The Army of Grand Duchy of Warsaw

"Few nations in the last 200 years
have seen more military action than the Poles."
- Norman Davies, UK 1980

"Russia and Prussia, especially, tried to suppress both Polish culture and
language and the Catholic faith. In response, the Poles developed
one of the most intense and self-sacrificing versions of
Romantic nationalism ever seen in Europe. "
- Neal Ascherson

1. Introduction: A Brief History of Poland.
- - - - - - Wars with the Germans. >
- - - - - - Wars with the Mongols. >
- - - - - - Wars with the Teutonic Knights. >
- - - - - - The Rise of Poland as European Power >
- - - - - - Wars with the Russians. >
- - - - - - Wars with the Swedes. >
- - - - - - Wars with the Turks. >
- - - - - - The Fall of Poland >

2. Polish army during the Napoleonic Wars
- - - - - - Commander: Prince Poniatowski >
- - - - - - Generals and Officers. >
- - - - - - 1806 - 1808 >
- - - - - - 1809 Campaign >
- - - - - - 1812 - Invasion of Russia >
- - - - - - 1813 - Campaign in Germany >
- - - - - - 1814 - Campaign in France >

3. Sources and Links.

'A short way away to our left,' writes Dupuy
'the 9th Polish Lancers pierced a square of
Muscovite chasseurs and wiped it out.'
To Thirion it had seemed 'these men [Poles]
had become fighting mad. How many
didn't I see who, with arm or leg bandaged,
returned to the scrum at a flat-out gallop,
forcefully eluding those of their comrades
who tried to hold them back."
(Britten-Austin -"1812 The March on Moscow"
p 136

Napoleon and officer Tyszkewicz, 1812. 
Picture by W. Kossak
Picture: Napoleon and officer Tyszkewicz in 1812.

"... there were plenty of young men [in Poland] determined
to prove their prowess on the battlefield." - Norman Davies, UK
From popular Polish song: "Darling war, what a lady you must be
for all the most handsome boys to follow you like this"

French Marshal "Louis Davout [The Iron Marshal]
supervised the creation of the Polish army." - John Elting, USA
The Polish troops were organized after the French model
and used much of its terminology. The whole [Polish] army
was learning and its excellent spirit, liveliness and cheerful confidence
bade well for the future." - Officer Chlapowski

Prince Poniatowski was the only foreigner
Napoleon promoted to marshal of France.

In 1812 the Poles formed the largest of the contingents
provided by any of the states allied with France.

The Polish Winged Knigts are the most beautiful cavalry in Europe,
in terms of men, splendid horses, brilliance of dress and bravery of arms.
- Delerac

Introduction: A Brief History of Poland and Polish Forces.
Poland's frontiers have changed wildly throughout history.
Sometimes Poland has been a sprawling empire stretching
almost from the Black Sea in the south to the Baltic Sea in the north.
At other times it has vanished completely.
"At one time, in the 16th century, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
was the second largest state in Europe, after Russia.
At other times there was no separate Polish state at all."
(- wikipedia.org 2006)

Poland lies on the great crossroads of Europe. The nation, bound and attached to the land for life and death, an industrious and peace-loving, has in the course of history had little acquaintance with peace, but has again and again been forced to take up arms in the defence of the country. The Poles have been compelled to fight almost continously.

Norman Davies writes: "Few nations in the last 200 years have seen more military action than the Poles. In the 18th century, as in the 20th, the Polish lands regularly provided an arena for Europe's wars. In the 19th century, they supplied the armies of three martial empires with numberless recruits and conscripts. Yet no European nation has reaped fewer rewards for the sweat and blood expended. As often as not, the Polish soldier has followed foreign colors. ... It is sad fact, but Poland has been obliged by circumstances to act as one of Europe's principal nurseries of cannon-fodder. ... Private armies abounded. ... Poland-Lithuania was not short of soldiers. Vast numbers of indigent petty noblemen filled the ranks of a military caste of proportions unequelled in Europe. But their contempt for state service, their preoccupation with private wars and vendettas, their perpetuation of the myth of the 'Noble Host', their dislike of drill, their obsession with cavalry to the detriment of all other branches of warfare, and their opposition to the idea of raising an 'ignoble army' of peasant conscripts, put them at a marked disadvantage in relation to all their neighbours. ... By 1781, the ratio of trained soldiers in the service of the state to the adult male population had reached 1:472. The derisory statistic compared with:
- 1:153 in France
- 1:90 in Austria
- 1:49 in Russia
- 1:26 in Prussia.
Here was a fine paradox indeed. Europe's most militarized society was incapable of defending itself. ... From 1765 to 1831, constant attempts were made to develop Polish military potential to a level commensurate with that of the neighbouring countries. ... The revival began in 1765 with the founding of the Cadet Corps, a military college designed to raise a new generation of officers in the spirit of patriotism and enlightement. ... The artillery corps was refounded; the cavalry was reorganized ... By 1788, when the Great Sejm first voted for a standing army of 100,000 men, the capacity to realize this goal undoubtedly existed. ...
The Napoleonic episode initiated three decades of strong French influence. If the impact of the Legions was mainly psychological, the introduction of 6-year conscription in 1807, affecting every man in the Duchy of Warsaw between 21 and 28 years of age, brought military experience and training to the broad mass of the population. Napoleonic strategy and tactics of surprise and attack were well matched to memoirs of the Polish nobility's fighting habits and to legends of Tarnowski and Sobieski." (Davies - "God's Playground. A History of Poland." Vol II, p 268)

The Polish forces has developed along parallel lines to those of the evolution of western european armies, although local conditions, and especially the many decades of warfare with the nations to the East - Russians, Tartars and Turks - produced certain deviations and left their own mark on tactics, uniform and weapons.

Polish tribes.
Poles on the Baltic Sea. The lands of present day Poland were populated by many different Slavic tribes; Polans, Silesians, Vistulans, Mazurians, Pomeranians and Mazovians. In 966 the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I the Great affirmed the ducal title held by the Polanes leader Mieszko I. Once Mieszko was converted to Christianinty, he then believed he was given the right to go out and conquer land of all his neighbors in the name of his new faith. During the massive expansion attempts of the Polans into the neighbouring territories, they pushed away the other groups. Mieszko also allied with the Czechs to try to keep the German land conquered or received as lien for themselves.
The core of the Polish forces was formed by the ducal household guard which was always kept under arms, and reinforced in wartime by a levy of all men capable of bearing arms. They were excellent troops.

Wars with Germans.
The Poles defeated Germans in Cedynia in 972
and succeeded after a war lasting 14 years
in dictating peace terms to the Germans
in Bautzen in 1018.

