Battle of Żarnów

Battle of Żarnów
Part of Second Northern War / The Deluge

The battle, painted by Erik Dahlberh
Date16 September 1655
Result Sweden Swedish victory
Sweden Swedish Empire Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Commanders and leaders
Charles X Gustav
Arvid Wittenberg
John II Casimir
Stanisław Lanckoroński
Aleksander Koniecpolski
6,000 cavalry
4,500 infantry
400 dragoons
40 artillery pieces
6,000 cavalry
900-1,500 dragoons and reiters
3,000-4,000 levée en masse
6 artillery pieces
Casualties and losses
very few 1,000 killed

The Battle of Żarnów was fought on September 16, 1655 between forces of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth commanded by John II Casimir and forces of the Swedish Empire commanded by Charles X Gustav. The result was a Swedish victory.


Swedish army captured Warsaw in late July 1655, after the Polish capital had been abandoned by king John II Casimir. Soon afterwards, the Swedes began chasing Polish troops, which retreated southwards. On September 9, near Inowłódz, a unit under Stefan Czarniecki attacked Swedish rear guard of 500, commanded by George Forgell. Poles managed to kill some 200 Swedes, but this did not halt the advance of the invaders.

Swedish army continued its march southwards, capturing and burning the towns of Inowłódz, Drzewica and Odrzywół. On September 12, the siege of Opoczno began. The town, lacking modern fortifications, quickly capitulated, and was almost completely destroyed, with only 20 houses left intact. Similar fate awaited other local towns - in Drzewica, only 21 houses remained, while in Odrzywół - only 22. Local residents were shaken by the barbarity of the Swedish invaders, as northwestern corner of Lesser Poland had not experienced such vast destruction since the 13th century Mongol invasion of Poland.

In early September 1655, Polish forces loyal to John II Casimir concentrated near Wolborz. Charles Gustav decided to confront them, leaving Warsaw on September 12. Polish units in Wolborz consisted mostly of nobility Levée en masse from Mazovia and northern Lesser Poland, which was no match for experienced Swedish mercenaries. Since the morale among the Poles was low, John Casimir planned to withdraw towards Kraków. The nobility disagreed with this plan, demanding to fight the invaders near its homes.

On September 15, the Royal Crown army and Levée en masse units, altogether numbering some 11,000, reached Żarnów, where Polish king decided to personally face Charles Gustav. Swedish army was of similar strength, but with more infantry and 40 artillery pieces, versus 6 Polish cannons.

The Battle

After an attack of Polish cavalry, which was fought off by the Swedes, Charles Gustav ordered the infantry to move forward, with support of the Swedish artillery. The Swedes advanced, capturing a hill, which served as a Polish defensive position. The Poles tried to prevent this, but facing Swedish fire superiority, they had to withdraw. Soon afterwards, Swedish cavalry entered the fray, but the battle was terminated due to heavy rain, which prevented Polish army from complete destruction. Retreating Polish units were chased by the Swedes, who captured best soldiers, forcing them to serve in the Swedish army. The nobility of Levée en masse abandoned the battlefield, and returned to their homes.


Swedish victory opened the road to the province of Lesser Poland. Altogether, the Poles lost some 1,000 men. Those units that evaded capture, marched towards Włoszczowa and Kraków, commanded by Stefan Czarniecki and King John II Casimir. The king himself, broken and defeated, reached Kraków on September 19. At first, John Casimir planned to stay in the ancient Polish capital, to defend it at all costs, but changed his mind and left the city, leaving it under command of Czarniecki. A few days later the Polish monarch crossed the Polish-Silesian border.

One of the hills located in Żarnów is still called Szwedzka Góra (Swedish Mountain), as, according to a legend, King John II Casimir watched the 1655 battle from this hill. The town of Żarnów itself was burned to the ground by the Swedes to such an extent that 21 years after the battle, the population of Żarnów was only 120, while before the battle, it reached 1,000. Northwestern corner of historic Lesser Poland, which had until then been prosperous, was turned into a desert, and with other towns in the region, such as Opoczno, Inowłódz, Drzewica and Odrzywół, Żarnów never fully recovered: "It is not an exaggeration to claim that the cataclysm of the Swedish Deluge can be compared with the barbarity of the Nazis in the Second World War", wrote local historian Krzysztof Nawrocki.

Swedish units

1. Fab. Berns Dragoon
2. Drottningens Reiter
3. Fältm. Wittenbergs Reiter
4. Wirtz Infantry
5. Fersen Infantry
6. Fältm. Wittenbergs Reiter
7. Liv Reiter
8. Königsmarcks Reiter
9. Västerbottens regemente Infantry (Cappelen)
10. Närke Infantry (Essen)
11. Hälsinge regemente Infantry (Karl Spare)
12. Königsmarcks Reiter
13. Lantgr. Fr. av Hessen Reiter
14. Upplands Reiter
15. Hälsinge regemente Infantry (Karl Spare)
16. Smalands Infantry (Irwing)
17. Upplands Reiter
18. Fab. Berns Dragoon
19. Smalands Reiter
20. Smalands Infantry (Irwing)
21. Smalands Reiter
22. Sinclers Reiter
23. Ridderhielms Reiter
24. Västmanlands regemente Infantry (Drakenberg)
25. Böddeker Reiter
26. Västöga Infantry (Scheiding)
27. Pretlach Reiter
28. Gr. Pontus De la Gardie Reiter
29. Yxkull Reiter
30. Agermanland Infantry
31. Engels Reiter
32. Taubes Reiter

Total: 6000 cavalry
4,500 infantry
400 dragoon
40 artillery pieces

Polish Crown units

6,000 cavalry (Wojsko komputowe)
900-1,500 dragoons and reiters
3,000-4,000 pospolite ruszenie (Levée en masse) from the voivodeships of:
Łęczyca, Kuyavia, Sieradz and Masovia
6 artillery pieces


External links

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