"... from the heights of the Peninsula to the depths of Russia,
Polish valour went on parade as never before since the days of King Jan Sobieski."
Davies - "God's Playground. ..."
1. Polish Infantry
- - - - Organization >
- - - - Weapons >
- - - - Uniforms >
- - - - Lithuanian Chasseurs >
2. Polish Artillery
- - - - Organization >
- - - - Uniforms. >
3. Polish Cavalry
- - - - Organization >
- - - - Uniforms >
- - - - Weapons >
- - - - Horses >
- - - - Krakusi - Napoleon's Pygmy Cavalry >
- - - - The best cavalry regiments >
In 1809, in the war against Austria the Poles
Napoleon called the cavalrymen of
Picture: Polish troops in the battle of Raszyn, by Suchodolski.
the Russian jagers and the famous Pavlovsk Grenadiers.
After the battle the Dutch Red Lancers spent the night
in woods captured by Poniatowski's Polish infantry.
"This part of the field had been taken by the Polish troops
... The ground between the trees was so choked with dead men ...
that the Lancers had to lift scores of corpses out of their way
before they could clear a space to make their bivouac."
(Ronald Pawly - "The Red Lancers" pp 37-38)
At Hohenlinden "Pawlikowski, a 23-year old NCO of uhlans,
The Polish infantry maneuvered more swiftly than the French infantry (according to Lejeune). In terms of marksmanship, although the Poles were better marksmen than the French they had worse weapons. They used old Prussian muskets, captured Russian and Austrian weapons, and even some Italian muskets.
The French infantry was famous in Europe for their offensive spirit. The Polish infantry was extremely effective in defensive actions (Raszyn 1809 against the Austrians, Soissons 1814 against the Prussians and Russians, and defending the villages of Mark-kleeberg, Dolitz, Wiederitzsch, Gohlis and Leipzig's Suburbs 1813). They were also pretty good in urban combat and sieges (Saragossa against the Spaniards, Smolensk aagainst the Russians, and Fuengirola 1810 against the British infantry.)
The French had much more battle experience until 1813, the Poles however were better trained. (Often there was not enough peacetime for the French to train properly their troops.)
The French were expert skirmishers but also were known for forming their infantry in heavy, multi-battalion formations vulnerbale to artillery fire. The Poles avoided such heavy formations all together. The French and Poles used large number of skirmishers. For example in Borodino the Polish 16th Division fought in the wooded area near Utica having 2/3 of its strength fully in skirmish order. In Lepzig, Prince Poniatowski deployed 6 battalions into a thick skirmish line.
In the Polish infantry served mostly Poles, this is obvious, but there were also Lithuanians and some Prussians. Chlapowski writes: "I had several Germans [Prussians] from Leszno in my company [of voltigeurs]. I even made one of them a NCO and was very content with him. These men were less able to endure hardships than our Polish men, and so took greater care of themselves in everything which could preserve their health. In Gniezno, when they first joined us, they did not speak Polish, but soon learnt it well and were always our equals in the thick of battle. I made sure my Poles did not make fun of them and always treated them as comrades."
When underheavy artillery fire some Polish units sat down to lessen their casualties (Borodino, Leipzig etc.)
In my humble opinion the French infantry was slightly superior over the Polish infantry (excluding Vistula Legion)
until 1812. In 1813 and 1814 however the Poles became the elite of Napoleon's infantry. Below is rating
of napoleonic troops fighting against Blucher in Leipzig in 1813. (Source: "Napoleon's Grande Armee of 1813")
In Leipzig in 1813, the Poles defended the large village of Wiederitzsch. Disregarding the massive advantage of the Allies in men and guns, Dabrowski's 2nd and 4th Infantry Regiment marched out of Wiederitzsch and assaulted Langeron's army. Langeron immediately sent word to Blücher exaggerating Dabrowski's strength. In his memoirs the Russian general wrote that he had "believed Napoleon himself was attacking him". Few hours later Dabrowski's 4 battalions again marched out of Wiederitzsch, attacked Rudsevich's 6 battalions, and threw them into great confusion. The Russians reeled back to their positions near stream. In the fighting they lost commander of Staroskol Infantry Regiment (killed), GM Schenschin, Mjr. Yussofovich and many others. Langeron rode to the Schusselburg Infantry Regiment (2 battalions), spoke few words to the soldiers and personally led them against the Poles. GL Rudsevich with regiment of horse jagers (2 squadrons) marched nearby as a protection against any attack from Polish or French cavalry. Behind these troops marched a massive force of 16 battalions and rolled more than 80 guns. The decimated and exhausted Dabrowski's 4 battalions counter-attacked. This time however they were badly beaten back and pursued. Nearby stood a small detachment of French infantry and this troop was broken by Russian artillery and pursued by infantry. Klein-Wiederitzsch was captured and Langeron informed Blucher about his success.
