Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Polonais, prenez moi cez canons - Somosierra 1808-2016


''Polonais, prenez moi cez canons'' - said Napoleon, emperor of the French
and so this November 30  is yet another anniversary of the famous charge of the elements of Le 1er régiment de chevau-légers lanciers polonais ( the 1st Polish Light Cavalry Regiment of the Imperial Guard)against the Spanish defenders of the Somosierra Pass.
 Young, then, nobleman and officer captain Jan Kozietulski, the first commanding officer of the 3rd squadron, is the most famous cavalryman of this charge... sadly his horse died there and he was unable to complete the capture of the Spanish guns - four consecutive batteries.
 Second commanding officer - captain Jan Nepomucen Dziewanowski - got wounded before the completion of the charge at the third battery, then lt. Piotr Krasinski lead but was unhorsed and limped back, while the final commander lt. Andrzej Niegolewski lead the fragmented 3rd squadron to the capture of the final 4th battery. The 4th battery was soon lost with the surviving Poles withdrawing back to the 3rd battery, Niegolewski himself was bayoneted and left for dead by the attacking Spanish infantry, but another Polish Lighthorse squadron, the 1st,  and a platoon of the Mounted Chasseurs of the Guard under the overall command of captain Tomasz Łubieński recaptured the 4th battery and then the advancing French infantry secured the victory for the God of War.

Louis-François Lejeune, officer and artist, was there according to his journals, and painted his recollection of the later faze of this struggle - it is probably the most important image of this battle
Famous French painter Horace Vernet created a vision of the battle's aftermath, and it is a very appealing collection of portraits  both men and horses
himself a veteran of Polish army painter extraordinary January Suchodolski  painted his vision of the struggle

late in the XIX century already famous Polish painter Wojciech Kossak attempted to paint the panorama painting of the charge - after making a trip to the battle site and taking notes at the actual place, but he never finished this project (lack of funding mostly), leaving us with large oil-on-canvass sketches.
These can be viewed at the Wiki Commons site - 
here a detail from this panorama:  the French are advancing after the Polish Lighthorse

My friend dr Radek Sikora wrote his take on the battle - here.
Polish illustrator Zuzu painted uniforms of the Polish Lighhorse - can be studied and admired here.
Belgian artist Patrice Courcelle painted very animated plate showing the charge in the Osprey's publication on the Polish Lighthorse of the Guard.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Old Poland Horse Tack from the Malbork Castle

today I am going to share some photos - perhaps not be best quality but very informative - of some Old Poland horse tack.
Ad rem, yesterday my friend Radek Sikora, Ph.D., gave a lecture at the old Malbork Castle Museum. The subject matter was obviously the history of the winged hussars and their relation  to the castle and the surrounding lands, as many historic battles involving or featuring husaria took place in this part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.  Note that it was an important fortress in North-Western Polish Kingdom since 1457, seat of a starost who was nominated by the king with the consent of the Crown council and later senate. - Dzieje Malborka by prof. Karol Gorski

dr Radek took a tour, for the n-th time, of the castle and took some photos with his phone - hence so so quality- of the exhibits inside the castle.
With dr Sikora's kind permission I am sharing these photos with you for your enjoyment and pleasure -

Old Polish horse tack and saddles -
the overview of the display

bridles and halters

at the foot of the horse mannequin there is a breastplate

complete bridle with curb-bit and reins

no bit, but there are reins to complete this bridle, also it may be a breastplate below, huge shabraque in then background

no reins, also the halter has no throatlatch strap but a poll strap with a 'halzbant'
cub-bit and snaffle bit and metal muzzle with shabraque, spurs on the right..
a detail of a fine Polish sabre

curb-bit hung upside down, spurs of various periods on the right
unusual saddle -  leather covered seat and skirts survived

'bare' saddle tree - without the textile skirts and seat, but pommel and bars' adornments survived

'jarczak'-style saddle tree, again no textile or leather seat and skirts survived, beautiful stirrups at the bottom - note two straps for attaching the cinches, a fragment of a period curbbit hung upside down

