(Ivan Bohan’s Bratslava Pulk)

 Goal:    a living history group (based in the mid-Atlantic USA) formed to provide a window into the life of mid-seventeenth century East Europe, in particular that most misunderstood of characters,

      The Knightly Brotherhood of Cossacks!


I To develop an authentic recreation of Zaporozhian Cossacks (Kosaky) under Bohdan Khmelnitsky 1648-57 with the typical camp followers.

II To develop authentic (yet safe) recreations of swordsmanship and military practices of the period.

III To enjoy feasting, games, fellowship and dancing in the style of the period.

Description:   Currently in forming stage, as a sister unit to the group of Kosaki that meets in Tyler TX, and affiliated with Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Artillery, Infantry and cavalry, Muscovite streleti, and various English Civil War and Thurty Years War era groups.  The equipment is quite extensive, yet correct to period. Presenters are available capable giving experts that can give very lively talks on their period at levels from kindergarten to post graduate.  

What sort of people join our group?  see our answer.

See also our (Texas Group)

And  see our costume page 

contact: Rick  at 703 528 5618 (E), 


The Recreated 

Ivan Bohan’s Bratslava Pulk 1651

    9th Stotnia Pchota    ____      8th Stotnia Dragoni

The Military unit (as well as the civil Government and Society within Podolia dominated by the Pulk) during the period 1645-1660, when the Cossacks passed from Polish to Muscovite Sway, briefly savoring a period of independence under the Hetman State.

This elite Cossack military unit is modeled after the Bratslawa regiment (or “Pulk”) in Podolia over which the famous Pulknovnik Ivan Bohan (immortalized in legend, and in fiction as the antagonist in Sienkiewicz’s With Fire and Sword, events in 1647-49) took command in1650. 

The Pulk.  The Pulk was primarily an administrative entity that may or may not take the field as a battalion.[1]  The Bratslawa Pulk was formed out of most of what had been the Bratslawa Voivoideship, and at this time was the Provincial government as well as a military force.   Pulks typically had 7-20 stotni (companies) of various arms: cavalry, dragoons, and infantry, each of from 80-200 men. The Stotnia was in turn billeted in a town, and would have then served as the town government, police force and tax authority.  The Bratslawa Pulk core would have been a set of professional units of ‘regulars’, and would soon play a critical role as a crack unit in the 1651 Battle of Beresteczko, in which Bohan led the attack that almost defeated the Poles.  After the peace following the defeat of Beresteczko, the Cossacks temporarily fell back into the Polish fold, the professional cadre of the Bratslawa Pulk was ‘Registered’. 

The core of the fighting force would have been Cossacks.  While Cossacks were a sort of peasant in the eyes of Polish nobility, they were yet distinct in that they had the right to train in and bear arms.  In 1650 a few Ukrainian peasants may have found their way into the ranks, but more likely they would have been formed into low-status militia companies of their own, and been used as labor brigades. Presumably at this critical moment the revolution would have needed to recruit numbers of capable yet loyal men.  My guess is that there would have been a superabundance of experienced men to choose from, and formal selection would have been seen as a reward, an honor for proven fighters and the teen-aged sons and relatives of the Regiment’s cadre. These men would have rightfully seen themselves as a selected elite, both as warriors and effectively as the new boyars of the Hetman state.  The dragoons especially were a mobile elite all-purpose force, and would have had the pick of men; except that the larger men may have been disqualified because of the limitations of the likely horses.  Recruits at this time usually formed complete units – that is, seldom replenished existing Stotni in dribs and drabs in the manner of ‘replacements’; units if too low in strength would be disbanded and recombined into existing or new units. 

