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Husaria - Building a Polish army for the 1620s

Husaria - Building a Polish army for the 1620s

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What the Butler Recruited

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This project entry looks at another new unit for my 1620s Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth army, a unit of dragoons.

Background

European armies in the early 17th century began to experiment with mounting units of infantry to improve their mobility and therefore their ability to support their army’s cavalry. The experiments were successful, where the mounted infantry were equipped with muskets, and the dragoon as a troop type was born. They were able to dismount and provide fire support to the real cavalry and, off the battlefield, they were well suited to the typical activities of the ‘small war’; raiding, scouting and garrisoning outposts.

Polish armies were no exception and in the 1620s they were starting to form units of dragoons, typically recruited from foreign troops, and sometimes converted from existing infantry units into dragoons. Dragoons use on and off the battlefield required smaller, flexible sizes of units, and so just a few companies of infantry may be converted to dragoons rather than larger formations.

Butler’s Dragoons, dismounted. 28mm from Bloody Miniatures.Butler’s Dragoons, dismounted. 28mm from Bloody Miniatures.

James Butler

The unit of dragoons I decided to collect was that belonging to James Butler, as it is likely that they were at Dirschau/Tczew in 1627. James Butler was an Irish noble who had been fighting in Polish service since at least 1617. He seems a fascinating character. (Short bio here: https://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/history/ssne/item.php?id=6450 .) He was an experienced, and successful, officer who was well connected in England and Ireland, as well as in the Commonwealth, and it appears he recruited at least some of his men from England and Ireland. His dragoons were formed from some of his existing ‘foreign’ infantry companies.

Dragoons seem to have had a reputation, at least among the more puritanical in England, as being too often tempted in to ‘plundering and ungodliness’. I suspect this reputation may be a result of dragoons often being quartered away from the main army with its commanders, and also due to their function often being the disruption of the enemies supplies.

Based on this I wanted my unit of Butler’s dragoons to look like they have been living off the land and what ever they can ‘acquire’. Also to look like they are following their own whims of personal comfort, rather than being uniformed. As they are treated as skirmishers in the Pike & Shotte rules, a good variety of poses would also be required to represent the dragoons defending some outpost or attacking the enemy rear areas.

All of these requirements fitted neatly with the latest release of figures from Bloody Miniatures. This second release includes a couple of sets with muskets (Game Keepers and Sentinels) and also a set of desperate and dangerous looking Mossers (Moss Troopers). With the addition of a few figures from the original release, I had my 12 figures, including command, as well as a couple of horse holders (more of them in the future).

I also decided to do some head swaps to add a Polish feel to the unit. Although these men would have been recruited from foreigners I rationalised that a few items of Polish headgear could have made their way in to use in a unit that sometimes had to operate, and fend for themselves, away from the main army.

Three figures with head swaps to give a flavour of troops fighting in Poland. (Any likeness between the Cornet and a certain bearded member of the OTT crew are purely coincidence!)Three figures with head swaps to give a flavour of troops fighting in Poland. (Any likeness between the Cornet and a certain bearded member of the OTT crew are purely coincidence!)

As desperado dragoons were certainly not going to be uniformed and so
I was able to fully explore my paint racks in deciding on colours in which to clothe each figure. They’ve also been given a fairly grubby appearance to suggest they’ve been on campaign for a while.

The command figures for the unit include a Cornet (flag bearer) carrying a dragoon guidon. Sadly Butler’s foot and dragoons don’t have any known flag designs. I’ve used an example that is possibly from an unknown Polish dragoon unit (see https://www.helion.co.uk/military-history-books/despite-destruction-misery-and-privations-the-polish-army-in-prussia-during-the-war-against-sweden-1626-1629.php?sid=d20622fac8e2f6ae07608fbfa93e14e3 ). I’ve also included a drummer, with a handily slung drum, that will help him get about when mounted.

They are based individually so that they can act as skirmishers in Pike & Shotte and this will also give me the opportunity to use them in skirmish games like En Garde or Pikeman’s Lament (both by Osprey Games). I used to use 2 pence pieces for individual bases, but I don’t seem to get much loose change anymore, and so I’m switching to 2 pence size bases in MDF, produced by Warbases, which have a hole in them for a magnet that will help with storage. I’ve also bought some movement trays from Warbases to make it easier to move the Dragoons around the battlefield. These also include magnet holes which should help keep the figures on the trays.

2 pence piece bases and base trays from Warbases, all with 5mm magnets added.2 pence piece bases and base trays from Warbases, all with 5mm magnets added.

At this point I suspect some people might be saying “This is just a unit of infantry, where are the horses?”. Good point. You’ll have to wait to next time for my cunning plan to be revealed!

Until next time,

Andy @ The Friends of General Haig

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sundancerAndy @ The Friends of General Haig (FOGH) Recent comment authors
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sundancer
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Nice work… hope you’ve got all your magnets the right way round 😉 Or is someone now floating when not in the right spot?

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