Chodkiewicz, Jan Karol
CHODKIEWICZ, JAN KAROL (1560-1621), Polish general, was the son of Hieronymus Chodkiewicz, castellan of Wilna. After being educated at the Wilna academy he went abroad to learn the science of war, fighting in the Spanish service under Alva, and also under Maurice of Nassau. In 1593 he married the wealthy Sophia Mielecka, by whom he had one son who predeceased him. His first military service at home was against the Cossack rising of Nalewajko as lieutenant to Zolkiewski, and he subsequently assisted Zamoyski in his victorious Moldavian campaign. Honours and dignities were now showered upon him. In 1599 he was appointed starosta of Samogitia, and in 1600 acting commander-in-chief of Lithuania. In the war against Sweden for the possession of Livonia he brilliantly distinguished himself, capturing fortress after fortress and repulsing the duke of Sudermania, afterwards Charles IX, from Riga. In 1604 he captured Dorpat, twice defeated the Swedish generals at Bialy Kamien, and was rewarded with the grand bâton of Lithuania. Criminally neglected by the diet, which from sheer niggardliness turned a deaf ear to all his requests for reinforcements and for supplies and money to pay his soldiers, Chodkiewicz nevertheless more than held his own against the Swedes. His crowning achievement was the great victory of Kirkholm (Aug. 27th, 1605), when with barely 5000 men he annihilated a threefold larger Swedish army; for which feat he received letters of congratulation from the pope, all the Catholic potentates, of Europe, and even from the sultan of Turkey and the shah of Persia. Yet this great victory was absolutely fruitless, owing to the domestic dissensions which prevailed in Poland during the following five years. Chodkiewicz's own army, unpaid for years, abandoned him at last en masse in order to plunder the estates of their political opponents, leaving the grand hetman to carry on the war as best he could with a handful of mercenaries paid out of the pockets of himself and his friends. Chodkiewicz was one of the few magnates who remained loyal to the king, and after helping to defeat the rebels in Poland a fresh invasion of Livonia by the Swedes recalled him thither, and once more he relieved Riga besides capturing Pernau. Meanwhile the war with Muscovy broke out, and Chodkiewicz was sent against Moscow with an army of 2000 men - though if there had been a spark of true patriotism in Poland he could easily have marshalled 100,000. Moreover, the diet neglected to pay for the maintenance even of this paltry 2000, with the result that they mutinied and compelled their leader to retreat through the heart of Muscovy to Smolensk. Not till the crown prince Wladislaus arrived with tardy reinforcements did the war assume a different character, Chodkiewicz opening a new career of victory by taking the fortress of Drohobu in 1617. The Muscovite war had no sooner been ended by the treaty of Deulina than Chodkiewicz was hastily despatched southwards to defend the southern frontier against the Turks, who after the catastrophe of Cecora (see Zolkiewski) had high hopes of conquering Poland altogether. An army of 160,000 Turkish veterans led by Sultan Osman in person advanced from Adrianople towards the Polish frontier, but Chodkiewicz crossed the Dnieper in September 1621 and entrenched himself in the fortress of Khotin right in the path of the Ottoman advance. Here for a whole month the Polish hero held the sultan at bay, till the first fall of autumn snow compelled Osman to withdraw his diminished forces. But the victory was dearly purchased by Poland. A few days before the siege was raised the aged grand hetman died of exhaustion in the fortress (Sept. 24th, 1621).
See Adam Stanislaw Naruszewicz, Life of J.K. Chodkiewicz (Pol.; 4th ed., Cracow, 1857-1858); Lukasz Golebiowski, The Moral Side of J.K. Chodkiewicz as indicated by his Letters (Pol.; Warsaw, 1854).
(R. N. B.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)