Krzysztof Arciszewski

Krzysztof Arciszewski. Gravura em papel, Peter Aubry II, 182 x 142 mm. In Matthäus Merian, Theatrum Europaeum, Frankfurt am Main, 1644.

Date of birth: Rogalin, 1592.

Date of death: Gdansk, 1656.

Military man of Polish origin. He traveled to Brazil as a captain in the service of the West India Company in 1630. He participated directly in the expansion of the territory, intervening in the conquest of Paraíba in 1634 and in Arraial do Bom Jesus, near Recife, in 1635. He also fought against the Portuguese-Castilian forces in Alagoas between 1636 and 1637. He returned to the Netherlands in 1637. He left a rich memoir outlining his vision and political project for Brazil. He returned to Brazil in 1639 in command of 1,200 men, but was expelled after disagreements with the Dutch governor of Brazil, Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen.

Link to BRASILHIS Database: https://brasilhis.usal.es/es/personaje/krzysztof-arciszewski-artichofsky

Krzysztof Arciszewski was born in Rogalin, Kingdom of Poland, in 1592. Son of Elias Arciszewski and Helen Zbożna, Arciszewski had two brothers, Elias and Bugosław. He was part of a family of noble origin, although economically limited (Fischlowitz, 1959: 35).

Early in his youth, Arciszewski resided at the court of the Lithuanian-Polish prince Krzysztof Radziwiwiłłł (1585-1640), in the town of Birze, Lithuania. Arciszewski was in the service of Prince Radziwiłł. He carried out military and diplomatic activities in Poland and Lithuania. He also participated in conflicts such as the Second Polish-Swedish War (1621-1625). He also participated in military conquests on the Baltic coast, the defense of Riga and the siege of Mitawa (Fischlowitz, 1959: 35; Kotljanchuk, 2006: 80-86). Arciszewski excelled in the sieges in which he participated. He proved to be an expert in the art of fortification (Fischlowitz, 1959: 35-36; Zachorowska, Kukucska, Tenerowicz, 2001: 8).


In 1624 his fate was to change radically. A dispute with a lawyer, administrator of the Arciszewski family estate, named Kacper Jeruzel Brzeznicki, ended in murder. Apparently, Brzeznicki illegally transferred family assets. Unable to recover them by legal means, the young Arciszewski, acting together with his two brothers, ambushed and brutally murdered Brzeznicki. The act of Arciszewski and his brothers caused their banishment from Poland (Fischlowitz, 1959: 37-39; Warnsinck, 1937: 2; Zachorowska, Kukucska, Tenerowicz, 2001: 9).


Expelled from Poland, Arciszewski moved with his brother Elias to the Republic of the United Provinces in early 1624. He then became a correspondent of Radziwiłł in The Hague (Zachorowska, Kukucska, Tenerowicz, 2001: 9; Warnsinck, 1937: 2). In August 1624, Arciszewski joined the army of the Republic and assisted in the defense of the city of Breda, under the command of the then governor general Maurits van Nassau. Despite the Dutch defeat at the hands of the Spanish, who conquered the city, the war served as an apprenticeship, as shown by the records made by Arciszewski about the defensive system of the city and the actions of the Spanish besiegers (Fischlowitz, 1959: 40-41; Warnsinck, 1937: 3; Zachorowska, Kukucska, Tenerowicz, 2001: 10).


In early 1626, Arciszewski, on a mission to France ordered by Radziwiłłł, became involved in political plots related to the succession to the Polish throne. When the ruse was discovered, an arrest warrant was issued in Poland for Arciszewski, who was isolated (Fischlowitz, 1959: 41; Kotljanchuk, 2006: 80; Zachorowska, Kukucska, Tenerowicz, 2001: 10-11). After a few years in France, he returned to the Netherlands. Soon he again took part in the battles of the Eighty Years’ War (1568-1648). He participated in the siege of ‘s-Hertogenbosch in April 1629, under the command of the new stadtholder Frederik Hendrik, Prince of Orange (Zachorowska, Kukucska, Tenerowicz, 2001: 12).


