Prussian hussar in the Franco-German War [Credit: Photos.com/Thinkstock]
Husar, member of a European light-cavalry unit employed for scouting, modeled on the 15th-century Hungarian light-horse corps. The typical uniform of the Hungarian hussar was brilliantly coloured and was imitated in other European armies. It consisted of a busby, or a high, cylindrical cloth cap; a jacket with heavy braiding; and a dolman, or pelisse, a loose coat worn hanging from the left shoulder. Several hussar regiments of the British army were converted from light dragoons in the 19th century. The name survives in regiments converted to armour. During the Korean War, for example, the 29th British brigade group included the 8th Royal Irish Hussars as the tank unit.
With images collected from google by Pieter (both from wikipedia and other sources)
Husarz (Polish Hussar) by Józef Brandt.
The Polish Hussars (/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 between the 16th and 18th centuries. When this cavalry type was first introduced by the Serbian and Hungarian mercenary horsemen at 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 cavalry.
Origins and usage outside Poland
Polish hussar, 16th-century engraving.
The word "hussar" derives from the HungarianHuszár. 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.
King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary
The Kingdom of Hungary's lance-armed, armour-clad hussar troops existed first in the armies of Hungary and her vassal principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia and later in the Habsburg armies until the 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.
Count Miklós Bercsényi
Members of the French 1st-Hussar-Regiment of the Grande Armee in 1812
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 in the Kingdom of Poland.
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." 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
Grand Standard Bearer of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland (Chorąży Wielki Koronny) on the Stockholm Roll (c. 1605)
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 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 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).
Stefan Batory, the Transylvanian-Hungarian prince, whom became elected king of Poland and later was accepted as a Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1576
The king of Poland and grand duke of Lithuania Jan III Sobieski
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 the 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 army, and they now formed the bulk of the Polish cavalry. By the 1590s, most Polish hussar units had been reformed along the same 'heavy' model. These 'heavy' 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 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.
The battles of Lubiszew in 1577
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.
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).
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.
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 Towarzysz husarski
The Polish 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), set of two to six 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.
I have seen the uniform and the wings in a museum and in photos and paintings, but seeing them in this short video brings new life to the topic. The uniform with feathered wings seems fitting with the military tendency toward ostentation and show, but it also had its practical side in the noise it generated.
The accompanying song is evidently in Lithuanian and not in Polish, fitting for the time of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which is often neglected in our western histories. Some of the comments on the YouTube site may be of interest in filling in details and internaational attitudes of today.
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. It seems that the wing was used not to let horse get exhausted--run too fast, making repeated charges possible.
Initially the first hussar units in the Polish-Lihuanian Commonwealth were formed by the parliament in 1503, which hired three banners of Hungarian mercenaries. Soon, recruitment also began among locals. Being far more expendable than the heavily armoured lancers of the Renaissance, the Serbian-Hungarian hussars played a fairly minor role in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth victories during the early 16th century, exemplified by the victories at Orsza (1514).
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 John III Sobieski. The hussars were the leading, or even elite, branch of cavalry in the Polish 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 nobility (szlachta).
When Bathory was elected King of Poland and later accepted as a Grand Duke of Lithuania in 1576, he reorganized the hussars of his Royal Guard into a heavy formation equipped with a long lance as their main weapon. TRANSLATION OF THE LYRICS: Oh, dear rowan tree, where have you been growing in the midst of the swamps? Where have you been growing in the midst of the swamps, in the green moss? Oh, dear mother, what have you raised me up for? What have you raised me up for and conscripted me to a war? Conscripted me to a war and have forged me three trumpets? He trumpeted the first trumpet as he was riding off from the inner yard He trumpeted the second trumpet as he was riding off from the outer yard He trumpeted the third trumpet as he was joining the troops My horse pranced and all the troops looked at me And all the army had turned to me And a troop of Swedes has come, a troop of brave ones When we've stood in the field, we've knocked all the Swedes out Our Chodkewicz was very strong, he was a real king IF YOU LIKE THIS SONG, FULL ALBUM can be purchased here: ugniavijas.bandcamp.com/album... DAINOS ŽODŽIAI: Oi šermukšnio šermukšnio kur tu augai tarp balių, Ei ei ajajaj, kur tu augai tarp balių? Kur tu augai tarp balių, tarp šių žalių samanų, Ei ei ajajaj, tarp šių žalių samanų? Oi motuše motuše, kam tu mane auginai, Ei ei ajajaj, kam tu mane auginai? Kam tu mane auginai ir in vaiską užrašei, Ei ei ajajaj ir in vaiską užrašei? Ir in vaiską užrašei ir tris triūbas nukalei, Ei ei ajajaj ir tris triūbas nukalei? Pirmą triūbą triūbijo ir kiemelio išjodams, Ei ei ajajaj, iš kiemelio išjodams. Antrą triūbą triūbijo per atšlaimą jodamas, Ei ei ajajaj, per atšlaimą jodamas. Trečią triūbą triūbijo, prie vaiskelio pristojęs, Ei ei ajajaj, prie vasikelio pristojęs. Man' žirgelis sužvingo, visas vaiskas sužiūro, Ei ei ajajaj, visas vaiskas sužiūro. Ir sužiūro sužiūro, kariuomenė į mane, Ei ei ajajaj, kariuomenė į mane. Ir atein žuvėdų pulks, žuvėdų pulks narsiųjų, Ei ei ajajaj, žuvėdų pulks narsiųjų. Kai ant plečiaus sustojum, žuvėdus iškapojom, Ei ei ajajaj, žuvėdus iškapojom. Mūsų Katkus labai drūts, tikras buvo karaliuks, Ei ei ajajaj, tikras buvo karaliuks. Caption author (Finnish) Lispi Caption author (Hungarian) Bence Laczkó Caption author (Turkish) Kaan Kökçü Category People & Blogs
During the siege of Vienna in 1683, the situation for the citizens and the small defending force was desperate. 140 000 soldiers of the Ottoman Empire was slowly but surely tearing the cities defences apart by digging a tunnel under the moat and city walls. The plan was to detonate a series of mines under the wall to make it collapse and use the rubble as a walkway into the city itself. It was truly a race against time since nobody knew if the christian coalition called ”The Holy League”, under the command of the Polish king John III Sobieski would make it in time. They managed to arrive just in time to save Vienna, and the most fearsome of the warriors among them were the Winged Hussars!
======= "Winged Hussars" LYRICS =======
When the winged hussars arrived
A cry for help in time of need, await relief from holy league 60 days of siege, outnumbered and weak Sent a message to the sky, wounded soldiers left to die Will they hold the wall or will the city fall
Dedication Dedication They’re outnumbered 15 to one And the battle´s begun
Then the winged hussars arrived Coming down the mountainside Then the winged hussars arrived Coming down they turned the tide
As the days are passing by and as the dead are piling high No escape and no salvation Trenches to explosive halls are buried deep beneath the walls Plant the charges there and watch the city fear
Desperation Desperation It’s a desperate race against the mine And a race against time
Cannonballs are coming down from the sky Janissaries are you ready to die? We will seek our vengeance eye for an eye
You’ll be stopped upon the steps of our gate On this field you’re only facing our hate But back home the Sultan’s sealing your fate
We remember In September That’s the night Vienna was freed We made the enemy bleed!
Stormclouds, fire and steel Death from above make their enemy kneel Shining armour and wings Death from above, it’s an army of kings
We remember In September When the winged hussars arrived