Mieszko I with sword
 and cross. In 972 the Germans under Margrave Hodo invaded Poland. Germans had mostly heavy cavalry forces. The Polish cavalry lead the charging German forces into a trap near Cedynia. The German column was then attacked from all sides and forced to retreat in the only direction they could - right into a swamp. Here they were cornered and cut to pieces. German losses were significant. Thietmar claims that most of the best knights were killed, apart from Hodo and Sigfried.
In 979 another German invasion of Poland was organized. The Poles again drove out the Germans, took a number of fortresses, and destroyed Hamburg. Under his great son Boleslav the Brave the Poles succeeded after a war lasting 14 years in dictating peace terms to the Germans in Bautzen in 1018, and in the same year captured Kiev, capital of Ruthenia (today capital of Ukraine).

Wars with Mongols.
The Mongols were seen in Europe as
heavenly punishment for the sins
of the people.

Mongols besieged 
a Polish city. The Mongols decimated many countries to the east. Nearly all Russia became tributary to the Mongols. The scouts of Khan Ougedei reached Germany and France ! In 1241 a combined force of Poles and Germans sent by the Pope, attempted to halt the Mongols. In the battle of Leignitz (Legnica) the best Polish knights, Teutonic Knights, Templars and the flower of German knights perished.
Yet Poland preserved her independence, avoiding the fate that had befallen Russia. Khan Ougedai died suddenly and there was trouble about the succession. Thereafter the Mongols concentrated their attention upon their Asiatic conquests.

Wars with the Teutonic Knights.
The Poles defeated the Teutonic Order
and broke its military power.

The Battle of Grunwald.
The Poles kill 
commander of the 
Teutonic knights. The loss of Poland's access to the Baltic Sea resulted in a 150-year long period of wars between Poland and the Teutonic Order. In 1337 Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV allegedly granted the Order the imperial privilege to conquer all Lithuania and Russia. During the reign of Grand Master von Kniprode, the Order reached the peak of its international prestige and hosted numerous foreign crusaders and nobility.
The decisive battle between the Poles and the Teutonic knights took place in 1410 at Grunwald (Tannenberg). Despite the technological superiority of the Teutonic Knights, to the point of this being believed to be the first battle in this part of Europe in which field-artillery was deployed, the numbers and tactical superiority of the Polish-Lithuanian alliance were to prove overwhelming. The day-long fierce fighting ended in a complete defeat of the Teutonic Knights and supporting them Crusaders, handful of Genoese crossbowmen and English longbowmen. The defeat of the Teutonic Order was resounding.
2005 reenactment of 
the battle of Grunwald. "The only higher officials to escape from the battle were Grand Hospital Master and Komtur of Elbing. Such a slaughter of noble knights and personalities was quite unusual in Medićval Europe. This was possible mostly due to the participation of the peasantry who joined latter stages of the battle, and took part in destruction of the surrounded Teutonic troops. Unlike the noblemen, the peasants did not receive any ransom for taking captives; they thus had less of an incentive to keep them alive." ( wikipedia.org 2007)
The Battle of Grunwald was the biggest medieval battle in Europe.
1. Grunwald [Tannenberg]: 40.000 - 90.000
2. Crécy: 30.000 - 45.000
3. Agincourt: 30.000 - 40.000
4. Poitiers: 25.000 - 35.000
5. Hastings: 15.000 - 20.000 combatants
Battle of Grunwald (with map) >
Forces and tactics of the Teutonic Order >

Between 1519 and 1521 there was another war between Poland and the Teutonic Order. The Polish fleet started a blockade of Teutonic ports. In the war on land the Teutonic forces were on defense, waiting for reinforcements from Germany. Those reinforcements arrived and the Teutonic army started an offensive. The Poles however launched a counteroffensive. Both sides were plagued by financial troubles (German reinforcements, mostly mercenaries, refused to fight until paid).
Prussian Homage 1525.
Picture by Jan Matejko. Meanwhile the Ottoman Empire invaded Europe, and the Emperor, Charles V, demanded that the Teutonic Knights and Poles stop their hostilities and aid the defense of Europe against the infidels. During the truce, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Albert, was advised by Martin Luther to abandon the rules of his Order, and to convert Prussia into a hereditary duchy for himself. Albert agreed, converted to Lutheranism, and resigned from the Hochmeister office to assume the Prussian Homage from his uncle Sigismund I the Old, King of Poland, the hereditary rights to the now-secularized Duchy of Prussia as a vassal of the Polish Crown.

Poland as European Power.
The XV century was a time
of economic development of Poland
and spectacular military victories.

Map of Europe in 1550 The military and political victories, and the development of economy and culture, strengthened Poland and the dynasty of the Jagiellons. In the latter part of the 15th century the Jagiellons were gaining the upper hand in the competition against the Luxemburgers and the Habsburgs.
In 1569 the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania united and formed the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania. The joint Polish-Lithuanian state was similar in some respects to the British Commonwealth of Nations, (ext.link) the armed forces were divided into two parts.
They were the Polish or 'Crown' army, as it was generally known, and the Lithuanian army.

Poland became an European power: the economy was strong, the army was excellent and the territory was huge (815,000 sq. km) Peasants accounted for some 67% of the population, burghers for some 23%, and the gentry and clergy for some 10%. Grain exports to Germany, England and other countries and the resulting trade surplus ensured Poland prosperity and a large natural increase. The XVI Century was the Golden Age in Poland's history.

Comrade of Polish Husaria
in 1672 - 1683 The Polish army was never large but it was of excellent quality. The infantry and artillery were fine, while the cavalry was arguably the best in Europe. During the Golden Age the Polish troops enjoyed several spectacular victories. Majority of them were due to the husaria or "winged knights", as they are called in English-speaking world, or "Flügelhusaren" in German.
It should be remembered that one of the greatest commanders in history, Gustavus Adolphus admired by Napoleon and many commanders, developed his skills in almost continuous warfare with the Poles. Gustavus Adolphus' success in the Thirty Years War was preceded by many years of effort against inferior numbers of Poles who had humiliated the superb Swedish army at the Battle of Kircholm.

