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Battle of Khotyn
Part of the Moldavian Magnate Wars and Polish-Ottoman War (1620–1621)
Jan Karol Chodkiewicz in Chocim 1621.jpg
Battle of Chocim, by Józef Brandt
Date2 September-9 October 1621
LocationNear Khotyn, Ukraine
Result Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth victory[1]
Chorągiew królewska króla Zygmunta III Wazy.svg Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Registered Cossacks
 Ottoman Empire
Gerae-tamga.svg Crimean Khanate
Commanders and leaders
Grand Hetman Jan Karol Chodkiewicz
Regimentarz Stanisław Lubomirski
Crown Prince Władysław Vasa
Hetman Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny
Ottoman Empire Sultan Osman II
Ottoman Empire Grand Vizier Ohrili Hüseyin Pasha
Gerae-tamga.svg Khan Temir
Gerae-tamga.svg Canibek Giray
25,000 Polish-Lithuanian troops and 20,000 Cossacks[2] or 50,000–60,000[3]
~half Polish-Lithuanian troops, half Cossack troops
120,000–150,000 Ottoman and Tatar, 13,000 Moldavian and Wallachian troops[3]
Casualties and losses
14,500[citation needed] 42,000[citation needed]

The Battle of Khotyn or Battle of Chocim (in Turkish: Hotin Muharebesi) was a battle, which took place between 2 September and 9 October 1621 between a Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth army and an invading Ottoman Imperial army. For a whole month (2 September – 9 October), the Commonwealth forces halted the Ottoman advance. The Commonwealth commanding officer, Grand Hetman of Lithuania Jan Karol Chodkiewicz, held the forces of Sultan Osman II at bay until the first autumn snows, and in the end died during the battle. On 9 October, due to the lateness of the season and having sustained heavy losses in several assaults on fortified Commonwealth lines, the Ottomans abandoned their siege and the battle ended in stalemate, reflected in a treaty that in some sections favored the Ottomans and in others favored the Commonwealth.


At the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century, the magnates of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth intervened in the affairs of Moldavia, which was—and had been since its conquest by Mehmed II in the 15th century—a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire. Additionally, the Ottomans were aggravated by the constant raids by Cossacks, then nominally subjects of the Commonwealth, across the border into Ottoman territories.

In the meantime, the Thirty Years' War was raging across Europe. The Commonwealth was relatively uninvolved in this war but the Polish King Sigismund III Vasa sent an elite and ruthless mercenary unit, the Lisowczycy, to aid his Habsburg allies. They defeated George Rákóczi of Transylvania at the Battle of Humenné in 1619, and Gabriel Bethlen, the reigning Prince of Transylvania, asked Sultan Osman II for aid. He agreed, and a large Ottoman army was gathered for a punitive invasion of the Commonwealth. On 20 September 1620 an Ottoman army under the command of the governor of Oczakov (Ozi) Iskender Pasha routed the Polish-Commonwealth army at the Battle of Cecora and sent Tatar raiders into southern Poland.[4] The campaign was suspended for the winter but, in 1621, both sides resumed hostilities.

In April 1621 an army of 120,000–150,000 soldiers[5] (sources vary), led by Osman II, advanced from Constantinople and Edirne towards the Polish frontier. The Turks, following their victory at the Battle of Cecora (1620), had high hopes of conquering Ukraine (then a part of Poland), and perhaps even toppling the Commonwealth entirely and reaching the Baltic Sea. Khan Temir of the Budjak Horde and the Khan of Crimea, Canibek Giray. Approximately 25% of the Ottoman forces were composed of contingents from their vassal states: Tatars, Moldavians and Wallachians, a total of about 13,000 troops. The Ottoman army had about 66 heavy guns.

In Poland, meantime, the Sejm, shaken by the previous year's defeat, agreed to raise taxes and fund a larger army, as well as to recruit a large number of Cossack allies. Polish commander Grand Lithuanian Hetman Jan Karol Chodkiewicz crossed the Dniester River in September 1621 with approximately 20,000 soldiers, joined by 10,000 more led by the future king of Poland, Prince Władysław Vasa. The Polish-Ukrainian-Lithuanian army numbered 30,000 (18,000 cavalry, 12,000 infantry) and their allied Cossack army was composed of 25,000–30,000 troops—mostly infantry—led by ataman Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny. The Commonwealth army had about 50 heavy guns.


Contemporary drawing of battle formations and defenses for the Battle of Chocim, 1621.

Khotyn Fortress, the centerpoint of the defense.

