This section of the Polish Winged Hussar covers the arms and armor used by these Legendary Cavalrymen from 1620-1683.
Long Range: Bandolet carbine, Luk (bow)
The Bandolet Carbine got its name from the the leather shoulder belt from which it was slung. Based on my research this carbine was most likely Wheelock, as Flintlock designs did not replace the Wheelock one until a little before the turn of the century (in the carbine category at least) . The Wheelock had an advantage over the earlier matchlock in that it was always ready to fire, and could now be fired with only one hand. This was essential for a mounted Cavalryman, who need the other hand to maneuver the horse. Still, like all early gunpowder it had as many disadvantages as advantages. The lock or pyrite that caused it to fire could easily fail, making misfires a common occurrence on the battlefield, particularly if the weather conditions were poor. In addition the lock had to be treated with the utmost care, lest it break completely. A Hussar could still use the butt to try to bludgeon his foe to death though if it was broken completely or he found himself in a emergency situation. The procedure for reloading was very time consuming, so it may have only been used once per battle. The Range was 150-200 meter , although the accurate range would be more like 50 meters. As for its penetrative power it will certainly be one of the best here, but a quote from a Hussar site leads me to suspect that it will not be as overwhelming as some people would portray it as "
|Bandolet with Flintlock|
Luk (bow) :
The last use of the bow in Europe was at Leipzig, in 1813. Although it was regarded as obsolete long before then, the Polish Hussars seem to have used it throughout the division's history, although it became increasingly regulated to a ceremonial role. It is mentioned in the official Polish site that the bow they used came from the East, which led me to make an inference that it was a Tartar or a Turkish bow, based on the long history of conflict between the two. Eastern bows are smaller and easier to use while on horseback then Western ones. The Polish Hussar would often hang the bow on the left side of his saddle and the quiver on his right.
|Polish Hussars with bows|
Mid Range: Flintlock pistols, Koipa lance
All Calvary of this period carried pistols and the Hussar was no exception.
|The Hussars would have carried these both on their person and saddle|
|A scene from the Battle of Vienna, 1683|
The signature weapon of the Hussars was the Koipa lance. This massive lance reached a staggering 5.5 meters (18 feet) . The reason for this length was that the standard pike was roughly 15 feet meaning that in a battle between Hussar and Pike-man the Lancer will have superior range. In order to make it light the core was bored out from the point to the ball(which was used for better grip). A 2.5-3.0 meter flag was attached just below the steel point.
|Polish Winged Hussar|
The drawback to being so long and hollow was that it broke quite easily, making this a one use weapon. After almost every battle the captain of the hussars would send a request to the government for these lances, which were very expensive to produce.
(Many of the weapons featured in the match can be seen in that video)
Close Range: Szabla, Koncerz, Pallash,
*My research indicates that each Hussar would carry two of these on their person and one underneath the saddle.
|A better quality image of the szabra|
Another great duel here
|The Polish Koncerz|
This ridiculously long blade was 4-5 feet long and was hung under the saddle by the Hussar. The blade was rather thin and not sharpened, eventually ending in a sharpened triangular point; this sword had no hacking or slashing capability whatsoever. It had no other purpose other then to thrust, which it seemed to due quite wonderfully. The Koncerz could allegedly thrust through "ringmail", which actually meant plate mail.
|Koncerz can be seen under his knee|
(not the best video, but illustrates problem that the Koncerz wearer may face).
|The Polish Pallash|
Extremely close range: Polish Hunting dagger (rare)
Special/rare weapons: The Polish War Hammers: Czekan axe , Horseman's pick, Obuch
*Note I haven't been able to find anything saying that a Hussar carried any more then one of these on
him at a time.
|The Schematics of the axe/hammer hybrid|
In truth this was as much war hammer as axe. The metal part consisted of a hammer-like head on one side and a ax with a short, slightly curved blade on the other. The Length of this was around 2 and a half feet, so it was a fairly short weapon that would have only been used once the Lance had broken. It seems to have been gradually replaced by the Nadziak as the 17th century wore on however. Like all war hammers this was probably a bit slow.