During this period, Arciszewski was invited to serve in the West India Company. The Pole did not show much interest in the job offer. It was the risk of imprisonment in Europe that pushed him to accept the post of captain in the Company’s army, which was preparing an expedition to invade the Captaincy of Pernambuco in Brazil (Warnsinck, 1937: 3; Zachorowska, Kukucska, Tenerowicz, 2001: 12). Arciszewski embarked for Brazil on November 16, 1629, arriving on the coast of Pernambuco in early 1630. Arciszewski opened a new chapter in his life, this time as commander of troops of the Dutch West India Company (Miranda, Xavier, 2022: 23).


Arciszewski was in Brazil three times between 1630 and 1639. Very little is known about his first stay in Brazil, between 1630 and 1633. In a letter written to the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius in April 1632, Arciszewski expressed his dissatisfaction with his life in Brazil. He felt useless and wanted to leave the colony at the end of his contract (Miranda, Xavier, 2022: 25).


However, the perception of Arciszewski and his work was different in other testimonies. His commanding officer, Diederick van Waerdenburgh, not only promoted him to commander, but also told the Company’s directors that the Pole was “a very honest and brave person.” Arciszewski’s reputation was no different among the soldiers. A soldier named Cuthbert Pudsey described him as the “master column” of the Company in Brazil. He also said the Pole was “careful” and “fit for army service.” Other adjectives, such as stern and fair, were derived from Pudsey’s account. Finally, he concluded that “his [Arciszewski’s] word was law for us [the soldiers]” (Miranda, Xavier, 2022: 27-28; Pudsey, 2000: 73).


Arciszewski’s view of his early years in Brazil is understandable. After taking Olinda and Recife, the West India Company forces made little progress inland, given the action of the Portuguese-Spanish defenders. Insecure and entrenched in their fortified positions, the Company’s soldiers suffered hunger and the violence of continuous ambushes in the vicinity of their positions (Fischlowitz, 1959: 52-53; Kraushar, 1893: 244-246).


The situation began to change between 1632 and 1633. The Company sent two directors with the material means at its disposal. In addition, he had tendered his resignation, which was only accepted by the Company with the arrival of directors Ceulen and Ghijselin (Miranda, 2014: 137-138, 155-159). Arciszewski, whose contract had expired, accompanied Waerdenburgh on his return to Europe (Miranda, Xavier, 2022: 28).


Arciszewski was in Brazil three times between 1630 and 1639. Very little is known about his first stay in Brazil, between 1630 and 1633. In a letter written to the Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius in April 1632, Arciszewski expressed his dissatisfaction with his life in Brazil. He felt useless and wanted to leave the colony at the end of his contract (Miranda, Xavier, 2022: 25).


However, the perception of Arciszewski and his work was different in other testimonies. His commanding officer, Diederick van Waerdenburgh, not only promoted him to commander, but also told the Company’s directors that the Pole was “a very honest and brave person.” Arciszewski’s reputation was no different among the soldiers. A soldier named Cuthbert Pudsey described him as the “master column” of the Company in Brazil. He also said the Pole was “careful” and “fit for army service.” Other adjectives, such as stern and fair, were derived from Pudsey’s account. Finally, he concluded that “his [Arciszewski’s] word was law for us [the soldiers]” (Miranda, Xavier, 2022: 27-28; Pudsey, 2000: 73).


Arciszewski’s view of his early years in Brazil is understandable. After taking Olinda and Recife, the West India Company forces made little progress inland, given the action of the Portuguese-Spanish defenders. Insecure and entrenched in their fortified positions, the Company’s soldiers suffered hunger and the violence of continuous ambushes in the vicinity of their positions (Fischlowitz, 1959: 52-53; Kraushar, 1893: 244-246).


The situation began to change between 1632 and 1633. The Company sent two directors to Brazil, Mathias van Ceulen and Johan Ghijselin, to manage the administration and the war in the colony. The governor and commander general of the troops, Waerdenburgh, saw his power diminished. His relationship with the Company was one of constant conflict, as Waerdenburgh would not accept pressure to advance in the territory with the material means at his disposal. Moreover, he had tendered his resignation, which was only accepted by the Company with the arrival of directors Ceulen and Ghijselin (Miranda, 2014: 137-138, 155-159). Arciszewski, whose contract had expired, accompanied Waerdenburgh on his return to Europe (Miranda, Xavier, 2022: 28).


