Badass of the Month: Winged Hussars

This is sort of a reblog. I did a bunch of research-heavy posts back in the days before anyone was reading this blog. Also, I’ve learned a lot since then.

Polish hussars were the super-badass heavy cavalry of the early modern period, which is saying something.  The term “hussar” generally refers to East European light cavalry, but the Poles and Hungarians did something different with theirs.


Polish hussars at the Battle of Kahlenberg (PD-US)

Polish hussars at the Battle of Kahlenberg

.At a time when cavalry was on the decline in much of Europe due to the advent of firearms and increased use of pike formations, Hungarian and Polish hussars seldom lost an engagement. In practical terms, this was because they used lances that were longer than pikes, and wore heavy plate armor that could repel gunfire. In addition, their tactics were highly disciplined and flexible, making it possible for them to strike during the seconds it took to counter-march and reload a musket.

(This is a gross oversimplification. To read a more detailed explanation, check out this article by Radoslaw Sikora- the translator’s notes are worth a look, too.)

To top it all off, they had wings- eagle or ostrich feathers mounted on wooden frames which each rider wore on his back. The combined effect looked intimidating, and sounded terrifying. Winged hussar units routinely trounced opponents who outnumbered them at least 5-to-1.  Their most famous victory came at the 1683 Siege of Vienna, in which 3,000 winged hussars, led by Polish king Jan Sobieski, routed a Turkish force that numbered around 150,000.

So you can see why it was very important to me to create a main character with wings

These guys were armed to the teeth! Here’s what a typical Polish hussar carried:

lanceA lance, hollowed-out and 15-20 feet in length:







They also often carried an arquebus, but how they would use it while riding, I do not know:



Underneath his left thigh, he carried a koncerz estoc with which to stab you:

and under his right thigh, a palasz, with which to stab you some more:

On his left side, he carried a szabla husarska, or cavalry saber, to slash at whatever hasn’t been stabbed:

And, on the off chance he didn’t get to skewer you with his lance, or stab you or slice you, he might crack you over the head with a nadziak:

If you survived all of that, you might still get it from one of his two wheelock pistols, conveniently holstered in the saddle:

Or, the old-fashioned way, with bow and arrow:

Now, these guys were totally used to riding straight into gunfire, so they had to wear a lot of armour. Plus it helped them look very scary and cool.

I love the helmets:








Heavy plate to repel musket-fire:


Breastplate from hussar's cuirass, c1580; This style of breastplate from Augsburg or Hungary, with its numerous articulating lames, was probably used by a Hungarian hussar, a type of light cavalryman. The steel plates were originally blued, etched and gilded with strapwork bands. The rows of vertical holes once provided gilt-brass settings for stones or glasspaste jewels. The effect would have suggested the semi-oriental costume and armor of the Near East favored by Polish and Hungarian armies.

Backplate and pauldrons:










Vambraces for the arms,








and of course the wings!


All of this: guy, armor and weapons could easily weigh over 220 pounds. They apparently had amazing horses that could carry all that weight for a day and still charge into battle without breaking a sweat.

No wonder they were the most feared and effective cavalry in Europe for hundreds of years!


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6 comments on “Badass of the Month: Winged Hussars
  1. calensariel says:

    Is that supposed to be Braeden?

  2. Wow, wow, wow! I’d never before heard of them! I’d run the other way…

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