"In the late 15th Century the composition of the Polish army began to alter. Due to the destruction of the Teutonic state as a major military force in the Thirteen Years War, and Poland's increasingly close ties with Lithuania, the Polish army became more and more involved in warfare in the open territories of the East. The heavily armoured knights, so common in Prussia, were too cumbersome and slow against the elusive cavalries of the East ...
In 1576 the new King, Stefan Batory (Stephen Bathory), began reorganising the army. He ensured the disappearance of the knight and halted the hussars' increasing use of armour, keeping them a fast manoeuvrable heavy cavalry. Batory increased the training of the hussars and so laid down the basis of this superb cavalry. ... Batory also made use of other infantry including Germans, Cossacks, and Scots ... Batory was a brilliant organiser and had laid down the basis for future successes (Byczyna, Kircholm, Kluszyn, Chocim).
... Because of the problems in maintaining a large mercenary army for any reasonable period of time, use was made of other types of forces: private armies of powerful magnates ... (and) ... Zaporozhian Cossacks. ...
At the start of the 17th Century the army was composed mainly of cavalry and its commanders, though having fought in Batory's Muscovite campaigns, had more confidence in the use of cavalry than the methodical and thorough Western way of taking important towns and castles and then fortifying captured territories.
The basic Polish aim was to destroy the enemy's main field army; however, victory on the battlefield did not always lead to victory in the war and problems were met when the enemy avoided battle and hid behind fortifications. ... When Wladyslaw IV was crowned king he was already an experienced soldier. In his youth he took part in Chodkiewicz's Muscovite (1617-18) and Chocim (1621) campaigns. At Chocim he commanded a regiment exceeding 10,000 men of which around half were mercenary German infantry. Later, Wladyslaw embarked upon a grand tour of Europe, studying military techniques, fortifications and arsenals in Germany, Belgium and Holland. ... by the 1640's the royal army alone had around 350 cannons and mortars of which over 40% were newly cast. New arsenals were set up and the position of commander of the artillery was formed in 1637. In imitation of the Swedes, he also introduced three to six pound regimental guns. ...
During the critical years 1655-62 the numbers of winged knights fell to a mere 5-7% while the numbers of light cavalry grew to a rather large proportion. This was because of the ease of raising such typically Polish cavalry from the large noble population (the nobility formed some 10% of Poland's population !). ... Dragoons were widely employed especially in the open plains of the South where mobility was so important. They remained mounted infantry up until the late 17th century. ... Poland could not keep up with the advance in military technology and tactics that occurred in the rest of Europe. While it could still raise large and good quality forces for a campaign it could not afford to maintain a large standing army that was widespread elsewhere. Due to problems with finance, the artillery and fortifications also suffered ... " (Source: Polish Renaissance Warfare.)

List of Polish wars 1450-1700:
1454-1466 Prussian War (ex Teutonic Order)
1467-1479 Warmia Stift Feud
1500-1503 Lithuanian-Muscovite War
1506 Tatar Invasion
1507-1508 Lithuanian-Muscovite War
1509-1510 Polish-Moldavian War
1512 Tatar Invasion of Lithuania
1512-1520 Lithuanian-Muscovite War
1520-1521 War with the Teutonic Order
1524 Ottoman-Tatar Invasion of Lithuania and Poland
1530-1531 Polish-Moldavian War
1534-1537 Lithuanian-Muscovite War
1558-1582 Livonian War
1563-1582 Polish - Russian War
1576-1577 Danzig Rebellion
1577-1582 Polish-Russian War
1587-1588 Polish-Austrian War
1589 Tatar Invasion
1593 Tatar Invasion
1595-1600 Polish-Moldavian/Wallachian War
1600-1611 Polish-Swedish War
1606-1607 Zebrzydowski Rebellion
1609-1618 Polish-Russian War
1615-1617 Polish - Ottoman War
1618-1621 Polish - Ottoman War
1620-1629 Polish-Swedish War
1624 Tatar Invasion
1630 Cossack Rebellion
1632-1634 Polish-Russian War
1632-1633 Polish-Swedish War
1635-1638 Cossack Rebellion
1644 Tatar Invasion
1648-1655 Cossack Rebellion
1654-1667 Polish-Russian War
1655-1660 First Northern War
1672-1676 Polish-Ottoman War
1683-1699 Relief of Vienna, war with Ottoman Empire

Polens gloreichste Reiterarmee schlug oftmals die 
zahlenmäßig größere Reiterarmee Russlands, Ungarns oder Preußens. The winged knights were the terror of infantry and cavalry, Swedes, Russians, Turks, and the French and British mercenaries and anyone who met them in battle. They were the tanks of XVI-XVII Century. It was said that if the sky fell the Winged Knights' lances would support it, while Maurice de Saxe, the French marshal and military writer proposed the creation of a French cavalry modelled on these knights.

Winged Knights in the film 'Potop'. There are numerous articles and books in Poland about the winged knights. The film "With Fire and Sword" drew 7.5 million viewers in Poland in 7 months, outdrawing the famous movie "Titanic." This film portrays Renaissance Poland and the winged knights in several actions. There are Winged Knights in the movie "Potop" (Deluge) filmed in 1974-5. This film had an academy award nomination but did not win.

Wars with the Russians.
Polish victories on battlefield culminated
in Polish forces entering Moscow in 1610.

In 1512, Grand Duchy of Moscow began a war for the Ruthenian lands of present-day Belarus and Ukraine that were part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1514 a Russian army of 45,000 men and 300 guns besieged and finally captured Smolensk. Meanwhile King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, Sigismund the Old, gathered some 35,000 troops for war with Russia. The Polish-Lithuanian forces were under the command of Ostrogski:

  • 15,000 Polish heavy and light cavalry (incl. winged knights)
  • 15,000 Lithuanian mostly light cavalry
  • 3,000 Polish and mercenary infantry
  • 2,000 volunteers from Bohemia
    The Russians (40.000-80.000 men) attempted to outflank the enemy by attacking the flanks, manned by Polish troops. One of the pincers of the attack was commanded by Chelyadnin personally. The attack failed, and the Muscovites withdrew toward their starting positions. The Lithuanian light cavalry attacked the overstretched center of the Muscovite lines in an attempt to split them. At the crucial moment the Lithuanians seemed to waver, then went into retreat. The Muscovites pursued with all their reserves. The Lithuanians suddenly turned to the sides. The Polish cavalry appeared and proceeded to surround the Muscovites. Chelyadnin sounded retreat, which soon turned into panick.
    The battle of Orsha 1514 The victors took many prisoners incl. Russian commander Ivan Cheladnin, and all 300 guns. Due to the spectacular proportions of the defeat, information about the Battle of Orsha was suppressed in Muscovite chronicles. Even reputable historians of the Russian Empire such as Sergei Soloviov rely on non-Russian sources.

    Polish forces in 1581 against Muscovy [Russia]:

  • - 8,500 Winged Knights
  • - 500 medium and light cavalry
  • - 12,000 infantry (incl. 1,600 German mercenaries)
  • - 10,000 Lithuanians

    Polish forces in 1609 against Muscovy [Russia]:

  • - 5,500 Winged Knights
  • - 1,700 medium and light cavalry
  • - 6,500 infantry (incl. 1,500 German mercenaries)
  • - 5,000 Zaporozhian Cossacks.