Prussian Graf Henkel von Donnersmark descibed combat at Gohlis: "While General Vasilchikov's cavalry were mounting their bold attack ... the infantry of Sacken's corps was not idle. The general had advanced on the right wing and soon clashed with Dabrowski's Poles [at Gohlis]. Honour should be given to whomsoever earns it, even if it is the enemy, and in this case I must admit that the Poles repeatedly beat off the Russian assaults even though heavily outnumbered. Finally, they had to fall back, but they marched off in good order and took up another position closer to Leipzig. When the Poles and Russians clashed in this campaign, they always did so violently, asking for, and giving, no quarter, so deep was the hatred between these two nations that are at once so similar and so dissimilar."
Digby-Smith writes: "... Sacken's Russians had taken Gohlis at the second attempt despite the brave defence of Dombrowski's Poles, whose flank had been exposed by the flight of Delmas's [French] division. The Poles withdrew in good order to the Pfaffendorf outwork and then into the Rosengarten area between the Pleisse and the Elster." (Digby-Smith, - p 169)
When the Russians advanced against Leipzig, Dabrowski's division withdrew behind the Parthe River. The loss of the Halle Suburb meant disaster to Napoleon's army. George Nafziger writes: "Gourgaud, one of Napoleon's ADCs, recognized the danger, and reassured by Dabrowski that he would die before abandoning his position, hurried to advise Napoleon of the threat." The single battalion of the Italian Milan Guard attempted to defend the Theater. The Russian jagers stormed it and took it. There was no longer any organized body of French troops west of the river except Dabrowski's die-hards.
"... Dabrowski's Poles constituted the last formed body of French troops." (Digby-Smith, - p 268)
Photo-gallery @ PONIATOWSKI.ORG.PL
Reenactments of Napoleonic battles.
click here > (ext.link)
Organization of Polish Infantry.
Picture: Polish infantry in firefight. By Giseppe Rava, Italy. >
Twelve regiments of infantry were formed between 1806 and 1807. Regiment had 2 battalions of 9 companies of 95 men each. In March 1809 it was changed to 3 battalions of 6 companies of 140 men each. The 4th, 7th and 9th Regiment were in Spain had raised their company strength to 140 men but retained the old organization (2 battalions x 9 companies) until May 1812.
There were also three regiments of Vistula Legion. It was a splendid formation.
In 1808 Napoleon stated to Davout that the units of Vistula Legion were to be treated on a
par with French line regiments. The French nationals were not permitted to serve in these
units except as the paymasters or fouriers (company clerks.)
In January 1809:
French Marshal Davout reviewed the infantry and selected three of the best regiments (4th, 7th and 9th). These troops were sent to Spain where already was the Vistula Legion (infantry and cavalry).
In the end of 1809 new regiments were raised: two in the Grand Duchy (14th and 15th)
and four in the liberated Galicia (13th, 16th, 17th and 18th).
In 1811 each infantry regiment received 2 light cannons and raised a depot battalion of 4 companies.
Due to financial difficulties Napoleon took into French pay the 5th, 10th and 11th Infantry
Regiment. Each company had 136 men but the convention between France and Poland signed in
February 1812 added 20 men. The increase was paid by France.
When in 1812 Napoleon liberated Lithuania (which had been part of Poland) several new regiments were organized:
In April 1812 Napoleon attached the Vistula Legion (four regiments of 2 battalions each) to the Young Guard. In May third battalions were formed, but they were not to form elite companies as they were too young. The third battalions followed the army and joined the parent regiments already during the retreat in the beginning of November. All four regiments of Vistula Legion fought long and hard. Out of 7.000 men only 500 returned. In June 1813 Napoleon took all the remaining legionnaires and organized one regiment of Vistula under Colonel Kosinski. In 1813 this unit fought at Leipzig, Hanau, Soissons, Rheims and Arcis-sur-Aube where Napoleon sought shelter in one of its battalions. These lads were awarded with tens of crosses of Legion d'Honneur.
