Polish hussars

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Husarz (Hussar of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) by Józef Brandt.

The Polish Hussars[1][2][3] (/həˈzɑr/, /həˈsɑr/, or /hʊˈzɑr/; Polish: Husaria), or Winged Hussars, were one of the main types of the cavalry in the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland (later also introduced into the army of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) between the 16th and 18th centuries. When this cavalry type was first introduced by the Serbian and Hungarian mercenary horsemen in the beginning of the 16th century, they served as light cavalry banners in the Polish army; by the second half of the 16th century and after Stephen Báthory's reforms, hussars had been transformed into heavily armored shock cavalry. Until the reforms of the 1770s, the husaria banners were considered the elite of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth cavalry.

History[edit]

Origins and usage outside Poland[edit]

Main article: hussar
Polish-Lithuanian hussar, 16th-century engraving.
Grand Standard Bearer of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Chorąży Wielki Koronny) on the Stockholm Roll (c. 1605)

The word "hussar" derives from the Hungarian Huszár. Exiled Hungarian warriors introduced hussar horsemen – light cavalry armed with hollowed lance, Balkan-type shield, and sabre

The Hungarian Kingdom's hussar banners (units) were organized into a strong, highly trained and motivated formation during the reign of King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary. Under his command, the various hussar banners took part in the wars against the House of Habsburg, Bohemia, Poland and the Ottoman Empire (in 1485) and proved successful against the Turkish cavalry as well as Bohemians, Germans, Austrians, and Poles. In the Kingdom of Hungary, various peoples (Serbs, Croats, Wallachians, Hungarians) made changes to the hussar armament and thus introduced armour in terms of helmets, mail, gorgets making hussars much heavier cavalry than when they first started around 1500. The Kingdom of Hungary's lance-armed, armour-clad hussar companies existed first in the armies of Hungary and her vassal principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia and later in the Habsburg armies until early 17th century. The Hungarian, Wallachian and Moldavian hussars abandoned armour and heavy lances during the course of wars and pillages in the late 17th century, reinventing themselves as scrimmage, reconnaissance and pillage horsemen, becoming light cavalry, similar to the Croats in Habsburg service. In the 18th century, when Rákóczy's uprising failed in Hungary, many noble hussars, with their retainers, fled to other Central and Western European countries and became the core of similar light-cavalry formations created there, for instance, the 1st French Hussar Regiment created and trained by Count Miklós Bercsényi. Starting with the War of the Austrian Succession, the Prussian army used Hungarian-style hussar regiments extensively in the wars of Frederick the Great.

In Poland[edit]

Entrance of winged Polish hussar delegates in La Rochelle, France, in 1573, following the Siege of La Rochelle (1572–1573) and their offering of the Polish throne to the Duke of Anjou.

In the 15th century, light hussars based on those of King Mathias Corvinus were adopted by some European armies to provide light, expendable cavalry units. More spectacular were the heavy hussars that developed first in the Kingdom of Hungary and later in the Kingdom of Poland and later, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, 1569 after the Union of Lublin.

In 1500, the Polish Treasury books make their first references to hussars, still light cavalry, largely foreign mercenaries, from the Serbian state of Raška (Рашка) and were called Racowie ('of Serbia'). "They came from the Serbian state of Ras."[4][5] Initially the first hussar units in the Kingdom of Poland were formed by the Sejm (Polish parliament) in 1503, which hired three banners of Hungarian mercenaries. Soon, recruitment also began among Polish citizens. Being far more expendable than the heavily armoured lancers of the Renaissance, the Polish-Serbian-Hungarian hussars played a fairly minor role in the Polish Crown victories during the early 16th century, exemplified by the victories at Orsza (1514) and Obertyn (1531). During the so-called 'transition period' of the mid-1500s, 'heavy' hussars largely replaced 16th-century armoured lancers riding armoured horses, in the Polish 'Obrona Potoczna' cavalry forces serving on the southern frontier.

