Minted light cavalry. How could a lightly armed rider hit a latnik, even if the spear was powerless against their new heavy-duty armor? But with such "war hammers" with a sharp beak they could still be pierced! (City Museum of Meissen)
“Take a shield and armor and rise to help me”
Psalm 34: 2
Psalm 34: 2
Military affairs at the turn of the eras. Do not think that at the turn of the Middle Ages and the New Age, absolutely all cavalry donned armor and armed with pistols and arquebuses. On the contrary, there were many subspecies of light cavalry, moreover, national subspecies, specifically related to the situation in a particular country, but immediately fell into the field of knowledge of generals of other states. They also began to be hired, so that over time the names of the national units became internationalized and began to designate only this or that kind of cavalry.
Hungarian hussar. Illustration from the book “Cavalry. The history of fighting elite 650BC - AD1914 »V.Vuksic, Z. Grbasic. Pay attention to his magnificent outfit and the characteristic shape of the shield, the so-called "Bosnian scutum." The long "beak" of his warhammer was hardly suitable for piercing armor, but they could get it behind such a shield ...
Hungarian hussars: every twentieth!
Here, for example, Hungary, whose king Matthias I Corvin (1458-1490), spent a lot of energy on the war with Maximilian I. The Hungarian archives contain a whole list of payments relating to the second half of the XNUMXth century that military officials made to the soldiers of the Corvin army. And here it is an image of a lightly armed horseman, with a long spear, a sword and a compound bow, sitting in a high eastern saddle and wearing a colorful Renaissance costume with feathers and a characteristic shield in his left hand. It is written next that it is a "hussar." That is, such hussars with spears and bows apparently fought ... against imperial cuirassiers and reitars.
The shield of the Hungarian hussar of 1490. Such shields were usually made of wood, covered with leather, linen, waxed parchment and decorated with drawings. A lance for a spear is visible on the side. Belonged to Emperor Maximilian I. c. 1490 (Vienna armory Ward)
Hussars served in cavalry not only in Hungary, but also in Poland, Lithuania, Bohemia and other eastern countries, although nowhere else were these people mentioned under a special name. In Hungary, the name hussar was probably originally applied to any soldier called up for service by the Hungarian king. However, during the reign of Matthias Corvin, hussars meant a special and easily recognizable type of horseman who served in hussar units. Later, their name spread to neighboring states.
There are several hypotheses about the origin of the name hussars. It is attributed to the Avars and the soldiers of Byzantium. However, many historians believe that the root of the name is associated with the Hungarian word husz, meaning twenty. When the king urged the nobles to fulfill their feudal obligations to the crown, they had to arm one soldier for every 20 able-bodied serfs recorded. The same thing applied to the free royal cities, and to the fishermen on the Danube, who were supposed to supply people for the royal fleet.
The shield of the Hungarian hussar of 1515, already made of metal. Belonged to Emperor Maximilian I. (Vienna Armory)
Matthias later replaced the unreliable feudal army with more loyal mercenary troops. Together with the Bohemian infantry and German armored cavalry, the most numerous were light Hungarian horsemen, who received the name of the hussars purely by tradition. Once a lightly armed horseman means a hussar. Only before the hussars were formed on the basis of feudal law, and now they have become mercenaries.
There was no other country in Europe whose история and fate was as closely related to horses and riders as Hungary. Most of its territory, now known as the Pannonian Valley (and once called the Gateway to Europe), saw the campaign of the Huns, Avars, Magyars, Tatars and Kumans, and they all left here many traces of their military experience and riding skills. Hungary itself could be conquered or defended only on horseback, so life in these places was always associated with riding skills. It is clear that such a historical situation greatly influenced both the appearance and the manner of battle of the Hungarian hussars.
In battles, fighting against the Turks is better than no stradiot riders!
In the 1453th century, Venice was a wealthy city-republic and managed to gain control of the eastern shores of the Adriatic due to its advantageous geographical position and powerful merchant and battle fleets. After the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 200 and the subsequent fall of the Byzantine Empire, Venice captured many islands in the Aegean Sea and strengthened its possessions in the eastern part of the Adriatic. Being a wealthy city, she could contain a professional army that kept her neighbors at bay. At the peak of its power, 000 citizens lived in the republic, and it controlled an area inhabited by 2,5 million people.
650th century stradiot Illustration from the book “Cavalry. The history of fighting elite 1914BC - ADXNUMX »V.Vuksic, Z.Grbasic
When the Ottomans moved further west, Venice was faced with raids by light Delhi riders and Tatars, whom she could not fight successfully. In 1470, Greek and Albanian stradiotti or estradiotti offered their services to Venice - light armed riders who already had experience of war with the Turks, knew the tactics of Turkish riders, and themselves ... they fought in the same way.
Of the stradiots, detachments of 100 to 300 troops were formed, which were located in garrison cities that lay on the routes of possible Turkish invasions. Stradiots were mobile, acted suddenly and decisively, so they were best suited for reconnaissance and border protection.
Later, under the name of the stradiots, Venice and other Italian states (Milan, Siena, Pisa, Genoa) adopted the horse units of the Croats and Hungarians, and commanded by such well-known commanders as Hunyadi Janos and Miklos Zriny. At the battle of Fornovo (1495), 2000 stradiots attacked from the rear and destroyed the supply lines of the French army. At the Battle of Agandello (1509), the largest cavalry unit of the Stradiots numbered 3000 horsemen, and at Pavia (1525) 500 Stradiots attacked the French position from the left flank and thereby contributed to the overall victory.
