Hussar's charge: the moment of impact:
BackA follow-up by Szczepan
Jerzy Teodorczak in "Wojskowosc polska w pierwszej polowie XVII wieku" describes hussars tactics like this: the hussars approach in 2 or 3 ranks, comrades (towarzysze) in first line with lances, and retainers (pocztowi) in the second line, mostly with carbines ("bandolet" or "polhak"), but other sources claim that pocztowi sometimes carry lances.* The charge begins in loose formation. Well-trained hussars can tighten and loosen their formation on special signals played on the trumpet. Also, they can change the direction of their move 180 degrees on signal in total order.
Teodorczak said, that "when the rotmistrz (Captain) saw an opportunity of breaking an enemy lines, he gave the order to tighten the formation to "knee to knee" (and Teodorczak said later, that they really nearly touched knees) and charge in canter."
When there wasn't a clear and obvious opportunity to break lines, they sometimes turned back very fast, or charged in a canter with loose formation (the distance between hussars was the length of the horse).
After the charge, the hussars turned back very fast, took another lance and charged again. Every hussar had at least 3 lances, which were very expensive weapon, and few shafts - when he broke all "real", excavated lances, they place shafts on normal piece of wood, to have at least something that could be used like a lance.
Quite often lines attack alternately, so the hussar charge was like waves attacking a shore: trot, gallop, canter, BANG!, run away trotting, than another line went to trot, gallop, canter, BANG!, and again and again. Two or three charges usually did the trick.
* Note that both can be true: the retainers might be carrying the lances primarily as replacements for the comrade's broken lances, but they may also have been competent in their use. - Rick
'Act of the Hetman (General of the Army) for the information or all commanders, colonels, captains (rotmistrzom), first lieutenants(porucznikom), cornets/ensigns (chorazym), 2nd Lieutenants namiestnikom and the whole knightly-hood, Orders for formations in moving against the enemy in formal field battles.' Written at the end of the XVII C by H.Lubomirskiego. These instructions written by the commander of Polish troop has irrefutable value. And other contemporary sources wrote about hussars attacking at the canter. I think we can believe them.
I do not know your source's exact argument, but I can speculate on some reasons. Keegan describes normal behavior of a horse, but does not take into account that it is possible to train a horse for exceptional behaviors. We have reliable and believable data on it; Hussar horses were specially cultivated and trained. Special attention was paid in Poland on the breeding of horses of the perfect temperament and capabilities for the hussars. Example:
The horse was trained in the following maneuver: imagine a path 40 meters long and narrow, with a circle 3 meters in diameter at each end. The horse follows the path in full canter speed,
turns, canters back, turns, canters back, turns and so on. The horse must turn within this circles and not step outside. This is practiced in full battle load - the rider carrying a lance. Such exercises allowed the men and horses to execute their attack smoothly and without commotion in the ranks, during battles.
Another subject the hussar horses mastered was striking a human-sized object with their body (breast or shoulder) while rushing and turning. Dummies' stuffed with hay for this purpose were places on a turn-post, and the bag of hay would be struck by the horse's breast guard. The post turned at impact so it did not harm the horse. These types of exercises weaned the horses of their natural fears.
I don't know what your sources have to say about central and eastern Europe, but I suspect, that they know little about these themes. Really, from where I stand western scholarship only notices the important questions (of military history) and technical advances that happened in the West. And they attribute the invention of the tactic or technology to the first place they see it in the West. For example, the invention of paper cartridges for muskets is sometimes attributed to Gustav Adolfus, when they were used in Poland 50 years earlier. (Not that I claim that this is a Polish invention, because it came to Poland from elsewhere, perhaps from Transylvania. ) Another example, is the special manner of saddling a horse ( the saddle and manner of tack determine the seat of the rider on the horse) Which allowed the horse full liberty and made controlled riding easier, which is a polish invention by Lisowczy (a Polish light horseman from the beginning of the 17th C.) He distinguished the eastern saddle or mount with the legs squat/bent from the western, on straight legs. Probably, the closest to it that has been devised or 'discovered' in the West is the English saddle of the XIX century, the saddle used today throughout the world. It seems to me that scholars in the West are often surprising ignorant of Eastern culture, technology, and military matters.
The cultural fabric in Poland fed the success of the Hussars. The horse and chivalric culture in Poland stood at an incredibly high level thorough the unbroken tradition of Chivalry and they were ingrained in society as in few other cultures. Chivalry was the custom that ruled Poland. Although the old saying that 'a nobleman is born on a horse' was perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, nevertheless, after the birth of nobleman's son, the father's first business was to place the baby on the horse's back for his first few horse steps. The next order of business was often to inscribe the infant boy's name in the ranks of the banner (military unit) in which he was destined to serve. Because they were in the banner from birth, they took their duty to their banner and country seriously. Such was the nobleman's mentality.
