Wednesday, July 1, 2009
July is a good month in my Polish military history - on July 4 1610 small Polish army defeated 6 times its size Muscovite-Western army at Klushino. On July 15, 1410 Polish -Lithuanian armies under king Wladyslaw Jagiello dealt crushing and overwhelming blow to the mighty Teutonic Order army, thus securing the most magnificent victory over the Teutonic Order and their Western 'guest' knights (from France, England, Reich, Italy etc) on the fields of Grunwald (Tannenberg).
Returning to hussars - today perhaps it may be desirable to talk a bit about the appearance of the winged hussars in the XVI (16th) century.
Hussars started as Serbian cavalry back in the early XV (15th) century, and became known to the West during the reign of the famous Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus, who came close to become the Holy German emperor himself, and was many times a victor of the Hapsburg armies - amongst other his 'Black Army' took Vienna from them and made her his capital. Polish military commanders met with the Serbian hussars of king Corvinus during the Silesian campaigns of 1470ties. They learned and by 1500 AD we find first units of Serbian hussars in the Polish Army. By 1505 first Polish knights joined these newly appearing type of cavalry, thus our Polish hussars had been born :)
Here you can find two images of future winged hussars from the beginning of the century and more typical image of a parade-attired hussar from the second half of the same century. As you can see they started as a very light, estradiota type cavalry, and by the second half they were already moving towards more medium or even heavier cavalry, with Turkish helmet known as shiszak, curved sabre, Balkan (Serbian) shield, long lance painted and gilded ( Renaissance fashion) but yet empty inside to compensate for the tremendous length of this weapon - up to 6,3m (21 feet).
Horses, stallions or geldings, are bitted with curb-bits, ridden in rather shorter Turkish or even Eurasian steppe fashion - very similar to the Spanish la gineta - with long spurs and wider stirrups. Ornate horse harness is a must and a long Oriental carpet like shabraque or czaprak (from Turkish language) covers horse's back. The pennon seen here -of the early Serbian hussar - is small, the later hussar has quite a large pennon but soon their pennons would grow up to 2,7 m ( 9 feet) in length... The second rider has a large peacock feathers bunch on top of his shishak but our and Hungarian future hussars will be covered with eagle wings, ostrich feathers, wild animal skins and other wild beast symbolic imagery going back to the ancient Eurasian steppe traditions. Then add tuck ( koncerz, panzersrecher, estock), mace, pair of pistols, war-hammer or war-ax (in the ancient Eurasian steppe tradition going back to the Scythians-Saka) and armour, and we will see fully developed winged hussar.