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Czarniecki Stefan
(1599Ч1665)

Czarniecki Stefan (1599Ч1665)

Stefan Czarniecki or Stefan Łodzia de Czarnca Czarniecki was Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth general and nobleman. Field Hetman of the Crown of the Polish Kingdom. He was a military commander, regarded as a Polish national hero. His status in Polish history is acknowledged by a mention of his name in the Polish national anthem.

Stefan Czarniecki was born in 1599 in the family estate of Czarnca by Włoszczowa in southern Poland in an impoverished szlachta (nobility) family.

He learned the art of war serving with the Lisowczycy mercenaries in 1610s. Already an officer at the age of eighteen, he took part in the battle of Chocim (Khotyn) in 1621, where the Commonwealth army stopped the Ottomans and ended the Polish-Ottoman War (1620Ц1621).

Later he served under hetman Stanisław Koniecpolski in the campaigns against the Tatars in 1624 (battle of Martynów), and later against Gustavus Adolphus (1626Ц1629) (part of the Polish-Swedish War), and under Władysław IV in the Smolensk War against Muscovy in 1632Ц1634. In 1637 he fought against the rebellious Cossacks under Pavel Mikhnovych (battle of Kumejki). In 1644 under Koniecpolski he took part in the battle of Ochmatów where Commonwealth forces dealt a crushing defeat to Toğay bey's (Tuhaj Bej) Tatars.

On the May 16, 1648 he was one of the many noble Polish prisoners who fell into the hands of Bohdan Khmelnytsky at the battle of Zhovti Vody and was sent in chains to the Crimea, whence he was ransomed in 1649. He took an active part in the battles against the Cossacks in the Khmelnytsky Uprising. He fought at the Battle of Berestechko of 1651 as well as at the Battle of Batoh (1652). During the latter he narrowly escaped death, after Commonwealth forces were defeated. Reportedly hidden in a haystack, he witnessed the massacre of several thousand Poles at the hands of the Cossacks; this experience led him to believe that no compromise was possible with enemies of the Commonwealth.

When Charles X of Sweden invaded Poland in 1655, Czarniecki distinguished himself by his defence of Kraków. He led guerrilla warfare against Swedish troops of Charles X, and his guerilla-type warfare proved to be a very effective measure against the huge firepower and extreme mobility of the Swedish forces. Czarniecki inflicted serious defeats upon the Swedes, notably at Jarosław and at Kozienice in 1656, but he was also soundly defeated the same year against a much smaller Swedish force at Chojnice. Under his direction the popular rising against the Swedish troops ultimately proved successful. Czarniecki brought King John II Casimir of Poland back from exile and enabled him to regain his lost kingdom. It was against his advice that the Battle of Warsaw was fought, and his subsequent strategy neutralized the ill effects of this defeat.

On the retirement of the Swedes from Kraków and Warsaw, and the conclusion of the treaty of Copenhagen with the Danes, he commanded the army corps sent to drive the troops of Charles X out of Jutland and contributed to the ultimate success of the Allies. On the conclusion of the Peace of Oliwa, which adjusted the long outstanding differences between Poland and Sweden, Czarniecki was transferred to the eastern frontier where the war with Russia was still raging. In the campaign of 1660 he won the victories of Połonka and Lachowicza.

In 1661, Polish Parliament (Sejm) publicly thanked him for his services; the King John II Casimir heaped honours and riches upon him, and in 1665 he was appointed Field Hetman of the Crown (of Poland), but died on 16 February 1665, six weeks after receiving this supreme distinction.

Czarniecki is regarded as one of the most famous of Poland's captains, and to him belongs the chief merit of extricating her from the difficulties which threatened to overwhelm her during the reign of John Casimir.

He is interred in the tomb chapel of the church founded by him in Czarnca.


Poland, 1995, Czarniecki returning from Denmark

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