Information for new members or potential members

Boleslav Orlicki's Horse Artillery


We are a new group, and members of any type, age, gender, ethnicity are welcome.  Any type of role (civilian or military), experienced with living history, beginners wanting to learn, or wanting to contribute in other ways. E-mail me (Rick Orli) or call Contact INFO.

Group Objective. As explained in more detail on the home page, Our unit impression presents the material and military culture of mid 17th C Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The contribution of Commonwealth culture and arms to our civilization is not well known - our educational mission is to correct this (while having a great time!). 

Location At the moment of writing, we have 3 geographic centers: VA/DC/MD, MI, and CT/NY/NJ.  All it takes for a new geographic center is 2 or 3 folks with a bit of experience and some gumption.  Most events have been in the MD/VA area, or MI area, because that is where the effort has concentrated to date.

How often do we meet? Not often, 2-4 events in a year is enough to qualify as a dedicated full-time member.  We are a bit of a speciality, unlike (for example) a Civil War group that has some major battle or other event almost every weekend in season.  Most of our members do other reenacting projects.

Are there battles?  what sort of events?  There is a plan for a big battle on Labor Day weekend 2003, against the Swedes,  in a 'Deluge' 1655 scenario.   The idea is that the couple of dozen members of Swede, Imperial and Commonwealth groups will be augumented with 100+ English Civil War draftees, to aid with musket and pike blocks. We will have artillery and cavalry.  A small battle perhaps, but a grand time for all.  Most events will be 'time-line' living history, educational appearances, parades, etc.  We also might sponsor film festivals, cultural festivals, literary events.

Type of character.

Many choices are possible given group objectives and scenario.

Female roles: Since our normal scenario is a military camp, the obvious choice is a sutler… a vendor that travels with the army, selling stores from a wagon. Other possibilities are a spouse/ward of an officer, or a civilian ‘just visiting’ (or resident of the hamlet we are occupying) or a civilian hired for a few days as a servant. Women enjoyed a fair amount of freedom compared to some other countries in Europe, but there were nevertheless practical limits in mobility and profession.

Females may also take on role as solider

Male Roles:

The civilian roles may include suitlers and various service workers. A huge number of servants/lackeys were employed by the noble ‘comrades’, and could amount to thousands. Though technically non-combatants, they were used to defend the camp, and were impressed into service into infantry roles, and to help with shovel work in sieges. Townsmen in regular contact with the army could be widely varied, from horse traders, pawnbrokers and other financial service providers (essentially 100% Jewish or Armenian), specialty craftsmen (mostly Jewish or Armenian), to much-put-upon burgers on whom the troops are billeted.

The main body of the military impression are the dragoons. This is a most versatile professional solider, common men who were the elite infantry of the time. Dragoons were truly mounted infantry, not the light cavalry they later became, but could serve as cavalry in a pinch. In particular, our dragoons are a special unit of fusilier dragoons in the service of the horse artillery, specially raised by the General of Artillery, Marcin Kantski. As such they are armed with firelocks (fusil from the French for firelock) like flintlocks and doglocks (other dragoons still carried the matchlock). They are trained to crew and help maneuver the cannon, and are also called to help with engineering tasks.

The artillery is our other core, which consists of a relatively small number of men, 5 at the most. In the practice of the time, the gunner and assistant gunner are professional artillerymen, and the other crewmen are infantry or dragoons who have been assigned to the crew semi-permanently.

We expect most members, especially new recruits with limited experience, to take on the role of dragoon or artilleryman. It is much easier and cheaper than cavalry! Also, we require anyone who wishes to adopt a cavalry impression to know how to ride, or start learning how.

We are potentially accompanied by a variety of other services, including (of the Polish type):

Armored (Pancer/Cossack) cavalry –mailed horse-archers and carabiners, who carried a 12 foot lance.

Heavy (Hussar) cavalry – plate-armored lancers – famous for the wings and their 20 foot lance

Light cavalry – unarmored horse-archers and carabiners; sometimes in the model of tatar cavalry

Haiduk/Hungarian Infantry – matchlock armed in Polish costume.

(of the foreign type)

Arqubuser cavalry – western style, buff coat, breast plate, carbine.

Western infantry – just like in England or Germany; western cloths and matchlocks. Few pikes.

Jannisary infantry – Turkish Jannisary costume and matchlocks– mostly deserters from the Turks.

Where to start with equipment acquisition.

While we do have some loaner equipment, we are a new group so this is very limited. For this reason, we encourage new members to start acquiring basic equipment right away. We can, however, equip several (even as many as 8) people – guests or beginners - in western style clothing and equipment, which is entirely accurate for artillery and infantry of the ‘Foreign Autoraiment’ of the Commonwealth army. However, too much of that and we start to look like an English civil war unit, which is not the point.

Items 1-4 below should be acquired within a year, the full kit within 2 years. The items to acquire in order of priority are:

  1. Coat. For dragoon or artillery crew, this is one uniform coat. For cavalry (nobles), it is a zupan inner coat and kontuz outer coat. While cavalry normally always wear both coats, under armor they wear only a zupan (padded).
  2. Hat. Of the Colpack (Cowpack) design
  3. Boots or shoes. Boots for dragoons and artillery can be modern ‘biker boots’ of a simple cut, that might be purchased for a few dollars at a thrift store. Shoes of a 17th C. type are good also. Cavalry should have proper 17th C. Polish-Hungarian style boots, which are made rather like cowboy boots.
  4. If you have a zupan but not a kontuz, that should be next on your list (if in the cavalry or a noble).
  5. (At this point, you are basically ready to go. We have some loaner muskets, sabers etc. or if you are cavalry, you now have the essential ‘light cavalry’ equipment.

  6. Saber, scabbard, belt. This is a mandatory item for cavalry, optional (temporarily) for others.
  7. Musket, doglock, flintlock, or matchlock, (if a dragoon only)
  8. Cartridge case, bullet pouch, personal item… completes the personal ‘look’
  9. Other primary weapons and/or armor.


  1. 10. Horse tack, tents, camp gear, dress cloths if a wealthy character, secondary weapons, outer coat, knapsacks, your own personal 3pdr cannon….

A chart of equipment and sources by basic military type is in the web page.  (These sources are not required, but are recommended as they generally know what is required for our group.)  That article also discusses the outfits and styles in more detail, and links to the pattern page. Weapons are also discussed. We can also provide patterns for items ranging from hats and coats to cartridge cases, plus guidance for materials.


Reading List: First, see the movies by  by J. Hoffman based on the wonderfull 

(Nobel Prize Winning) fiction of  Henryk Sienkiewicz

especially the excellent modern translation by Kuniczak. (1991) including:

- Fire & Sword - Set in the time of the the Cossack Rebellions, late 1640s

- The Deluge - Set in the time of the Swedish Invasions, 1650s

- Fire in the Step (Colonel W.)


The easiest histories to tackle in my opinion are:

Polish Armies 1569-1696,
by Richard Brzezinski
(Osprey Press, Men-at-Arms Series, 1987.)

The Polish Way
by Adam Zamoyski
(Hippocrene Books, NY, NY, 1987)

A great first person source: The Memoirs of Jan Pasek, Translated by M. Swiecicka, The Kosciuszko Foundation Warsaw, 1978.  A 17th C. Polish soldier speaks out - much valuable information for building a persona, a very violent persona.

A *wonderful* overview of Husars and other 1400-1645 Polish Military topics:


Measurements charts for Creative Clothes.