Arciszewski signed a new contract with the Company, returning to Brazil with the rank of colonel in 1634. Dutch advances in the colony, although slow, were already visible. They abandoned their defensive posture and began to pressure the defenders with naval attacks far from Recife. The Company brought insecurity to regions hitherto untouched by the war. The resistance also showed signs of attrition, proving unable to help the colonists in areas far from the main bases at Arraial do Bom Jesus and Cabo de Santo Agostinho (De Laet, 1925: 30-31; Mello, 2010: 107-124; Warnsinck, 1937: 7-8).


Between 1633 and 1634, the troops of the Company managed to conquer important positions in the captaincies of Rio Grande and Paraíba, facilitating operations in Pernambuco. Arciszewski actively participated in part of these operations and his first major conquest after returning to Brazil was in the captaincy of Paraíba, in December 1634. The expedition was led by Sigismundo von Schoppe and Arciszewski. Accompanying the troops were political advisors Servaes Carpentier and Jacob Stachouwer. Naval forces flanked the troops on land and were under the command of Admiral Jan Cornelisz. Lichthart. After taking important positions of local resistance, the Company’s men marched free to the village of Filipéia de Nossa Senhora das Neves. The colonists gave in and negotiated capitulation (De Laet, 1925: 33-61, 91-93; Fischlowitz, 1959: 59; Mello, 2010: 126-128; Warnsinck, 1937: 9-10).


The Company’s next objectives were Arraial do Bom Jesus, built at the beginning of the invasion with the intention of stopping the Dutch advance into the producing areas, and Cabo de Santo Agostinho, where the main port of the resistance forces was located. The defenders of Arraial resisted numerous assault attempts for several years. It was necessary for the Company to blockade several of Arraial’s supply routes to initiate the siege. In early 1635, with Paraíba already conquered and the areas of Goiana under surveillance, as well as communications with the Cape cut off from the south, Arciszewski commanded the troops that managed to surrender Arraial after almost three months of siege (De Laet, 1925: 94-103; Fischlowitz, 1959: 60; Mello, 2010: 125-136; Wätjen, 2004: 129).


Defeated from Rio Grande to El Cabo, which had fallen shortly after Arraial, the remaining resistance forces, led by Matias de Albuquerque since 1630 retreated south to Pernambuco, which became the new focus of resistance to the Dutch. Troops were sent from the south to wage guerrilla warfare further north, continually attacking the areas then under the administration of the Company. The resistance even surrendered a Dutch troop at Porto Calvo, one of the Company’s southernmost positions in Pernambuco. At the end of 1635, a veteran commander of the Eighty Years’ War, Don Luís de Rojas y Borja, replaced Matias de Albuquerque (Coelho, 2003: 232-241; De Laet, 1925: 103-115; Mello, 2010: 136-141).


Rojas y Borja continued his counteroffensive without delay, trying to draw the Dutch in southern Pernambuco into a decisive battle. He would encounter the forces commanded by Arciszewski in January 1636. After an intense confrontation, the forces of Rojas and Borja were defeated at Mata Redonda. Rojas y Borja died during the combat and the general command of the Portuguese-Spanish troops in Brazil passed to the Neapolitan Giovanni Vicenzo de San Felice, Count of Bagnuoli. Count de Bagnuoli was a veteran of the local wars. He arrived in Brazil with the navy of Antonio de Oquendo y Zandategui in 1631. Bagnuoli maintained Porto Calvo as the main defensive position of the resistance forces, concentrating men and supplies there (Boxer, 2004: 87-89; De Laet, 1925: 142-148; Wätjen, 2004: 131-133).


Unable to dominate southern Pernambuco, the Dutch soon suffered successive attacks. Many Company resources and men were expended in the clashes that took place in areas of Cabo de Santo Agostinho, Muribeca, the alluvial plains of the Capibaribe and Beberibe rivers, São Lourenço, Goiana, Itamaracá and even Paraíba. The unprotected area reached by the guerrillas was vast. Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish texts mention the names of resistance fighters such as Francisco Rabelo, Henrique Dias and Antônio Filipe Camarão. Skirmishes went on for months, exhausting the Company’s forces and bringing destruction to the interior of Brazil (De Laet, 1925: 153-176; Mello, 2010: 152-157).


