Hussite Battles and significant events

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December 1419, Battle of Nekmer

        Zizka while besieging Nekmer with some 400 Hussites is attacked by a relief column of some 2000 Royalist cavalry. 7 of Zizka's wagons mounted artillery pieces and were able to inflict heavy casualties on the Royalist troops, allowing the Hussites to retreat.


25 March 1420, Battle of Sudomer

        Zizka and some 12 wagons and 400 infantry are attacked while under a flag of truce by 2000 (other sources say 2500) Royalist cavalry. The Hussites adopted a defensive position, one flank resting on a Pond and the other protected by the wagons. The Royalist dismounted and launched a series of assaults on the Hussite position. Casualties were heavy on both sides but the Royalists eventually withdrew allowing Zizka to escape. At least 3 of his wagons were damaged in the fight.


1 November 1420, Battle of Vysehrad

       A Utraquist and Praguer army with a small Taborite contingent besiege the fortress of Vysehrad, near Prague. The overall Hussite commander is Hynek Krusina.They numbered some 12,000 men. 18,000 Royalists under the Emperor Sigismund attempt to relieve the fortress. The desertion of 1,500 men from the City of Kutna Hora to the Hussites caused much confusion amongst the Royalists causing their initial assaults to fail. Royalist casualties were under 1,000 men but many were captured in the subsequent retreat. Sigismund in a fit of pique during the battle ordered the Moravian contingent to attack the Hussites strongest point because their leader had attempted to dissuade the Emperor from a frontal assault. As a result the Moravians bore the brunt of the casualties. The fortress surrendered after the retreat of the Royalists and the Hussites dismantled its defences.


5 August 1421, Meissen

A Hussite raiding party near the town of Meissen is defeated by the town militia and local Catholic Knights. I have no other details on this and so far I have only seen it mentioned in one Roman Catholic source.


21 December 1421, battle of Kutna Hora (Kuttenburg)

        Control of Kutna Hora was important to both sides as it occupied a strategic location in Eastern Bohemia and controlled the flow of silver from the local mines. It was also a major mint. 12,000 Hussites under Zizka mass at Kutna Hora to defend it from the Emperor. The Hussites dug in their wagons to form a fortified square with the rearward side being protected by the walls of the town.

        The Royalist forces probably numbered in the region of 50,000 men, although some sources claim 100,000. The Royalists forces were mostly German and Hungarians troops. The Hungarian contingent numbered some 15,000 men under an Italian mercenary, Filippo Scolari. It is probable, given their role in this and other battles, to have been a mostly a mix of light cavalry and Knights.

       The Royalists began the battle by surrounding the 3 wagon sides of the square. The Hungarian detachment was then employed to skirmish in front of the wagon laager. This continued until dusk, the Hungarians only ever approached to just within Hussite Gun range before falling back. A pro Hussite source records that the Hungarians suffered heavy casualties, despite the long range, other sources are silent as to the effectiveness of the Hussite fire. The surprising lack of action on the part of the Royalists was because Sigismund was awaiting an opportunity to take advantage of a pro-Royalist conspiracy within the town itself. At dusk a detachment of Hungarian cavalry sped around the Wagon Laager to the furthest gate of Kutna Hora gave a pre-arranged signal and were let into the town by the, now royalist, City militia. There followed a massacre of Hussite supporters by the general populace, all the gates to the city having been secured by the Royalist Militia which prevented Zizka from interfering. With nightfall the Hussites were in a very difficult situation, they were now completely surrounded by Royalist forces.

       At Dawn the following day Zizka used his wagon mounted guns to led his columns through Royalist lines and make good their escape. The ease with which Zizka broke through the cordon is surprising. However the timing of the assault may have caught many of the Royalist troops disorganised and it is implied that the break through was achieved near Sigismund's personal camp, so may have disrupted the chain of command. It is also probable given the size of the Royalist army that their camps were spread over a significant area and so were unable to respond quickly enough to the attack. Sigismund did not pursue the retreating Hussites, instead he secured Kutna Hora and dispersed his troops to Winter quarters, fully expecting the Hussites to do likewise.


