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The Battle of Obertyn (September 22, 1531) was fought between Moldavian Prince Petru Rareş and Polishmarker King Zygmunt Stary, in the town of Obertyn, north of the Dniester Rivermarker, now in Ukrainemarker. The battle ended with a Polish victory and the reconquest of Pokutia.

Background

In 1490, Stephen III of Moldavia conquered Pokutia, detaching it from the Polish kingdom. He tried to have the land recognized as his and was supported by the Kingdom of Hungary. After Stephen's death, the land was retaken by the Poles. Between 1529 and 1530, the Moldavians campaigned in Pokutia. Since Moldavia was a vassal state to the Porte, King Zygmunt sent a letter to Sultan Suliman the Magnificent to ask him where he stood on the conflict. The Sultan replied that the Poles were allowed to battle in the disputed Pokutia, but were not permitted to set foot on Moldavian soil, as that would be seen as a declaration of war on the Ottomans. This restriction was disadvantageous to the Poles, mainly because of the greater mobility of the Moldavian troops.

The battle

Preparations

The Poles employed the Crown Hetman of Hired Soldiers, Jan Tarnowski, to lead the army, as the Polish Parliament voted to raise taxes on their serfs in order to recruit mercenary soldiers. Tarnowski was given 4,800 cavalry, 1,200 infantry, 12 cannon, and a Tabor wagon train of unknown size. He picked the town of Obertyn, north of the Dniester Rivermarker, as his operation point.
Polish armoury from the battles of Obertyn
showing that it's three-quarter armour
Between June 3 and 5, Tarnowski sent 1,000 cavalry that ousted the Moldavians from the region, and then quickly moved back to Obertyn. He then placed 100 infantry to defend the town Gwoździec (now known as Hvizdetsmarker), located a few kilometers south of Obertyn. Between June 6 and July 18, Rareş responded by sending 6,000 cavalry against Gwoździec and started to besiege the town. The Polish main army moved from Obertyn to Gwoździec and engaged the Moldavians, whom they routed. From July 18 to 21, the Moldavians advanced with 20,000 cavalry, 50 cannon, and some infantry against the 6,000-strong Polish army that had recently regrouped (included the famous "winged" hussars that played a decisive role in the Polish victory). Tarnowski left some of his infantry in Gwoździec and made a slow retreat to defensive location defended by forest, north of Obertyn, where he fortified his army with his Tabor wagons. The artillery was placed in three corners of the camp and a part of the infantry was placed in the wagons, as the rest of his force, with the cavalry, was deployed in the middle of the camp.

On July 22, the Moldavians sent light cavalry to attack the Tabor wagons in the forest, but were repelled by the Polish infantry. The Moldavian cannons then started to fire on the Tabors, but were unsuccessful. Instead, the Polish artillery inflicted great damage on the Moldavian cannon. One-third of the Polish cavalry then launched several successful attacks on the Moldavian left, forcing Rareş to reinforce it. He, however, left some infantry to defend his right and secure the route to Obertyn, in case he needed to retreat. The remaining Polish cavalry attacked the Moldavian right and routed it, but suffered casualties from the Moldavian artillery. A final Polish attack routed the entire Moldavian army. The Moldavians lost around 7,000 cavalry, 1,000 that were taken prisoners, and all the cannons, while the Poles lost only 256 men.

Aftermath

The Sultan removed Rareş from office with the explanation that "he had disturbed the Porte's best friend, the King of Poland." The Moldavians made another unsuccessful attempt to reconquer Pokutia in 1538.

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