    The next major Polish-Muscovite conflict took place between 1605 and 1618, when the Russian Tsardom was torn into a series of civil wars, the time most commonly referred in the Russian history as Time of Troubles, sparked by the Russian dynastic crisis and internal chaos. The Polish nobility encouraged by some Russian aristocracy attempted to exploit weakness of Russia and intervene in its civil war by supporting the impostors for the Tsardom False Dmitriy I and later False Dmitriy II against the crowned Tsars, Boris Godunov and Vasili Shuiski. After early Polish victories, which culminated in Polish forces entering Moscow in 1610, Polish king's son was briefly elected Tsar. In 1611 the Poles were ousted from Moscow but captured the important city of Smolensk. The most important battle of this period was Kluszyn (Klushino).

    Map of the battle of Kluszyn (Klushino), 1610 At Kluszyn (not far from Borodino) the Polish army defeated much stronger Russian army. According to wikipedia.org the Polish forces numbering 6,000-7.000 men (mainly winged knights) and 2 guns under Zolkiewski defeated a force of 35,000-40.000 Russians (incl. 5,000-10,000 Swedish, French, German and British mercenaries) and 11 guns led by Prince Shuyski, Tsar's brother.
    Soon after the battle the Russian fortress of Smolensk surrendered, the tsar was ousted by the boyars and the small Polish army entered Moscow with little opposition. The Polish commander Zolkiewski wrote: "The hedge between us was long... There were, however, gaps in it and when we moved to attack, we had to break out through them. ... For the gunners discharged the falconets at the German infantrymen who stood by the hedge, and our infantry, not numerous but tried and experienced in many battles, rushed at them ... our men rode after, and hitting and hacking drove them through their own camp." From Maskewicz's memoirs: "As they moved forward we exchanged a salvo of fire with them, and each front rank fell back to reload the pistol or arkebuz in the ordinary manner, while the second rank advanced to fire their salvo. Seeing their rank retreat to load their secondary weapons, we did not wait for their next rank. We swooped down on them, sword in hand - whether they had managed to reload or not, I would not know because they took for the rear and did not stop galloping until they reached the Muscovite reserve at the rear camp gate, where their several tidy formations became chaotically entangled."
    Casualties (killed and wounded):
    - Poles and Lithuanians 400
    - Russians and Allies 5,000

    Wars with the Swedes.
    The famous Gustavus Adolphus developed his skills
    in almost continuous warfare with the Poles.

    The Polish–Swedish Wars were a series of wars between 1563 and 1721. The Polish nobility did not think highly of the Swedes, and did not expect this war to be difficult. Poland-Lithuania had nearly 10 million inhabitants, and Sweden had only 1 million. However Poland had one of the smallest military to population ratios in Europe, while Sweden was able to draft a large army much more quickly than the Poles, due to its centralised government and obligatory draft of free peasants. The Poles were also forced to fight on two fronts, as their armies were also needed south to deal with the Moldavians, and Swedish forces quickly gained 3:1 numerical superiority.

    battle of Kircholm, 1605 In 1605 at Kircholm 4,000 Poles (incl. 2.000 winged - knights) with 5 guns under Chodkiewicz defeated 12,000 Swedes with 11 guns deployed in an advantageous position. The Poles used a feint to force the enemy off their high position. The Swedes were routed on both wings and the infantry in the centre was attacked from three sides simultaneously. The Swedish army collapsed in flight. The battle was decided in 20 minutes by the devastating charge of winged knights.
    Casualties at Kircholm:
    - 300 Poles and allies
    - 8,000 Swedes, Germans, Scots and Fins.

    Polish forces in 1627 against the Swedes:

  • - 2,100 Winged Knights
  • - 3,300 medium and light cavalry
  • - 1,265 dragoons
  • - 4,100 infantry (incl. 2,515 German mercenaries)
  • - 2,000 Zaporozhian Cossacks

    Wars with the Turks.
    The charge of the Polish winged knights at Vienna
    was the greatest cavalry charge in the history of Europe
    up till the Napoleonic Wars. The Turkish invasion
    of western Europe was halted. European dignitaries
    hailed the Polish commander as the "Savior of Vienna
    and Western European civilization."

    There were three wars between Poland and Turkey (1620-21, 1633-34, and 1672-76) and several minor conflicts. The Polish magnates intervened in the affairs of Moldavia, which the Ottoman Empire considered within its sphere of influence. Additionally, the Ottomans were aggravated by the constant raids of Cossacks, then nominally subjects of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, across the border into Ottoman territories.
    In 1621, a huge Turkish army (100,000-250,000 men) advanced from Istanbul towards the Polish frontier. The Turks had high hopes of conquering Ukraine (then a part of Poland), and perhaps even reaching the Baltic Sea. The Poles stopped them at Chocim (Khotyn) where 55,000 Poles, Lithuanian and Cossacks routed 100,000 Turks and allies.
    In 1632, after the death of the Polish king, the Russians broke an armistice and started a war with the Commonwealth. The Turkish commander, Abazy, mobilized his troops and called Moldavian, Wallachian and Tatars as reinforcements.
    In 1672 Ottoman army (80,000 men) led by Grand Vizier invaded Ukraine and captured the fortress at Kamieniec Podolski. (picture, ext.link) Hetman Jan Sobieski then dealt several defeats to the Ottomans; of which the battle of Chocim was the largest.

    Map of Chocim (Khotyn) 1673 The Turkish army at Chocim (Khotyn) consisted of 35.000 men (incl. elite cavalry) and 50-120 guns. The Turks held the Chocim castle and well entrenched camp. The Polish forces comprised of 30.000 men and 65 guns and were led by Jan Sobieski. "The east of the camp was defended by the Dniestr, from the North and from the south deep the ravines about steep, bold braes. The western side was most exposed, so they had raised and strengthened the walls with palings, and improved the fosses or moats." (- Battle of Chocim, from Podhorodecki's "Slawne bitwy Polaków" transl. by Rick Orli > )
    The Poles unsuccessfully attacked on arrival. The next day as dawn broke the Polish infantry and dragoons again attacked, and with close artillery support forced their way into the Chocim castle. They then cleared a way for the cavalry, who burst into the Turkish camp. The Turks kept fighting until the winged knights charged and broke the elite Turkish cavalry. The Turkish infantry and gunners panicked and fled, their camp was captured. The victory was decisive.
    From then on the Turks called Hetman Sobieski "The Lion of the North."