January 1422

       Zizka spends the two weeks after his escape from Kutna Nora raising additional forces. He then launched a series of attacks on the dispersed Royalist army.


6 January 1422, battle of Nebovidy

       Zizka surprises several thousand Hungarian troops at the village of Nebovidy. Despite initial resistance the Hungarians are unable to form an effective battle line and are routed suffering heavy casualties.


8 January 1422, battle of Habry

       Sigismund gathers together a large force from his scattered army and is joined by Filippo Scolari and most of the Hungarian contingent. They decide to make a stand on high ground outside the town of Habry. It appears that the Hungarians were again employed to skirmish in front of the army but were quickly routed by the Hussites. Their flight either caused a general rout or disordered the Royalists main line allowing the Hussites to break them quickly. Estimates of casualties range from 2000 to 12000 men, given the speed of the collapse it is probable that the Royalist infantry suffered the most.


10 January 1422, Nemecky Brod (Deutstschbrod)

       The Hussites besiege a mix of Royalist Crusaders, numbering some 2,000 men. The town is quickly taken and sacked. A Royalist arsenal and supply train , numbering some 500 wagons, is captured.


April 1423, battle of Horice

       Royalist Bohemian troops under Cenek of Wartenberg are defeated by Zizka leading a Orebite Hussite army. Zizka's troops numbered some 3,000 men and 120 wagons. The Royalist troops apparently outnumbered them substantially but were mainly Noble cavalry with some Cannon and war wagons. Zizka deployed on high ground where the cavalry were unable to be used and the Royalist artillery were unable to fire effectively, see Hussite tactics . The Hussites held the position against repeated dismounted cavalry attacks until Zizka deemed the time right for a counter attack. This swept the Royalists from the field.


May 1423 to 7 June 1424

        Minor skirmishes occur between the various Hussite parties culminating in the Battle of Malesov


7 June 1424, battle of Malesov

       Zizka and a force of Orebites, possibly feigning retreat, lures a Praguer army to the ideal Hussite battleground. Zizka deploys his forces on high ground overlooking the road the Praguers were marching down. In the centre of the line were a number of Ballast Wagons (see warwagon section). Either side of the ballast wagons were his warwagons numbering some 300, not in a defensive laager but rather lined up ready to move forward. On both flanks were the cavalry detachments, totalling around 500 men. The infantry (7,000 or so) were deployed with the wagons. The Prague army outnumbered the Orebites but no composition or totals are available (that I have found so far!). Zizka waited until half the Praguer army had deployed and were advancing then had his infantry push the ballast wagons down the hill into the enemy centre, these were 'assisted' by fire from the Orebite Cannons. This severely disorganising the Praguers. A general charge by the rest of the Orebites routed the Praguer army inflicted some 1200 casualties for a loss of some 200 men. There is an alternative deployment for this battle where the Orebite cavalry are either side of the Ballast wagons and it is they who charge into the chaos caused by the wagons impact on the Praguer centre.


June to October 1424

       Differences resolved, Utraquist, Orebite and Polish forces combine to campaign in Moravia. Campaign abandoned on the sudden death of Zizka.


1425

       The death of Zizka deprived the Hussites of one of their most charismatic leaders and there followed a period of reorganisation/realignment. The Taborites elect Andrew Prokop ('the great' or 'the shaven' or 'the bald' or 'the tonsured') as their principle leader. The Orebites elect Prokop 'the lesser' as their leader and start calling themselves 'the orphans'.


Late 1425-26

        Hussite armies invades Silesia and Saxony. Pope declares a new Crusade, believing the death of the Hussites greatest General, Zizka, will bring about victory for the Catholic cause.


