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The great struggle begun by the Cossacks, and, after the victory at Korsun, continued by them and the Russian population of the Commonwealth, is described in "With Fire and Sword," from the ambush on the Omelnik to the battle of Berestechko. In "The Deluge" the Swedish invasion is the argument, and a mere reference is made to the war in which Moscow and the Ukraine are on one side and the Commonwealth on the other. In "Pan Michael," the present volume and closing work of the trilogy, the invader is the Turk, whose forces, though victorious at Kamenyets, are defeated at Hotin.
"With Fire and Sword" covers the war of 1648-49, which was ended at Zborovo, where a treaty most hateful to the Poles was concluded between the Cossacks and the Commonwealth. In the second war there was only one great action, that of Berestechko (1651), an action followed by the treaty of Belaya Tserkoff, oppressive to the Cossacks and impossible of execution.
The main event in the interval between Berestechko and the war with Moscow was the siege and peace of Jvanyets, of which mention is made in the introduction to "With Fire and Sword."
After Jvanyets the Cossacks turned to Moscow and swore allegiance to the Tsar in 1654; in that year the war was begun to which reference is made in "The Deluge." In addition to the Cossack cause Moscow had questions of her own, and invaded the Commonwealth with two separate armies; of these one moved on White Russia and Lithuania, the other joined the forces of Hmelnitski.
Moscow had rapid and brilliant success in the north. Smolensk, Orsha, and Vityebsk were taken in the opening campaign, as were Vilno, Kovno, and Grodno in the following summer. In 1655 White Russia and nearly all Lithuania came under the hand of the Tsar.
In view of Moscow's great victories, Karl Gustav made a sudden descent on the Commonwealth. The Swedish monarch became master of Great and Little Poland almost without a blow. Yan Kazimir fled to Silesia, and a majority of the nobles took the oath to Karl Gustav.
Moving from the Ukraine, Hmelnitski and Buturlin, the Tsar's voevoda, carried all before them till they encamped outside Lvoff; there the Cossack hetman gave audience to an envoy from Yan Kazimir, and was persuaded to withdraw with his army, thus leaving the king one city in the Commonwealth, a great boon, as was evident soon after.
When Swedish success was almost perfect, and the Commonwealth seemed lost, the Swedes laid siege to Chenstohova. The amazing defence of that sanctuary roused religious spirit in the Poles, who had tired of Swedish rigor; they resumed allegiance to Yan Kazimir, who returned and rallied his adherents at Lvoff, the city spared by Hmelnitski. In the attempt to strike his rival in that capital of Red Russia, Karl Gustav made the swift though calamitous march across Poland which Sienkiewicz has described in "The Deluge" so vividly.
Soon after his return from Silesia, the Polish king sent an embassy to the Tsar. Austria sent another to strengthen it and arrange a treaty or a truce on some basis.
Yan Kazimir was eager for peace with Moscow at any price, especially a price paid in promises. The Tsar desired peace on terms that would give the Russian part of the Commonwealth to Moscow, Poland proper to become a hereditary kingdom in which the Tsar himself or his heir would succeed Yan Kazimir, and thus give to both States the same sovereign, though different administrations.
An agreement was effected: the sovereign or heir of Moscow was to succeed Yan Kazimir, details of boundaries and succession to be settled by the Diet, both sides to refrain from hostilities till the Swedes were expelled, and neither to make peace with Sweden separately.
Austria forced the Swedish garrison out of Cracow, and then induced the Elector of Brandenburg to desert Sweden. She did this by bringing Poland to grant independence to Princely, that is,