For the Company’s administration and its commanders on the ground, as long as the Portuguese-Spanish forces operated in the south of Pernambuco and sent guerrillas to the northern areas, there was no way to stabilize and protect the colony. The Company in Holland mobilized a new reinforcement of troops and appointed a governor general for Brazil. This was the veteran of the Eighty Years’ War, with extensive connections in the court of the Republic of the United Provinces, Johan Maurits van Nassau-Siegen. The people commanded by Nassau arrived in Brazil in early 1637 and, shortly after embarking, the new governor, with the support of the experienced local war commanders Schoppe and Arciszewski, marched to Porto Calvo. Nassau intended to engage in a decisive battle against Bagnuoli and resolve the problematic situation in the weakened colony (Boxer, 2004: 88-89; Brasilhis, 2022; Teensma, 2018: 279-297; Wätjen, 2004: 145-146).


Bagnuoli abandoned Porto Calvo after the first clashes and avoided the siege that was subsequently closed. However, he left part of his troops under the command of artillery lieutenant general Miguel Gilberton, a Spanish veteran of the Eighty Years’ War. With his troops, Gilberton held off the siege for several days, but finally agreed to parley with the Company’s forces and signed terms of surrender. Nassau’s forces also set out in pursuit of Baguoli, who had retreated to Penedo and from there had crossed the São Francisco River with his remaining army. He continued on to Salvador. The Company thus extended its area of influence to the São Francisco River (Mello, 2006: 58-59; Teensma, 2018: 279-301).


Shortly after the end of the Porto Calvo campaign, Arciszewski left Brazil for the second time. The reasons for his departure are not well known. It seems that the Pole expected to be appointed governor general of the colony in 1636. It was an expectation generated by having been proposed for the position by the Company in the Netherlands (Mello, 2006: 50). A letter written by him states that Arciszewski received an offer from Władysław IV Waza, King of Poland, to hold high positions in the navy or army of the Kingdom of Poland. In another text by Arciszewski, he says that he had been summoned by Władysław IV Waza and, therefore, having no further obligations in Brazil, he took leave of Nassau and the troops and left the colony (Miranda, Xavier, 2022: 39).


Arriving in the Netherlands, Arciszewski was received with honors. But he did not return to Poland and declined the invitation of Władysław IV Waza. He remained in Amsterdam until 1639, when he received another invitation to serve in Brazil. The Pole had been appointed “general of artillery, above all other colonels,” second only to Nassau in the colony’s military hierarchy (Miranda, Xavier, 2022: 4042).


He arrived in Brazil with a contingent of reinforced troops. But he arrived at a delicate moment for Nassau, who had just been defeated in Salvador and failed to take the city after besieging it. Human and material resources were expended, which ended up straining the governor’s relationship with the Company’s leadership. The situation between the parties was so tense that the Company considered looking for someone to replace Nassau in the government of Brazil. To make Arciszewski’s arrival in Brazil even more problematic, he had already been proposed as governor of the colony and, when he did not receive the position, he would have returned to Europe (Mello, 2006: 50, 78-84; Fischlowitz, 1959: 94-95).


Arciszewski’s return to Brazil and his behavior ended up provoking a political-military crisis in the colony. Arciszewski had been sent to Brazil with broad powers over a regiment of infantry troops that had long been expected in Brazil and with the veiled mission of informing the directors of the Company about all the problems of the Nassau administration, which understood the presence of the Pole as an affront to its powers (Fischlowitz, 1959: 95-106; Mello, 2006: 84-86).


A conflict broke out between them when Nassau disbanded the regiment under Arciszewski’s command and redistributed the troops. Nassau justified the action by the poor state of his garrisons after the Salvador campaign, in addition to emphasizing his prerogative as captain general of the Company’s troops in Brazil. Irritated, Arciszewski reacted and wrote a text criticizing the episode and the administration in Brazil. He intended to send it to the directors of the Society in the Netherlands, but first submitted the draft to Nassau and the members of the Superior and Secret Council. Arciszewski’s criticism caused great consternation among those present at the tense meeting. After discussions and attempts to appease the parties, the Pole eventually lost his seat. He was arrested in his quarters and sent to Holland, thus abruptly ending his career in Brazil (Miranda, Xavier, 2022: 43-44).