In the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth[edit]

Polish hussars during entry into Kraków, detail of so-called Stockholm Roll, 1605.
Husarz 200 złotych coin, gold

The true winged hussar arrived with the reforms of the king of Poland and grand duke of Lithuania Stephen Bathory in the 1570s and was later led by the king of Poland and grand duke of Lithuania Jan III Sobieski. The hussars were the leading, or even elite, branch of cavalry in the Polish-Lithuanian army from the 1570s until 1776, when their duties and traditions were passed on to the Uhlans by a parliamentary decree. Most hussars were recruited from the wealthier Polish and Lithuanian nobility (szlachta). Each hussar 'towarzysz' (Polish for 'comrade') raised his own poczet or lance/retinue. Several retinues were combined to form a hussar banner or company (Chorągiew husarska).

Over the course of the 16th century, hussars in Hungary became heavier in character: they abandoned wooden shields and adopted plate-metal body armour. When Stefan Batory, a Transylvanian-Hungarian prince, was elected king of Poland and later accepted as a Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1576, he reorganized the hussars of his Royal Guard, making them a heavy formation equipped with a long lance as their main weapon. By the reign of Batory (1576–1586), the hussars had replaced medieval-style lancers in the Polish Crown and Grand Duchy of Lithuania armies, and they now formed the bulk of the Polish and Lithuanian cavalry. By the 1590s, most Polish-Lithuanian hussar units had been reformed along the same 'heavy' model. These 'heavy' Commonwealth hussars were known in Poland as husaria.

Polish Husaria half-armour from the mid-17th century, on display in the National Museum in Kraków.

With the Battle of Lubiszew in 1577, the 'Golden Age' of the husaria began. Between then and the Battle of Vienna in 1683, the hussars fought many actions against several enemies, most of which they won.

In the battles of Lubiszew in 1577, Byczyna (1588), Kokenhausen (1601), Kircholm (1605), Kłuszyn (1610), Chocim (1621), Martynów (1624), Trzciana (1629), Ochmatów (1644), Beresteczko (1651), Połonka (1660), Cudnów (1660), Chocim (1673), Lwów (1675), Vienna (1683), and Párkány (1683), the Polish–Lithuanian hussars proved to be the decisive factor against often overwhelming odds. For instance, in the Battle of Kluszyn during the Polish–Muscovite War, the Russians outnumbered the Commonwealth army 5 to 1, yet were heavily defeated. During the Khmelnytsky Uprising (Battle of Zhovti Vody, 1648), the Polish army of 1,500, containing less than 200 hussars, defended against Khmelnytsky's 11,000-man army due to the hussars' defence work.

The role of the hussar evolved into a reconnaissance and advanced scout capacity. Their uniforms became more elaborate as their armour and heavy weapons were abandoned. In the 18th century, as infantry firearms became more effective, heavy cavalry, with its tactics of charging into and breaking infantry units, became increasingly obsolete and hussars transformed from an elite fighting unit to a parade one.

Polish winged hussars[edit]

Hetman's Guard – Wacław Pawliszak

Instead of ostrich feathers, the husaria men wore wooden arcs attached to their armour at the back and raising over their heads. These arcs, together with bristling feathers sticking out of them, were dyed in various colours in imitation of laurel branches or palm leaves, and were a strangely beautiful sight to behold ... – Jędrzej Kitowicz (1728–1804).[6][7]

The hussars were famous for their huge 'wings', a wooden frame carrying eagle, ostrich, swan or goose feathers. In the 16th century, characteristic painted wings or winged claws began to appear on cavalry shields.

The most common theory is that the hussars wore the wings because they made a loud, clattering noise which made it seem like the cavalry was much larger than in reality and frightened the enemy's horses. Other possibilities included the wings being made to defend the backs of the men against swords and lassos, or that they were worn to make their own horses deaf to the wooden noise-makers used by the Ottoman and the Crimean Tatars.[citation needed]

Tactics[edit]

Polish Hussar formation at the Battle of Klushino 1610 – painting of Szymon Boguszowicz, 1620

The hussars represented the heavy cavalry of the Commonwealth. The Towarzysz husarski (Companion) commanded his own poczet (kopia) consisting of two to five similarly armed retainers and other servants (czeladnicy) who tended to his horses, food, supplies, repairs and fodder and often participated in battle. His 'lance' was part of a larger unit known as a banner. Each banner had from 30 to over 60 "kopia." The commander, per his contractual obligation, was called "rotmistrz", while the de facto commander was often the "porucznik" (lieutenant). There was also one "chorąży" (ensign) who carried the banner's flag ("znak" or "chorągiew") and could command the banner when the porucznik was unable to. Each banner had one "rotmistrz" kopia that was larger than its other lances; this included trumpeters, and musicians (kettle drummers, more trumpeters etc.). There were other towarzysze with duties (keeping order, helping with manoeuvres) within the banner during battle, but their functions are rather poorly understood.