Old Poland-style crupper


Monday, November 21, 2016

Pfaltzgraf on horseback - Baroque engravings

today we will do a quick landing in the beginning of the XVII century, in the Holy Roman Empire, precisely in the Rhine valley, where at that time existed various states ruled by elector-princes.
I would like to turn your attention to two such princes count-palatine (comes palatinus) or Pflazgraf of Neuburg at al., and the prince-elector (princeps elector) or Kurfürst of Palatinate and king of Bohemia  - the images of horse and his rider are in the ancient traditions established already by the Greeks and Romans 2000 years earlier, cultivated by the Medieval chivalry and eventually the early modern riding schools and their noble pupils. Sort of a bridge between the ancient tradtion and modern horsemanship

Wolfgang Wilhelm, count-palatine
 Count Wolfgang Wilhelm seems to be riding in the Italian-Spanish style (as seen in the later Crispin de Passe's images or  Velazquez' portrait of Felipe IV) , dressed in the courtly riding attire, sitting at ease well mounted on a spirited but collected Spanish? stallion. The rider is not a warrior, but master of his mount, perhaps in this print he also serves as a fine example of the courtly art of horsemanship.
They, the ruler and his steed, cast  a splendid figure together,  amid the bucolic and prosperous landscape of his realm.
But below
Frederic V, prince-elector of Palatinate, and king of Bohemia
 Duke and king, short-while though, Frederic is a different matter. He is a warrior (cuirassier armor and with his broadsword at hand), military leader and statesman (Prague behind him and the marshal staff in his hand) mounted on a stallion moving in passage or parade trot. The stallion appears to be, from his conformation, a Turkish one, neighing and very spirited, but his tail tied to show it is a warhorse. His mount's tack is perhaps a mixture of the English and Imperial traditions.
His riding is military (the bridle is curb-bit with two-reins, as preferred by the cavalrymen) and full of action and bravado, closer to the ancient Greeks than the Italian-French schools of horsemanship.
Unfortunately for this rider, he rode nowhere, as his Bohemian kingship lasted but a year (he was a duke of Silesia too - Silesia being mostly the Bohemian Crown fiefdom- it thus makes him a bit 'our' that is a Polish lands ruler), and he also lost his ancestral holdings, becoming a fugitive lord depended on the Lion of the North until his untimely death at Mainz in 1632.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Fetterman Fight - Cheyenne account 1

back to bloggin' I hope
I do like primary accounts of historic events and I decided to reopen this blog with a story about the Fetterman Fight, a famous victory of the Teton Sioux and their allies and equally infamous defeat suffered by the US Army elements, 2nd Cavalry and 18th Infantry, at the hands of the Lakota, Arapaho and Cheyenne warriors during the Powder River War. The fight took place 3 days before Christmas  December 21, 1866, but since it is already late Fall this 2016 I decided to start today and finish the story on the day of the battle.
This battle is famous for the deeds of the Oglala Lakota warrior Crazy Horse but also for the heroic death of Adolph Metzger(nice blog and a very detailed entry on our bugler) who was a veteran cavalryman and the bugler (the name means 'butcher' in German). When you read book you can learn about the soldiers who perished in this violent encounter.

Let me start with this endorsement ..several years ago I read this book by the western Us history scholar Shannon Smith  on this fight (Massacre)/Battle of the Hundred Slain (review here ). It is an eye opening book on many levels, and if you are interested in this battle, the Indian Wars, Army wives, or just the American history of the XIX century this book is definitely for you.
Here, you can read prof. Smith's article on the new perspectives on the Fetterman Fight, sort of the book in a nutshell article.
The battle was primary the Lakota Sioux battle, due to their numbers and importance, however I have always enjoyed the Cheyenne people and their stories, thus I am quoting here excerpts from their history book titled Fighting Cheyennes, and the accounts have the Cheyenne heroes of this battle too.

So please find below  part I from the Cheyennes account of the battle, describing mostly their preparation for the battle and placement of the ambuscade with warriors and women hiding from view - as reported by George Bird Grinnell who was guided and helped by George Bent, his Cheyenne interpreter and confidante:

I [Grinnell and George Bent] have talked of this fight with a number of the Cheyennes who took part in it, and from several of these have had the detailed story. One of them — White Elk — accompanied me over the battle-ground and pointed out the route of the troops, the hiding-places of the Indians, and the spots where different groups of the soldiers fell.

This is the history of the events of that day as White Elk saw them, and as he recalls them forty-eight years after the event. He was then a young man sixteen or eighteen years of age:

It was at the beginning of cold weather. The Cheyennes were camped on Muddy Creek, and Crazy Mule was exhibiting to them his power. Different people were shooting at him, but the bullets and the arrows did not enter his flesh.

