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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

XVI: The German Crusade on the Baltic,   pp. 545-585 PDF (16.2 MB)

Page 581

gesellschaft, 1397) was an internal one. It was organized among the nobility
of Kulmerland by George of Wirsberg, the commander of Rheden, and Nicholas
of Renys, to defend the local privileges of the region against the order's
encroachments. From the beginning it was friendly to Poland. It envied the
independence of the Polish nobility with respect to both taxation and justice.
These events obliged the order to prepare for war by forming alliances with
west Pomeranian and east German princes able to furnish the aid of mercenary
troops. In a war against Christians, the order could not expect sufficient
crusading aid from the west. The acquisition of Samogitia from the new grand
duke of Poland, Vitold, in 1398 and of the Neumark in 1402 helped to bring
on the war. The abandonment of Gotland (taken in 1398 from the Mecklenburg
pirates) to Sweden in 1407 meant a conservation of resources for the oncoming
struggle. A revolt in Samogitia helped to precipitate it. When it came (1409),
bringing a motley army of Poles, Lithuanians, Samogitians, Czechs, Russians,
Galicians, Mongols, and Cossacks down the right bank of the Vistula, it was
more than the order could withstand. 
 The main battle came near Tannenberg, at Grunwald, on July 15, 1410. What
promised to be a brilliant German victory turned out to be a disastrous defeat,
what Treitschke calls "the first signal victory gained by the Slays over
our nation." In the course of the battle the contingent from Kulmerland under
Nicholas of Renys deserted, and when it was over, the grand master Ulrich
of Jungingen, the chief officials of the order, many of the commanders, and
some two hundred of the order's eight hundred knights lay dead on the field.
From Tannenberg the troops of Vladislav and Vitold swept on to Marienburg,
hoping to engulf the order in total disaster. Yet an eight weeks' siege of
the order's chief fortress could not break the defense of the commander and
future grand master Henry of Plauen. The Polish army withdrew, permitting
the order to retake most of the territory and towns originally lost. The
treaty which ended the war (the first treaty of Thorn, February 1, 1411)
was thus, on the face of it, not disastrous for the order, though it lost
Samogitia and Sudavia to Lithuania for the lifetimes of Vladislav and Vitold,
while the Dobrzyn area and a large war indemnity went to Poland. Those Prussian
towns which had sought to make separate peaces with the enemy were harshly
treated. The burgomasters of Thorn and Danzig, together with Nicholas of
Renys, were beheaded. 
 Tannenberg was, however, much more serious for the order than the first
treaty of Thorn reveals. It obliged all classes in Prussia—the nobility,
the bourgeoisie, and the Prussian and German peasantry—to 

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