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Portrait of Russian hussar Evgraf Davydov by Kiprensky 1810s In 1707, Apostol Kigetsch, a Wallachian nobleman serving Russian Emperor Peter the Great , was given the task to form a khorugv "banner" or "squadron" of 300 men to serve on the Ottoman-Russian border.
In 1723, Peter the Great formed a Hussar regiment exclusively from Serbian light cavalry serving in the Austrian army. They were on a level between regular and irregular cavalry.
Each regiment was supposed to have a fixed organization of 10 companies, each of about 100 men, but these regiments were recruited from different sources, so they were less than the indicated strength. Located in garrisons far away from Hungary, some deserted from the Austrian army and joined that of Prussia. The value of the Hungarian hussars as light cavalry was recognised and, in 1721, two Hussaren Corps were organised in the Prussian Army.
Frederick II later called "The Great" recognised the value of hussars as light cavalry and encouraged their recruitment. In 1741, he established a further five regiments, largely from Polish deserters. Three more regiments were raised for Prussian service in 1744 and another in 1758. While the hussars were increasingly drawn from Prussian and other German cavalrymen, they continued to wear the traditional Hungarian uniform, richly decorated with braid and gold trim.
At the same time, he exempted the hussars from the usual disciplinary measures of the Prussian Army , such as physical punishments including cudgeling.
While Hungarian hussars served in the opposing armies of Frederick and Maria Theresa , there were no known instances of fratricidal clashes between them. The name is derived from the German word werben that means, in particular, "to enroll in the army"; verbunkos means recruiter. The corresponding music and dance were performed during military recruiting, which was a frequent event during this period, hence the character of the music. The verbunkos was an important component of the Hungarian hussar tradition.
Potential recruits were dressed in items of hussar uniform, given wine to drink and invited to dance to this music. The hussars played a prominent role as cavalry in the Revolutionary Wars 1792—1802 and Napoleonic Wars 1803—15. As light cavalrymen mounted on fast horses, they would be used to fight skirmish battles and for scouting. Most of the great European powers raised hussar regiments. The armies of France, Austria, Prussia, and Russia had included hussar regiments since the mid-18th century.
In the case of Britain, four light dragoon regiments were converted to hussars in 1806—1807. The hussars of the period created the tradition of sabrage , the opening of a champagne bottle with a sabre. Moustaches were universally worn by Napoleonic-era hussars; the British hussars were the only moustachioed troops in the British Army—leading to their being taunted as being "foreigners", at times.
French hussars also wore cadenettes, braids of hair hanging on either side of the face, until the practice was officially proscribed when shorter hair became universal. The uniform of the Napoleonic hussars included the pelisse , a short fur-edged jacket which was often worn slung over one shoulder in the style of a cape and was fastened with a cord. This garment was extensively adorned with braiding often gold or silver for officers and several rows of buttons.
The dolman or tunic, which was also decorated in braid, was worn under it. On active service, the hussar normally wore reinforced breeches which had leather on the inside of the leg to prevent them from wearing due to the extensive time spent in the saddle. On the outside of such breeches, running up each outer side, was a row of buttons, and sometimes a stripe in a different colour.
A shako or fur kolpac busby was worn as headwear. The colours of the dolman, pelisse and breeches varied greatly by regiment, even within the same army. The French hussar of the Napoleonic period was armed with a brass-hilted sabre , a carbine and sometimes with a brace of pistols, although these were often unavailable. In the British Army , hussar cavalry were introduced at a later date than in other major European armies. Towards the end of the 18th century, British light dragoon regiments began to adopt hussar style accoutrements such as laced jackets, pelisses and sabretaches.
In 1805, four light dragoon regiments were permitted to use the "hussar" name, initially in parentheses after their regimental title, and adopted full hussar uniforms. British hussars were armed with, in addition to firearms, the highly regarded 1796-pattern light-cavalry sabre. These regiments were created in the second part of the 19th century, under the rule of Alexandru Ioan Cuza , creator of Romania by the unification of Moldavia and Wallachia.
Romania diplomatically avoided the word "hussar" due to its connotation at the time with Austro-Hungary , traditional rival of the Romanian principates. These troops played an important role in the Romanian Independence War of 1877 , on the Russo-Turkish front. Both wore fur busbies and white plumes.
Both types of cavalry served through World War II on the Russian front as mounted and mechanised units. In 1813, as part of the army of the newly independent Chile, the regiment fought against the Spanish Army until its defeat at the disaster of the Battle of Rancagua.