    Unable to break into Europe through Poland, the massive Turkish army invaded Austria and Hungary. The Battle of Vienna in 1683 had the most far-reaching consequences as it was the turning point in the 300-year struggle between the forces of the European kingdoms, and the Ottoman Empire.
    The Christian coaltion (70,000 German, Polish and French troops) under King Jan Sobieski defeated 130,000 Turkish cavalry, infantry and artillery under Kara Mustapha Pasha. Instead of focusing on the battle with the relief army, the Turks also tried to force their way into the city, carrying their crescent flag. Four cavalry groups totalling 20,000 men, one of them Austrian-German, and the other three Polish, charged down the hills.

    Jan III Sobieski,
captured enemy colors 
and banners. The attack was led by the Polish king in front of a spearhead of 2.000 heavily armed Polish Winged Knights. Seeing them, Kara_Mustafa, the Turkish commanderhts fled in panic. His mighty army folded. Up till Napoleonic Wars that was the greatest cavalry charge in the history of Europe. It was not exceeded until the times of Emperor Napoleon. In honor of King Jan, the Austrians had erected a church atop a hill of Kahlenberg, north of Vienna. Also, the train route from Vienna to Warsaw is named in Sobieski's honor. Pope Innocentius XI regarded the defence of Vienna as his major achievement and the relief on his monument in St. Peter's was dedicated to this event, with the Catholic soldiers portrayed as ancient Romans.
    The Turkish invasion of western Europe was halted. European dignitaries hailed Sobieski as the "Savior of Vienna and Western European civilization." Sobieski triumphantly entered Vienna. In a letter to his wife Sobieski wrote about the freed Austrians "All the common people kissed my hands, my feet, my clothes; others only touched me ..."

    1700-1800: The Fall of Poland.
    and Disappearance From the Map of Europe.

    Poland's neighbours, Russia and Prussia were absolute states
    and their political systems stood in contradiction to the
    Polish tradition of self-government and low taxes.

    The XVIII century is considered the most tragic period in Polish history. Poland's neighbours, Russia and Prussia were absolute states and their political systems stood in contradiction to the Polish tradition of self-government low taxes and civil freedoms of the gentry. Unfortunately it became increasingly common for Polish parliament's sessions to be broken up by liberum veto. It was every nobleman's representative's right to block any legislation, just by uttering his veto. It was tantamount to an extreme expression of political liberty and conceived as a safeguard against tyranny. But it also made a reasonable policy virtually impossible as the ambassadors of Poland's neighbours Russia and Prussia had several Polish noblemen on their payroll, thus influencing the decisions of Polish parliament. Poland deteriorated from a European power into a state of anarchy.

    In 1791 the Poles attempted to reform their political system. The Polish Constitution of May (ext.link) was Europe's first modern codified national constitution and the world's second after the USA constitution. (ext.link) The changes in Poland were received with hostility by Russia and Prussia, while the situation in Europe was not encouraging for the Poles. The internal problems of France, the preoccupation of Britain with the American Revolution, gave the opportunity for Russia, Prussia and Austria to proceed with reference to Poland. In reply to Poniatowski's appeal after the first patrition of Poland, King George III (ext.link) of England wrote: "Good Brother...I fear, however misfortunes have reached the point where redress can be had from the hand of the Almighty alone, and I see no other intervention that can afford a remedy."

    Kosciuszko after the 
battle of Raclwaice. In 1794 General Kosciuszko, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War (ext.link) pronounced the general uprising and assumed the powers of the commander in chief of the entire Polish Army. The great difficulties with providing enough armament for the mobilised troops made Kosciuszko form units composed of pesants armoured with scythes called kosynierzy. The Polish army was heavily outnumbered and defeated by the enemy.

    Between 1772 and 1795 the entire territory of the Kingdom of Poland was divided between Prussia, Austria and Russia. The King was forced to abdicate and was taken to Russia. Many captured Poles were sent to Siberia but thousands more escaped to France, Germany and Italy. For next decades Prussia, Russia and Austria had much of their land forces tied up in Poland and could not field enough troops to suppress the French Revolution, which added to its success.

    The Partition of Poland did not for a moment break the resistance of the Poles, who - whenever opportunity offered - rose in arms to fight not only for their own country, but also for the idea which they inscribed on their standards - "Free men are brothers."

  • Poland in 1018 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Poland in 1500s ("Golden-Age of Poland")

    Partitions of Poland (1772,1793,1795) . . . Poland in 1810-15 (Napoleonic wars)

    When it comes to Poles of the Napoleonic era,
    consider how hard a proud people fight when
    they have no homeland of their own,
    and they feel that following one man,
    Napoleon, is their best chance to get one.

    Polish Army During the Napoleonic Wars.
    "Poland Has Not Perished Yet,
    As Long As We Are Alive."

    "In the 16th century Poland had been one of the most powerful countries in Europe ... within the space of 200 years, however, Poland had been eclipsed by its neighbours ... Soon the country's history culture and language were extinguished and its very name abolished. In this way was the white eagle of Poland devoured by the three black eagles of Prussia, Russia, and Austria. ... Meanwhile the Poles looked for France, with its revolutionary ideas of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, as a beacon of hope. The fact France's enemies happened to be Poland's oppressors was an obvious attraction, and many Polish soldiers volunteered for service in the French army." (Summerville - "Napoleon's Polish Gamble" p 15)

    "During the Partitions, the Poles came to see France as their truest friend in the outside world. There was some background to this: the French and Polish royal families had intermarried, French had become the polite language of the great Polish aristocrats, and Poland had drawn many ideas from the Enlightenment and the Revolution of 1789 before its fall. Afterwards, Napoleon supported the Polish cause (for his own ends), and for most of the nineteenth century French governments not only welcomed Polish exiles but loudly endorsed their calls for the restoration of independence." (- Neal Ascherson)

    Polish infantry in Italy In 1797 in Italy was formed a Polish Legion, fighting for France against Austria. There is hardly a more touching chapter in the world's history than the story of the Polish Legions. The Poles hoped that by fighting on the French side against Austria, Russia and Prussia, the contries that had partitioned Poland they could free their country. Two years after the last dismemberment of Poland, a Polish army was formed, in Polish uniforms, under Polish command, decorated with French cockades and wearing on the eppaulets the inscription: "Gli uomini liberi sono fratelli." (Free men are brethren.) The Polish soldiers without the state sung their battle-song: "Poland has not perished yet, as long as we are alive" and fought in numerous battles and campaigns alongside the French.
    These legions however were never used for purposes related to Polish independence. Some were posted to pacification duties in occupied Italy and in 1802-03 were drafted with the expedition sent to crush the rebellion of Negro slaves on Santo Domingo. They died in their thousands from swamp fever. In 1801 at Luneville, Napoleon made peace with his enemies and all agitation on the Polish Question was terminated. In Polish aristocratic circles, the prospect of a French alliance was clouded by the associated threat of social revolution. Soem aristocrats were laying plans of their won for the restoration of a united Poland under the aegis of the new Tsar of Russia, Alexander I.