The Polish–Lithuanian hussars' primary battle tactic was the charge. They charged at and through the enemy. The charge started at a slow pace and in a relatively loose formation. The formation gradually gathered pace and closed ranks while approaching the enemy, and reached its highest pace and closest formation immediately before engagement. They tended to repeat the charge several times until the enemy formation broke (they had supply wagons with spare lances). The tactic of a charge by heavily armoured hussars and horses was usually decisive for nearly two centuries. The hussars fought with a long lance, a koncerz (stabbing sword), a szabla (sabre), one or two pistols, often a carbine or arquebus (known in Polish as a bandolet) and sometimes a warhammer or light axe. In addition, there was no West European stigma attached to the use of a bow and arrows; the more English view was held (the English continued to hold archers in high esteem). It is possible that projectile weapons were used to weaken the enemy's infantry squares and to create a domino effect. The lighter, Turkish-style saddle allowed for more armour to be used by both the horses and the warriors. Moreover, the horses were bred to run very fast with a heavy load and to recover quickly. These were hybrids of old, Polish equine lineage and eastern horses, usually from Tatar tribes. As a result, a horse could walk hundreds of kilometres loaded with over 100 kilograms (warrior plus armour and weaponry) and instantly charge. Also, hussar horses were very quick and manoeuvrable. This made hussars able to fight with any cavalry or infantry force from western heavy cuirassiers to quick Tatars.

Armour and weaponry[edit]

Hussar armour, dating to the first half of the 17th century, Polish Army Museum, Warsaw.
Scale armour of King Jan III Sobieski.
Polish-Lithuanian hussars' sabre

The hussars' towarzysz were required to provide the arms and armour for themselves and their retainers, except for the lance which was provided by the King. Each lance's horses also came at each towarzysz husarski's expense. During their heyday, 1574–1705, winged hussars carried the following arms and armour:

The 'kopia' lance was the main offensive weapon of the hussar. The lances were based on the Balkan and, finally, Hungarian lances, but Polish lances could have been longer and, like their predecessors from the Balkans and Western Europe, they were hollowed, with two halves glued together and painted, and were often richly gilded. They were commonly made from fir-wood, with the lance point being made from forged steel. They had a gałka large wooden ball which served as the handle guard. The hussar's lances usually ranged from 4.5 to 6.2 metres in length and were provided by the King or the banner's owner, not by the regular soldiers. A large 'silk'/taffeta proporzec pennon was attached to the lance below the point. Another type of lance, known as the demi-lance or kopijka, was used and could have been 3 to 3.6 metres long and was used against the Tatars and Turks in late-17th-century wars.

The Towarzysz husarski carried underneath his left thigh an Eastern-derived koncerz estoc (up to 1.5 metres in length) and, often, a palasz (a type of broadsword) under his right thigh. The szabla sabre was carried on the left side, and several types of sabres were known to winged hussars, including the famous szabla husarska.

Winged hussars sometimes carried additional weapons, such as "nadziak" type of war hammers and battleaxes. Towarzysz husarski carried one or two wheellock (later flintlock) pistols in the saddle holsters, while retainers also might have carried a pistol or light wheellock arquebus or carbine; from the 1680s a carbine for retainers was mandatory.

Individual hussar towarzysz may possibly have carried a Tatar or Turkish reflex bow with arrows in a quiver, especially after the mid-17th century, when many 'pancerny' companions became hussars, and some sources of the late 17th century note the existence of bows amongst the hussar companions. During the first half of the 18th century, while in non-military attire, the hussars' companion carried a bow in a bow case to denote his military status. Yet bows in bow cases were carried by all cavalry officers of the National Army until the reforms of the 1770s, including Uhlan units in the Saxon service.

