was great and it is reflected in Dlugosz's history.
The Unexploited Victory
Dlugosz expresses this mood more explicitly in his account of the Peace Treaty of Thorn. He presents a rather broad account of this treaty, evidently having seen the document itself. According to Dlugosz, the peace was agreed upon through the efforts of Vytautas. But Vytautas was most concerned with the recovery of Samogitia (Low Lithuania) and therefore the condition of the peace had little justice or use for Poland.68 Dlugosz especially resents the fact that the King did not demand the lands of Pomerania, Michalovo, and Culm. The renouncement of these lands is especially painful to Dlugosz because during the siege of Marienburg the Order had offered to return them to the King. The King, however, had then demanded absolute surrender and had disregarded the offer. Here even the Polish patriot cannot resist blaming his King: "He was satisfied to agree with the Grand Duke in the efforts to rebuild the Grand Duchy of Lithuania even at the expense of Poland, which had greater and more basic rights".69 Thus most of the blame for the useless Peace of Thorn is placed on Vytautas and on Jogaila, who seemed to side with Vytautas. The Polish barons, meanwhile, though realizing the "great damage", did not speak up because they were afraid to insult the King and the Duke. Finally, the author ends the angry tirade against the Peace of Thorn by accusing the King, the Grand Duke, and the advisors, who nullified and discarded "the great and memorable victory of Tannenberg". Thus, the victory of Tannenberg actually went to the Lithuanians, while to the Poles it was "empty and nearly comical".70
Of course, Dlugosz is justified in stating that the Peace of Thorn did not measure up to the great victory. Historians of our time agree with him.71 It is clear to everyone that this agreement was not a demand of the victor upon the conquered, as most peace treaties are, but a compromise on both sides. The Poles withdrew their maximum demand in which, among others, they wanted Culm, a land which two hundred years ago had been given to the Order by Konrad of Mazovia. Vytautas also compromised, receiving Samogitia conditionally — only until his death and the death of Jogaila. This compromise soon began to brew another great diplomatic argument which ended with the Peace of Melno (1422). Unfortunately, we do not know the background of the Peace of Thorn, even though preliminary negotiations, until the "eternal peace" was reached, proceeded for a time." It is possible that the Order demanded a return of Samogitia, as of all the lands taken by Poland through the "rights of war". The Thorn agreement states not without reason that the land of Samogitia is excepted ("excipitur"). What is it excepted from? From nothing else, of course, but from the lands of the Order. In other words, Samogitia belongs to the Order and is temporarily turned over to Vytautas and Jogaila only for the sake of the "eternal peace". Thus, even the Order compromised. Here the anger of Dlugosz is understandable, when he blames Vytautas for being able to tear away Samogitia from the Order, but leaving them all the lands requested by the Poles. He is even ready to call Vytautas a traitor and thus vindicate the Poles. Only by Vytautas' machinations was Jogaila drawn to his side and the Polish aristocracy placed in a position of having to keep silent even though they saw the great damage done to their country. In other words, to Dlugosz Vytautas is responsible for the inadequacy of the Peace of Thorn.
Dlugosz' History of Poland, a main source of information about the Battle of Tannenberg, is written with clear pro-Polish sentiments. He was interested in presenting the noble deeds of their people to the Polish aristocrats and in portraying the battle itself as a great merit of the Polish nation. To achieve this aim, he deprived the Lithuanians of the honor of victory by constructing their desertion. He does not deprive Vytautas of his greatness, but shows him as being more a Polish leader than a Lithuanian one, for he is said to have constantly moved among the Polish ranks. Nevertheless he blames this Lithuanian hero and forces upon him the burden for the inadequate Peace of Thorn, the Poles thus emerge free of any blame.
This partisan Dlugoszite view of the Battle of Tannenberg was accepted in historical literature and is widespread today both in Europe and in America. In the recently published (1959) work Modern Germany by Hojo Holburn, on page 10, we read: "The Teutonic Knights... succumbed to the Polish army in the battle of Tannenberg in 1410." Thus writes a German scholar, who completed his education in the universities of Germany and has been a professor in the United States since 1933. It must be noted that, from the very beginning, not merely Dlugosz but also other authors, held the opinion that the Battle of Tannenberg was an only encounter between the Poles and the Germans.73 This view entered the historiography of the West, for in the West the Poles were better known than the pagan Lithuanians, who lived squeezed — in between the Slavic nations of the East. This view was strengthened by the royal dignity with which the highest leadership of war was irrevocably identified. Thus in the eyes of the West the allied army was headed by the Polish King.
The progress of later events, in which the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and later the Lithuanian nation drowned in the Slavic world and in which finally the Lithuanian country was called "iskoni ruskij kraj", erased the name of Lithuania from the participators of the Tannenberg battle. Now that battle is considered to have been an encounter between two worlds: the Germanic and the Slavic. This idea became very clear in 1914 when the Germans demolished the Russians in East Prussia. By suggestion of the victor, General Ludendorf, this battle was called by the name of Tannenberg, although it did not take place near the old site. This great German soldier (a true Vytautas of the second Tannenberg), of course, had the event of 1410 in mind when he chose the name for his triumph. He thought of himself as avenging the Slavs for the great blow they had dealt to his forefathers 500 years before.
But Lithuania arose from the Slavic and Germanic world and even had decided to live free. Thus she has her place in East Europe and it is proper to acknowledge the historical role she has played. This time, when the fields of the "great and honorable" conquest belong to the heirs of the conquerors, seems to be an appropriate occasion to vividly reconstruct the scene of the battle and to remember its true participants. For the sake of historical truth, it would be reasonable to demand that the historical monument of the battle should emphasize Vytautas and even Jogaila, the nominal leader of the army. This monument would attest to the truth that even though through historical circumstances it became known as a Polish victory, the Battle of Tannenberg was won by the Lithuanian heirs of Gediminas.