In August 1667 Fietr Deroszenke and Girej Khan led some 20 to 30,000 Cossacks and Tartars in an attack on Poland. After the end of the war with Muscovy the Polish army had been reduced to 14,000 men, while the Sejm did not believe the Tartars had altered their previously allied stance. Only the new Field Hetman Sobieski had forces, mainly personally funded of 8,000 regular and levy troops to deal with the invasion.
In an attempt to curb the Tartar ravaging Sobieski introduced a new tactic. Previously when the enemy's numbers were so superior the army was placed in a single fortified camp in a strategic position. It's main problem was it allowed the Tartars complete freedom to carry out their ravaging of the surrounding lands. Sobieski split his forces into small independent groups, each based at one of a line of forts and supported by the local population. These forces could hamper the operation of the numerous but small Tartar raiding parties, and when threatened by a larger force it could seek refuge in the fort.
Sobieski took 3,000 troops to a fortified camp at Podhajce, threatening the enemy's communication lines, and was besieged. The initial Tartar-Cossack attacks failed and a Polish night attack forced the numerically much superior enemy to agree to a truce and retreat
But the Podhajce agreement brought only a brief respite. The Cossacks now submitted to the Sultan as they tried to play the Muscovites, Turks and Poles against each other. Soon, in July 1671 the Cossacks besieged Biala Cerki while the Tartars moved into Podole, now supported by the Ottomans.
Sobieski, with only weak forces repeated his very successful tactics of the previous year and led two attacks, which broke the new Cossack-Tartar offensive. He led a 150-mile raid capturing many strongholds and by mid-October much of the Ukraine was subdued. Had he had some support much of the lands. Effectively lost since 1648, could have been regained. Instead Sobieski was forced to return and the Ukraine rebelled again.
© Copyright 2003; Paul Havers