At the height of their prowess, from 1576 to 1653, hussar armour consisted of a Polish variant of the szyszak Oriental Turkic-originated helmet with a hemispherical skull, comb-like, Western morion 'cheekpieces' with a heart-shaped cut in the middle, neck-guard of several plates secured by sliding rivets, and adjustable nasal terminating in a leaf-shaped visor. Shishak and kettle hat helmets for the lower rank (retainers) were often blackened as was their armour. A cuirass (breast plate), back plate, gorget, shoulder guards and of the Great Steppe, Western vambraces with iron glove and later, during the 1630s, the Persian-originated karwasz vambrace, for forearm protection. Towarzysz also could wear tasset hip, cuisse thigh and poleyn knee protection, underneath a thigh-length coat of mail or specially padded coat with mail sleeves. Retainers usually wore less expensive and older armour, often painted black, and, after the 1670s, might have no cuirass, according to some sources.

Karacena Sarmatian armour (of iron scales riveted to a leather support) might have consisted of a scale helmet, cuirass, gorget, leg and shoulder protection and became popular during the reign of King Jan Sobieski, but perhaps due to costs and weight, remained popular mostly with the winged hussar commanding officers.

Their armour was light, usually around 15 kg, allowing them to be relatively quick and for their horses to gallop at full speed for long periods. Albeit from the 1670s onwards, chain-mail was used when fighting the Tatars in the southern part of the republic. Towarzysz usually wore a leopard (sometimes tiger, jaguar or lion) pelt over his left shoulder, or as often depicted in the surviving Podhorce Castle paintings, he had the exotic pelt underneath his saddle or wrapped around his hips. Wolf, brown bear and lynx pelts were reserved for leaders and veterans (starszyzna).

Koncerz husarski – sword of the Polish hussars

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brzezinski, Richard and Velimir Vukšić, Polish Winged Hussar 1576-1775, (Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2006), 6.
  2. ^ Polish armies 1569-1696 -Richard Brzeziński
  3. ^ The age of wars of religion, 1000-1650: an encyclopedia of global warfare and civilization -Cathal J. Nolan
  4. ^ The age of wars of religion, 1000-1650, page 428: "Racowie [...] Serbs"
  5. ^ Researched and Written by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewska, B.F.A. SOURCES: Brzezinski, Richard. Polish Armies 1569-1600. (volume 1) #184 in the Osprey Men-at-Arms Series. London: Osprey Publishing, 6, 16. Brzezinski, Richard. Polish Winged Hussar 1576-1775. Warrior Series. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd., 2006. Hollins, David. Hungarian Hussars 1756-1815. Osprey Warrior Series. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, Ltd., 2003. Klucina, Petr. (Illustrations by Pavol Pevny) Armor: From Ancient To Modern Times. Reprinted by New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1992, (by permission of Slovart Publishing Ltd, Bratislava). Ostrowski, Jan K., et al. Art in Poland: Land of the Winged Horsemen 1572-1764. Baltimore: Art Services International, 1999. Wasilkowska, Anna. The Winged Horsemen. Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Interpress, 1998. Zamoyski, Adam. The Polish Way. New York: Hippocrene Books, 1996. Also see http://www.warfareeast.co.uk/main/Hungarian_Composition.htm#HussarsGusars
  6. ^ Anna Wasilkowska, Husaria the winged Horsemen, Interpress, Warszawa 1998, ISBN 8322326823, p.7-6.
  7. ^ Jędrzej Kitowicz, Opis obyczajów i dziejów za panowania Augusta III, Bolesław M. Wolff, Petersburg i Mohylew, 1855.