The Polish-Lithuanian army arrived near Khotyn around 20 August and started entrenching itself near the Khotyn Fortress, blocking the path of the Ottoman march. The army, following a common Commonwealth defense strategy when facing large Ottoman forces, employed deep defences by building separate field works in front of the camp's defences. These field works were designed to allow the use of cavalry counterattacks, especially crucial since the Commonwealth relied heavily on its elite Polish Hussars and Ukrainian Cossacks. A semicircle of field fortifications was created, with the fortress behind them, and with borders on the Dniester River. The circle was divided into three sections: right, commanded by Hetman Chodkiewicz; central, commanded by Prince Władysław; and left, under Regimentarz Lubomirski. In addition, two fortified camps were set in front of the main defence line: the Cossacks' and the mercenaries' (the famous Lisowczycy unit).

On 27 August a Ukrainian Cossack cavalry detachment carried out a suicidal raid, delaying the approaching Ottoman forces and inflicting casualties amounting to several times their number before being nearly annihilated. On 31 August Ottoman cavalry, in turn, struck at the Ukrainian Cossack forces outside camp, trying without success to scatter them and cut them off from the main Polish-Lithuanian forces. By 2 September the main Ottoman army had arrived, and the siege began.

On 2 September the Ottomans tried to breach the unfinished Cossack camp, but Ukrainian Cossacks—having received reinforcements from the Polish-Lithuanian army—held. On 3 September another Ottoman assault, directed at Lubomirski's flank of the main fortifications, was stopped. In the afternoon the big Ottoman forces attacked the Cossack camp. This started a very fierce fight but the Ottomans were repulsed and Cossacks rushed up behind them into the Ottoman camp from where they returned at dusk with the rich loot. The next day September the Ottomans again tried to overrun the Ukrainian Cossacks camp but again failed, and a Commonwealth counterattack managed to destroy several Ottoman guns in their positions. The experienced Commonwealth forces were able to withstand the Ottoman assaults because the Ottoman forces contained too much cavalry and too many inexperienced artillerymen to be efficient.

7 September, Ottoman troops assault four times on Cossack camp, Osman's assaults were repulsed. At noon, the Ottoman soldiers stormed the Polish camp, which had not been attacked so far. Janissary, using the lack of vigilance (the Poles were sleeping) on the right flank of the Polish Army, stormed into the entrenchments and cut down about a hundred infantrymen. The Janissaries were repulsed, but a new assault was expected. Around 10,000 Ottomans moved to attack but then Chodkiewicz, counterattacked with three squadrons of hussars and one squadron of reiters (together 600-650 men), which he led personally. The Sipahi could not withstand the impact and they retreated chaotically, with the Poles pursueing them to the camp. Ottomans losses amounted more than 500 killed and Polish losses amounted to 30 killed. The Polish charge inflicted heavy casualties and had a huge impact on the morale of the Ottoman army.[6]

10 September, during a meeting, Chodkiewicz proposed a night attack, everyone agreed with him. An assault was prepared for the night of 12 to 13 September, but just before the attack, there was heavy rainfall and the action had to be canceled.

Defending the Polish Banner at Khotyn, Juliusz Kossak, 1892

After several costly (and failed) assaults in the first week of the siege, the Ottomans tried to take the Polish forces by cutting off their supplies and reinforcements and waiting for them to succumb to hunger and disease. A temporary bridge was raised by 14 September over the Dniester River that allowed the Ottomans to stop the Commonwealth fortress from using the river to communicate with another fortress at nearby Kamianets-Podilskyi, Ukraine. It also allowed the Ottomans to shift some of their cannons to the other bank of the river and shell Commonwealth forces from the rear. Another Ottoman assault on 15 September was again repulsed.

On 18 September, at night, Cossacks performed an attack, storming into the Ottoman camp on the Dniester. The attack was successful and the Ottomans suffered heavy losses. A similar attack took place on the night of 21 to 22 September. This time the objective was the lodging of Ohrili Hüseyin Pasha who was almost taken prisoner. Such actions raised the morale of the Commonwealth troops.

Although the Polish defenders were weakened, the Ottomans failed to break their morale. However, the defenders were running low on food and supplies, Ottomans had similar problems. On 24 September, a few days before the siege was to be lifted, the aged Grand Hetman died of exhaustion and illness in the camp. Chodkiewicz's second-in-command, Regimentarz Stanisław Lubomirski, took command of the Polish forces on 23 September, when the ailing hetman passed the command to him. On 25 September Lubomirski ordered his weakened forces to pull back and man a smaller, shorter defensive line; the Ottomans tried another assault hoping for the defenders to be disorganized, but again, the assault failed. A final assault was stopped on 28 September.

