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Battle of Legnica

From Academic Kids

The Battle of Legnica (often called the Battle of Liegnitz, or, occasionally, of Leignitz ) took place in 1241 in Legnickie Pole near the city of Legnica between the invading Mongols and the Poles under Henry II the Pious, Duke of Poland (Silesia), supported by the feudal nobility including the Teutonic Knights.

The date of the battle is usually given as early April, although the exact date is uncertain - the 9th is popular. Also, as with many historical battles, the exact details of force composition, tactics, and the actual course of the battle are woefully lacking and usually contradictatory.

The battle has undergone some historical revisionism, in 1911 the battle was where "Henry II... broke the force of the Mongol invasion." Current thinking sees the battle as where Henry II was out-thought, out-manoeuvred, and his forces suffered a very serious defeat.

The Mongol force, a detachment (no more than two tumens) from the army of Subedei under the command of Kaidu, demonstrated the advantages of the tactical mobility and speed of horseback archers over very heavily armoured but slow opposition. The Mongol tactics were, essentially, a long series of feints and faked withdrawals from widely dispersed groups - designed to inflict a constant slow drain by ranged fire, disrupt the enemy formation, and draw larger blocks away from the main body into ambush and flank attacks.

The numbers involved are difficult to judge. European accounts are prone to outrageous estimates of Mongol numbers - some accounts suggest in excess of 100,000 at Legnica alone. Given the weaknesses of 13th century Mongol logistics, current estimates suggest the Mongol force numbered, at most, 20,000 in a mix of light and very light archer-cavalry.

Henry's force combined German and Polish units, although some authors believe that the German presence (especially the vaunted knights) was very small or even non-existent. At an estimate, and assuming a substantial German force, Henry's force was maybe 28,000 - split into 10,000 heavy infantry, 8,000 bowmen and 10,000 heavy cavalry.

The actual course of the battle is, again, almost unknown. The link below gives a detailed account of charges, counters and ambushes which may be true. Suffice to say the army of Henry II was almost destroyed - Henry was killed and estimates of casualties range from 10,000 to 40,000, essentially the entire army. Mongol casualties are unknown, a perfect execution of the described tactics would have minimised losses but most reports state that their losses were high - even higher than expected.

Despite Mongol victory, this was the furthest west the Mongol forces reached. They retreated after hearing the news that Ogedei Khan had died, because Genghis Khan made clear that all descendants of the Great Khan should return back to the Mongol capital for election of the next Khan.

External links

See Also

ja:ワールシュタットの戦い pl:Bitwa pod Legnicą

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