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Thread: Who would win? Polish Winged Hussar vs Persian Cataphract

  1. #121

    Default Re: Who would win? Polish Winged Hussar vs Persian Cataphract

    Quote Originally Posted by intel View Post
    This technology came from Hungary, but its use didn't have to do with know-how as much as it did with equestrian tradition and military composition. It really takes a long training to make a good lancer, it takes also a good horseman and a proper mount. Knigthood was not as cultivated in the western europe as it was in Poland during XVIth century, lance was abandoned to much cheaper and easier alternatives.
    This is partially due to eastern regions of Europe being better for cavalry and partially due to the fact that by XVIth century the heavily armoured lancer was seen as technologically inferior and expensive, and this is at least half correct. You are correct that Husaria were expensive and that they required long amounts of training, but this in itself is not good thing. Modernisation requires quicker training and more cost-effective equipment, while the Polish Husaria were the greatest heavy cavalry of their time they could only work in a time and place where the nobility were so excessively rich as to afford the expensive armaments; not exactly a cost-effective system considering that they were beaten by some Ukrainian Cossacks and Tatars.

    Quote Originally Posted by intel View Post
    In the end, it boils down mostly to human factor.
    How do you mean?

    Quote Originally Posted by intel View Post
    Russia tried to copy hussar formations but it failed due to poor training.
    They existed from 1630's, the original Polish-style hussars used in Russia were trained by immigrants from the Commonwealth not unlike the other "foreign order" regiments being trained by foreigners. But Russian hussars, or at least the XVIIth century type based of Polish Husaria, were never used in great number; their lack of widespread use has more to do with being too expensive and long to train for small benefit they offered over the reiter-type cavalry which most were transferred too. The last ones were in the Novgorod Regiment until it was removed by Peter the Great during his modernisation of Russian military because by that time they were very outdated.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adar View Post
    Due to this Swedish infantry never did well against Polish hussars until the Gustavian reforms allowed the cavalry to hold their own against the Polish cavalry.
    Interesting you should say that, because even before Gustavus reformed his cavalry and removed the caracole the Polish forces hadn't really struck decisive victories against the Swedish.

    But honestly, Imposter is kind of sick of the excessive amount of Husaria worship that you see on the internet, yes, they were one of the best heavy cavalry formations of their time, but in the end they weren't demigods and their side eventually lost the war.

  2. #122
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    Default Re: Who would win? Polish Winged Hussar vs Persian Cataphract

    Quote Originally Posted by Imposter View Post
    Interesting you should say that, because even before Gustavus reformed his cavalry and removed the caracole the Polish forces hadn't really struck decisive victories against the Swedish.
    Do you have any battles to suggest as examples? Because my feeling is that the lack of decisive victories for the Polish had more to do with Swedish strategy and Polish lack of funding rather than battles.

    Quote Originally Posted by Imposter View Post
    But honestly, Imposter is kind of sick of the excessive amount of Husaria worship that you see on the internet, yes, they were one of the best heavy cavalry formations of their time, but in the end they weren't demigods and their side eventually lost the war.
    In many ways I agree that many Poles really overrate Husaria, but ironically I am wearing a Husaria t-shirt today
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 

    Back in 2008 I was debating a lot with Radoslaw Sikora who is a proper academic scholar and he invited me to Vivat Vasa which is a history festival in Poland.


    Since then I've spent several months in Warsaw at Warsaw University (in science and technology, not history). So I am quite well versed in both the ups and downs of Polish historical awareness.

  3. #123

    Default Re: Who would win? Polish Winged Hussar vs Persian Cataphract

    Quote Originally Posted by Adar View Post
    Do you have any battles to suggest as examples? Because my feeling is that the lack of decisive victories for the Polish had more to do with Swedish strategy and Polish lack of funding rather than battles.
    Sadly Imposter does not, Imposter is unable to understand much Polish and has no ability whatsoever to understand anything remotely Swedish or Lithuanian so finding sources may prove difficult. But if Swedish infantry "never did well against Hussars" then either the Swedish didn't win battles, or the Comonwealth weren't able to afford fielding excellent but very expensive cavalrymen. The latter would help prove my assumption that the Hussars were extremely expensive compared to other types of cavalry at the time even which explains why they only formed a minority of the Commonwealth cavalry troops.

    Would you have some sources on the cost of Hussars compared to say, other Commonwealth cavalry like the Pancerni or even Western European type Reiters? Imposter would be interested to see.