Bibliography[edit]

Badge of the Polish Army's 1st Armoured Division inspired by armour of winged hussars
  • Zbigniew Bocheński - Ze studiów nad polską zbroją husarską. [w:] "Rozprawy i sprawozdania Muzeum Narodowego w Krakowie" t. VI (1960).
  • Richard Brzezinski, Velimir Vuksic: Polish winged hussar, 1500-1775. Oxford: Osprey, 2005. ISBN 1-84176-650-X.
  • Jan S. Bystroń - Dzieje obyczajów w dawnej Polsce, Warszawa 1932.
  • Jerzy Cichowski, Andrzej Szulczyński: Husaria. Warszawa: Wydaw. Ministerstwa Obrony Narodowej, 1981. ISBN 83-11-06568-3.
  • Piotr Drożdż - Orsza 1518., seria: "Historyczne bitwy", Bellona, Warszawa 2000.
  • Galeria „Broń i barwa w Polsce”. Przewodnik, Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie, Kraków 2004.
  • Bronisław Gembarzewski: Husarze: ubiór, oporządzenie i uzbrojenie : 1500-1775. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Arkadia, 1999. ISBN 83-88055-01-1.
  • Krystyna Kaczmarek, Remigiusz Kaczmarek, Romuald Kaczmarek, Jan Sobieski jako żołnierz i wódz we współczesnej mu grafice, cz. 2, "Wychowanie Techniczne w Szkole (z Plastyką)", 2005, nr 2, s. 39-42
  • Romuald Kaczmarek, Jan Sobieski jako żołnierz i wódz we współczesnej mu grafice, cz. 1, "Wychowanie Techniczne w Szkole (z Plastyką)", 2005, nr 1, s. 26-29
  • Włodzimierz Kwaśniewicz: Leksykon broni białej i miotającej. Warszawa: Bellona, 2003. ISBN 83-11-09617-1.
  • Mirosław Nagielski: Relacje wojenne z pierwszych lat walk polsko-kozackich powstania Bohdana Chmielnickiego okresu "Ogniem i mieczem" (1648–1651). Warszawa: "Viking", 1999. ISBN 83-912638-0-0.
  • Jan Chryzostom Pasek: Pamiętniki. Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1987. ISBN 83-06-01577-0.
  • Leszek Podhorodecki - Chocim 1621., seria: "Historyczne bitwy", MON, 1988.
  • Zuzanna Sawicka: Koń w życiu szlachty w XVI-XVIII w.. Toruń: Wydaw. A. Marszałek, 2002. ISBN 83-7174-839-6.
  • Radosław Sikora - Fenomen husarii, Toruń: Duet, 2003, ISBN 83-918712-8-2.
  • Radosław Sikora - Kłuszyn 1610. Wyd. I. Warszawa: ERICA, 2010, s. 160. ISBN 978-83-62329-05-2.
  • Radosław Sikora - Lubieszów 17 IV 1577, Zabrze: Wydawnictwo Inforteditions, 2005, ISBN 83-89943-05-0.
  • Radosław Sikora - Z Dziejów husarii, Warszawa: ERICA, 2010, ISBN/EAN: 978-83-62329-04-5.
  • Janusz Sikorski (red) - Zarys dziejów wojskowości polskiej do roku 1864, t.1
  • Jerzy Teodorczyk - Bitwa pod Gniewem 22.IX – 29.IX. 1626, pierwsza porażka husarii. [w:] "Studia i materiały do Historii Wojskowości", t. XII, Warszawa 1966.
  • Robert Szcześniak - Kłuszyn 1610., seria: "Historyczne bitwy". Bellona, Warszawa 2008. (wyd. II)
  • Henryk Wisner - Kircholm 1605., seria: "Historyczne bitwy", MON, Warszawa 1987. (wyd. I)
  • Zdzisław Żygulski (junior): Broń w dawnej Polsce na tle uzbrojenia Europy i Bliskiego Wschodu. Warszawa: PWN, 1982. ISBN 83-01-02515-8.
  • Zdzisław Żygulski (junior): Broń wodzów i żołnierzy. Kraków: Kluszczyński, 1998.
  • Zdzisław Żygulski (junior): Husaria polska. Warszawa: "Pagina", 2000. ISBN 83-86951-31-4.

External links[edit]

  • Reenactment a Polish reenactment information site
  • Husaria.us a Los Angeles based Polish Hussar reenactment group and reference library
  • [1] The first Los Angeles based website for this portrayal
  • About hussar's armour (Polish)