Husaria Cavalry Overture
Commissioned by the Omicron Chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi
at West Virginia University
The West Virginia University Symphonic Band
In honor and Celebration of Don Wilcox
For 34 years Leadership of the West Virginia University Bands.
The Husaria Cavlry often referred to as "The Winged Cavalry" was the pride and glory of the Polish Military from 1550 to 1683. They were an elite fighting force earning one third more salary than that of the other enlisted men. They were offered political offices, Titles, many privileges and even land after six years of service. Many of the sons of the highest born nobility were enlisted in the Husaria as well. Only those who demonstrated great fighting and equestrian skill were accepted.
Their weaponry consisted of an astonishing lance of up to 20 feet in length thus outreaching infantry pikes allowing them to cut straight through an enemy square. They also carried a sabre or rapier with a 6 foot blade as well as a pair of pistols, a short carbine, a bow, arrows, along with a wide variety of other weapons, the most lethal of which was the "czekan," a long steel armor crushing hammer.
The ultimate Husarian weapon was psychological. As well as wearing helmets, thick steel breastplates, shoulder and arm guards, they also wore wings; great wooden arcs bristling with eagle feathers attached to their shoulders or the back of their saddles. Over their shoulders they wore the skin of a tiger or leopard as a cloak. Their harnesses, saddles and horse cloths were embroidered and embellished with gold and gems. Their boots were painted with gold. Their long lances were painted with stripes and decorated with a 5 foot long silk pennant which along with the wings and jingling jewels and gear, made a Frightful sound, described as "an Evil Hiss." They even painted their horses red and white on occasions. The sight and sounds alone of the elite regiment at a full charge could strike fear in the bravest of men.
For over a century, the Husaria were the Lords of the battlefield delivering the decisive blow in many an important engagement. At Kircholm (1605) 4,000 Poles accounted for 14,000 Swedes. At Klushino (1610) 6,000 Poles (of only 200 were infantry) defeated 30,000 Muscovite and 5,000 German and Scottish mercenaries.
In 1656, 5,500 Husaria defeated 13,000 Swedes and outside Vienna in 1683, The Winged Cavalry saved Europe from the until then, unstoppable might of the Ottoman Empire.
Husaria Cavalry Overture is a Tribute to these Gallant Men and Their Horses!