Uniforms “Brawi”.  The 'inspirational model' for me is the picture above of the company of Cossack musketeers - quite probabally Bohan's own during his climatic counterattack, firing in tight formation at the Polish winged hussars (1651 Battle of Beresteczko). We don’t know for certain how this unit specifically was dressed, but we have a good general idea.  By this time, the use of uniforms had been firmly established, but reality did not always keep pace with theory. The taxing, funding and purchasing capacity of the new Cossack state was surely in turmoil. However, there is little reason to suspect a state of poverty, since the entire resources of this province were first directed to the support of the Pulk. Also, Ivan Bohan had done very well for himself and the level of uniformity or even of non-nakedness of troopers may have depended to some extent on the personal resources of the Pulkovnik and other senior officers.  It is possible that only some of the men would have had a uniform, but I believe they would have had managed at least the basic coat for all the line companies.

The infantry and dragoon uniform would have at minimum consisted of a single coat.  Possibly an overcoat as well.  The specific historic color is unknown – color varied unit to unit, but the standard infantry color was medium grayish-blue, and the standard dragoon color was forest green.[2]   Facings and trims often took on the arms-colors of the region, which in this case might be the yellow of the Podlian sun.  The usual regimentalHistorical arms of Podolia quartermaster arrangement was to issue cloth, and the men in each company would have seen to tailoring arrangements – this often led to garments of only approximately uniform appearance. Pants, shoes, hats and other gear were likely not issued or provided for, so would have been non-uniform personal choice.  Weapons such as sabers were likely personal property if the recruit was a Cossack, or possibly issued if the man was a peasant, but muskets would typically have been issued (1650 was not a typical year, however).  

CossackFront.jpg (212122 bytes)Cossack1Back.jpg (207144 bytes)The Dress of Uniform color.  The coat – sukna[3] - is illustrated in Fig A. It would have been the same for dragoons or infantry, except for color.

The shirt would have been a plain white loose, gusseted, linen shirt.  Its possible that a cuff or something may have been embroidered by awpe37.gif (25789 bytes) wife or mother, but not the full embroidery down the front as was seen in later centuries.

CossackOverKaftan.jpg (160242 bytes)The overcoat is illustrated in Fig B.  The sleeves could be short or long, and skirt likewise.  We choose short sleeves, and just below the knee length as typical and practical.  Tie-on Sleeve extensions would have been available to attach during cold month.  This garment is optional. There is evidence from pictures that this coat was not worn at certain times, as it is not shown for example on the Cossack infantry fighting at Berest (during high summer).  However, it is an ancient and almost universal military tradition that men dress in their full-formal best to go into battle – that these overcoats are not shown argue that they were not issued or available, if the pictuwpe3B.gif (24494 bytes)re is not an artistic invention.  

Pants were narrow or baggy following a Turkish cut. 

The shoes for infantry would have been typical 17th C. shoes, probably half or more, with a large percentage of comfortable Krpce peasant shoes with thongs wrapped about the ankle, and a higher percentage of sturdy boots than would be found in western infantry.  Since we represent a fairly well-supported unit, perhaps up to 50% could be boots, and those mostly for the more senior men, the rest a mix of shoes and krpce.  mmFoote34.jpg (53689 bytes)Howeverr the percentage of boots could easily be under 10%.

Socks would have been sewn from a soft stretchy wool cloth called cotton, or felt.   

Muskets are matchlocks; other gear include sabers, an axe, and belt/hanger/pouch, and snapsack.

To the extent that the group wishes to be authentic, it is important to avoid 19th C. Stereotypes!  You know what I mean, the baggy pants cut like pajamas, down to the ankle, the embroidered untucked white shirt with no jacket, the shashka saber, the tall colpak hat.  These may describe a latter Cossack, hundreds of years later; not 17th C. Cossacks.


Dragoon equipment.

The shoes for dragoon would have been as for the infantry, with a fairly high percentage of boots.  Boots would typically be plain brown or black of sturdy leather, not the fine red or yellow saffian boots of the wealthy. However, for the typical shoe-wearer, a simple leather or cloth gaiter would have protected the calves.