In March 1815 Napoleon directed that 1 battalion of Polish infantry begin forming in Rheims. The 590 men under Chef d'Bataillon Golaszewski were sent to Sedan where was depot of the disbanded Vistula Legion. Napoleon expected that second battalion will be raised from prisoners he expected to capture. On June 15th the Polish regiment had only 505 men.
Weapons of Polish Infantry.
The Polish infantry was armed with muskets and bayonets. In the beginning there were many Prussian muskets (reworked 1782 Model). Chlapowski writes: "We received our muskets very quickly. They were of recent manufacture, taken from the Berlin arsenal from which the Prussians had not managed to evacuate them. The bayonets were much too long for them, so later we exchanged these for French ones. We had been drilling without weapons, but as soon as our muskets arrived, the recruits learned more easily how to march and trim their lines. ... We had a cheerful existence in Gniezno; drill all morning and French lessons after lunch." (Chlapowski/Simmons - p 14)
In 1809 appeared several thousands of Austrian muskets (1774 and 1784 Models). Before the campaign against Russia in 1812, Napoleon provided 40.000 French muskets (1777, 1793 and 1800/1801 Models). In the end of 1812 and beginning of 1813 Russian muskets (1808 Model) were also used.
The Austrian weapons with rifled barrels (1807 Model) were issued to Polish light infantry (chasseurs). There were also Italian muskets made in Verona.
Uniforms of Polish Infantry.
Picture: Polish infantry wore dark blue trousers made of warm wool in winter, and white trousers made of cloth in summer.
In 1806-1807, due to problems with supplies part of the Polish infantry wore modified captured uniforms, mainly Prussian and some Austrian. Some wore modified civilian clothes. Gradually, majority of the infantrymen replaced their old uniforms with new ones.
The gaiters were black and short, under knee. The headwear was either shako or czapka (pronounced as 'chapka') with white eagle over brass base. Some of the shako had a red band around the top. The edges of czapka were trimmed with brass.
The 4th, 7th and 9th Infantry Regiment went to Spain and were issued some French uniform articles.
In 1812-1813 many infantrymen received French shakos with tri-color cockade. Only part of infantry wore the national uniforms: dark blue jacket called kurtka with lapels, cuffs and collar in divisional (not regimental) color. In 1813 "After the battle of Dresden 3,000 Austrian deserters of Polish nationality were taken prisoner into the [Poniatowski's VIII] corps; 30 to each company. Many of them continued to wear their old unifrms." (Digby-Smith, - p 316)
The grenadiers, voltigeurs and fusiliers distinguished themselves with colors of plumes and pompons. For grenadiers they were red, for fusiliers were black and for voltigeurs light green (in 1812 yellow over green). For officers were white.
The grenadiers wore either black or brown fur caps with or without front plates
or czapka with brass plate bearing a grenade. In 1810-1813 the bearskin
bore a brass plaque bearing a white metal eagle and the regimental number between
two grenades. The grenadiers wore red epauletes, mustaches and large sideburns.
The voltigeurs wore yellow-green epaulettes and some of their shako had a yellow
band around the top. The shako cords were white.
In 1806-1807 each of the three legions (divisions) had a single company of strzelców pieszych (chasseurs-a-pied, light infantry). These companies were formed into a 400-men battalion of strzelcy. In March 1807 this unit was converged into line infantry and absorbed into the 11th Infantry Regiment. The chasseurs were armed with muskets and rifled carbines.
In August 1812 it was decided that new six battalions of strzelcy would be raised in the liberated Lithuania. They were formed from outdoorsmen, foresters, and men who had an experience with hunting weapons, rifles and muskets. All were volunteers, no recruits were accepted. They were issued Austrian muskets with rifled barrels (1807 Model), rifled carbines and muskets. These sharpshooters were then organized into two regiments of 3 battalions each. But the amount of volunteers was disappointingly low (624 men) and only one regiment of 2 battalions was raised. It was the Pulk Strzelców Litewskich (Lithuanian Chasseur Regiment) This unit was mauled by the Russians at Kojdanow, Beresina River and at Vilna. But the survivors, in contrast to other units, stayed in the ranks and retreated across Poland into Germany.