Soon after these ceremonies were over White Elk, Plenty Camps, and Rolling Bull began to talk together about making an excursion to war, and at last determined to go, and set out toward the mountains. After leaving the camp they be^an to discuss the route they should follow to reach the country of the Shoshoni. They determined to go in below Fort Phil Kearny to the head of Powder River.

As they were marching along. Just getting out of Tongue River Canyon, they met four Cheyennes returning to the camp, who asked: "Where are you going?" The young men said they were going to war against the Shoshoni. The four men warned them, saying: "Be careful how you go about the fort. Up to this time we have always been friendly with those people, but now they have been shooting at us. They are on the watch; so be careful" The three kept on their way and stopped at Big Springs on Tongue River. After they had reached camp. Rolling Bull asked: "What do you think of this that has been said to us? Shall we go back?" Plenty Camps said: "Let us go on a little farther and see what will happen." Both these men were older than White Elk. The message given by the four Cheyennes, of course, threatened some danger. From the post, and besides this to be warned in this way just as they were starting out on a journey was a bad omen.

Plenty Camps, who seemed to be thinking, at length spoke, saying: "I believe that those four men we passed must have done some mischief up there by the fort. Let us stay here overnight and to-morrow return to the camp."

At Fort Phil Kearny something like this had perhaps happened : The Sioux had been attacking the wood-trains and already had killed some people. They had thus shown their hostility. The four Cheyennes may have ventured near the fort, been recognized as Indians, and so have been fired on by the troops. To these soldiers an Indian was an Indian and so an enemy.

Next morning the three young men remained in this camp till late in the day, when Plenty Camps said: "We will not go in to-night; let us sleep here again." Next morning early Rolling Bull said to White Elk: "Friend, get up and go down to the river and get some water." White Elk got the water, and had come half-way back to the camp when he thought he heard some one utter a yelp, and stopped to listen. As he listened closely he heard far off a number of people singing. He carried his water to their shelter and said to the others: "I think I heard a number of people singing." As they stood there listening on a sudden four Sioux rode in sight. They rode up to the camp and spoke to Rolling Bull, who could talk their language. He turned and said to his companions: "These men tell me that many people are coming, some on foot and some on horseback. Women are coming with the men. They are coming up Tongue River on their way to the Cheyenne camp."

The Sioux told them that this was a war party brought together for the sole purpose of fighting the soldiers who were at Fort Phil Kearny. The Indians had laid a plan to try to get the soldiers into the open. They intended to send a small party to make an attack on the post to see if they could not induce the soldiers to come out from the fort " If we cannot get the soldiers to come out as we want them to," they said, "then we will attack the post."

The four Sioux stayed there talking with the Cheyennes, and presently the whole Sioux party came in sight. Some of the older Sioux shook hands with the Cheyennes and asked them to return with the Sioux to the Cheyenne camp. The Cheyennes went with them and that night they camped at the Big Springs near the head of the canyon.

At dark an old crier went about the circle of the camp and called to all the companies of soldiers to get together, for a council was to be held. The Sioux men formed in a big circle about the camp and the chiefs and the soldier chiefs gathered in the centre, where the Cheyennes too were taken. There was much talking, all of it in Sioux and so comprehended only by Rolling Bull.

After they had finished talking the Sioux came over to the Cheyennes and said to them: "Now to-night we have made our plans as to what we shall do, and we intend to ask the Cheyennes to join us. We have chosen four men to go on ahead and notify the Cheyenne and Arapaho camp of our plans." These two camps were close together. The four men selected had got their horses and saddled them and now rode up, and the Sioux chief spoke to than and at length they rode off.

The next day near sundown the four Sioux messengers returned to the war party and told the chiefs that they had reported to the Cheyennes just what the chiefs had ordered, but that the Cheyennes had said that they must have time to get ready. Nevertheless, the Cheyennes must have left their camp in the night and come part way toward the Sioux camp, for the next morning — not very early — the Cheyennes and Arapahoes charged the Sioux camp — a friendly act. Then, after the charge, the Cheyenne chiefs gathered by themselves and told their young men that the Sioux had sent for them to help fight the soldiers. They must not weaken, but every man must stand his ground and do his best. After that all the Cheyennes fell in single file and rode all around the Sioux camp and stopped on the river below the camp and dismounted. They remained there all night.

