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Helge B.





Joined: 06 Mar 2008

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PostPosted: Mon 14 Apr, 2008 5:54 am    Post subject: Polish hussars breaking pike blocks         Reply with quote

The polish hussaria repeatedly broke swedish pike blocks in the northern wars with lance charges alone even beeing heavily outnumbered and suffering only minimal losses.

I wonder how they managed this. There is one theory which says that it was due to their extremly long lances outreaching the swedish pikemen. I find this unconvincingly as I still think that swedes used longer pikes and not the shortened schweinsfeder. Even with a 5-6m long lance the pike still will be able to impale the unprotected horse of the hussar before he can reach him. And if its not the first rank then it will the ranks behind which will kill the horse.

Nevertheless the hussar seem to have broken enemy pike blocks with ease. Any other ideas how they managed this?
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Daniel Staberg




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PostPosted: Mon 14 Apr, 2008 2:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Whcih of the northern wars are we talking about?
There is the first Northern war aka the Nordic 7-years war.
There is the series of Polish-Swedish wars of 1600-1629 (actualy one long war with several year long truces)
The Second Northern war of 1655-1660
The Great Northern war of 1700-1721

It's a myth based on a distortion of the events at Kircholm 1605. (During the 1600-1609 "Livonian war"

Comparing the lenghts of piek and lance is a red herring. Swiss pikemen held of much better armoured cavalry using 12-16 foot lances with pikes that were only 10 feet long in the late 15th Century. Each lancer woudl not be facign a single pikeman but 2-4 files of pikemen, that is at least 10-12 pikes, possibly as many as 20-24 pikes. And thats not countign the men behind the first 5-6 ransk in a deeper formation. Sure the lancer will get the first man in one file but the other pikemen will get the lancer or his horse most of the time.

What happend at Kircholm was that a large part of the ill-trained and completly unarmoured Swedish pikemen were first ridden thorugh by the own fleeing cavalry and then charged by the pursuing hussars. With the Swedish cavalry goen the remaining infantry were surrounded by the Poles (Lithuanians actually) who were free to use a combination of firepower (from artillery, haiduks, reiters and light cavalry with bow or arquebus) and hussar charges to break the squares as they tried to fight their way back to the Swedish fleet and safety.

The single unsupported hussar charge into the Swedish infantry squares at Kircholm was a failure which cost the attacking hussar banner 1/3 of it's fighting strenght.

Apart from Kircholm the Swedish infantry of the 1600-1609 war in Livonia were not armed with pikes, only with firearms. The exception was some of the German mercenary units.

In the later wars with Gustavus Adolphus (1621-1629) and Karl X Gustav (1655-1660) there were few hussar vs pike negagemnets as the Polish-Lithuanian commanders learned the hard way not to attack infantry frontally
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Fri 18 Apr, 2008 12:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I must agree with Daniel that the Polish hussars' act of throwing the fleeing Swedish cavalry back upon their infantry has been greatly underemphasized in most popular histories about the Polish hussars. Now, this discussion makes me curious about a similar but smaller-scale success that the hussars had against the allied infantry in the Battle of Warsaw (1656); did it happen this way as well, did the hussars manage to break their way through by scaring the allies with their reputation, or was the charge simply not as successful as this narrative makes it to be?

(I know it's not the best source available, since it's from the same site that perpetuates most of the hussar myths mentioned here, but in any case it'd be very interesting to get a more reliable account of what really happened during the godawfully complicated course of the battle.)


Last edited by Lafayette C Curtis on Fri 18 Apr, 2008 1:33 am; edited 1 time in total
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Daniel Staberg




Location: Gothenburg/Sweden
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PostPosted: Fri 18 Apr, 2008 12:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
I must agree with Daniel that the Polish hussars' act of throwing the fleeing Swedish cavalry back upon their infantry has been greatly underemphasized in most popular histories about the Polish hussars. Now, this discussion makes me curious about a similar but smaller-scale success that the hussars had against the allied infantry in the Battle of Warsaw (1656); did it happen this way as well, did the hussars manage to break their way through by scaring the allies with their reputation, or was the charge simple not as successful as this narrative makes it to be?

(I know it's not the best source available, since it's from the same site that perpetuates most of the hussar myths mentioned here, but in any case it'd be very interesting to get a more reliable account of what really happened during the godawfully complicated course of the battle.)

It's a case of mistaken identity which is the resutl of either deliberate distortion of the content of the orginal article or a poor understanding of it.. The translator has not understod the fact that Swedish Provinces in many cases raised both Horse and Foot regiments. The Polish article mentions first the Uppland regiment of Foot commanded by Col. 'Nisbet' and a bit later the Uppland regiment of Horse commanded by Planting. This part has been translated correctly in the section called "Disposition of the allied armies"
However once we get to the charge Planting's horsemen have been converted to the "elite Uplandder infantry regiment "
despite that fact that the Polish orignal mentions neither infantry nor 'elite' as far as I can tell.

So there was no success against allied infantry, the famous charge was stricktly a cavalry vs cavalry fight.

The translators notes reval how little he knows of the period in general and the Swedish army in particular.
Quote:
The fact that the Swedish-Brandenburg force had 12,500 cavalry and only 5,500 infantry was unusual for the Swedes who typically relied on their excellent infantry forces for victory

Nothing unusual at all as the Swedes had been using cavalry heavy forces for decades in the 30-Years War and did so in the war with Poland as well.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Fri 18 Apr, 2008 1:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Ah, thanks for correcting my misunderstanding on the Warsaw affair. It certainly helps a lot in giving me a much more coherent picture of 17th-century battlefield tactics. Wink
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