There were no regiments of legere infanterie, so some historians are correct.
If necessary individual companies of voltigeurs were taken from infantry battalions and formed in larger units. For example in 1812 at Smolensk
Prince Poniatowski directed two battalions of converged voltigeurs into the suburbs defended
by Russian infantry. These voltigeurs fought in skirmish order. If voltigeurs were not enough, the line infantry
was capable of fighting as sharpshooters and tirailleurs. For example at Borodino the
Polish 16th Division fought in the wooded area near Utica having 2/3 of its strength fully
in skirmish order.
The Polish artillery of the Napoleonic Wars was of excellent quality, well trained although too few in numbers and partially equipped with older guns. The artillery was very effective in Raszyn in 1809, where they halted Austrian infantry from breaking the Polish line. In Leipzig in 1813, the few Polish guns dueled with powerful Allies artillery for three days.
In Polish artillery served also French officers; Jean Pelletier, Mallet, Bontempts, Charlot, Daret and others. They were transferred by Napoleon to Warsaw on Poniatowski's request. The Frenchmen were professionals, and had positive impact on the tactics and organization of Polish artillery. There were also Polsih officers who studied in France (for example Roman Soltyk of horse artillery).
The Poles never formed so-called grand batteries as there was not enough guns. In 1809 at Raszyn Poniatowski deployed 16-gun battery against the Austrians, in 1812 at Smolensk he set up 16-gun battery. French officer Pelletier who commanded all Polish batteries took 42 guns and joined the grand French battery pounding the Russians in the Smolensk. It was a far cry from the monstrous 200-gun Russian battery at Leipzig or the French 100-gun battery at Wagram.
Firing at ranges of 2.000 paces and more was considered as waste of ammunition.
Prince Poniatowski sometimes used guns in an aggressive way, for example in 1813
several guns participated in the actions of advancing skirmishers.
Organization of Polish Artillery.
In 1807-1808 the Polish artillery was commanded by General Wincenty Axamitowski.
The first company of foot artillery was completed in Poznan (Posen) on 29th December 1806.
Another company was organized in the captured fortress of Czestochowa.
The Polish 6pdr cannon had crew of 10 men, 12pdr required 13 men and 3pdr 8 men. The company (battery) usually had 6 guns formed in three sections of 2 guns each, or two half-batteries of 3 guns each. It was recommended to deploy the battery on a hard and slightly elevated ground. For communication and passing the orders the foot artillery had drummers and horse artillery trumpeters.
Companies were organized in fortresses of Torun (Thorn), Praga, Serock and Modlin.
In 1808 one company of artillery was sent to Spain. It consisted of 4 officers and 145 other ranks.
In November 1807:
In 1808 was raised horse artillery.
Two light 3pdr cannons were added to each infantry regiment (for this purpose was formed so-called Auxiliary Artillery Battalion). The foot artillery was under the command of Colonel Gorski, the horse artillery under Colonel W. Potocki and the Sapper Battalion under Kubicki.
Due to financial difficulties in the Grand Duchy Napoleon took into French pay the artillery stationed in the fortresses of Gdansk (Danzig) and Kostrzyn (Kustrin).
In 1813 in Germany, Prince Poniatowski had the following artillery units:
Uniforms of Polish Artillery
Between 1807 and 1810 the foot gunners wore dark green coats called kurtka with black collar, lapels, cuffs, cuff flaps and turnbacks - all piped red. The buttons were yellow. The privates wore red epauletes, cords and pompons. The trousers were black with dark green side stripes, their gaiters were black and just under knee. The shako was black and bore a brass plaque with a white metal eagle over crossed guns with a brass grenade. Between 1810 and 1813 the vest and summer trousers and gaiters were white. If dark green breeches were worn, black gaiters completed the outfit.
Between 1807 and 1810 the horse gunners wore a dark green coat called kurtka The buttons were gold. Two golden grenades were embroidered on the collar. Collar, cuffs and facings were piped red. The breeches were dark green with black side stripes. They wore uhlan headwear, the tall top-squared czapka. Between 1810 and 1813 the czapka was replaced with a colpack/busbie with a dark green bag. To the colpack were attached red cords, tassels and pompon. They also wore Hungarian boots with gold trim and tassels.
