Battle of the Vorskla River

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Vorskla River
partof=the Mongol invasions


date=August 12, 1399
place=Vorskla River (near Dnieper)
result=Decisive Tatar victory
combatant1=Golden Horde
combatant2=Lithuania, Poland, Moldavia
Tokhtamysh forces
commander1=Edigu,
Temur QutlughKIA
commander2=Grand Duke Vytautas,
Tokhtamysh
strength1=~20 000
strength2=~75 000, 500 of them - Teutonic knights
casualties1=Unknown
casualties2=Unknown (Reportedly very heavy) (11 Teutonic Knights including Hanus and Thomas Surville)

The Battle of the Vorskla River was a great battle in the medieval history of Eastern Europe. It was fought on August 12, 1399 between the Tatars under Edigu and Temur Qutlugh and the armies of Grand Duke Vytautas of the Lithuania and Tokhtamysh.

Build Up

In the later part of the 14th century, Grand Duke Vytautas and Dmitri Donskoi of Moscow started a rivalry for the fertile southern lands of modern day Ukraine, controlled (if only nominally) by the Blue Horde. As the Tatar power was on the wane, Dmitriy soundly defeated the Horde Battle of Kulikovo (1380), only to be besieged in Moscow and defeated in 1382 by the new Khan Tokhtamysh, who had taken over the Blue Horde with Tamerlane's backing (Forming the Golden Horde).

It seemed that the power of the Golden Horde had begun to rise, but in 1389, Tokhtamysh made the disastrous decision of waging war on his former master, the great Tamerlane. Tamerlane's hordes rampaged through modern-day southern Russia, crippling the Golden Horde's economy and practically wiping out its defenses in those lands.

After losing the war, Tokhtamysh was then dethroned by the party of Khan Temur Qutlugh and Emir Edigu, supported by Tamerlane. When Tokhtamysh asked Vytautas for assistance in retaking the Horde, the latter readily gathered a huge army which included Lithuanians, Tatars , Ruthenians, Russians, Poles, Moldavians, Wallachians, and Teutonic knights.

In 1398, the army of Vytautas moved from the Dnieper River and attacked northern Crimea, building a castle there and raided east as far as the River Don [Itinerarium Witolda, 85.] . Inspired by their great successes, Vytautas declared a 'Crusade against the Tatars' with Papal backing. Thus in 1399, the army of Vytautas once again moved on the horde. On August 12, his army met the Tatars at the Vorskla River.

The Battle

Once the two armies met, Temur Kutlugh proposed a three-day ceasefire; ostensibly to allow both sides to prepare their forces; however, in this time, Tartar reinforcements arrived. When the battle finally started, it had been Vytautas' plan to build a great wagon-fort, to stop charging horsemen, and then to destroy them with the Teutonic Order's cannons. However, Temur Kutlugh feigned retreat (A tried and tested Tatar tactic) and Vytautas left his wagon fort to pursue him.

Unfortuantely for Vytautas, once he was suitably far enough away from his wagon fort, the units of Edigu appeared from behind him and, with those of Temur Kutlugh, surrounded the Lithuanian army. At this point, however, Tokhtamysh decided the battle was fruitless and fled the battle with his men. The Tartars then used their own artillery to destroy the Lithuanian cavalry whilst simultaneously capturing the Lithuanians' wagon fort [Posilge, 230; Dugosz, XII, 526-529; Rhode, Die Ostgrenze Polens, I, 357-359; Russia and the Mongol Yoke, 111-112; Prawdin, The Mongol Empire, 472-473; as Jasienica noted, Jagiellonian Poland, 80, "Not all daring plans do credit to their authors.".] .

Aftermath

Vytautas was barely able to escape alive, many princes of his kin, possibly up to 20 , were killed (as for example, Ştefan Muşat, Prince of Moldavia and two of his brothers, while a fourth was badly injured Fact|date=February 2007 and a number of Vytautas' first cousins including Demetrius I Starszy, Grand Prince of Bryansk), and the victorious Tatars besieged Kiev. "And the Christian blood had flown like a water, up to the Kievan walls", as one chronicler put it. The tatars pillaged as far west as Lutsk, in pursuit of Tokhtamysh.

Vytautas' defeat at the Vorskla effectively blocked Lithuanian expansion to Southern Ruthenia. His enormous state also lost hard-won access to the Black Sea as the Tatars reconquered the southern steppe all the way to Moldavia [Posilge, 216, 222] ; land that was not reclaimed until the Crimean Khanate broke away from the Golden Horde some forty-two years later. Also, immediately after the battle, Smolensk revolted from Lithuania and was not recaptured for five years.

Temur-Kutlugh, however, died during the battle and Tokhtamysh spent the next seven or eight years in hiding, before being assassinated in 1407 or 1408.

Vytautas was forced to abandon his plans to separate the Grand Duchy from Kingdom of Poland and to ally himself once again to his cousin, Jogaila in the Union of Vilnius and Radom. He also turned his plans from expansion from eastwards to westwards (against the Teutonic Knights).

References

External links

* [http://books.google.com/books?id=FPxhOu_n1VYC&pg=PA655&dq=Vytautas+1392&as_brr=3&ei=8rVER7azGJbA7AK_4sD7Bg&sig=ZN6KdLm8l5u8RY9Xjro8Ou8yaxM]
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=HMylRh-wHWEC&pg=PA44&dq=Vytautas+1392&as_brr=3&ei=5LRER8btCYGc6wK1zfTxBg&sig=R6MSuBuiIwDksRBzHna7-yNltCw#PPA45,M1]
* [http://books.google.com/books?id=LFgB_l4SdHAC&pg=PA10&dq=Vytautas+1392&as_brr=3&ei=5LRER8btCYGc6wK1zfTxBg&sig=VnMEUSy3UKvY7mW00UBj8kcmJEU]


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