16 June 1426, battle of Ústí nad Labem (Aussig)

       A combined Taborite, Orebite and Utraquist forces under the overall command of Korybut and  numbering some 24,000 men and at least 500 warwagons besiege Ústí nad Labem. Prokop 'the Great' retained independent control of the Taborites and may have been elected commander for the battle, given that most sources credit him with the victory and as being the leader.

       The crusader relief force comprised mostly of Saxons and Silesians and was commanded by Boso of Vitzthum. Figures for the crusaders vary enormously ranging from between 70,000 to 100,000 men in a later protestant source to less than 20,000 men in a Catholic source. Given that this crusader force was a 'local' rather than Imperial one and was made up of troops from the surrounding lands I would suggest that the figure of 20,000 is more likely but may be on the conservative side. The Crusaders approached the city in three columns and were accompanied by 3,000 wagons and 180 pieces of artillery. Also given the supreme confidence of the crusaders, even when faced with the usual Hussite field fortifications I would suggest that the army outnumbered the Hussite forces.

       The Hussite forces drew up in a defensive wagon Laager on top of one of the hills near Ústí nad Labem. They may also at this point have erected a second line of large Pavises or mantlets behind the wagons but this may have occurred during the battle. According to a contemporary Hussite poem Prokop proposed that quarter should be given on both sides but was rebuffed by the crusaders who claimed it would be an affront to God to grant such to heretics.

       The battle began with an assault by the Crusader cavalry on the wagon fortress, they may have employed knights especially equipped with large battle axes as there is an account of them hewing through the retaining chains on the wagons and forcing entry into the square and being followed by the rest of the Knights. Having breached the square the Knights then over ran a second defensive line made up of pavises or mantlets. This was the high point of the Crusader assault.

       At this stage the Hussite cavalry left the square by flank exits and attacked the flanks of those Knights still trying to cut their way into the defences. The Knights in the square were subjected to a withering hail of artillery, crossbow and handgun fire. It is possible that the small cannons of the Hussites fired a form of canister into the ranks of the Knights. The first documented use of cannons being used to fire multiple small rounds, in this case stones, is from a Polish/lithuanian source of 1410 about a battle against the Teutonic Knights. It should also be noted that the Polish described their Czech mercenaries of the late 15 Century as firing handguns loaded with multiple shot, when the enemy was at point blank range.The Hussite infantry using their formidable flails and hooked halberds counter charged the knights pulling many off their horses. The crusaders broke and fled. The same Hussite poem mentioned above records, with some glee, the complete lack of quarter given to the German troops, recording that some 14 counts and barons were killed trying to surrender along with 50,000 common soldiers.

       The battle was brief and it is unlikely that the Crusaders suffered much more than 5,000 casualties, these would have been mostly confined to the Noble cavalry that had made up the van and had the unfortunate distinction of breaking into the square. The crusaders did however suffer further losses when rallying elements of the army were cornered in several local villages and exterminated. This may explain why 15,000 men is the usual figure quoted for crusader casualties.


12 March 1427

       Hussite forces defeated at Zwettel by Albert of Austria.No details


16 February 1427

       Pope Martin V preaches a fourth crusade, placing the Englishman Henry Beaufort, brother of Henry IV and son of John of Gaunt, Bishop of Winchester at its head.


4 August 1427, Battle of Meiss

       Henry Beaufort gathered together a considerable Crusader army, including three Electors of the Holy Roman Empire and their forces. They marched on the city of Meiss with the intend of besieging it. The army apparently looted its way through the surrounding lands, causing many previously pro-Catholic Nobles to ally themselves with the Utraquists. A combined Taborite and Utraquist army marched on the Crusading army massing at Meiss, The armies were either side of the river near the city. The Crusaders however broke and fled before the Hussite advance, apparently without a shot being fired. It appears that the Crusaders had been planning to form a wagenberg made up of Hussite style wagons and crewed by specifically trained infantrymen. Unfortunately on the morning of the battle the crusader wagon crews preferred flight and retreated leaving the remaining part of the army severely outnumbered, they also quickly fled. The Crusaders suffered heavily in the retreat/rout particularly as the countryside that they had previously pillaged rose up around them. The Pope went as far as to send Henry Beaufort a letter of condolence (Oct 2 1427) suggesting a second attempt. Henry however decided he would not participate and returned to England, a Cardinal for his efforts.

