Hetman of the registered Cossacks in 1623–1628

In 1616 he became a Cossack colonel, and he participated in Petro Konashevych- Sahaidachny’s campaign against Muscovy and in the Battle of Khotyn in 1621. After Marko Zhmailo’s Cossack rebellion against Poland failed, Doroshenko was elected hetman and signed the Treaty of Kurukove with the Polish government in 1625. In the following year he led the registered Cossacks against the Zaporozhian Cossacks, who were opposed to the treaty. During Doroshenko’s rule six registered regiments were established for the first time. He supported the Crimean khans of the Girei dynasty against the Turkish supporters of the Moldavian murza Cantemir, and campaigned in the Crimea. Doroshenko died during the siege of Kaffa (now Teodosiia) in the Crimea.

In 1621 the Zaporozhian Cossacks applied their martial skills to a strictly land campaign. In April of that year, 16-year-old Sultan Osman II led a large army, conservatively estimated as numbering 100,000 troops with 300 cannons, four elephants as well as horses and camels, into southwestern Ukraine. His objective was to march through Moldavia and destroy Poland. The Polish king, Zygmunt III Wasa, was only able to send a 40,000-man army under the aging Lithuanian hetman Jan Karol Chodkiewicz, and by the time he reached the fortified town of Khotyn (or Chocim) on the right bank of the Dniester, about 5,000 of his troops had deserted. To bolster their forces at that critical time, the Poles asked for Sahaidachny’s help, promising the Cossacks broader representation in the Polish legislature, or Sejm, broader rights and protection of their Orthodox religion. Sahaidachny agreed, and in the late summer of 1621 he led a small detachment toward Khotyn from the north, while the main force approached from the east. Along the way, Sahaidachny’s column was ambushed and he was among the casualties, dying of his wounds at Kyiv on April 10, 1622. The leader of the eastern Cossack host, Yakiv Borodavko, was ousted in a Cossack revolt and put to death on September 12, 1621. The Turks seized this opportunity to negotiate a separate peace with the Cossacks, but it failed—on September 20, 40,000 Cossacks arrived to assist the Poles besieged at Khotyn.

By then, the Poles had barely been holding their own, thanks to well-prepared trenches and a series of spoiling forays by their infantry and 8,000 husaria, or heavily armored shock cavalry. During one determined assault, the Turks managed to break through the Polish defenses, only to be driven from the fortress by a counterattack by Chodkeiwicz at the head of three regiments of husaria and one of light cavalry. In that critical fight, the aged, ailing Chodkiewicz had to transfer command to his lieutenant, Stanislaw Lubomirski. He died soon after, on September 24.

At that point, the Turks were as exhausted as the defenders, while the Cossacks were relatively fresh and full of fight. During one of their reprisal raids they penetrated the Turkish camp, seizing several artillery pieces and other supplies before retiring and settling in on the left flank of the Polish defenses. The Turks launched their final major attack on September 28, and by October 3 Osman II was admitting that his campaign was a failure, having lost 30,000 troops in combat as well as from disease, starvation and desertions. On October 9, he signed a peace agreement with the Poles and withdrew. After returning to Istanbul, Osman II initiated reforms in the Turkish army that would have included the dissolution of the janissary corps. The janissaries moved first, however, overthrowing the young reformer on May 19, 1622, strangling him in his own dungeon the next day and establishing his uncle, the more traditionalist Mustapha I, as sultan.

Zygmunt did not keep all his promises to the Cossacks. Although 6,000 more of them were registered for representation in the Sejm in 1625, the Poles failed to pay their military expenses and the Treaty of Khotyn’s terms prohibited the Cossacks from raiding the Crimean Khanate and the Black Sea coast. In spite of that, following Sahaidachny’s death his successors, Olifer Holub and Michael Doroshenko, led further naval campaigns until the end of 1624.

The Cossack naval raids finally petered out, because they found more lucrative markets for their talents. With the Thirty Years’ War raging in central Europe, trained mercenaries were in demand. Cossacks fought first for the Hapsburgs and later for France. The Turks gradually retreated southward along the western Black Sea coast into present-day Romania, as a series of defeats began the steady decline of the Ottoman Empire.

The Zaporozhian Cossacks’ sea raids were of major political importance to Ukrainian nation-building efforts in the 17th century. An incident in the summer of 1992 demonstrated that those swashbuckling traditions live on in the modern Ukrainian navy. At that time, a small ship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet hoisted the azure and gold Ukrainian flag. There ensued a dramatic sea chase from the Crimean coast to the port of Odessa as several larger Russian warships tried to ram, board and even entangle the defecting vessel’s screws with chain. In spite of that, the Ukrainian crew, in tribute to their predecessors’ and their own seamanship, managed to give their pursuers the slip and steamed into Odessa Harbor unscathed.