Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Circassian horseman

while reading a book on cavalry by a famous British cavalryman Louis E. Nolan, I came across this interesting passage on the Circassian horsemen, so let me share it with you:

   General Sir Charles Shaw gave the following most interesting account of the Circassian horsemen
 in a letter published in November, 1853, in the “Morning Chronicle.” -The noble Circassians who have been fighting against Russia, independent of Turkey, have been 
withinthis short time taken into the Turkish service; and it may be interesting to give a description,
by a Prussian officer, of the Circassian cavalry, who are about to take a prominent part in
 the coming conflict. 
He [Prussian] says: 
    The Circassian wears a pointed steel helmet, with a long horsetail pendent from it; a net of 
steel-work hangs down from the lower part of the helmet, protects the front and nape of the neck, 
and is looped together under the chin, underneath a short red vest, cut in the Polish fashion.” [sic!] 
   "He is clad in a species of coat-of-mail, consisting of small bright rings of steel intervened; his arms,
from the wrist to the elbow, and his legs, from the foot of the shinbone to the knee, are guarded by thin 
plates of steel; he also wears close pantaloons and laced boots. Two long Turkish pistols, as well as a 
poniard, are stuck into his girdle. He has a leather strap with a noose, like a Mexican lasso, hanging at
his side, which he throws with great dexterity over the head of his enemy; a Turkish sabre and a long 
Turkish musket are slung behind his back, and two cartridge-holders across his breast." 
   “The skill with which the Circassians use their weapons is really beyond belief. I have seen them 
repeatedly fire at a piece of card lying on the ground, at full speed, without ever missing.” 
   “They will pick up a piece of money from the ground while executing a charge, by bending
 themselves round below the horse's belly, and, after seizing the piece, suddenly throw themselves 
back into the saddle.They form the choicest body of cavalry in the Turkish service, and I have
watched them, when charging,attack their opponents with a sabre in each hand, managing their 
reins with their mouths ; they will spring out of their saddles, take aim and fire from behind 
their horses, then jump into their saddles again, wheel round, and reload their guns as they
retreat in full career. They are perfect madmen in the attack, and few troops would withstand
the utter recklessness of danger they evince.”  
 “This account of the Circassian cavalry by the Prussian officer may appear incredible to our Life
 Guards, Blues, and Heavies...”

 Above art  by Polish painter Aleksander Orłowski  and a student of Józef Brandt, Franz Roubaud.

Some more images from XIX century:

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