    Kosciuszko Not all Poles supported Napoleon. Tadeusz Kosciuszko said about the Emperor: "He only thinks of himself, not about nationalist ideas, and so he could not care less about any dreams of independence [of Poland]. He is a despot, whose sole ambition is to satisfy his personal ambition. He will create nothing of any permanence, of that I am sure." Kosciuszko is Polish national hero, general and a leader of 1794 uprising (which bears his name) against the Russian Empire. He fought in the American Revolutionary War as a colonel on the side of Washington. In recognition of his service he was brevetted by the Congress to the rank of Brigadier General. He was also admitted to the prestigious Society of Cincinnati, one of only three foreigners allowed to join. As a national hero of both Poland and the USA, Kosciuszko became the namesake of numerous places in the world: the highest mountain in Australia, several bridges, monuments, and cities in USA. In Poland every major town has a street or a square named after Kosciuszko.

    "In November 1806, the French armies arrived in Poznan [Posen]. The 1st Chasseurs-Cheval, under Colonel Exelmans, who would later become a famous general, where the first to enter the [Polish] city as evening fell. The I Squadron hurried at the trot right through the city with swords drawn, to place pickets on the other side of the Warta River, on the Warsaw and Torun [Thorn] roads. The rest of the regiment stood peacefully in the market square, where a part of the population came cheering to welcome them. ... The French ... after talking to the townspeaople pressing around them, they confirmed the impression already gained from a few days march ... that they were in friendly territory. They billeted themselves peacefully around the city." (Chlapowski / Simmons - p 8)

    Marshal Murat enters Warsaw. Marshal Murat entered Warsaw to a rapturous welcome. He was feted by the Poles igniting vain hopes of future kingship. "In the 16th century Poland had been one of the most powerful countries in Europe ... within the space of 200 years, however, Poland had been eclipsed by its neighbours ... Soon the country's history culture and language were extinguished and its very name abolished. In this way was the white eagle of Poland devoured by the three black eagles of Prussia, Russia, and Austria. ... Meanwhile the Poles looked for France, with its revolutionary ideas of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, as a beacon of hope. The fact France's enemies happened to be Poland's oppressors was an obvious attraction, and many Polish soldiers volunteered for service in the French army." (Summerville - "Napoleon's Polish Gamble" p 15)

    To the Polish deputations which approached him in Berlin and at Warsaw, he replied vaguely, "France has never recognised the different partitions of Poland; nevertheless, I cannot proclaim your independence until you have decided to defend your rights as a nation with arms in your hands by every sort of sacrifice, even that of life. You have been reproached with having, in your continued civil dissensions, lost sight of the interests of your country. Instructed by your misfortunes, reunite yourselves and prove to the world that one spirit animates the whole Polish nation."

    Napoleon was furious with Marshal Murat, for forwarding one petition from Warsaw, in which it was prayed that the Polish kingdom might be reconstituted under a French commander. Napoleon's replies to Poles were sufficiently encouraging to assure to him the moral and material support of the Poles in the ensuing campaign, and to deprive Prussia and Russia of all hope of recruiting their armies by voluntary enlistment in Poland.

    Napoleon conferring the Constitution
on Duchy of warsaw in 1807 Napoleon entered Warsaw in 1807 and French eagles soared over the Vistula. The Emperor was hesitant about reenacting the Kingdom of Poland. In spite of the ovations given him by the Poles, he wrote: "Only God can arbitrate this vast political problem ... It would mean blood, more blood, and srtill more blood ..."
    But it was not long before the Duchy of Warsaw became a bastion of France in central and Eastern Europe, and Polish troops stood ready to fight for Napoleon and independence. The war in 1807 was called by Napoleon the "First Polish War" and resulted in the formation of the Polish state. The country was divided into departments. The branches of justice, war, finance and police, were assigned to Polish government.
    (In 1812 Napoleon, in an attempt to gain increased support from Polish nationalists and patriots, termed the war against the Russian Empire the "Second Polish War.)

    Denmark - 1 million
    Saxony - 1,1 millions
    Lombardy - 2 millions
    Papal State - 2,3 millions
    Sweden - 2,3 millions
    Portugal - 3 millions
    Poland Duché de Varsovie - 4,3 millions
    Naples - 5 millions
    USA - 6 millions
    Holland & Belgium - 6,2 millions
    Prussia - 9,7 millions (in 1806 reduced to 4,9 millions)
    Spain - 11 millions
    Great Britain - 18,5 millions (England, Ireland, Scotland)
    Austria - 21 millions (with Hungary)
    France - 30 millions
    Russia - 40 (with annexed territories)

    Prince Poniatowski.
    He was one of the few Napoleonic commanders
    who was able to conduct a successful campaign
    without Napoleon's supervision.
    Poniatowski was the only foreigner
    Napoleon promoted to marshal of France.

    Prince Poniatowski Prince Józef Antoni Poniatowski was born in 1763 and ten years later became the ward of his uncle, the King of Poland. "Nicknamed 'the Polish Bayard', Poniatowski was born in Vienna ... He was commisioned into the Austrian army in 1778, serving in the dragoons and carabiniers, and in 1788 he became an ADC to the Emperor Francis II ..." (Chandler - "Dictionary of the Napoleonic wars" p 346)

    In 1788 he participated in the war against Ottoman Empire and was wounded at siege of Sabatach. In 1789 Poniatowski returned to Poland, became general and in 1792 won against the Russians at the Battle of Zielence. In July Poniatowski resigned and left Poland but two years later the ardent patriot had returned and joined the Kosciuszko Insurrection. After collapse of the uprising Poniatowski was in exile. When Poland disappeared from the map of Europe, many Polish officers and generals fled to France where they felt an ideological affinity. But not Poniatowski, in 1798 the restless soul was back in the occupied by Prussians Warsaw.

    In 1807 Poniatowski met Marshal Murat and French troops and began overtures to Napoleon for the restoration of a free Poland. In 1807 he became minister of war in the Polish Directory. In April 1809 Poniatowski selected a good defensive position at Raszyn and withstood all Austrian attacks. Then he defeated them at Radzymin and reconquered parts of former Poland. Poniatowski routed the Austrians again at Góra and Grochów. For his achievements Poniatowski was presented the French grand-aigle de la Légion d'Honneur and a saber of honor. He was one of the few Napoleonic commanders who was able to conduct a successful campaign without Napoleon's supervision.

