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-   -   Polish Hussar wings, used in battle or not? (http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showthread.php?t=7365)

Jim McDougall 22nd October 2008 12:13 AM

Polish Hussar wings, worn in battle or not?
 
The article "Winged Hussars of Poland" by Zdzislaw Zygulski Jr. (Arms and Armour Annual I, 1973) gave rise to profound interest in this magnificent heavy cavalry, with key interest of course in the distinct mounted vertical wings worn by these horsemen.
The questions that remain unsolved are what was the purpose or significance of these wings, and were they actually worn into battle.

It seems generally held that the Polish got the idea from Serbian 'deli' horsemen who apparantly wore these type mounted wings toward enemy troops to create disruption, and by about 1570's some Polish cavalry were decorating shields and horses manes with feathers. Apparantly the Serbs began using the concept in the 14th century, while other accounts claim that the wings evolved from a winged device in Italian or South German heraldry.

One idea for the purpose of these distinct wings suggests that the paired wings were to foul the lassos of Tatar horsemen, and that the wings were connected by a cord which formed a triangular exceeding the scope of the lasso. This idea has ultimately been discounted, with the fact that in early use there was a single vertical wing mounted, and modern tests found little likelihood of such purpose.

The other idea suggests psychological warfare, much as noted in the earlier use by Serbian riders. This seems quite possible, but the suggestion that the 'whistling and rustling' of the feathers would terrify the enemy horses. It has been noted that this idea was absurd, as in the din of a heavy cavalry charge it would be impossible to even hear such sound. The standing idea that remains is the visual aspect of psychological warfare, with tall and undulating winged structures moving in mass, as well as long fluttering pennons on lances added to the thunderous noise (termed the 'evil hiss' as noted in Brzezinski).
("Polish Winged Hussars 1576-1775") R. Brzezinski, Osprey 1994.

It seems that certain modern thought suggests that these wings were likely worn on parade, but not actually in battle. There are also suggestions that the huge 5 foot pennons often seen on lances in art were not used in battle either.

I would like to hear what others think, and if there are contemporary narratives supporting the presence of these wings on the hussars in battle. Thier reputation as fierce and virtually undefeated superb cavalry is undeniable, but I'd like to know more on the wings.

Bill M 23rd October 2008 01:30 AM

3 Attachment(s)
As always, another fascinating thread from Jim!

BTW What kind of harpoon DID Captain Ahab use on the Great White Whale, Moby Dick?

Anyhow I have found a few pictures of these "Winged Hussars." Might help promote conversation.

Jim McDougall 23rd October 2008 03:01 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Marsh
As always, another fascinating thread from Jim!

BTW What kind of harpoon DID Captain Ahab use on the Great White Whale, Moby Dick?

Anyhow I have found a few pictures of these "Winged Hussars." Might help promote conversation.



Thanks so much Bill!!! Great illustrations which really do capture the pageantry and fantastic appearance of these cavalrymen. I do hope others find the history of these hussars as interesting as I do.


BTW....Bill, you know me too well. You know I could never watch that movie "Moby Dick" without asking that exact question!!!
Since Melville's Captain Ahab and his quest for the great white whale was based on New England whalers of about late 1830's they would have been using the single flue (barb) type harpoon, but by the time the book was published in 1851, the iron toggle type came in :) !!

We really did have a thread on this just last year :) I couldnt resist.

All very best regards,
Jim

Jim McDougall 31st October 2008 09:27 PM

Well Bill, looks like the pictures didn't bring in any takers......not even my Moby Dick harpoon story :)
Must be somebody else out there who's wondered about these winged cavalry!!

Bill M 31st October 2008 10:16 PM

Well, I like them!

This should stir your chili (and some others also!) Watc this!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6aK2_4XI-E

Looks like one of the attackers is wielding a landsknecht sword one handed! Maybe he got it from a defeated German, or did the Poles have these swords also?

See the defending pikes bounce off the horse's gorget?

Pause the beginning quote and read it through out loud!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbM1...feature=related

and get the movie
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072021/

Jim McDougall 1st November 2008 02:55 AM

Wow! That is stirring allright!!! (understatement).
I had no idea these winged hussars were ever portrayed in a movie, and these images along with the music were incredible....adrenalin+++
Thank you so much Bill.

All the best,
Jim

katana 1st November 2008 12:28 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Cool links Bill :) :cool:

Hi Jim :) ,
the Japanese horsemen often had a banner attached to their backs ....for identification purposes. They tended to be 'light' cavalry and many accounts of their battles describe that after the initial charge, fighting on horseback tended to end up in 'dog fights' ( the aerial type ...not canine ;) ) Because of this ....rapid ID'ing of horsemen was essential to prevent 'friendly fire'.
My understanding is that the Hussars fought in similar manner ....using tactics 'learned' from their battles with 'Eastern' neighbours, many of which were traditionally excellent horseman. These tactics also did very well against 'Western' opponents...whom were unfamiliar with these strategies.

I suspect there are several reasons for the wings...they are impressive :cool: , giving more height to the rider, obscuring the view of those being 'charged' (making it difficult to estimate the number coming towards you..... making it difficult to make quick, counter/defensive decisions) and 'rapid' identification of the riders.