The dragoon horses were inexpensive riding horses and even old nags; not highly expensive and exhaustively trained cavalry horses.  The company would have few if any remounts.  Dragoons in this region and at this time were truly mounted infantry, not light cavalry, but could function as low quality cavalry in a pinch (but not facing the superb Polish cavalry).  Over time, dragoon units would use plunder to improve its stock of horses, acquire more pistols, and train more as cavalry, but that would not be true of this unit in the early 1650s.

The main weapon would be a musket.  The key distinction is that dragoon muskets have a sling.  Otherwise, the musket was more likely to be shorter – a little, 8 inches or so – or may have been full length. The second weapon was a saber, which almost all dragoons would have carried.  A third weapon was a standard infantryman’s ax, worn across the back on a sling. Finally, some senior dragoons would have one or a pair of pistols. 

The musket would have been a matchlock for the dragoons as well as for the infantry.  A certain number of the dragoons may have been armed with firelocks (snaphaunces, and perhaps even some flintlocks).

Ivan Bohan  --- Іван Богун (d. 1664),

 Ivan Bogun /Bohan  is one of the most famous Cossack colonels of the Ukraine in the middle of the 17th C.  Little is known of his upbringing except that he has a reputation as a gallant youth who joined the Cossack military   in 1637-38.  In the years up to 1642 he was on various mission to Azov and representing the Zaporozki Cossacks as an Envoy to the Don Cossacks.  He was on a mission to Sultan Ibrahim I of the Ottoman empire.    In 1640 fought the Crimean Tatars.

(The following material is reprinted from the Wikipeadia article)

During the 1648  uprising  in Ukraine,  Bogun became an adjunct of Hetman Chmelnytsky ; in  1649 became a an officer of Chigirinski's  regiment. in 1650 in recognition of his organizational and fighting talent Bohan was promoted pulkovnik (Colonel) of a Podalase regiment from Bratslava. Close associate and friend of Bohdan Khmelnytsky, he opposed both the pacts with Poland (Treaty of Hadziacz of 1658) and with Muscovy (Treaty of Pereyaslav of 1654).

In June 1651 he  took part in the battle of Beresteczko against the Polish forces led by King Jan II Casimir. Surviving the defeat he gathered his forces and in June of 1652 took part in a victorious battle at Batih, in which the Polish commander Marcin Kalinowski was killed and Stefan Czarniecki barely escaped with his life. The Polish defeat was complete and allowed for the Cossack forces to start a successful offensive and effectively gain control over large parts of the Ukraine. Until 1657 he also led his forces in minor skirmishes against the Polish forces, notably at Bratslav and Uman. He also fought against the Crimean Tatars who had switched sides after the Treaty of Zborów of 1649.

Initially opposing the Treaty of Pereyaslavl of 1654 after the death of Khmelnytsky, Ivan Bohun led an armed pro-Muscovite uprising against the power of hetman Ivan Vyhovsky and defeated his army in the autumn of 1659. In 1663 he started yet another military campaign, this time against Muscovy. However, he gained little and on February 17, 1664, he was captured and turned over to the Poles. Found guilty of high treason, he was executed by a firing squad.

Ivan Bohun became a popular Ukrainian folk hero, immortalized by Henryk Sienkiewicz in a novel With Fire and Sword and Jerzy Hoffman's movie with the same name, where character Jurko Bohun was loosely based on him.



[1] In Western practice, Regiments were organized by a political Colonel or proprietor – often an older rich guy – while the fighting battalion was commanded in the field by a Lieutenant Colonel. The Colonel often considered the soldiers servants of this household. 

[2] The main alternate coat color candidate is natural gray, or perhaps red, especially for the dragoons.

[3] Sukna is a generic term for ‘robe’ or ‘garment’ that we know was used for military uniform coats.  The cut of this kaftan-coat is similar to a Zupan and the outer coat is a kaftan similar to a kontuz; however, it would be incorrect to use these terms that belong to noble’s and townsmen’s garments for common soldier’s kit. Also, the garments are not nearly as tailored as a noble's zupan would be, nor is the skirt as full.