Between 1810 and 1813 the train drivers wore blue-gray coat with white buttons, light yellow collar and cuffs. The shako was black with yellow pompon and white eagle.
Picture: Polish uhlans, reenactors. Photo from Polonia Militaris . (ext.link)
Poland required numerous and good quality light cavalry to defend its long borders against the elusive and agile Cossacks and Turks. The Polish cavalry helped to solidify the eastern wall of Europe for nearly two centuries. Thereafter, these deeds have been commemorated through plaques, memorials, marches, literature and the media.
According to American historian John Elting, the "Poles were acknowledged to be the finest lancers in Europe; Russia, Prussia, and Austria recruited their lancer regiments from among the Polish subjects their partitionings of the unhappy kingdom had given them. When France marched against all Europe, Polish volunteers swarmed into its ranks." (Elting - "Swords Around a Throne" 1997 p 241)
The French cavalry commanders (Marshal Murat, General Lasalle and others) enjoyed leading the Poles into combat.
In Ostrovno in 1812 "Murat ... darted forward,
placing himself in front of the 8th Polish Uhlan Regiment
He excited them with his words and actions, though they were
already enraged by the sight of the advancing Russians. ...
He had no intention of throwing himself with them into the
midst of a melee ... but the Poles were already crouched in the saddle.
The charging cavalry covered the width of the field completely
and pushed Murat before them. He could neither separate from them or stop."
(Nafziger - "Poles and Saxons of the Napoleonic Wars" p 116)
The Poles were one of the very few who could challenge the Cossacks.
The Poles enjoyed successes but also suffered two defeats (Mir and Romanow) against these
According to Austrian officer A. Prokesch "The Cossack fears horsemen of no nation, except the
Turks. For the Polish lancers he has admiration, because these were capable to fight in closed, as well as in open order,
and because he had to cope with them almost all the time during the latest war.
The French, as long as they possessed cavalry, held back
their own in closed order and sent forward the Polish for
light duties. The German and French light cavalry are not feared by the Cossack.
He will not stand and oppose their formed attacks, and in open order he will surpass them
in manoeuvrability." (A. Prokesch - ‘Ueber den Kosaken, und dessen Brauchbarkeit im Felde’)
The Polish uhlans came and with battle cries pushed into the village. The Russians jumped out of their hiding places and a fighting erupted in the short and narrow streets. Von Löwenstern wrote that many hussars were unsaddled and littered on the ground. The others fled with the Poles hot on their heels. The flight was slowed down by a narrow defilee and the Poles again got their lance into work. According to von Löwenstern (pp 136-137) when they finally escaped they were happy for the next days not to see the uhlans again and were able to catch their breath again.
Figner’s detachment then moved toward Königswartha (?). They attacked French 10th Hussars. The French hussars wearing their sky blue dolmans didn’t expect the enemy from this side and fled without resistence. The Russians chased them until the line of enemy’s infantry and artillery. Musket volleys and canister halted the pursuers. Near Lauban they were attacked by Saxon hussars attacked them. Löwenstern’s friend was taken prisoner. The Russians retreated through a village toward the positions where stood the rest of Figner’s detachment. Group of Don Cossacks (Karpov’s division) was ordered to attack the pursuing Saxons but showed little zeal. Furious Figner rode to their officer and strucked him with horsewhip. (According to Löwenstern, the commander of detachment, Figner, was killed at Reichenbach by drowning in a river being surrounded by Polish cavalry.)
Poland was an open, flat country bordering the steppes of Asia.
It always had a high ratio of cavalry, higher than any western European army.
General Jomini wrote: "As a general rule, it maybe stated that an army in an open country
should contain cavalry to the amount of 1/6 its whole strength; in mountainous countries
1/10 will suffice."
The Polish cavalry regiment consisted of staff and usually 3 (in 1806-1809) or 4 squadrons of two
companies each. The 4-squadron regiment was commanded by colonel, major, 2 chefs d'escadron
and 2 adjutanbts-majors. There were also standard-bearer and trumpet-major.
Cavalry regiments in November 1807:
The Poles numbered their cavalry regiments not by/within type but like the British, ŕ la suite. See below:
Cavalry regiments in January 1809:
In November 1809 were formed:
In 1811 each cavalry regiment raised a depot squadron of 2 companies. Due to financial difficulties in the Grand Duchy Napoleon in early 1812 took into French pay the 9th Uhlan Regiment.