(very Inaccurate but entertaining. Shows some advantages of the war hammer)
|The curve of the spike varied between as seen here or curved back completely|
The Nadziak or "horseman's pick" was the most popular of the three war hammers, and perhaps the most formidable. Its hammer-head (usually with a square, but sometimes with an hexagonal face) which has a moulded neck, narrower towards the centre of the weapon, is balanced on the other side by a slightly drooping beak.This was apparently a very dangerous weapon in Poland, as the Polish Parliament outlawed its use no less then 3 times between 1570-1620(although they added the clause "except for war use"). The Hammer part could be used to inflict blunt force trauma, while the beak could be driven though armor.
Further expanding on that here is a quote from the Polish War-hammer site
""The nobleman walking with an obuch often injured his serfs and sometimes even killed them. Because of the danger it represented it was forbidden to come armed with a nadziak at the time of big meetings, sessions of parliament, sessions of the local councils or tribunals where scuffles were common. At the entrance to the Gniezno cathedral there is a fixed notice warning people whosoever would enter this house of God with such a brigandish instrument he would be excommunicated. And indeed it was a brigandish instrument for if someone should hit somebody else with the nadziak's sharp end behind the ear he would kill him instantly, pushing through his temples a fatal iron."
There are some serious drawbacks to this weapon though. Its relative heaviness made it unwieldy and, thus easily avoided. The injury caused by the weapon was also small and rarely immediately fatal. Additionally, if swung too hard the weapon often became embedded in the victim or their armour making retrieval difficult, complicated by the fact that their opponent may still be alive. Also the Hussars seem to have refrained from using this weapon on formation and many Hussars would prefer their sabers to these weapons(a preference which will doubtless change once they encounter Byzantine armor) .
(Mike Loads demonstrates a advantage of the hammer side of the Poll-axe against plate armor.)
* After researching, I have axed another version of the War hammer for being impracticable and not really being used for combat. Called the Obuch this was really used just as walking stick for nobles.
|The Nazdiak's axed brother|
*Horse Breeds* : Eastern style horse, lack of directed breeding, makeshift horses
The horse used by the Hussars were of no definite breed, instead the Polish would often mix their indigenous horses with other breeds that they encountered which were primarily of the Eastern variety . This sub category included Anatolian, Persian, Turkish, Kurdish, Crimean, Caucasian, and Arab breeds. The horse used by the Hussars was a strong powerful beast, and was refined through training as the following quote shows "The creation of a good combat cavalry horse was not a simple affair. There was a long training process. Ideally, they were used in battle only after they were 7 years old, only when they were mature, properly trained, experienced and acclimated to work. The rigorous training program bore fruit in strength and reliability. Strength and endurance is important, but of particular importance is good temperament, experience and training."
Just like with their lances, the Polish Hussars were often perilously low on good horses due to the horse's significantly greater mortality rate. In the battle of Kircholm the hussar regiment lost 300 horses but only 150 riders. Polish trained horses were killed faster then their masters could replace them, and the Polish soon became rather innovative, and would use the army draft horses before the actual warhorse. They also acquired a habit of replacing their slain mounts with those captured from the enemy. Although a horse is better then no horse presumably, there were several drawbacks to this tactic. 1. The horse may not know or trust his rider very well, which could lead to some complications in battle (in addition it may not be properly trained) and 2. The horse may not be of the best breed for combat.
Also the Polish Hussar may be a little more reluctant to shoot the Byzantine's fine Nisean mount for the above reason then the Byzantine will be at shooting his .
Head:szyszak helmet, nasal guard, karacena scale gorget(rare)
Hussar helmets were decorated with depictions of the Virgin Mary, possibly to try to invoke protection from her. The Hussars do not seem to have neck armor.
Body: Breast and back plate, gorget, shoulder Pauldrons, Tassets (rare) animal skins, WINGS!
