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  • Writer's pictureArmored History

THE BATTLE OF LEGNICA (LIEGNITZ) APRIL 1241: The Gateway to the Conquest of Europe

Updated: Mar 21, 2022


Stop Killing Mongol Envoys! ==================================================

After the death of Chinggis Khan, the Mongol spirit of conquest was still burning bright. During and after an arduous five-decades-long conquest of Song China, the Mongols expanded westward in three theaters to conquer all of Central Asia, Persia and the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Their onslaught was near-unstoppable and experienced few defeats. Through overwhelming use of heavy cavalry units/ lancers and horse archers, as well as the implementation of foreign auxiliary troops and the integration of foreign technologies, the Mongols formed the largest land empire in world history--masters of the open battlefield.

By 1238 and 1239, Mongol forces under the command of Batu Khan had razed or destroyed the capitals of the Rus princedoms and kingdoms in Eastern Europe through simultaneous assaults that prevented the Rus forces from uniting. Cities such as Novgorod and Pskou were spared after submitting to Mongol authority.

Spring of the year 1240 saw the Mongol forces in Eastern Europe recalled to assist in campaign fronts in Asia and the Caucuses, and for the recruitment of troops from various tribes. The campaign on Europe resumed by summer, and the biggest city in the region, Kiev, was conquered in three months. Subutai Khan, the military commander in the field who answered to Batu Khan, now had his sights on Central Europe, namely Poland and Hungary. Thanks to a deal struck with the Venetians, Subutai received large amounts of military intelligence on the European forces he was to face. This would have contributed greatly in allowing him to successfully conquer all of Europe. Mongol envoys were sent to the High Duke of Poland, Henry II the Pious of Silesia and Hungarian King Bela IV to inform them of things to come. However, these messengers were killed. The Mongols swept through Poland in the usual fashion as they looted and burned the capital Krakow after it had already been abandoned.

Duke Henry II was preparing to join forces with King Wenceslaus I of Bohemia who had an army twice the size of his own. The Mongols intercepted and caught up with Henry to prevent the two armies from joining forces. The Mongols faced Henry II army in what is today Legnica, Poland. The Mongol army of heavy cavalry lancers and horse archers almost completely destroyed the European forces made up of peasants, poorly-equipped infantry, mercenaries, and mounted Teutonic and Templar Knights, and Knights Hospitaller from France.

The Mongols utilized their famous "feigned retreat" tactics to lure the knights away from the archers. The Mongols then set the surrounding fields ablaze, causing a massive smokescreen to isolate and separate the knights from the rest of their forces in the field. The knights fell to a devastating storm of arrows. Mongol light cavalry was sent to destroy the infantry units from the flanks before heavy cavalry finished the clean up.

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