Italian bourguignot and a round shield "antique", made in 1545-1550. for Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol (1529 - 1595). The creator of this armor was probably a student of Karemolo Modrone, a master from Mantua. Convex patterns are gilded, the background is silver plated. The popularity of everything antique at that time was so high that the craftsmen tirelessly create “modern armor” for noble people, but ... give them an “antique look” (Vienna Armory)
The Italian states, which could not afford to buy stradiot services, had to compensate for this in other ways, for example, in 1480 Naples decided to hire 1500 Turkish light riders, which was cheaper, but the Spaniards used to hire ginet riders of Moorish descent, although in In 1507, they also hired 1000 stradiots.
The equipment and armament of the stradiots was a mixture of eastern and western. Only the Croats wore a local type of sword, called Skjavona, while all other light-minded sabers used sabers of various origins. Their full armament consisted of a long spear, an oriental compound bow and a saber. The use of a shield and other protective equipment was optional for warriors, and helmets and chain mail were not widespread.
The first inhabitants of the territory that we now call Romania called themselves Wallachians, and they immediately formed three independent states on it: Wallachia around 1324, Moldavia in 1359 and Transylvania at the beginning of the 1526th century. At first they were vassals of Hungary, and then turned into a battlefield for the interests of Hungary, Poland, Austria and Turkey. Ottoman Turks also appeared on the borders of Wallachia also at this time, but it finally fell under their authority only in 1418, after the battle of Mohach. Prince Vlad Tepes (1456 - XNUMX) (also known as Count Dracula) gained his fame primarily because of his cruelty in the fight against the Turks, and it was from him that the Turks learned to put their prisoners on stakes, and not kill them immediately. After the Turkish occupation, the Wallachians shared the fate of all the Turks occupied by the Turks. But there were some peculiarities, for example, local feudal lords (gentlemen) often rebelled against the invaders and went into the mountains and forests together with their armed detachments.
The Wallachian Horseman of 1575. Illustration from the book “Cavalry. The history of fighting elite 650BC - AD1914 »V.Vuksic, Z.Grbasic
Several contemporary engravings by de Bruin, made between 1575 and 1581, help us today to reconstruct the appearance of the Wallach cavalry.
It was also light cavalry, which borrowed most of its equipment and horsemanship from the Ottomans. In addition to teaching their horses to walk, trot and gallop, the Wallachians taught them how to walk like camels, while rearranging both legs in one direction. Even today, you can find horses using this tread, but this is considered a bad trait.
From the end of the 20th century, the Wallachians served as mercenaries both in the army of the Ottoman Empire and in the armies of its enemies - Poland, Hungary and Russia. They were organized into squadrons (or hundreds) of about one hundred people. Once in the Polish service in Ukraine there were XNUMX hundred of them, and the head of a bull was a popular motif on the flags of Wallach units. Like the Ottomans, for a long time they refused to use firearms, and their main weapon remained a spear, a saber and a composite bow. For protection, they wore chain shirts and used a light round shield.
Under the flag with the dragon ...
And it happened that during one of the many Italian wars between 1552 and 1559, the French army occupied Piedmont. The French Marshal de Brissac, who was threatened by Spanish troops, ordered his brave infantrymen arquebusier and musketeers to ride horses and thus led them out of attack. Thus, he created a kind of mobile infantry, which used horses only for movement and fought on foot, like ordinary infantry. In the XVII century, other states followed the example of France and formed horseback infantry units, calling them dragoons. In one story about the origin of this name, the French endowed one of these new units with a dragon pennant, often used in Byzantium and the Carolingian state. According to another theory, their name comes from the short-barreled musket, which they used and which was called the dragon.
Dragoon 1630. Illustration from the book “Cavalry. The history of fighting elite 650BC - AD1914 »V.Vuksic, Z.Grbasic
The first dragoon regiments were organized during the Thirty Years War (1618 - 1648), although the Dutch had dragoons back in 1606, and the Swedes in 1611. Their organization and weapons were almost identical to the infantry units. The first three commanders of the regiment were named the same as in the infantry - Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel and Major. Dragoon regiments usually had from 10 to 15 companies, each of which consisted of about 100 people, which made them stronger than their real cavalry regiments, in which there were rarely more than 500 soldiers.
King of Spain Philip II (1527-1598). 1566 portrait by Alonso Sanchez Coelho. On this canvas, the king is depicted in the armor of a rider of light cavalry, high leg-fitting boots and trousers with puffs in the fashion of that time. But even in light cavalry, her commanders wore armor!
In the first decades of the 1625th century, the form of dragoons differed little from the clothes of infantry musketeers. Actually, this could not be called a uniform, just people tried to dress the same in order to save. After all, clothes for the regiment were ordered by her colonel and she was sewed to order. Shoes and stockings were replaced with boots with spurs, and the hat was sometimes replaced with a helmet, but such a replacement was unlikely to allow them to fight along with the armor; besides, only the officers had pistols, while the privates had muskets and swords. There was also a small pickaxe in the equipment of the dragoon, which could be used to tie a horse to it when the rider acted as an infantryman. It is interesting to note that until XNUMX Austrian imperial dragoons included pikemen in cuirasses and helmets, as well as officers with halberds. The mounted horses of the dragoons were small and cheap and could not withstand the real cavalry horses. From time to time, dragoons were trained in horseback riding, but it was more like training “just in case”. No one specifically sought such a battle.
True, the Swedish dragoons were an exception: their main role was to provide fire support to the cavalry, and they rarely dismounted in battle.
To be continued ...