  4. #124

  5. #125
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    Default Re: Who would win? Polish Winged Hussar vs Persian Cataphract

    Quote Originally Posted by Imposter View Post
    Sadly Imposter does not, Imposter is unable to understand much Polish and has no ability whatsoever to understand anything remotely Swedish or Lithuanian so finding sources may prove difficult. But if Swedish infantry "never did well against Hussars" then either the Swedish didn't win battles, or the Comonwealth weren't able to afford fielding excellent but very expensive cavalrymen. The latter would help prove my assumption that the Hussars were extremely expensive compared to other types of cavalry at the time even which explains why they only formed a minority of the Commonwealth cavalry troops.
    I consider myself quite knowledgeable on Swedish battles of the era but it's hard to prove a negative which is why I asked. But from a Swedish point of view it was far more beneficial to take castles and fortifications and then hold these against the Polish-Lithuanian army that to face them in the open field.

    For the Polish-Lithuanian commanders of the war in Livland the situation was very tough as the Polish-Lithuanian nobility didn't really support Sigismunds ambition to retake the Swedish crown. So the war was horribly underfunded which made it pretty much impossible for the Polish-Lithuanian generals to force an open field battle.

    So the cost of hussars wasn't the limiting factor. It was more about internal politics and war with southern neighbors that prevented the commonwealth from winning the war during the first 25 years.
    Quote Originally Posted by Imposter View Post
    Would you have some sources on the cost of Hussars compared to say, other Commonwealth cavalry like the Pancerni or even Western European type Reiters? Imposter would be interested to see.
    This is really a Radek question and I always feel that the internet estimates are based on really fancy equipment for rich nobles. And I am also skeptic to if the monetary cost was the real issue during the decline of the commonwealth. It was an essentially feudal concept that relied on the loyalty, wealth and bravery of the nobility to provide the core of the army. Just throwing money at the issue turned out to work better for competing nations in this case .

  6. #126

    Default Re: Who would win? Polish Winged Hussar vs Persian Cataphract

    Quick additional question; at their maximum, how many Husaria did the Commonwealth have?

  7. #127
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    Default Re: Who would win? Polish Winged Hussar vs Persian Cataphract

    Were the hussars some sort of royal arm, or were the just the old feudal elites?

  8. #128

    Default Re: Who would win? Polish Winged Hussar vs Persian Cataphract

    Were the hussars some sort of royal arm, or were the just the old feudal elites?
    Neither. They were a formation of professional soldiers serving for soldier's pay (although also for honour and homeland - or even mainly, because their soldier's pay was rather too low to cover all expenses for equipment and other costs of war which they suffered - especially in defensive wars).

    Even though they called themselves "knights" and many (most?) of them were recruited from patriotic nobility. And equipment of those Hussars who were not recruited from nobility, was usually financed by nobles (usually supreme commanders of Husaria units), because not many non-nobles could afford the costs.

    It is also typical that experienced veterans who served in other cavalry formations (like Pancerni) later became Hussars.

    According to some sources "it was not a disgrace for an officer of any other cavalry formation to be just a simple soldier in Husaria".

    Quick additional question; at their maximum, how many Husaria did the Commonwealth have?
    Around 10,000 (+/- 9450) were mobilized at their maximum - and it was in year 1621. Over 10,000 were in year 1580, but at that time strength reports did not distinguish between Hussars and Pancerni - so number of Hussars alone was most likely lower than number of Hussars mobilized for the campaigns of 1621.

    That large force of Husaria mobilized in 1621 was mobilized mainly (vast majority of this force) for the war against the Ottoman Empire - since the Ottoman Empire was seen as a much more dangerous enemy for Poland-Lithuania than some "remote Kingdom of Sweden" in the north.

    And in 1580 Poland fought a war against Russia for Livonia (see the Polish-Russian war of 1577-1582 - part of the Livonian war).

    Of course mobilizing so huge numbers means that the quality of some parts of those forces was not of the highest standard, typical for Husaria.

    In the 2nd half of 17th century the total number of Hussars serving at the same time never exceeded 4000, if I recall correctly.

    And so high numbers in the 2nd half of 17th century could be seen only during the reign of King John III Sobieski (for example for the Vienna campaign of 1683 he mobilized over 3200 Husaria from the Crown of Poland - add to this Husaria from the Grand Duchy of Litva, which didn't arrive on time to the concentration area and thus didn't take part in the expedition - but forces from the Grand Duchy were always less numerous).