When Napoleon liberated Lithuania (which had been part of Poland) several new regiments
There were several regiments in the French service:
In May 1815 Napoleon issued a decree organizing the 7e Chavauleger-Lancier Polonais. It consisted of 350 men and only 13 horses. The lancers fought on foot in the defense of the bridges in Sevres earning Marshal Davout's praise. After Napoleon's abdication all the foreign regiments were disbanded. The Polish units were absorbed into the Russian army except the lancers - they refused to serve for the Tsar, were disbanded and allowed to stay in France.
Uniforms of Polish Cavalry
The czapka was a traditional Polish headwear. The edges of the top square were
reinforced with yellow metal and white cords (red for elite companies) hung from corner
to corner. Tall black plume was worn on the front peak of the czapka
(red for elite company and white for senior officers). There were also in use some
non-regulation plumes cut "a la russe" or uncut long horse hair cascading down from the top.
(Nafziger and Wesolowski - "Poles and Saxons of the Napoleonic Wars" p 51)
All uhlans wore dark blue breeches with double side straps, dark blue coat (kurtka) with regimental lapels and yellow buttons.
The lance pennants were of different colors:
The men of elite company of uhlan regiment wore one of the three types of headwear:
In 1806-1809 the uhlans of 1st Division wore:
The chasseurs-a-cheval wore dark green coat (kurtka) with yellow buttons and dark green breeches. The boots were below knee. The men of elite company in every regiment wore black busbies/colpacks with a bag in regimental color. Red plume and red cords were attached to the headwear. The men of center companies wore shako with metal plaque and white cords. The plume was in regimental color (tipped with dark green). The senior officers distinguished themselves with white plumes and silver cords.
The lace between rows of buttons for officers was strung gold for the 10th Regiment and silver for the 13th. The collar was crimson, the breches were dark blue with yellow (for 10th) or white (for 13th) single side stripes and thigh knots. For campaign they wore grey breeches with crimson side straps and the inside of the legs strengthened with leather. All hussars wore Hungarian boots.
The shako was black (in 10th) or light blue (in 13th), black plumes was attached to shakos. The men of elite company wore black busbies/colpacks with red cords and red plumes. The senior officers distinguished themselves with gold or silver cords and white plumes.
The cuirassiers were dressed like their French counterparts. The breeches were white leather, the plume was red, the black boots were reaching above the knees. The collar was red. The privates wore red epauletes, the NCOs had red with yellow and the officers gold epauletes. The helmet and cuirass were of French model. (Note: there were no cuirasses after 1812).
Weapons of Polish Cavalry
The uhlans were armed with saber, pistol and a lance.
The Polish cavalry could be seen to have been instrumental in the retention of the lance
until its widespread readoption in the Napoleonic period. Napoleon send Polish lancers
as instructors to the French lancer regiments. There were regulations for the exercise and
manoeuvres of the lance compiled entirely from the Polish system instituted by Prince
Poniatowski and General Krasinski. These were also adapted to the formations, movements
and exercise of the British cavalry by Reymond Hervey De Montmorency (London, 1820)
The Poles were equipped with several types of sabers:
The Poles carried captured Prussian and Austrian carbines and French 1763 and Model 1786 carbines. Many pistols were the French Model 1777.
Q: Is the lance a very effective weapon?
The horses of central and eastern Europe being smaller and more agile, the first application of their capabilities for war purposes seems everywhere to have been as light cavalry mounts. The Poles, thanks to their wars against the Turks, Cossacks and Russians who always had an excellent lighthorsemen, had maintained greater dash and mobility than many of the westerners. Prussian king Frederick the Great, considered the big "German horses" as the best suited for heavy cavalry. The "Polish horses" (Polish, Hungarian and Russian) were considered as the best for the light cavalry and were obtained from the well-paid Jewish dealers. The king and his generals rode on English horses. The Polish horses were used not only by Polish cavalry, but also by Saxon hussars and chevaulegers and Prussian, Austrian and French light cavalry. Most common colors were bays and chestnuts.
The big horses for Polish 14th Cuirassier Regiment were purchased in Germany.
