But why well-armed? But why winged? But why invincible? But why Polish?
The hussar’s scale armour wasn’t the best solution, not to mention other flaws.
The wings were probably for parades only and not used on the battlefield. Don’t believe that the sound of the vibrating feathers was to frighten enemy horses. (Pointless, it would be. Infantrymen and artillerymen are not horsemen, while any hostile cavalrymen could just put plugs in their horses’ ears, right?)
Husaria was not invincible. It’s quite ironic that many YouTubes glorifying the supposedly greatest horsepower mounted by man use Krzesmir Dębski’s tune (often started at 1:30) named Husaria ginie – “Hussars Dying”. Dying? Someone managed to kill them? Yup.
Thank you Mr Dębski, we know some great composers are Polish. Husaria of the Polish legend, however, isn’t Polish: The cavalry became a heavy formation, when a Hungarian prince of Transylvania made it such. “Our” CO in the battle of Kircholm (1605) was Ruthenian; his forces were more Lithuanian than Polish. The same Ruthenian led “us” at Chocim (1621). The commander at Kłuszyn (1610) was as Polish as his Ukrainian birth-place or his Ukrainian burial-place. And so on.
Whenever an English name for husaria is required, the terms “Polish Hussars” or “Winged Hussars” are used, both not accurate. When you take a look at a Kossak, don’t believe your eyes:
Take some Brandt for more reality:
And the statistics are not too favourable for the Polish worshipper of husaria: had he a time machine, he’ll probably end up non-Polish. Even more probably, he would not be a nobleman. But a peasant, a townsman, a merchant, a jester. What’s wrong with jesters? Well, the company of brothers keeps dreaming of the days of the old winged glory.
Henryk Sienkiewicz, a genius, no doubt, who led the Polish mind into such twisted and lazy patriotism had to work out something for the little folk, too. Not every reader can imagine himself tall enough to jump to the hussar’s saddle. You know: “Aren’t you little short for a stormtrooper?” And so we were given Michal Wolodyjowski.
He was short. He had that French problem. He was not too good with ladies, he would fall in love quickly, platonically, not too physically. When he finally got married, he didn’t leave offspring. Though he tried hard. It’s no laughing matter, in the times of wars, it’s was an important man’s duty to produce more defenders of the state. Some offenders, too. (See PS.)
In the books, Wolodyjowski is called the First Sabre of the Republic, a most skilled duellist. Not the last one, sure. But generally, he was a raider, quick for forays, quick for retreats. He knew how to hide behind his horse when the enemy started shooting. Accidentally shot, that’d be a stupid cause of death for a fine swordsman, right? (So what it’s not chivalrous? I’d love the skill! But ask the greater Polish mind if it is ready to take pride in the ability of getting under the horse to avoid a stray bullet.)
And how did Wolodyjowski die? What were his lifetime’s dodges and tricks good for? Well. How Polish. He decided to blow himself up with the castle he didn’t manage to defend. A romantic death — so that someone else’s grandsons may revel in the biography’s unhappy ending.
By the way, Wolodyjowski didn’t pluck up all of his courage to follow the lit fuse. But there was a Scotsman beside him, fortunately, who did the boom job.)
PS: Did Poland have any other good formation? Of course! Try to learn more about these guys, mercenaries, murderers, pillagers, rapists, outlaws, adventurers, some quite usual breed of their times. And damn, they were efficient!
Stay tuned for more.
Here, I’m nice. There, I’m mature.