This also appears in the sources as The battle of Tachau.


1428-31

        Prokop 'the Great' initiates a diplomatic and military offensive against his enemies. Between 1428 and 1430 invasions of Hungary, Silesia, Lusatia, Meissen and Saxony are carried out. The invasion of Saxony in 1428 reached as far as the city of Naumburg. This was besieged but a procession of children, dressed in white, into the Hussite camp, saw the Hussites break off their siege and send the children back to the city laden with ripe cherries, the massive ransom paid over to the Hussites may also have influenced their decision! This event is remembered every year in Naumburg as the Cherry festival.

       1429 Prokop 'the Great' convinced a general assembly of the Hussite leadership to open negotiations with the Emperor. This rapidly failed as the Emperor insisted upon complete return to the Catholic faith. As a direct consequence Prokop mustered 5 armies, made up of Taborites, Orebites, Praguers and Utraquists, numbering in the region of 40,000 men, 5,000 cavalry and 3,000 warwagons. These invaded Saxony and Lusatia in five columns, each a mile or so from the other. Frederick I of Saxony mustered an army to counter the invasion. Frederick deployed his forces around the cities of Leipzig and Belgern hoping the Hussites would become bogged down in a siege of Pirna or Dresden. The Saxon army included a sizeable contingent of Clerical forces supplied by the likes of the Archbishop of Meissen but Frederick was still forced to hire large numbers of mercenary troops.

       The Hussites though appear to have been aware of the Saxon army and carried out a loot and burn policy, bypassing any city or town that offered serious resistance. They did extort large sums of money from several such cities. The Hussites followed the line of the Elbe river as far as Magdeberg then proceeded South west. This unexpected change in direction and a serious cashflow crisis forced Frederick to disband most of his army. The most serious resistance faced by the Hussites was when crossing the Mulde river (near Grimme). A contingent of cavalry under the Bailiff of Lower Lusatia arrived as the Hussite column was crossing. The Hussite vanguard, under Jan Zmrzlik, was able to drive off the cavalry allowing the rest of the Hussite force to cross. The Hussites did  lose several wagons that were swept away in the river.

By January 1430 the Hussites had taken the city of Plavno and had invaded Franconia, taking the cities of Hof, Bayreuth and Kulmback in simultaneous sieges. The Hussite armies returned to Bohemia with a vast amount of loot, having cut a path of destruction through much of Western Germany, and exhorted money from such cities as Bamberg and Naumburg and nobles  such as the Elector of Brandenburg.

An evaluation of these forays into Germany can be found in F. M. Bartos, The Hussite Revolution, 1424-1437.


January to March 1431

       The scale of the destruction in Germany led the Pope and the Emperor to convene the Imperial diet at Nuremberg. The death of Pope Martin V in February led to a delay until March when his successor Eugenius IV was able to appoint a Legate to the Diet, one Cardinal Julian Cesarini. Cardinal Cesarini would later die in another Crusade, that of Varna 1444. The Cardinal proclaimed a new crusade at the Diet. The Cardinal offered spiritual inducements, including absolution of crimes should the person join the Crusade. The murder of Priests and the destruction of church property were specifically included! The Cardinal also appealed to the mercenary nature of his audience by reminding them of the looted wealth to be found in Hussite hands. The Cardinal's words seemed to have the desired effect. As many rallied to the cause.