Poland had large studs of horses for light and medium cavalry. Napoleon purchased thousands of Polish horses, and thousands were simply taken by the French troops. Even in 1812. According to Vaudoncourt some of the Lithuanian uhlans survived the campaign in Russia in pretty good shape. Unfortunatelly, the 17th and 19th Uhlan Regiment were stripped of all their horses in an effort to remount Napoleon's cavalry of Imperial Guard. (Nafziger - "Lutzen and Bautzen" p 9)
Chlapowski writes: "Foot drill went very well with such enthusiastic citizens as tehse, but mounted drill
was very difficult as their horses were all too lively for the ranks and kept breaking up
the lines. One should avoid putting over-lively horses in the ranks, as horses always become
livelier still when brought together."
(Chlapowski / Simmons - p 9)
The Krakus Regiment
The Krakusi Regiment, pronounced crack-coosee, was formed in 1813.
On 25th September 1813 on the road to Bautzen the Polish troops met Napoleon.
The Emperor reviewed the Krakus Regiment mounted on their peasant ponies and
laughed out loud. He called them “my pygmy cavalry.” But when they began maneuvering,
deploying, charging and ploying, all in a very fast pace, his amusement switched to admiration. In the end of the review individual riders presented their incredible skills.
Stones were placed on the ground and they came at speed picking them off the ground with
easy. They were the wizards of the saddle. Impressed Napoleon called for the commanders of French cavalry and said: look at these
kids. They are superb horsemen, they captured allied general, Cossack standard and dozens of prisoners.
And they accomplished it in short time.
In 1813 the officers gave commands by waving a handkerchief, in 1814 this function was performed by using a horsetail on a pike in the manner of the wild Tartars. It was excellent tool for small warfare as the regular cavalry used the trumpets for communication, more suited for noisy battlefield than for chasing the elusive Cossacks.
In 1814 the privates adopted an unusual melon-like crimson beret. The Krakus wore the folk costume of the Krakow region. The headwear was called krakuska and consisted of square topped but soft (hard for uhlans and infantry) czapka without the visor. The krakuska was red with black or white lambskin turban. Some privates wore captured Cossack colpacks. The cockade and plume were white. Their single breasted and full skirted coat was either brown or white with embroidery and appliques. The collar and cuffs were crimson with white piping. A crimson sash was worn at the waist. The legwears were either wide pantaloons (Cossack type) or tight breeches.
The privates were armed with lances (with or without pennants), sabers and pistols. No carbines, no musketoons, no rifles.
The Krakus Regiment was a valuable unit for Napoleon. Some of the privates and
officers spoke German and Russian language, their uniforms, horses and weapons were cheap
and they beat the hell out of the Cossacks as no other French or Polish unit.
Below are descriptions of several combats between the Krakus and the Cossacks.
According to George Nafziger's "Imperial Bayonet" (publ. in 1996, page 192), author of numerous books, the best cavalry were:
The quality of the Polish cavalry regiments varied, the best were the Guard Lancers and the Vistula Uhlans. The uhlans were the most numerous, some regiments were excellent (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th and 8th) while others were below the average. All three chasseurs regiments were superb. Below is a list of the best Polish cavalry regiments.
Sources and Links.
Kukiel - "Wojny Napoleonskie"
Bielecki - "Grand Army" 1995
Chlapowski - "Memoirs of a Polish Lancer"
Elting - "Swords Around a Throne"
Digby-Smith - "1813: Leipzig"
Nafziger and Wesolowski - "Poles and Saxons ..."
Pawlowski - "Polish-Austrian War of 1809" 1999
Zych - "Armia Ksiestwa Warszawskiego 1807-1812" 1961
Lukasiewicz - "Armia Ksiecia Jozefa 1813" MON, 1986
Salter and McLachlan - "Poland the Rough Guide."
Kukiel - "Wojna 1812", tom 1-2, Kraków 1937
Kukiel - "Dzieje Oreza Polskiego w Epoce Napoleonskiej, 1795-1815" 1912
Pachonski - "General Jan Henryk Dabrowski", Warszawa 1981
Gembarzewski - "Wojsko Polskie. Ksiestwo Warszawskie 1807-1814" 1912
Gembarzewski - "Rodowody pulków i oddzialów równorzednych" 1925
Napoleon; nadzieja Polaków
Legion de la Vistule.
Pulaski, Father of the American Cavalry
Photo Gallery - troops of Duchy of Warsaw
Napoleon, His Army and Enemies