The lateness of the season, the loss of approximately 40,000 of his men in battle, the general exhaustion of the Ottoman army and the fact that his large force was also running out of supplies compelled Osman II to accept a request from the defenders to start negotiations, even though the Polish-Lithuanian forces were almost out of supplies (a legend has it that by the end of the siege, the Commonwealth army was down to its last barrel of gunpowder).


The Death of Chodkiewicz, Franciszek Smuglewicz, 1806

A peace treaty, the Treaty of Khotyn, was signed, which reflected the indecisive nature of the battle. In some clauses it favored the Commonwealth, but the Ottoman Empire also got what it wanted. There were no territorial changes; the Commonwealth-Ottoman border was confirmed to be the Dniester River and the Commonwealth recognized Ottoman control over Moldavia. In the Commonwealth, and among the Ukrainian Cossacks, the stopping of the huge Ottoman army was seen as a great victory. The Ottomans, on the other hand, gained Commonwealth recognition of their control over Moldavia. Also notably, Grand Hetman Chodkiewicz had died as a result of this battle. Sultan Osman himself was not satisfied with the battle's outcome and put the blame for it on the janissaries. Osman wanted to modernize the army, which he blamed for the defeat; his plans for modernization were, however, opposed by the tradition-minded janissaries. That opposition resulted in the rebellion of janissaries in 1622, in which Osman II was deposed and killed. [1]

Cultural impact

The Battle of Khotyn was the largest battle in the history of the Polish Commonwealth to date, and it was proclaimed as a great victory over the 'heathens'. Among the accounts of the battle is a rather one-sided one from Wacław Potocki's Transakcja wojny chocimskiej (The Progress of the War of Chocim), written during the period 1669–1672. It was based on the less-known Commentariorum Chotinensis belli libri tres ("Commentary on the Chocim War in three volumes") (diary, published in 1646) by Jakub Sobieski and other sources, now lost.

On the Ottoman side, young Sultan Osman II declared publicly that the result of this battle was an Ottoman victory over the 'giaour'. When he returned to Constantinople on 27 December 1621, he entered with a victory procession; there were three days and nights of victory celebrations.[7] However, the young Sultan was personally very unsatisfied with the result of the battle and the behavior of his household troops, the janissaries, during the campaign and started taking measures to reform the Ottoman military. That attempt led to a revolt in Constantinople by the army, madrasa (religious school) students and wealthy merchants in May 1622, at the end of which Sultan Osman II was deposed and killed by the leaders of the mob.[4] This revolt and the demise of the young Sultan (who was only 19 when he was killed) is one of the events most written about by Ottoman historians and appears often in Ottoman court literature and Ottoman popular literature. In the peoples' coffee houses in Istanbul (up to the end of the 19th century) public storytellers used to relate the tales, many in poetry form, of the exploits of Young Osman (including Khotin) and his tragic demise.[7]


  1. Plokhy, Serhii, The Cossacks and Religion in Early Modern Ukraine, (Oxford University Press, 2001), 93.
  2. Robert I. Frost. After the Deluge: Poland-Lithuania and the Second Northern War, 1655-1660. Cambridge University Press. 2004. p. 13.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Leszek Podhorodecki: Chocim 1621, seria: "Historyczne bitwy", MON, 1988.
  4. 4.0 4.1 p.192–3
  5. Leszek Podhorodecki: Chocim 1621, seria: Historyczne bitwy", MON, 1988.
  6. Sikora, Radosław, Wojskowość polska w dobie wojny polsko-szwedzkiej 1626-1629. Kryzys mocarstwa, Sorus, Poznań 2005, ISBN 83-89949-09-1. .
  7. 7.0 7.1 N. Sakaoglu (1999) Bu Mulkun Sultanlari (Sultans of This Realm), Istanbul:Oglak ISBN 975-329-299-6 p.224 (Turkish)


External links

Further reading

  • Leszek Podhorodecki, Wojna chocimska 1621 roku, Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1979, ISBN 83-08-00146-7 (Polish)
  • Janusz Pajewski, Buńczuk i koncerz: z dziejów wojen polsko-tureckich, Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, Poznań 1997 (Polish)
  • Necdet Sakaoglu (1999) Bu Mulkun Sultanlari (Sultans of This Realm), Istanbul:Oglak ISBN 975-329-299-6 (Turkish)
  • Stanford. J. Shaw (1976), History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey Vol.1 Empire of Ghazis, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-29163-1 pp. 191–2

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