The Battle of Vistula Lagoon - 1463
The Battle of Vistula Lagoon (Polish: Bitwa
na Zalewie Wiślanym or Polish: Bitwa w Zatoce Świeżej) was fought on September 15, 1463 between
the navy of the Teutonic Order, and the navy of the Prussian Confederation which was allied with the King
of Poland, as part of the Thirteen Years' War. The battle was the largest naval battle
of the war, and one of the two battles (along with Battle of Świecino) which decided the final outcome of the war. The
Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Ludwig von Erlichshausen, led the Teutonic fleet, in an attempt to come to the aid of
the city of Mewe ("Gniew") via the Vistula River, which had been besieged by Polish
forces since July, 1463. The Teutonic knights assembled 44 ships, mostly fishing boats, along with several galleys,
staffed by 2500 men, of which around 1500 were armed.
Prussian ships were led by privateers Vincent Stolle and Matthew Kolmener, of Danzig (now Gdańsk); and Jacob Vochs of
Elbing (now Elbląg); with support from troops of the Polish king, Casimir IV Jagiellon. Initially the Danzig sailors,
facing the incoming Teutonic flotilla alone, had only ten "szniks" (light sail boats common
in the Baltic in the 15th century) which were staffed with five hundred men armed with crossbows
and arquebuses. To delay the enemy, they sank a galley at a narrow part of the Vistula, which blocked the entrance from the
lagoon to the river. Coming upon the obstacle, von Erlichshausen stalled long enough for the Elbing ships to join up with
those of Danzig. Together, the two cities had around 30 ships of various types, 600 to 700 armed men, and a similar number
of sailors manning the ships themselves. Von Erlichshausen ordered a withdrawal into the lagoon where his ships bunched
up close to the shore. The cities' ships on the other hand, came out of the river into the lagoon and formed themselves
into a crescent formation. Despite having fewer ships, the Prussians (as more experienced sailors) were victorious.
They gained control of the Vistula. Among the captured knights was Hans Hetzel, the komtur
of Memel (Klaipėda).
As a result of the battle, Mewe capitulated to Polish forces in 1464, and the Teutonic
Navy was eliminated as a viable force. A number of mercenaries in the Order's service, including
Bernard Szumborski, left the Teutonic side and signed an independent peace treaty with the Polish king, and the Poles and
the Prussian Confederation seized the initiative in the Thirteen Years' War. The war itself ended with the signing of the
Second Peace of Toruń in 1466 and the incorporation of Royal Prussia, including Gdańsk and Elbląg into Poland.