A nice touch is the fact the wings tended to be made from eagle feathers (an important icon of the area).

Kind Regards David

Bill M 1st November 2008 01:01 PM

"We saw it .... the Hussars let loose their horses. God, what power! They ran through the smoke and the sound was like that of a thousand blacksmiths beating with a thousand hammers.

We saw it ...Jesus Maria! The elite's lances bent forward like stalks of rye, driven by a great storm, bent on glory! The fire of the guns before them glitters! They rush on to the Swedes! They clash into the Swedish riders ... Overwhelm them! They crash into the second regiment -- Overwhelmed!

Resistance collapses, dissolves, they move forward as easily as if they were parading on a grand boulevard. They sliced through the whole army already! Next target: the regiment of horse guards, where stands the Swedish King Carol.

And the guard already wavers!"


Description from "Potop "Deluge" by Henryk Sienkiewicz.

We need an icon for "shivers!" :eek:

Jim McDougall 2nd November 2008 02:03 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by katana
Cool links Bill :) :cool:

Hi Jim :) ,
the Japanese horsemen often had a banner attached to their backs ....for identification purposes. They tended to be 'light' cavalry and many accounts of their battles describe that after the initial charge, fighting on horseback tended to end up in 'dog fights' ( the aerial type ...not canine ;) ) Because of this ....rapid ID'ing of horsemen was essential to prevent 'friendly fire'.
My understanding is that the Hussars fought in similar manner ....using tactics 'learned' from their battles with 'Eastern' neighbours, many of which were traditionally excellent horseman. These tactics also did very well against 'Western' opponents...whom were unfamiliar with these strategies.

I suspect there are several reasons for the wings...they are impressive :cool: , giving more height to the rider, obscuring the view of those being 'charged' (making it difficult to estimate the number coming towards you..... making it difficult to make quick, counter/defensive decisions) and 'rapid' identification of the riders.

A nice touch is the fact the wings tended to be made from eagle feathers (an important icon of the area).

Kind Regards David


Thank you David for joining us on this, and for this outstanding addition! I had no idea those Samurai had the banners attached to thier backs. It is fascinating learning of these amazing warriors as well, and trying to imagine the dimension of thier presence.
Nicely done, and thank you for the great illustrations.

All the best,
Jim

Jim McDougall 2nd November 2008 02:07 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Marsh
"We saw it .... the Hussars let loose their horses. God, what power! They ran through the smoke and the sound was like that of a thousand blacksmiths beating with a thousand hammers.

We saw it ...Jesus Maria! The elite's lances bent forward like stalks of rye, driven by a great storm, bent on glory! The fire of the guns before them glitters! They rush on to the Swedes! They clash into the Swedish riders ... Overwhelm them! They crash into the second regiment -- Overwhelmed!

Resistance collapses, dissolves, they move forward as easily as if they were parading on a grand boulevard. They sliced through the whole army already! Next target: the regiment of horse guards, where stands the Swedish King Carol.

And the guard already wavers!"


Description from "Potop "Deluge" by Henryk Sienkiewicz.

We need an icon for "shivers!" :eek:




Bill, you are indeed a true romantic!!! :) and the images of the film clip you linked, along with these quoted passages evoke almost indescribable emotion, which even 'shivers' barely touches!!!
Amazing! and thank you for sharing them.

All the best,
Jim

Jamaz 4th November 2008 04:03 PM

Never ending story ..., but personally I don't believe that wings were used in battle. It could make big impression during parade, show or funeral, but in the battle were undoubtedly very unpractical and uncomfortable. I also don't believe, that hussar could easily operate the sabres wearing wings on his back (more probable are short wings mounted to saddle in order to make a noise). Not to mention about transport problems, wearing problems, etc. Nevertheless it could happen, that wings were used in some number of battles. XVII literature and diaries don't say to much about this topic.

Retained hussar backplates (worn till XVII c) only in few cases have fasteners for wings.
Since wings is hussar symbol in Poland, it's always presents on pictures, movies etc.

Kind regards,
Jamaz

Jim McDougall 4th November 2008 04:27 PM

Jamaz thank you for responding on this topic, and its great to have input from someone from regions where this heritage is proudly preserved. I think your perspective is likely well placed, and I agree that these large, awkward devices would have been a hindrance in pitched battle. It seems that in medieval times there are often many misconceptions about knights in battle, including helms decorated with heraldic charges of awkward size. It has been proven that these were also most often funerary achievements, and often used in romantically charged artistic license.

Concerning practicality, as previously mentioned , the idea of these or any other size wings in order to produce frightening sound would have been superfluous, as the horrendous sound of charging cavalry in itself would drown out any such intended noise. It is interesting that, as David noted, the Samurai did mount a single identifying banner at the back of thier armour and apparantly, did wear this in battle. The origin of the wing idea did apparantly originate with the 'deli' light cavalry of the Turks, though it seems to have been a single wing and these were forward action, diversionary and distracting forces who deliberately sought to present disturbing image and create certain disorder among enemy troops.