    ================================================

    Regarding that discussion about pikemen vs cavalry - one more example:

    In the battle of Gaugamela, Persian and Indian cavalry armed with long spears managed to break through the line of Macedonian phalangites (pezhetairoi) at the point of contact of taxis (one taxis = "paper strength" of 1536 phalangites) under command of Simmias and taxis under command of Polysperchon:

    Quote Originally Posted by Arrian, Anabasis, III, 14
    (...) Simmias and his brigade were not yet able to start with Alexander in pursuit, but causing the phalanx to halt there, he took part in the struggle, because the left wing of the Macedonians was reported to be hard pressed. In this part of the field, their line being broken, some of the Indians and of the Persian cavalry burst through the gap towards the baggage of the Macedonians; and there the action became desperate. For the Persians fell boldly on the men, who were most of them unarmed, and never expected that any men would cut through the double phalanx and break through upon them. When the Persians made this attack, the foreign prisoners also assisted them by falling upon the Macedonians in the midst of the action. But the commanders of the men who had been posted as a reserve to the first phalanx, learning what was taking place, quickly moved from the position which they had been ordered to take, and coming upon the Persians in the rear, killed many of them there collected round the baggage. But the rest of them gave way and fled. The Persians on the right wing, who had not yet become aware of the flight of Darius, rode round Alexander's left wing and attacked Parmenio in flank. (...)
    Last edited by Domen123; July 10, 2012 at 02:18 PM.

  9. #129

    Default Re: Who would win? Polish Winged Hussar vs Persian Cataphract

    For the Polish-Lithuanian commanders of the war in Livland the situation was very tough as the Polish-Lithuanian nobility didn't really support Sigismunds ambition to retake the Swedish crown. So the war was horribly underfunded which made it pretty much impossible for the Polish-Lithuanian generals to force an open field battle.
    Exactly, the importance of this war against Sweden was ignored by large part of Polish nobility, who didn't support the ambitions of Polish king Sigismund.

    Another thing is that Poles-Lithuanians probably underestimated their enemies - the Swedes - because they were so easily beaten in many battles of previous war.

    But as Radoslaw Sikora writes in his book, the entire system of collecting taxes in the Commonwealth was obsolete. So this war was underfunded not just because nobility didn't want to give funds to conduct this war, also because the tax collection system did not work as perfectly as it should work. The Commonwealth at that time was still a rich country with rich inhabitants (unlike in mid-18th century after a series of devastating wars in years 1648 - 1667, then just a few decades of peace, and then again a devastating Great Northern War) - so the society of the Commonwealth was definitely able to sustain costs of a prolonged war on large scale, but not without modern financial system. So reforms of the financial system were necessary.

    And indeed such reforms almost took place after the failures of the Polish army to push the Swedish army back from what they captured in Royal Prussia and force it to withdraw to Sweden. However, the Polish army did not suffer any single humiliating defeat at the Swedish hands - the Swedish forces did not inflict on the Polish army any defeat similar in scale to that suffered by the Swedish army at Kircholm in 1605.

    And maybe that's why in the end those who opposed any reforms took the upper hand. The fact that the war "somehow went on" - without any major successes against Gustavus Adolphus, but also without any major failures or defeats at his hand - convinced the Polish nobility that any reforms are not necessary.

    Paradoxically a major defeat inflicted by Swedish forces on the Polish army could have mobilized the political nation of Poland to undertake much more radical means in order to win the war against Sweden in Royal Prussia - and those more radical means / measures could have succeeded in achieving this goal.

    But the Swedish army did not inflict any major defeat on the Polish army during that war.

    And the Polish army also did not manage to inflict on the Swedes any defeat similar in scale to those from the war of 1601 - 1611.

    That war was pretty much a stalemate - in military terms. In political terms, the outcome was favourable for Sweden.

    But the treaty of Sztumska Wies in 1635 annihilated everything what Sweden gained in that war of 1626 - 1629.

    So in 1635 both sides returned to "status quo" from the time before the war.

    But if Swedish infantry "never did well against Hussars" then either the Swedish didn't win battles
    Why would that be? Hussars were not the only component of Polish-Lithuanian armies - and often not the most numerous one.

    It is hard to win a battle in case if - for example - only one component of this army is working well and the commander is making stupid mistakes.

    And also the statement that "Swedish infantry never did well against Hussars" is not 100% true. For example Swedish infantry did well against surprised (the entire battle was a Swedish ambush against not-prepared to defend Lithuanians) and less numerous Hussars in the battle of Walmozja (Wallhof) in 1626 - but only when supported by Swedish cavalry (including famous Finnish Hakkapelitas).

