Polish Hussars-Probably the Best Cavalry in Europe. Husaria was armoured cavalry which was as fast as light eastern cavalry but it had a power of a heavy cavalry. Hussars were armed by an excellent sabre, lance and guns.
Polish Hussars in action – 1612 Movie
“Attack of Polish Hussars: The last thing that thousands of Swedes, Cosacs and Turks ever saw.”
As your army stands deployed for battle, you scan the enemy’s lines across the field. Cavalrymen in crimson riding coats begin their advance toward you, slowly at first, saving their horses’ strength for the last moments of the charge. As the oncoming army gathers speed your own horses become skittish and a strange roaring whistle grows in the air above the pounding of hooves. Your stomach tightens and a cold sweat breaks across you. Mounted on horses sixteen to seventeen hands high the approaching horsemen appear even more gigantic as you see sweeping wings of eagle feathers arch high over their steel-clad heads. Above the disciplined ranks of thundering iron figures flutter enormous standards bearing images of a white eagle on a blood red field and others showing the winged Archangel, Michael. Fantastic cloaks and saddle cloths of wolf, tiger, and leopard skins flap around every soldier as they continue their ominous attack. As you begin your counter-charge, the galloping knights lower gold-leaf covered lances with streaming pennons for the final impact. You vow to yourself that if you survive this day you will never forget your encounter with the winged Hussars of Poland.
Throughout the period of the Renaissance, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth found itself in a constant defensive posture against the territorial ambitions of Austria, Hungary, Muscovy, Sweden, the Ottoman Empire and the rebellious nature of Poland’s Cossack allies in Ukraine. The Hussars were active across half the face of Europe; from the forests of Muscovy where they installed a Polish Tsar on the throne of Russia, eastern Germany, southern Ukraine and even Vienna where they defeated a vastly superior Turkish army in 1683. For nearly two hundred years the frontier nobility of the commonwealth were born, grew up, and died in the saddle.
In 1569 the crowns of Poland and Lithuania were merged by the Union of Lublin. Thus was created what was to become the first modern democracy and the largest state in Europe. Its territories included Poland, Lithuania, Silesia, East Prussia, Kievan Russia, and Ukraine. Thereafter, Polish kings had no hereditary rights but were elected by the nobility, or Szlachta, and the parliament of the Commonwealth, the Seym. The population of the Commonwealth consisted of Slavs, Lithuanians, various Balts, Germans, Tatars of tribal, Muslim, and even Christian faiths, Armenian merchants, Jews, and a remarkably large population of Scottish settlers (as many as 37,000 according to a recent estimate). Religious tolerance was a fact of law. Poland had a much higher proportion of nobility to the other classes, ten percent as opposed to the one or two percent norm for the rest of Europe. Within the Commonwealth the nobility had all the freedom they could wish for and all, from the richest magnate to the poorest farming gentry, considered themselves equals. Not without justifiable pride could they say Polannus Equas Sum “a Pole is the equal of all”.
The soldiers that expanded and defended the frontiers of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were the Towarzysz Husaria (comrade hussars). Poland has long been renowned for her horse breeding and this was readily apparent in her armies. A Polish military force would generally be made up of 60-75% cavalry, a third of these being Hussars. Other types of cavalry included medium, mail-armored Pancerni (panzers), unarmored light “Cossacks”, and cavalry of the German reiter type.
The armor and equipment of the Hussar must surely be the most beautiful and costly ever seen in Europe and perhaps even the world. The nobles of Poland made conspicuous display of their wealth and standing in their civilian and military dress. Oriental brocades, precious gems, exotic furs, and lavishly decorated armor were de riguer for the Hussars. Over his long riding coat and breeches the Hussar wore three-quarter armor of the Venetian anima style. On his head he wore an eastern style szyszak helmet. The most striking feature of the Hussar’s armor were the wing or pair of wings that were mounted on the back plate of his armor. These consisted of a curved wooden frame decorated with gold and rich fabrics, and a row of eagle or vulture feathers inserted along the back edge. During a charge air passing through the wings created a whirring sound that served to unnerve the opponents’ horses and may also have helped to spur the Hussar’s own horse forward.