    In 1812 Poniatowski led the V Army Corps to Russia and fought at Smolensk, Borodino, Tarutino and Krasne. In 1813 Poniatowski rebuilt the Polish troops that were to become the VIII Army Corps. He led them to Saxony to join Napoleon's army. Poniatowski's troops participated in several small engagements, was majority of them were victories. At Leipzig Poniatowski's troops successfully defended Napoleon's flank for three days. Napoleon promoted him to the rank of Marshal of France. On the last day of battle some French troops and Poniatowski's Poles were covering the retreat of Napoleon's army. When the bridge was destroyed Poniatowski spurred his horse into the Elster River. Poniatowski was shot and disappeared under water. His body was found several days later.

    Generals and Officers.
    There was rivalry within the officers and generals between
    those who had served in the army of the Duchy of Warsaw
    and those who had joined Polish units in French service.

    Polish staff officers,
picture by Morawski Polish officers and generals communicated in Polish and French language. The troops were organized after the French model and used much of its terminology. Chlapowski writes: "Our drill regulations were provided by General Dabrowski, translated from the French. Knowing the Prussian system, it was easy for me to learn these new regulations, which were far simpler and much better suited to the conduct of war." (Chlapowski/Simmons - p 13)

    There was rivalry within the officers and generals between those who had served in the army of the Duchy of Warsaw and those who had joined Polish units in French service. The former often felt the latter had put self interest before patriotic duty, while the latter scorned the former as military amateurs. The rivalry had been largely healthy, and there had in fact been considerable interchange between the two.

    General Fiszer (infantry, chief-of-staff)
    General Fiszer Stanislaw Fiszer (1769-1812) - he came from a German family settled down in Poland. (His father was Karl Fischer.) He entered military service in infantry and took part in the wars against Russia. Fiszer ended up as Inspector-General of Infantry. He had a tendency to imitate Poniatowski even in the manner of dress. Despite beign strict disciplinarian this short man was loved by the soldiers but could be brusque with officers. Fiszer was a superb organizer of infantry, his inspections were famous for their thoroughness. He was one of the best Polish generals. On battlefield he was brave and decisive. Fiszer was killed in 1812 at Tarutino.

    General Rozniecki (cavalry)
    General Rozniecki Alexander Rozniecki - began career in the Polish Royal Guard, served in cavalry, fought against the Russians and was engaged in patriotic conspiracies. In 1807 was appointed Inspector-General of Cavalry. As general he was a gifted cavalry organizer and brave commander. In 1809 Rozniecki led daring cavalry raids into Galicia, in 1812 blundered at Mir and Romanow (against Cossacks) and rehabilitated himself at Borodino against Russian cuirassiers and infantry). As a man he was rude to his subordinates and servile toward his superiors. Zajaczeek called him "the greatest possible coward, a vile and abject intrigant." Other contemporaries described him as being "dirty in soul and body, unkept in dress," "brutal, following his lust like a wild beast." In combat not without personal courage, he was also a gifted cavalry organizer.

    General Axamitowski (artillery)
    Wincenty Axamitowski (1760-1828) - began career in artillery, veteran of Italian campaigns, organizer and commander of Polish artillery. Axamitowski was an enemy of Poniatowski and ultra-loyal to Napoleon. He also served in the French army and was always quick to denounce any anti-French activities among Polish officers. Very good soldier.
    The Director of Artillery was a Frenchman, Colonel Pierre Bontemps.
    The Inspector of Artillery and Engineers was another Frenchman Jean Baptiste Pelletier.

    General Hauke (engineers)
    General Hauke Maurycy Hauke (1775-1830) - he was of German origin (Moritz von Haucke) and studdied artillery school in Warsaw. Hauke entered military service as a miner in 1790. Veteran of Italian campaigns, general in 1807, in 1809-1813 commander of Zamosc fortress. The defense of fortress of Zamosc in 1813 is one of the most heroic episodes of this campaign. Hauke was the most talented of Polish engineers during Napoleonic wars. In 1816 recognizing his abilities, Tsar Nikolai appointed him Deputy Minister of War of Congress Poland (after Napoleonic wars Poland was under Russian occupation) and elevated him to count.
    The Director of Enginers was a Frenchman, Jean Baptiste Mallet.

    General Sokolnicki (advance/rear guard)
    General Sokolnicki Michal Sokolnicki (1760-1816) - studied in military academies in Warsaw and Saxony. In 1809 he was one of the most enterprising commanders in the Austro-Polish war. On battlefield he was a daring commander. For example in 1800 at Offenbach he led four companies in a bayonet attack across a river. In 1809 at Raszyn he gallantly defended his positions against superior enemy. He also defeated Austrians at Grochów, Ostrówkiem, and at Sandomierz where he also took the fortress. In 1812 Sokolnicki was French army's intelligence chief.
    He advised Napoleon to sent Polish troops not on Moscow but on Ukraine, where were some chances for pro-Polish and anti-Russian rebellion. He also suggested not rushing on Moscow but to advance at slower pace, set winter camps and continue the campaign in the next year. He thought that having thousands of warm uniforms stored in depots even before the campaign started was a must.
    In 1813 Sokolnicki distinguished himself as cavalry commander at Leipzig where his uhlans fought against vastly superior number of Austrian and Russian cuirassiers. It was a masterpiece of cavalry combat where five regiments tamed nine. As a man he was a very ambitious officer, and an opportunist suffering from self-importance.

    ~ Divisional Commanders (1808-1814) ~
    (source: Nafziger, Wesolowski - "Poles and Saxons ...")

    General of Division
    Jan-Henryk Dabrowski

    1806: Posen Legion (Division)
    1807: 3rd (Legion) Division
    1810: II Military District
    1812: 17th Infantry Division
    1813: 27th Infantry Division
    General of Division
    Karol Kniaziewicz

    1812: 18th Infantry Division
    1813: requested and received
    dismissal from active service


    General of Division
    Jozef Zajaczek

    1806: Kalisz Legion (Division)
    1807: 2nd (Legion) Division
    1810: I Military District
    1812: 16th Infantry Division
    - he was taken prisoner by the Russians
    He was born in Poland, and educated in Saxony. In 1769-1792 served in the Saxon Guard Cavalry, in 1792 returned to Poland and served in the Polish army. In 1794 he joined Kosciuszko Insurection, and led his small corps into Great Poland to hinder for 6 weeks the advance of 30,000 Prussians. In 1796 joined the French army and was nominated general de division, 1797 - commander of Polish forces in Italy, 1807 - Inspector General of Cavalry of the Italian Republic, 1806 - recalled from the Italian service to organize the new Polish army. A marching song mentioning his name along with that of Bonaparte - the "Dabrawski's Mazurek" of 1797 - in time became the Polish national anthem.