    ==============================================

    Regarding battles of the war for Royal Prussia (1626 - 1629) - most of them were neither Polish, nor Swedish victory:

    The battle of Gniew (Mewe) ended in such a way, that neither side managed to destroy the enemy, while maneuver of the Polish army after the battle prevented the Swedish army from capturing Danzig (Gdańsk), which was the main Swedish goal in this war. So this battle should be described as tactically inconclusive and strategic Polish victory. Had the Swedish army defeated the Polish army at Gniew, Danzig would have fallen to the victorious Gustavus Adoplhus (since it had not been prepared for defence yet, at that time when the battle of Gniew was fought). But the Polish army - although it also failed to destroy their enemy (just like Swedish army failed to destroy the Polish army) - managed to stop the Swedish advance on Danzig. So strategically this battle was a Polish success.

    The battle of Tczew (Dirschau) was also tactically inconslusive. The first day of this battle was relatively unfavourable for the Polish side. It ended in defeat of a Polish cavalry detachment inflicted by a charge of numerically superior Swedish cavalry (superiority was like 2:1 in favour of Swedish Reiters - see below) - some historians describe this clash as the first victory of Swedish cavalry over Polish-Lithuanian cavalry in history (in fact there was at least one such case before - also see below). Polish army lost 80 killed and an unknown number of wounded on the first day of the battle. These are relatively heavy losses compared to achievements - especially when we compare this to battles like Kircholm, in which Polish-Lithuanian forces often inflicted crushing defeats on the enemy while suffering not much higher losses. But in relation to the size of the entire Polish-Lithuanian army at Tczew, 80 killed is a drop in the sea. But the 2nd day of the battle was more favourable for the Poles. Gustavus Adolphus was wounded and the Swedish army retreated - the battlefield remained in Polish hands. Hardly a Swedish victory.

    The battle of Gorzno - this was the only major (a few thousands on each side) pitched battle in this war, which ended clearly in Swedish victory.

    On the other hand, Polish clear victories were the battles of Hammerstein/Czarne and Honigfelde/Trzciana.

    But at Trzciana, although the Poles inflicted heavy losses on Swedish cavalry, they managed to destroy only a small detachment of Swedish infantry - the rest of Swedish infantry was able to retreat from the battlefield, their retreat was covered by Swedish cavalry which payed heavy price for this attempt of resisting Polish attacks. So it was only a tactical victory for the Poles, IMO.

    Radoslaw Sikora concludes about importance of various field battles of this war in Prussia (1626-1629):

    "(...) only 3 battles of this war - Gniew, Czarne and Tczew - could radically change its outcome, and only in case if Swedish forces defeated Polish forces in these battles, which, as we know, did not happen. The defeat of Swedish forces (which happened only in the battle of Czarne of these 3) could not decisively change the result of the entire war. But let's go even further in our considerations. Would the seizure of Danzig by Swedish forces mean the end of this war - the end favourable for Sweden? Even though after capturing Danzig they surely would have been very close to winning the war, such a scenario is not the only option. We can also imagine a totally different scenario. The seizure of Danzig by Swedish forces would have been such a heavy blow to Poland, such a heavy impulse, that it would enforce the acceptance of nobility for the reform of state's finances. Let's remind that in 1627 such a reform nearly took place. Only the lack of activity of the king on this field, as well as not so bad situation on the Polish-Swedish front, contributed to the fact, that in the end radical propositions of reforms compiled by the Warsaw Commission were not implemented and remained on paper. It is rather sure, that with strong financial grounds the Polish army would be able to fight a prolonged war and regain the losses, unless... Unless states hostile to the PLC would consider the loss of Danzig as a strong enough signal of its weakness and would ally with Sweden against the PLC. What would happen then? In such case there are so many probable options, that we will leave them without further comment. (...)"

    Source:

    R. Sikora, "Polish military in the age of the Polish-Swedish war 1626-1629. Crisis of a power", pp. 244-245.

    =============================================

    Regarding Swedish Reiters vs Polish cavalry in the battle of Dirschau:

