Ethnographic Arms & Armour
 

Go Back   Ethnographic Arms & Armour > Discussion Forums > European Armoury
User Name
Password
FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read


Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
Old 22nd October 2008, 12:13 AM   #1
Jim McDougall
EAA Research Consultant
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 6,586
Default 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.

Last edited by Jim McDougall : 22nd October 2008 at 03:33 PM.
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23rd October 2008, 01:30 AM   #2
Bill M
Member
 
Bill M's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: USA Georgia
Posts: 1,486
Default

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.
Attached Images
   
Bill M is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23rd October 2008, 03:01 AM   #3
Jim McDougall
EAA Research Consultant
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 6,586
Default

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 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31st October 2008, 09:27 PM   #4
Jim McDougall
EAA Research Consultant
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 6,586
Default

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!!
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 31st October 2008, 10:16 PM   #5
Bill M
Member
 
Bill M's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: USA Georgia
Posts: 1,486
Default

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/

Last edited by Bill Marsh : 1st November 2008 at 01:04 PM.
Bill M is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 1st November 2008, 02:55 AM   #6
Jim McDougall
EAA Research Consultant
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 6,586
Default

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
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 4th November 2008, 04:03 PM   #7
Jamaz
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Lower Silesia, Poland
Posts: 9
Default

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
Jamaz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 4th November 2008, 04:27 PM   #8
Jim McDougall
EAA Research Consultant
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 6,586
Default

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
Jim McDougall is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 5th November 2008, 01:15 PM   #9
Jamaz
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Lower Silesia, Poland
Posts: 9
Default

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.
Jamaz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 5th November 2008, 01:37 PM   #10
Bill M
Member
 
Bill M's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: USA Georgia
Posts: 1,486
Default

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.
Bill M is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 5th November 2008, 02:38 PM   #11
Jim McDougall
EAA Research Consultant
 
Jim McDougall's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: Route 66
Posts: 6,586
Default

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 is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



All times are GMT. The time now is 04:48 AM.


Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Posts are regarded as being copyrighted by their authors and the act of posting material is deemed to be a granting of an irrevocable nonexclusive license for display here.