With the Polish hussars, in any case, thier magnificent presence either with or without wings cannot be discounted. I appreciate your note on the known narrative and writings of the times not mentioning these wings in combat, and these were the references I was hoping would be noted on whether contemporary reports would have mentioned them.

Thank you for the input and interesting observations.
All best regards,
Jim

Jamaz 5th November 2008 01:15 PM

Thank you Jim,

Some paintings from XVII cent. presenting hussars:

Battle of Kircholm 1605, painted ca. 1630. My favourite one, becuase of detail level, like tactic, equipment etc.

General view:


Hussars charge 1:




Charge 2:


Hussar unit preparing for charge:


Among all of those details there are no wings.


My second favourite paint, the roll presenting entry of the Wedding Procession of Constance of Austria and Sigismund III into Cracow, 1605:




Small wings visible.

Best regards,
Jamaz.

Bill M 5th November 2008 01:37 PM

Though I would like to believe in the romance of the wings being worn in battle, I think that Jamaz makes good points. Here is a link, How the Hussars fought in the 17th century. No mention of wings, but they did have some very effective battle strategies!

http://www.kismeta.com/diGrasse/HowHussarFought.htm

I am still looking for wings in battle. I also want to comment on the head dresses worn by many American Indians also made of eagle feathers and looking very much like the Hussars' wings.

Will find some pictures.

Jim McDougall 5th November 2008 02:38 PM

Jamaz, I really appreciate these excellent illustrations which truly present contemporary views of these brilliant hussars, who were one of the most formidable cavalry of Europe..wings or not. I agree with Bill, in my minds eye I cannot dispel the image of these wonderfully romanticized horsemen, but it is good to resolve the truth in historic perspective. Nicely done on support for the ceremonial and parade use showing the high profile wedding procession! Again, its great having your input here, and having such well placed and represented perspective! Thank you Jamaz!!! :)


Bill....outstanding observation and great association, the eagle feathers were indeed important in American Indian war bonnets, and they were as you have noted equally romanticized in art and literature. That would be a great idea for another thread, and I would like to see more discussion on the weapons and associated costume of these tribes!!

Thank you both so much!!
All very best regards,
Jim

Jim McDougall 5th November 2008 02:51 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by katana
Cool links Bill :) :cool:

Hi Jim :) ,
the Japanese horsemen often had a banner attached to their backs ....for identification purposes. They tended to be 'light' cavalry and many accounts of their battles describe that after the initial charge, fighting on horseback tended to end up in 'dog fights' ( the aerial type ...not canine ;) ) Because of this ....rapid ID'ing of horsemen was essential to prevent 'friendly fire'.
My understanding is that the Hussars fought in similar manner ....using tactics 'learned' from their battles with 'Eastern' neighbours, many of which were traditionally excellent horseman. These tactics also did very well against 'Western' opponents...whom were unfamiliar with these strategies.

I suspect there are several reasons for the wings...they are impressive :cool: , giving more height to the rider, obscuring the view of those being 'charged' (making it difficult to estimate the number coming towards you..... making it difficult to make quick, counter/defensive decisions) and 'rapid' identification of the riders.

A nice touch is the fact the wings tended to be made from eagle feathers (an important icon of the area).

Kind Regards David





Hi David,
I wanted to thank you again for your as usual, most astute, inclusion of this example of tall, mounted objects in the form of banners, by Japanese Samurai in this discussion.
While we seem to have agreed that the use of the Polish hussar wings in battle was unlikely, I think your example of the use of these banners seems to the contrary, and these banners were indeed used.

The point of preventing 'friendly fire' is also an important topic, which evolved into the use of identifying devices, colors or items by troops in battle to accomplish this important feature. From the well discussed heraldry of medieval knights to botanicals used in India and by Scottish clans, to the ultimate development of uniforms worn by armies....including identifying insignia...which brings us back to the Polish Hussars and their more modern use of the wing...this would be interesting to review also.

Perhaps more on the Samurai banners, and of course weaponry would be another great topic here!!

All the best,
Jim

Bill M 31st December 2010 01:34 AM

This deserves a bump!!

Bill M 31st December 2010 09:22 AM

This deserves a bump!!

Oops, accidental double bump!

Samik 4th January 2011 11:27 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill M
This deserves a bump!!

Oops, accidental double bump!


I have studied the "wing-issue" recently and came across a neat article in Polish from the famous author(at least in Poland) on things related to Polish Husaria -Radek Sikora... he sums up things nicely (at least for the Polish side of things). I assume you don't read Polish Bill so write down what interests you about the topic in particular and I will try to give an answer :)

In addition to this I'm in a preparatory stage for a diploma thesis that partly touches the issue of "bordermen" on the Ottoman-Hungarian frontier... some of these "nasty folks" also carried wings as well. Furthermore wings (and feathers) from birds of prey were only a part of the overall "vicious" attire - add animal hides(for both man and horse) from bears, lynxes, wolves, hyenas , lions and a pair of large spurs as well. ;)


Ottoman bordermen (Grenizer) from cca 1590:



These are probably the "Serbs" Jim reffered to in his OP (such units also included Muslim Bosniaks and Albanians-but more on these later when you come up with questions :) )


Cheers,
Samuel


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