Upon his return to the Netherlands, Arciszewski set out on a journey to defend his honor, although the results were less satisfactory than he had hoped. He did not leave the Netherlands until 1646. He returned to Poland to serve as an artillery general in the troops of Władysław IV Waza. Arciszewski participated in military campaigns until 1649. He left the army in 1650. He is known to have traveled in Sweden and then lived in Gdańsk until his death in 1656 (Miranda, Xavier, 2022: 45-48).


BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Coelho, D. de A. (2003). Memórias diárias da guerra do Brasil pelo decurso de nove anos, começando em 1630. São Paulo: Beca.
  • De Laet, J. (1925). História ou Annaes dos feitos da Companhia Privilegiada das Índias Occidentaes [Trad. José Hygino Duarte Pereira]. In Anais da Biblioteca Nacional, volumes XLI-XLII.
  • Pudsey, C. (2000). Journal of a Residence in Brazil [Trad. D. M. Teixeira, N. Papavero; Ed. C. Ferrão, J. P. M. Soares]. Petrópolis: Editora Index.

Livros:

  • Boxer, C. R. (2004). Os holandeses no Brasil (1624-1654). Recife: Companhia Editora de Pernambuco.
  • Fischlowitz, E. (1959). Cristóforo Arciszewski. Rio de Janeiro: Ministério da Educação e Cultura.    
  • Kraushar, A. (1893) Dzieje Krzysztofa z Arciszewa Arciszewskiego, admirała i wodza Holendrów w Brazylii. 2 vol. St. Petersburg: Ksieg. Br. Rymowicz.
  • Kukuczka, Jacek; Tenerowicz, Eleonora; Hordynski, Piotr. (Org.) (2001). Przyjmij laur zwycieski Krzysztof Arciszewski w sluzbie Holenderskiej kompanii Zachodnio-Indyjskiej / Accept the Victorious Laurel Christopher Arciszewski in the service of the Dutch West-Indian Company. Kraków: Muzeum Etnograficszne im. S. Udzieli w Krakowie.
  • Mello, E. C. de. (2006).  Nassau: governador do Brasil holandês. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras.
  • Mello, E. C. de. (2010). O Brasil holandês. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras.
  • Miranda, B. R. F. (2014). Gente de guerra: origem, cotidiano e resistência dos soldados do exército da Companhia das Índias Ocidentais no Brasil (1630-1654). Recife: Editora da Universidade Federal de Pernambuco.               
  • Miranda, B. R. F; Xavier, L. F. W. (Org.) (2022). As memórias de Krzysztof Arciszewski. Um polonês a serviço da Companhia das Índias Ocidentais. Recife: Companhia Editora de Pernambuco.
  • Warnsink, J. C. M. (1937). Christoffel Artichewsky. Poolsch krijgsoverste in dienst van de West-Indische Compagnie in Brazilië, 1630-1639. ‘s-Gravenhage: Martinus Nijhoff.
  • Wätjen, H. (2004). O Domínio Colonial Holandês no Brasil. Um capítulo da história colonial do século XVII. Recife: Companhia Editora de Pernambuco.

Artigos de revista:

  • Teensma, B. N. (2018). A missiva de Joris Adriaensen Calf relatando a campanha do cerco e conquista de Porto Calvo em 1637. Revista do Instituto Arqueológico, Histórico e Geográfico Pernambucano, 71, 277-286.
  • Teensma, B. N. (2018). As cartas do Conde Maurício de Nassau comunicando a vitória no cerco e conquista de Porto Calvo em 1637. Revista do Instituto Arqueológico, Histórico e Geográfico Pernambucano, 71, 287-301.

Tesis de Doutorado:

  • Kotljarchuk, A. (2006). In the shadows of Poland and Russia: the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Sweden in the European crisis of the mid-17th century. (Tese de Doutorado). Universidade Södertörn, Estocolmo.
  • Páginas de la web: BRASILHIS Dictionary. (2022). Dicionário biográfico e temático do Brasil na Monarquía Hispânica (1580-1640) (15 de março de 2023)

Author:

Bruno Miranda

How to quote this entry:

Bruno Miranda (Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco). “Krzysztof Arciszewski“. In: BRASILHIS Dictionary: Biographic and Thematic Dictionary of Brazil in the Spanish Monarch (1580-1640). Available in: https://brasilhisdictionary.usal.es/en/cristovao-arciszewski-3/. Date of access: 25/02/2024.

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