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Hussars are a type of Polish army that for 200 years were considered invincible. Where the hussars were an essential part of the army, the battle was not lost. There were times when hussars crushed enemy forces several times more numerous. In the battle of Kircholm (1605) thanks to hussars Polish forces defeated Swedish forces three times bigger, in the battle of Kluszyn (1610) five times bigger Russian forces and in the battle of Chocim (1673) several times bigger Turkish forces. As if the number of opponents did not matter to the hussars. A famous saying by one of the outstanding commanders of hussars, Hetman Chodkiewicz, who upon receiving the news before the battle of Kircholm that the number of Swedish forces was great, postponed the topic of counting the enemy forces until after the battle (I will count them when I beat them).

The origin of the word hussar, often referred to as usarz in Polish, is not entirely certain. It means something different than the similar word hussar, a soldier from a completely different military formation. Hussars may have originated in the light cavalry used as reconnaissance troops in Byzantium in the 10th century, a fast and agile formation, but in Poland they appeared in the 15th century as light cavalry coming from Serbia and Hungary to seek their fortune in the growing power of the Republic of Poland against the Turks. However, these light-armed units were gradually modified by Polish commanders, rearmed, the manner of fighting changed, and as a result in the 16th century a new formation was created, unknown on the battlefields before.

In the end it was a heavy cavalry of national authority, which meant that the appointed commander (captain, colonel) after receiving a letter of command from the king or hetman enlisted his companions according to the rule of social selection, i.e. he chose his companions according to his own knowledge and liking, i.e. he created a company which he could rely on in battle even with overwhelming forces. Hussar's armament was expensive, his skills were high and the profit from war was poor. Therefore, hussars were usually joined by noblemen from rich families with military traditions, who could afford to buy horses, armament and a post.

Historians and various researchers of the subject still analyze the probable reasons for the extraordinary combat qualities of this formation.

Certainly it was the soldiers themselves who came from noble families with a military tradition, who learned the techniques of combat from an early age and for whom personal wealth was less important than patriotism, because it happened that in order to acquire horses, a staff and armaments one had to sacrifice his wealth or a significant part of it and lose it in battles. Finally, not everyone was suitable for such a formation due to psychological reasons, because the tactics of the hussar attack could be described as "win or die".

Horses and riding skills were an obvious and important part of the fighting technique. Perhaps there was an idea inherited from the old light-armed and agile formations, because the Hussars horses were characterized by both strength and agility and were ridden as such. Finding such a horse was not easy, to say nothing of its cost, and a hussar was not content with owning just one such horse.

The armament and equipment of the hussar is the subject of special analysis. The hussar was protected by armor, although not as heavy as that of the medieval knights, it did weigh something. The helmet with an escutcheon, the breastplate, the breastplate, sometimes the epaulettes and other metal elements provided protection but also required from the hussar adequate strength to maintain speed and agility in handling the weapon. The weapons of the hussar were very varied. The basic weapon of the first strike was a long lance designed in such a clever way that at an unusual length, greater than the lance of the defending infantry hussars, it was at the same time relatively light, allowing for skillful and quick control of the lance. When the lance broke after the first attack, the hussar had at his disposal an armour of considerable length, even twice as long as the sabre, which could be used as a mini lance as well as in fencing typical of white weapons (for stabbing rather than cutting). Finally, for typical fencing combat the hussar had at his disposal a sabre, quite a big one because it was used for mounted combat but made in such a way that it was suitable for precise fencing cuts and for fighting on foot. And finally, additional weapons were pistols.

Some scholars attribute the main role in the victories of the hussars to battle tactics. Namely the Hussars would strike as if by a mass of horses and men at a chosen spot in the opponent's formation. The hussars were so skilled in leading their horses that they were able to lead them in an attack both in an open formation and to gather their whole troop into a very compact mass, leading the horses in a "knee to knee" attack, very close to each other, as if they were one heavy, uniform formation.  The opponent would adjust his formation to the attacking cavalry but the skill of the hussars was also based on the ability to instantly change their formation on the attack and change the point of impact before the opponent was able to reform his formation. Changing the formation of the attacking hussars during the attack itself shortened the time in which the enemy was able to reform their defence, which allowed the hussar commander to choose the best place to strike and the enemy had no time to strengthen their defence in that place. The weight of horses, men and long lances caused the opponent's formation to be shattered as if by a powerful projectile; it happened that after breaking or cutting through the first enemy unit the hussars, without slowing down their attack, struck the next units with similar effect.

And finally the unresolved issue of the hussar wings. Some researchers are of the opinion that there were no hussars' wings at all and that they were only a product of the imagination of painters from the past, but these opinions are unlikely because how could a contemporary wise man know better than an older writer or painter. But even assuming that there were wings, their role is not explained. Some claim that during an attack the wings caused noise to frighten the enemy's horses, which seems to be an insignificant effect, because the restraint of the rider's movements and the extra weight on the horse is hardly worth the cost of obtaining a sound effect of dubious combat utility. Still others are of the opinion that the wings could have served as a kind of curtain against the hussar's cut in the back, like a seventh curtain in foot fencing. And still others think that the hussar's wings were an element of the parade outfit, not of the combat one.

However, the hussar's wings are probably the most remembered trademark of this famous formation.

 (Translated with


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