August 1431

       The Crusader army advanced into Bohemia, allegedly numbering some 90,000 infantry and 40,000 cavalry. The force was led by Frederick I, Elector of Brandenberg and included his State army as well as Frederick I of Saxony and his troops. The army marched to the city of Tachov where it rested for a week. There news reached them that the Hussite factions had quarrelled and were retreating separately, this information being judiciously spread on Prokop 'the Great's' orders. The Crusaders split into three columns and advanced further into Hussite territory. Near the town of Domazlice (Taus) the Hussite armies advance towards the Crusader army.


14 August 1431 battle of Domazlice (Taus)

       The Crusaders having realised the trap combined their forces. The Hussites advance in three distinct groups, possibly with the intention of encircling the crusaders. Frederick of Brandenberg ordered his baggage train to the rear. Frederick of Saxony and the Cardinal apparently interpreted this as a precursor to flight. Certainly others of the army felt the same and this combined with the sound of the advancing Hussite warwagons caused the army to break up in rout. Cardinal Cesarini and his personal bodyguard managed to rally part of the army but were overrun while attempting to construct a wagenberg. The Cardinal managed to escape but at the expense of his troops. The Hussites captured the Crusader baggage, artillery train and most of their warwagons. The baggage included the army treasury. The distance that the Crusaders had penetrated into Bohemia again resulted in their retreat being harassed by the local peasants. Many died as a result.


1432 to 1433

       The new Pope and the Emperor approach the Hussites with the desire for peace. The Hussites agree to send delegates to the General Council of the Church at Basle, they included Prokop 'the Great'. This like the previous attempt was fruitless but a deputation of the Council returned to Prague to continue talks. Upon his return to Bohemia Prokop 'the Great' resumed his offensives into the surrounding lands. Prokop 'the Lesser' and his Orebites began a siege of Pilsen. Negotiations between the Utraquist leaders and the Council representatives bring about an acceptable compromise. The catholic Church would recognise the 4 principal demands of the Hussites and the Emperor would legalise all property seized from the Church.

       January 1434 a National Diet voted to accept the proposals of the Basle Council. The Taborites and the Orebites refused to accept the agreement. Prokop the lesser breaks off the siege and moved the Orebite forces to join those of the Taborite.


29 May 1434, battle at Cesky Brod (Lipany)

The Taborite and Orebite armies moved their forces to the plains of Lipany, near Prague where a combined Utraquist and Catholic force (calling themselves the Bohemian League) faced them. The Taborites overall commander was Prokop 'the Great' with Capak of Sany commanding the cavalry. The Leaguer troops were commanded by Borok of Miletinek.

       The Taborites started in a defensive Tabor. The Leaguer troops opened the battle with a cannonade followed by an infantry assault. The attack faltered and the Leaguer infantry retreated, closely pursued by the Taborites. The withdrawal of the Leaguer infantry was, apparently, a deliberate ploy by Borok to draw the Taborites out of their defences. Borok then charged his heavy horse into the pursuing Taborites cutting through them and into the Tabor. At this stage the Taborite cavalry left the field as a group. It is possible that this was a deliberate betrayal by Capak, certainly the Taborite cavalry could have helped counter those of the Leaguers. Prokop, led a 'last stand' against the Leaguer troops but was eventually killed, along with many of his men. Casualties on the Taborite side are said to have been in excess of 12,000. As many as 1,000 Taborites were later locked in buildings and deliberately burned to death.

       This battle broke the back of Taborite resistance and Bohemia accepted Sigismund as their King and disarmed. The final battle at Cesky Brod fulfilled a comment of Sigismund after one of his numerous previous defeats "that the Bohemians could be overcome only by Bohemians." The role of the Hussites however continued as many of the their soldiers found employment amongst their previous enemies. In Particular the Hungarians who hired them in their thousands.

       There followed an uneasy peace which lasted until 1462 when the Catholic Church attempted to withdraw the Concordat of Basle, once again plunging Eastern Europe into a Hussite war.

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Copyright © 2002 Matthew Haywood

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