    "Polish and Swedish forces camped near Dirschau (Tczew). They were separated from each other by swamps of Motlava river, with a narrow weir as the only available pass across them. Before noon on 07.07.1627 Swedish Reiters attacked forward outposts of Polish forces, located in front of the weir. The aim of this attack was to provoke Polish forces to cross the weir and fight on the Swedish side of Motlava swamps. In such case the Polish army would have swamps behind its back. Koniecpolski indeed sent reinforcements to those Polish outposts. He crossed the weir with almost entire Polish cavalry, hoping to finally fight an open field battle. Swedish forces retreated back to their camp. Koniecpolski proceeded behind them. But when he saw, that Swedish forces concealed themselves behind a cover of earthworks, he halted further advance. He sent forward skirmishers to provoke the Swedes to come out of hiding. But they didn't show even the slightest desire to do so. After two hours of waiting in vain, Koniecpolski started to withdraw his cavalry back to the Polish camp. When almost entire cavalry already crossed the weir back to the Polish side of Motlava swamps, Swedish Reiters suddenly attacked the last units of the Hetman's Regiment remaining on the Swedish side of swamps, that is 4 banners of Hussars and 2 banners of Pancerni. The attacking Swedish cavalry had considerable numerical superiority [the attacking Swedish force had 3 squadrons - each squadron typically had 4 companies, each company had a "paper strength" of 125 horsemen - Domen]. The surprise effect was double. Poles did not expect an attack - but especially an attack carried out in such a style - Swedish cavalry charged with cold steel. Polish units were dispersed. Swedish attack was repulsed not until it encountered Polish infantry entrenched behind earthwork defending access to the weir. Losses of the Polish army during the entire first day of the battle (07.07.1627) amounted to 80 killed and an unknown number of wounded."

    Source:

    R. Sikora, "Polish military in the age of the Polish-Swedish war 1626-1629. Crisis of a power", page 162.

    Let's just add that 4 banners of Hussars and 2 banners of Pancerni could number ca. 630 horsemen (we know from sources that the entire Hetman's Regiment numbered ca. 1500 horsemen - 800 Hussars and 700 Pancerni - while it had in total 7 banners of Hussars and 8 banners of Pancerni, so it seems that a banner of Hussars in this Regiment numbered on average 114 horsemen, while a banner of Pancerni - 88 horsemen).

    So the Swedish cavalry could have up to 2:1 numerical superiority in this clash (even ca. 1200 Reiters - "paper strength" would be 1500, but it is impossible that Swedish squadrons & companies were all at full strength by the start of the battle of Dirschau, even 100 per company is quite optimistic).

    Anyway - each Polish-Lithuanian Hussar / Pancerni banner numbered about as many horsemen as each Swedish Reiter company.

    And Swedish cavalry in this confrontation had 12 companies (3 x 4), while Polish cavalry - 6 banners (4 + 2).

    "Officially" (and many historians repeat this false information) this clash on 07.07.1627 was the first defeat of Polish-Lithuanian cavalry in combat against Swedish cavalry in history.

    In fact there was at least one earlier example of Swedish cavalry taking the upper hand. In the battle of Koknese on 23 June 1601 - which, as a whole, was victorious for the PLC - Swedish cavalry charge defeated the Polish-Lithuanian left wing, which consisted of 200 infantry with 5 guns supported by 200 - 300 cavalry (but exact composition of this cavalry is unknown - we don't know if those were Hussars, some other type of cavalry, or maybe mixed units of a few types). Cavalry of the Swedish right wing which did it at Koknese, had huge numerical superiority. The Polish-Lithuanian left wing was defeated - only counterattack of 3 banners of Winged Hussars repulsed the Swedish charge and defeated the temporarily victorious Swedish cavalry. In the meantime 1600 cavalry of the Polish-Lithuanian right wing charged and defeated the Swedish left wing. And the entire battle was won by Polish-Lithuanian forces.
    Last edited by Domen123; July 10, 2012 at 02:09 PM.

  10. #130

    Default Re: Who would win? Polish Winged Hussar vs Persian Cataphract

    Regarding the scale of casualties that volleys of musket fire can in reality (not in theory) inflict on charging cavalry - check this link:

    http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtop...14958#p1711149

    Quote Originally Posted by Adar
    Quote Originally Posted by Imposter
    Would you have some sources on the cost of Hussars compared to say, other Commonwealth cavalry like the Pancerni or even Western European type Reiters? Imposter would be interested to see.
    This is really a Radek question and I always feel that the internet estimates are based on really fancy equipment for rich nobles. And I am also skeptic to if the monetary cost was the real issue during the decline of the commonwealth. It was an essentially feudal concept that relied on the loyalty, wealth and bravery of the nobility to provide the core of the army. Just throwing money at the issue turned out to work better for competing nations in this case.

    Yes this is a Radek question but Radek already included a chapter about this in his book. Unfortunately the book is only in Polish. There are "costs of service" of Husaria and he distinguishes between "costs suffered by the state treasury" and "costs suffered by soldiers serving as Hussars" (or by commanders of units - who often financially supported their units). But let's wait for Radek to write about this.
    Last edited by Domen123; July 10, 2012 at 02:23 PM.

  11. #131
    Poach's Avatar Civitate
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    Default Re: Who would win? Polish Winged Hussar vs Persian Cataphract

    Well this thread got big fast. Either way, X vs Y are banned. Closed.

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