Battle of Wesenberg (1268)

The Battle of Wesenberg, Rakvere or Rakovor[2] (German: Schlacht bei Wesenberg; Russian: Раковорская битва) was fought on 18 February 1268 between the combined forces of Danish Estonia, the Bishopric of Dorpat, the Livonian Order, and local Estonian militias on one side, and the forces of Novgorod and Pskov, led by Dmitry of Pereslavl, on the other. Medieval accounts of the battle vary with both sides claiming victory; however, the Livonian victory is seen as more plausible as Novgorodian-Pskovian forces retreated out of Danish Estonia, with Livonian Knights launching a retaliatory attack on Izborsk and Pskov soon afterward, in June 1269.[3]: 78–79 

Battle of Wesenberg
Part of the Northern Crusades

Map showing the location of the battle in the context of 13th-century Livonia
Date18 February 1268
Result Both sides claim victory[1]
Novgorod Republic
Pskov Republic
Grand Duchy of Vladimir
Duchy of Estonia
Bishopric of Dorpat
Livonian Order
Commanders and leaders
Dmitry of Pereslavl
Daumantas of Pskov
Mikhail Fyodorovich 
Alexander of Dorpat 
Otto von Lutterberg
10,000–20,000 ~20,000
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown

Account of the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle edit

According to the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle, the only contemporary primary source describing the battle whose text survives in unaltered form to the present day,[3]: xxi–xxii  the combined forces of the two Russian republics invaded the territory of Danish Estonia in January 1268 where they commenced with looting of the countryside. The Danish vassals requested reinforcements from the neighboring territories ruled by the Livonian Order and the Bishopric of Dorpat, which they received in the form of 34 Brothers from castles Weissenstein, Leal and Fellin plus an unknown number of lesser troops, and from the Bishopric an unknown number of men under the leadership of Bishop Alexander of Dorpat. The contingent of the Livonian Knights was most likely led by a castellan of one of the aforementioned castles, as the Master of the Order, Otto von Lutterberg, was campaigning in the south, in Semgallia (Otto was in Riga on January 16).[3]: 77 

When all the forces were assembled the native Estonian troops were positioned on the left flank, which they were told to hold during the battle, while the larger group, the Danish king's men, were stationed on the right. The Brothers and their men are mentioned as having fought on all fronts. The death of Bishop Alexander is listed early in the description of the battle. Two formations of Russians advanced upon them but were beaten back and forced to retreat across a broad field, the retreat turning into a rout and a pursuit. Then, Prince Dmitry Aleksandrovich, who is complimented by the chronicler as being brave, managed to regroup about 5,000 men for a counterattack, while the rest of his army had fled. The Brothers' forces met Dmitry's attack along a deep river. At that point the Brothers are mentioned as having 180 men plus 80 footsoldiers. The footsoldiers led an attack upon a bridge. Then the Brothers joined the attack and the battle was over with 5,000 Russians dead, the rest defeated and routed.[3]: 78 

Since the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle also includes battles in which it describes the forces of the Livonian Order (or its predecessor, the Livonian Brothers of the Sword) as being on the losing side, like the Battle of Saule or Battle on the Ice, there is little reason to doubt that the outcome of this battle is stated correctly.[citation needed]

Account of the Chronicle of Novgorod edit

The depiction of the battle in the Illustrated Chronicle of Ivan the Terrible (16th century)

The Chronicle of Novgorod, 1016–1471 is the main Russian source describing the battle. However, the chronicle was rewritten on multiple occasions, most notably in the 15th century,[4]: xxxvii–xli  and edited according to the political ideology of the era.[5]

According to the Chronicle of Novgorod, the united Russian forces crossed the Narva River and moved towards Rakvere but did not take the town. They looted the countryside and found a huge cave filled with Chuds (Estonians). Unable to attack the hiding Estonians for three days, the Russians finally devise a way to channel some water into the cave which forces the Estonians to flee and many of them are slain. Then the Russians advanced on Rakvere and met the German force at Kegola river. The Russian forces without delay crossed the river and organized their battle lines by placing the men from Pskov on the right, Dmitry's force on the right higher up, the remainder of the Novgorodian forces forming up in the center and on the right. The German iron troops are described as advancing in a great wedge. Then the chronicle lists a long string of names of boyars who were slain in the battle while knyaz Yuri fled. However the Germans are pushed back and pursued as far as the town. At that time another German wedge attacks the Russian transport but due to nightfall the Germans and the Russian main force do not engage each other. The two forces end up facing each other over a close distance but the Germans flee from the battlefield before the sun rises.[4]: 100–103 

References edit

  1. ^ Selart, Anti. Livonia, Rus’ and the Baltic Crusades in the Thirteenth Century. Leiden: Brill, 2015.
  2. ^ Nicolle, David; Shpakovsky, Viacheslav (25 May 2002). Medieval Russian Armies 1250–1500. Bloomsbury USA. ISBN 978-1-84176-234-0.
  3. ^ a b c d Smith, Jerry Christopher; Urban, William L. (2001). The Livonian rhymed chronicle (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: Lithuanian Research and Studies Center. ISBN 0929700341. OCLC 48921064.
  4. ^ a b Beazley, C. Raymond; Shakhmatov, A. A. (1914). The Chronicle of Novgorod 1016–1471. London.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  5. ^ Adamson, Andres. 1242 : müüti murdes. [Tallinn]. p. 81. ISBN 9789949466863. OCLC 864307546.

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