|Note the Leopard skins|
The Hussars have a wonderful set of armor and I doubt my ability to do it justice through my own descriptions. So I am going to copy+paste the descriptions from "My Armory"
"The breastplate, the basic part of every armor, was made of bright steel, on the average 3-5mm-10mm. thick( *note* in contrast the knight's armor was 2-3 mm thick!) , and consisted of a large upper plate with a central ridge and of a lower part of three to five lames or splints riveted underneath to leather straps (Fig. 16). The backplate, constructed en suite and with the same number of splints, was joined to the breastplate by buckles and thongs.The gorget was always of two plates pivoted on the left shoulder and secured on the right by a stud and key-slot—unlike its Hungarian counterpart, it was worn over the cuirass. Each pauldron was constructed of a single spherical plate covering the shoulder, having in the front one or several small "wings" protecting the armpit, and terminating in some lames of which the lowest was cut in S-shape to protect the elbow"
|A glorious Hussar charge|
The Armor was custom tailored for every individual hussar, and was described as "bullet-proof" (most likely this only applied to carbines and pistols, as the other Hussar page mentioned that no armor of the time could stop musket shots. The Hussar armor was also surprisingly flexible, and the Hussar could twist or bend his body forward with ease. Very, very rarely a Tasset was included and was attached to the bottom portion of the plate. On top of all skins of leopards, bears, wolves even tigers were hung, giving a tiny bit more armor value but much more aesthetic value.
Putting the "Winged" in Winged Hussars:
|Towering above this Hussar's back are what made him legendary|
These wings don't really give any protective value, but they did have psychological. the wings were alleged to have made varying sounds of buzzing as the wind whistled thru them which terrified both the enemy horses and the enemy themselves. This is bitterly contested issue with some insisting that A. you wouldn't have been able to hear the buzzing over cannon fire, muskets, yells ect (a good point in my view) and B. the wings may have not made any noise at all! The author of Polish Winged Hussar 1576-1777 insists that he couldn't hear the wings at all when he was on set for the filming of with fire and sword. They do make their user appear larger then life and this may intimidate undisciplined opponents. Also there is strong evidence to suggest that it was one wing that towered above their head, not two.
Arms: Karwasze, single plate gauntlet
|The two parts were laced together|
Polish Hussars also wore a single plate gauntlet on their bridal arm.
Legs: Tasset, leather
The Hussar doesn't seem to have had much in the way of leg armor. This isn't completely surprising when you think about it, as the leg is probably the region least likeliest to be targeted in a calvary duel, given that the body of the horse is in the way of a lot of shots. They did have some protection though, and the Tasset would have extended down to the thigh(for those rich enough to have afforded one) . Based on the pictures they seem to have worn a great deal of leather from the knees to the boots, giving the Hussar some protection against slashing.
*Note: Total weight of armor was only a slim 30-40 pounds!
Blocking: No shield, nobles dueled
While early hussars did carry a shield, these had fallen out of use by the time frame that I am dealing with. Thus the hussars get no benefit that such an instrument could provide. Many Hussars were great duelers though, in addition to being trained, so this will net hem some point. Duels could occur for a great many of reasons, whether it be for revenge of a dead family member, for a faster promotion(more on that later) , to insults, both real and imagined. Both warrior will be rewarded points for "weapon blocking" just that the Hussars will be awarded more. Whether that will compensate for not having a shield remains to be seen.
|How cool would it be to walk to school with this guy?|
From myArmory: "Polish hussar saddles of oriental type but of local production are deep; to give a proper support to the rider's back, especially at the moment of a lance at*tack. Usually they are covered with embroidered leather or velvet, their bow being mounted in brass or silver while the stirrups, generally called the "Polish variety," are in fact strongly influenced by Tartar-Turkish styles."
The Polish do not seem to have armored their horses, preferring speed over defense. This will be both a disadvantage and a advantage against the Byzantines: on one hand they are much faster then the cumbersome hussars, but on the other once the Byzantines start realizing that their weapons aren't piercing armor to well they are going to start aiming lower.
Tactics: Charge in waves, repeated charges, tightly packed charge, at a bit of a disadvantage against heavy Calvary, Lance as a psychological weapon, close quarter fighting only if charge fails
|The mass of spears could even overwhelm pikemen|
In order to conserve the maximum amount of energy for their horses Hussars would try to wait until they were about fifty paces to charge, although naturally if they were under fire from the enemy they would charge sooner. Prior to charging they would be in loose formation, however once they went into full gallop the formations would become increasingly tightly packed. Not every Hussar would rush into the fray at once, and some would stay back initially. These reserve could presumably flank or reinforce where needed. Like the Byzantines they could would frequently retreat, regroup and recharge.
These charges had little effect against good armor, and the lances would smash upon impact with plate as the battle of Danzig (1627) shows. They excelled against lightly armored foes, and their lances could easily smash through enemy formations, quickly causing a route. As stated above, charges were the main battle tactic of the Hussars, and they wouldn't go in for a close quarter fight so long as they had their lances.