Next morning they went as far as Crow Standing Off Creek — Prairie Dog Creek — and camped. After leaving this camp they went up Crow Standing Off Creek beyond where it forks, keeping up the right-hand fork. Soon they came to a flat prairie and the Sioux were directed to form a line with a wide front — abreast. There were many of them. A Cheyenne chief called out to his people, saying: "Men, do not fall in line with the Sioux. We are not carrying on this war party." The Arapahoes did not form abreast like the Sioux, but stood to one side.

Soon a person, half man and half woman — He e man eh — with a black cloth over his head, riding a sorrel horse, pushed out from among the Sioux and passed over a hill, zigzagging one way and another as he went. He had a whistle, and as he rode off he kept sounding it. While he was riding over the hill some of the Cheyennes were told by the Sioux that he was looking for the enemy — soldiers. Presently be rode back, and came to where the chiefs were gathered and said; "I have ten men, five in each hand; do you want them?" The Sioux chiefs said to him: "No, we do not wish them. Look at all these people here. Do you think ten men are enough to go around" The He e man eh " turned his horse and rode away again, riding in the same way as before. Soon he came back, riding a little faster than before and swaying from one side to the other on his horse. Now he said: "I have ten men in each hand, twenty in all. Do you wish them?" The same man replied: saying, "No, I do not wish them; here are too many people here and too few enemies." Without a word the half-man-half-woman turned his horse and rode off.
The third time he returned he said: "I have twenty in one hand and thirty in the other. He thirty are in the hand on the side toward which I am leaning."
"No," said the Sioux, "there are too many people here. It is not worth while to go on for so small a number." The He e man eh rode away.
On the fourth return he rode up fast and as his horse stopped he fell off and both hands struck the ground. "Answer me quickly," he said, "I have a hundred or more," and when the Sioux and Cheyennes heard this they all yelled. This was what they wanted. While he was on the ground some men struck the ground near his hands, counting the coup. 
Then they all went back and camped on Tongue River, at the mouth of the little creek they were going to follow up.

That night the names of ten young men were called out, and those called were ordered to start that night and to be ready the next morning to attack the post. There were two Cheyennes, two Arapahoes, and two from each of the three tribes of Sioux who were present. 

The two Cheyennes were Little Wolf and Wolf Left Hand. After he had been chosen Little Wolf rode over to the fire at which his brother. Big Nose, was sitting. A few days before the two brothers had quarreled with one another, Little Wolf said to his brother: "Brother, I have been called to go and attack the post; take my horse and do you go."
Big Nose was still angry and said: "Take back your horse; I do not want him." Bull Hump, who wished to make the brothers friends again, said to Big Nose: "My friend, here are my moccasins and my war clothes. If you have any bad feeling you may have those clothes to lie in" (i. e., to be killed in). Big Nose accepted the clothes and agreed to go. Little Wolf and his brother Big Nose were both good men in a fight — one as good as the other.

Some time after the young men sent to the fort had gone — just as day was about to break — all the men were called and ordered to saddle their horses, and when this had been done they moved out. They followed the stream up to the forks and there stopped. The Cheyennes kept by themselves and did not mingle with the Sioux. At the forks they stopped and a Sioux cried out, haranguing the Cheyennes, and asking them to choose which side of the ridge they wished to be on, the upper or the lower side. The Indiana hoped to draw the soldiers down this ridge between their two forces hidden on other side.

One of the Cheyenne chiefs said that bis people would take the upper side of the ridge, and presently the order was cried out for the Cheyennes and Arapahoes to take the upper — west —side. In going up to the place selected, the people who were on foot stopped near the lower end of the ridge, not far from the stream, while those on horseback, who had the longest distance to go, went on up above. All the Cheyennes and Arapahoes were mounted. Some Sioux women who were along stayed below with the Sioux men who were on foot.

After the different parties had gone to their places and hidden themselves everyone kept very still. All were waiting, listening for what might be heard.
 to be continued
I could not resist to include this interesting and unusual ledger drawing* of the Cheyenne warriors fighting the Mexican lancers.

...*from Wikipedia

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Break in blogging

I have stopped blogging, the 2016 elections in the US of A have taken my free time and interest  rather very strongly. But after horses, art, history etc politics are also my passion.
So go out there and vote your heart & mind desire if you can
be back shortly

God bless America