Hunger War

Hunger War
Part of the Polish–Teutonic Wars
DateSummer 1414
LocationState of the Teutonic Order
Result Mediation at the Council of Constance
Kingdom of Poland
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Teutonic Order and mercenaries
Commanders and leaders
Jogaila (Władysław Jagiełło), Vytautas Michael Küchmeister von Sternberg

The Hunger War[1] or Famine War[2] was a brief conflict between the allied Kingdom of Poland, and Grand Duchy of Lithuania, against the Teutonic Knights in summer 1414 in an attempt to resolve territorial disputes. The war earned its name from destructive scorched earth tactics followed by both sides. While the conflict ended without any major political results, famine and plague swept through Prussia. According to Johann von Posilge, 86 knights of the Teutonic Order died from plague following the war.[3] In comparison, about 400 knights perished in the Battle of Grunwald of 1410, one of the biggest battles in medieval Europe.[1]


After the Polish–Lithuanian–Teutonic War of 1410–1411 not all issues between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Teutonic Knights were settled. The most contentious matter was the border between Samogitia and Prussia. Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas the Great demanded the entire right bank of the Neman River including the town of Memel (Klaipėda). The Knights demanded that after deaths of Vytautas and Jogaila, King of Poland, Samogitia would pass to them.[4] Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, agreed to mediate the dispute and appointed Benedict Makrai to hear the arguments. On 3 May 1413, Benedict made the decision and recognized the right bank of the Neman River, including Klaipėda, to Lithuania.[4] The Knights refused to accept this decision and Teutonic Grand Master Heinrich von Plauen ordered Teutonic armies into northern Poland. The army, commanded by Michael Küchmeister von Sternberg, returned into Prussia after just 16 days of campaign.[5] The knights did not believe that the Order, still recovering from the defeat in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, was ready for another war with Poland.[1] Küchmeister deposed von Plauen and became the Grand Master. He attempted to reopen the negotiations with Poland in May 1414.[6] As King Jogaila demanded to reinstate von Plauen and refused any attempts at a compromise, the talks broke down.[7]

The war

Armies of King Jogaila and Grand Duke Vytautas invaded Prussia ruled by the monastic state in summer of 1414. They traveled through Osterode (Ostróda) into Warmia, plundering villages and burning the crops.[8] The Teutonic Knights chose to concentrate their defensive efforts in Culmerland (Chełmno Land). The Knights remained in their castles and refused an open battle as they realized Polish and Lithuanian superiority in a pitched battle.[9] Küchmeister followed scorched earth tactics hoping to deprive invading armies of food and supplies. This tactics later resulted in a famine and plague in the region.[9] The invaders were not able or willing to seek a decisive military victory by lengthy sieges of Teutonic castles. Papal legate William of Lausanne proposed resolving the conflict through diplomacy and a two-year truce was signed in Strasburg (now Brodnica) in October.[10] Jogaila and Vytautas agreed to present their case to the Council of Constance.[4] However, the territorial disputes were not resolved until the Treaty of Melno in 1422.


  1. 1 2 3 Christiansen, Eric (1997). The Northern Crusades (2nd ed.). Penguin Books. pp. 228, 230–231. ISBN 0-14-026653-4.
  2. Mickūnaitė, Giedrė (2006). Making a great ruler: Grand Duke Vytautas of Lithuania. Central European University Press. p. 35. ISBN 978-963-7326-58-5.
  3. Urban, William (2003). Tannenberg and After. Chicago: Lithuanian Research and Studies Center. p. 204. ISBN 0-929700-25-2.
  4. 1 2 3 Kiaupa, Zigmantas; Jūratė Kiaupienė; Albinas Kunevičius (2000) [1995]. The History of Lithuania Before 1795 (English ed.). Vilnius: Lithuanian Institute of History. pp. 142–143. ISBN 9986-810-13-2.
  5. Urban, William. Tannenberg and After. pp. 195–196
  6. Ivinskis, Zenonas (1978). Lietuvos istorija iki Vytauto Didžiojo mirties (in Lithuanian). Rome: Lietuvių katalikų mokslo akademija. p. 348.
  7. Urban, William. Tannenberg and After. p. 200
  8. Urban, William. Tannenberg and After. pp. 201–202
  9. 1 2 Urban, William. Tannenberg and After. p. 202
  10. Urban, William. Tannenberg and After. p. 205
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