Knightly ideals were very durable in Poland. Perhaps they were lost in the west after the decay of the relevance of the knight, but they were adhered to in Poland for centuries longer. Nobleman's children were fostered from the start to be future soldiers, trained and disciplined in the use of all the different weapons, but first of all, in riding and military horsemanship.
Another intriguing thing is that all hussar banners were manned by volunteers. So they fought not for money (as often the case in the West ), but for personal glory or duty. Outfitting a Hussar post (pocztu) cost a fortune, and the pay of a hussar, though the hightest of all Polish troops, did not cover the expense. So, in effect they paid for the privilege to serve. Such a solider had superior moral to, for example, a person who was conscripted, lured by money, or dragooned through force.
This high quality human material automatically made for very high level, elite units. But this level was further brought up in constant battles with the very good cavalry of the East, such as the Turks and Tatars, who invaded Polish lands yearly .
I understand what you are saying, but I don't think you understand my main point. (remember that this conversation took place in a mix of Polish and English, and neither party is very good at reading or writing the other's language).
Let us say that the 40 meter course, with a 3 meter circle at the end, is exactly the path the horse takes in battle. I've seen rodeo-like demonstrations and amazing equestrian bullfights in Spain, and know a good horse can 'stop on a dime' (stop from a canter very fast), but a 'dime' at that speed is still, well, about 3 meters.
I rather envision that they were in a canter until the last second, just before they reached the circle, they 'hit the brakes', so that they could almost stop and turn. Where at this point did the lance hit the target? At the start of the 3 meter circle, they were slowing down, maybe out of canter already but the reach advantage of the lance is not 3 meters just one meter over a pike, so it they hit at start of the circle, the horse would strongly impact the other pikes, and get impaled and die.
Two to 2.5 meters into the circle, they will have slowed down a lot can't say they were in a walk gait, because they were in stopping/turning phase, but forward speed was much reduced. Nevertheless, they still had forward speed, and much momentum, and a lance hit here would be solid and powerful, and the horse's breast just clears the pike points assuming a 1 meter reach advantage.
Not only that, but I expect that the horse was partially turned at the moment of the lance hit, so that the rider and flank of the horse were about even otherwise the reach advantage of the lance would be taken up by the length of the horse's head.
That is also consistent with the description of the hussars charging (at the canter) in waves, breaking their lance, spinning in place and trotting back, grabbing another lance, charging in another wave... repeat.
(Like the picture, although, with a long lance, and with lance in the right hand, and ignoring the other many problems with the picture)
Oh that's what you mean! Yes, horses covered the 40 M in a careful canter then quickly 'braked', turned and retired to the rear. It was taught as a two-part exercise. First - canter and quick stop/turn. Second - the rest. The other way, they would impact to pike. If the front or flank of horse is presented at the lance hits, it is as you wrote, but there is other way. I'll explain later.
I have seen some great horsemanship - barrel racing, demonstrations of herding and roping skills, equestrian events that demonstrate skills of military origin, even a formation of mounted police controlling a big crowd. However the one thing that really left me breathless was an equestrian bullfight in Spain.<http://mundo-taurino.org/horses.html> In addition to all the usual steps in the bullfight, the bandelleros were delivered from horseback. Just as a bandellero on foot is required to pass in front of the bulls horns just before the bandoleers are thrust in, the mounted bandellero leans over the horns of the charging bull with his horse at full gallop, passing within inches of the horns. Inches? The horns several times grazed their mark, `nd the horses were bloodied within a few passes, and the rider's jacket was torn. The bandoleer would sometime run with the bull and cut in front, and sometimes converge head-on or at right angles. So, although my own experience on horseback is modest, I have great respect for the extraordinary capabilities of a great horse and rider team.
I promised that would write of another way in which the Hussars attacked aPike formation, head-on. This topic is very broad, so, in order to write so that it can be easily understood (and translated), I will simplify.
enough by itself to reach the horseman. But as the
pikeman is hit in the breast, since he is holding tightly as his body is jerked back and
up, so will go the pike point, and stop threatening the horse! The impact was powerful. It
is documented that such an impact pierced the pikemans armor! A split second
suffices with a snap like that to clear it from the line
If the pikeman pushed out his pike at the moment of impact, this is not
b) Use of the Swine feather - similar to the beardish axe the Poles sometimes used -a long knife on a stake - used to create field
c) artillery used in close support of infantry, and the combination of fieldfortifications and artillery on a wide scale,
d) a novel method of infantry & cavalry cooperation. For example, Gustav Adolf was able to take advantage of a flooded field torestrict the axis of advance perfectly. The Poles were unable to have more than 600 men in a charge at one time, and even then they were forced to
The Circausians are watching our every move....