Morale/Motivation: Confessions before battle, Patriotism, Social Maneuvering, Pay
|What they fought for..|
Like the Byzantines, Hussars would try to make peace with god before battle, in order to remove religious burdens prior to the fight.
Nobles fought primarily for two reasons: genuine patriotism and social/political advancement. Throughout its history the Poland-Lithuanian Commonwealth was frequently beset by foreign predations and the Hussars would have felt honor bound to serve in these cases. Being a Hussar was an easy way to get noticed, which would both help nobles get noticed by higher circles and achieve political office. Neither goal would be unrealistic, as Hussars were very popular in Polish society, often being allowed into places that few others would be. Like every elite soldier, they could expect pay higher then their fellow man.
Rules Of Combat: ranks, treated fellow Hussars as equals, conserve energy, forbidden from leaving battle formation
|Yes even he would have been treated as a equal...|
The Towarzysze or companions were a group of nobles that made up the core of the Hussars. Together with the rotmistrz or commander they shared the economic risk/investment of raising troops. Under the companions were poczet or retinue, followed by the pacholiks or retainers. Underneath all of these were the camp servants. Hussars of all ranks would refer to each other as pan brat or "my lord-brother", formally treating each other as equals. Like the Byzantines, Polish Hussars would conserve their energy until the time when they needed it; the charge.
Once The Hussars got in formation, they were forbidden from leaving them.
Training/Discipline/Quality of Enemies: Nobles, Volunteers and career based on wealth, State, Royal and Private companies, partially trained by families, formal training, Quality of enemies: Very High
|A proud Polish noble|
The Hussar regiments were near universally comprised of nobles, specifically the upper and middle class of nobles. Low-income nobles and those that were not nobles at all were could occasionally be found in Hussar regiments, but this was a rare sight. The higher end nobles would enlist for three-five years before quiting, poorer nobles and younger sons of the rich (who would not generally receive inheritance) could elect to become career soldiers.
There were three types of Hussar regiments; those paid for by the enterprising nobles themselves(these were often the first to see action) , those paid for by the state, and then the royal company that the crown paid for. The latter was considered the most prestigious to be in, and serving even briefly could earn a Hussar the title "soldier-knight".
Nobles children would have been brought up with the horse, and by a young age he could both ride and wield a saber effectively. Because of this the state didn't seem to worry about teaching the basics, and would instead focus on harder maneuvers like steering your horse with your feet and formations.
As mentioned previously, Poland was constantly beset by foreign would-be conquerors . The Hussars probably fought every one of their neighbors at least once, and would have gained a great deal of battlefield experience from these encounters.
Martial Arts/fighting style: "War Sports" , Fencing, duels
|When the Poles jousted they had neither armor nor shield..|
Two prominent sports practiced by the Polish children during childhood were jousting and "running at the ring". Running the ring is where someone would try to lance a small metallic ring dangling from a small wooden framework. Jousting was fought exactly in the manner the old knights did, all the way down to the sharpened lances! Small wonder that many a Polish child were killed in these.
Polish Hussars were quite skilled at fencing, specifically with their prized saber and this was an emerging sport among nobles during the Hussar period. Since Polish duels were common they would have gained yet more experience with both the szabra and the war hammer(which some Poles carried to duels).
Polish Winged Hussar Sources:
Polish Winged Hussar 1576-1775 Here
Polish armies 1569-1696, Volume 1
Vienna 1683: Christian Europe Repels the Ottomans Here
Warhorse: cavalry in ancient warfare Here
Imperial Armies of the Thirty Years' War (2): Cavalry Here
Firearms- Weapons of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, 1570-1750 here
Hussar's charge: the moment of impact: Here
Armchair general for some Calvary weapons Here
How Hussars Fought here
Eastern Influences on Polish Arms here
Koncerz and Palasz (Cavalry Stock and Broadsword of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth, 17th C.) Here
Great Polish Hussar site Here
Hussar sabers here
Polish Art Center- Szabra here
Authentic 17th and 18th cen. Blades here
Polish War Hammers Here
Battle Tactics of the Polska Husaria By Rik Sulima~Suligowski Fox Here
Suligowski Regiment- modern day reenactment group here
My Armory Here
Great documentary for Polish armor Here