In most respects, they had now become regular light cavalry, recruited solely from their own countries and trained and equipped along the same lines as other classes of cavalry. Austro-Hungarian hussars in 1914 A characteristic of both the Imperial German and Russian Hussars was the variety of colours apparent in their dress uniforms. Most Russian hussar regiments wore red breeches,  as did all the Austro-Hungarian hussars of 1914.
This rainbow-effect harked back to the 18th-century origins of hussar regiments in these armies and helped regrouping after battle or a charge. The fourteen French hussar regiments were an exception to this rule — they wore the same relatively simple uniform, with only minor distinctions, as the other branches of French light cavalry.
This comprised a shako, light blue tunic and red breeches. The twelve British hussar regiments were distinguished by different coloured busby bags and a few other distinctions such as the yellow plumes of the 20th, the buff collars of the 13th and the crimson breeches of the 11th Hussars. Hussar influences were apparent even in those armies which did not formally include hussar regiments. A sabretache , an ornate pouch hung from the belt, often completed the accoutrements.
They often retained the queue, which used to be common to all soldiers, after other regiments had dispensed with it and adopted short hair. Hussars had a reputation for being the dashing, if unruly, adventurers of the army. The traditional image of the hussar is of a reckless, hard-drinking, hard-swearing, womanising , moustachioed swashbuckler.
General Lasalle , an archetypal showoff hussar officer, epitomized this attitude by his remarks, among which the most famous is: Less romantically, 18th-century hussars were also known and feared for their poor treatment of local civilians.
In addition to commandeering local food-stocks for the army, hussars were known to also use the opportunity for personal looting and pillaging. Armament and tactics[ edit ] Hussars in battle during the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 Hussar armament varied over time. Until the 17th century, it included a cavalry sabre , lance , long, wooden shield and, optionally, light, metal armour or simple leather vest.
Their usual form of attack was a rapid charge in compact formation against enemy infantry or cavalry units. If the first attack failed, they would retire to their supporting troops, who re-equipped them with fresh lances, and then would charge again. Armour became heavier and was eventually replaced by shield armour. Unlike their lighter counterparts, the Polish hussars were used as a heavy cavalry for line-breaking charges against enemy infantry.
The famous low losses were achieved by the unique tactic of late concentration. Until the first musket salvo of the enemy infantry, the hussars approached relatively slowly, in a loose formation. Each rider was at least 5 steps away from his colleagues and the infantry, still using undeveloped muskets, could not aim at any particular cavalryman.
After the salvo, the cavalry rapidly accelerated and tightened the ranks. At the moment of the clash of the charging cavalry with the defenders, the hussars were riding knee-to-knee. Hussars of the Polish Commonwealth were also famous for the huge wings worn on their backs or attached to the saddles of their horses. Several theories attempt to explain the meaning of the wings. According to some, they were designed to foil attacks by Tatar lasso ; another theory maintains that the sound of vibrating feathers attached to the wings made a strange sound that frightened enemy horses during the charge.
However, recent experiments performed by Polish historians in 2001 did not support any of these theories and the phenomenon remains unexplained.
The wings were probably worn only during parades and not during combat, but this explanation is also disputed. Because Poland has a large population of devout Catholics, it seems possible the wings and uniforms were meant to resemble St. In the 18th and 19th centuries, hussars of Central and Western Europe retained the use of the sabre throughout the time. Some cavalrymen such as the Chasseurs were also armed with firearms, primarily carbines or pistols. Armoured units[ edit ] After horse cavalry became obsolete, hussar units were generally converted to armoured units, though retaining their traditional titles.
Hussar regiments still exist today and horses are sometimes used for ceremonial purposes. In the British Army although amalgamations have reduced their number to only two , the French Army , the Swedish Army Livregementets husarer , the Life Regiment Hussars , the Dutch Army and the Canadian Forces , they are usually tank forces or light mechanised infantry.
The Danish Guard Hussars provide a ceremonial mounted squadron, which is the last to wear the slung pelisse. Police Hussars in Germany[ edit ] Gendarmes of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1900 In certain German states, notably Rheinpfalz , Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz , hussars were sometimes used as a mounted police force or gendarmerie. A rare exception to the usual pattern of German police uniforms were those of the Mecklenburg-Strelitzsche Districts-Husaren.
This gendarmerie corps retained their 19th century-style uniforms until 1905.