    "A bear of a man, good natured and rather phlegmatic. A great patriot ... Contemporaries sometimes criticized him for his too-lenient attitude toward captured German officers ... An excellent organizer, a well-educated and very capable officer, a brave soldier and caring leader of men. Military historians sometimes blame him for abandoning the bridge at Borisov, not remembering that he put up a stubborn resistance, losing 1,800 of his 2,400 Poles."

    He was born and educated in Poland. Although he commanded a division only once, Kniaziewicz was one of the most important military figures in the Polish army. In 1797 arrived in Italy and joined Dabrowski's Legions. Captured the fortress of Gaete. In 1799 became general de brigade and was appointed commander of the Danube Legion. In 1800 istinguished himself at Hohenlinden. Dissatisfied with Bonaparte's Polish policy, resigned his command. In 1807 rejected Tsar Alexander's offer to organize Polish troops in the Russian service.



    "More a knight than a commanding general. A giant endowed with proportionate strength (he could easily break a horseshoe in two); a man of absolute integrity and courage, critical toward Napoleon. An uncompromising patriot. Kept away from personal feuds. An excellent soldier, officer and commander, but motivated more by his sense of honor than by any political calculations."

    He was the most colorful figure among the divisional commanders and the most tragic. He began his carrer in Polish cavalry and became captain. In 1777 was with the Russian army during the Russo-Turkish war. In 1784 lieutenant-colonel in Polish army, in 1792 colonel, then general. In 1796 with the French army, attached to the general staff in Italy. In 1798-1801 helped preparing the Egyptian Expedition. Fought in Egypt, in May 1801 was appointed general commander of cavalry in the Armee d'Egypte. In 1801-805 was back in Italy, in 1806 in Poland with the French. In Sept he was appointed organizer and commander of the (1st) Legion du Nord. In 1807 was unwillingly transferred to the Polish army.

    "A man of innumerable contradictions, a firebrand and born plotter, but not much of typical and born opportunist. .... His choleric temperament and sharp tongue didn't gain him many friends. Self-rightous and individualistic to the extreme, he quarelled both with Poniatowski and Dabrowski. A good leader and organizer with great personal courage. An exacting and demanding commander, he was quite unpopular in the officer corps.

    The whole [Polish] army was learning and its excellent spirit,
    liveliness and cheerful confidence bade well for the future."
    - Officer Chlapowski

    Polish voltigeur In the years 1806-1807 Napoleon defeated Austria, Prussia and Russia. Under the Treaty of Tilsit the Duchy of Warsaw was established on part of the lands of Prussian-annexed Poland. It was placed under the guardianship of the King of Saxony. The constitution given by Napoleon in July 1807 established the Polish army at 30,000 men. Prince Poniatowski became its Minister of War. The Poles joked about the Duchy having "a Saxon king, French laws, Polish army, and Prussian currency." (Nafziger - "Poles and Saxons" p 3)

    In November 1806 Napoleon directed General Dabrowski to form Polish troops. Dabrowski issued a decree ordering the population to provide 1 infantry recruit from every 10 households, 1 cavalry recruit from every 45 households and 1 chasseur (light infantry) recruit from every estate.

    In January 1807 the Polish army consisted of 20.500 recruits and approx. 3.000 volunteers. The army was organized into three legions (divisions).

    In August Marshal Davout selected the best infantry regiment of every division and Napoleon took these units to Spain. "Napoleon took this force into French service on much the same basis as the Hessians served the British in the American Revolution." (Nafziger - "Poles and Saxons" p 12)
    The chosen troops were: 4th, 7th and 9th Infantry Regiment, 140-men artillery company and 200-man sapper company. Several battalions were sent to Prussia. Due to such wide distribution of Polish troops the divisional organization had become obsolete.

    In the end of 1807 the army consisted of:

  • 12 infantry regiments
  • 6 cavalry regiments
  • 3 battalions of artillery.

    Polish infantry storming Tczew The Polish troops participated in the campaign of 1807. On 27th January 1807 they fought at Tczew (Dirschau), on 14th February they took Gniew (Mewe) and on 20th captured Slupsk (Stolpen). On 23rd February they took Tczew (Dirschau). Napoleon awarded GdD Dabrowski with cross of the Legion d'Honneur. In March-May 9.000 Polish troops (attached to French divisions) participated in the siege of Gdansk (Danzig). The Poles suffered approx. 2.000 killed and wounded. The Poles also participated in the Battle of Friedland.

    In February 1808 the Polish Legion du Nord was incorporated into the Polish army.

    In November 1808, Napoleon was in Spain, marching on Madrid. His advance was blocked by Spanish troops. The Spaniards held the narrow defile of Somosierra, leading on to the lofty plateau where Madrid stands. Sixteen guns were holding off Napoleon's army. After repeated attempts to force the position with infantry, the regiment of Polish lighthorsemen were given the order to charge. Approx. 200 men obeyed and eight minutes later, the survivors emerged from the top of the hill, "a thousand feet and three miles above the admiring Emperor." (- Norman Davies p. 301)
    All the cannons were taken and enemy's resistance was broken. In later years, talk of the charge of Somosierra evoked the same reactions in Warsaw as mention of the charge of the Light Brigade in London. The flower of the nation's youth was thought to have perished in a distant land for the sake of a courageous gesture. In fact, the exemplary sacrifice of those few men ensured the passage of a whole army.

    The Polish forces of that period were in excellent state. Officer Chlapowski writes: "It was marvelous to be back in Warsaw. ... there was a great difference between these new regiments and the Polish Guard and Vistula Legion with which I had recently been in Spain. As well as Colonel Krasinski, the entire staff of the Polish Guard Lighthorse were experienced officers ... The Vistula Legion still had officers from Dabrowski's Italian Legion and even Kniaziewicz's Legion of the Rhine. Nearly all the NCOs were older men, so training was steady, severe, and regular. It wasn't like that in the army of the Duchy of Warsaw. The infantry was admittedly first class, but the cavalry still needed a lot of work. ... The artillery had only very few qualified officers, but the gunners were quite well trained. The whole army was learning and its excellent spirit, liveliness and cheerful confidence bade well for the future."

    1809 Campaign.
    Poniatowski fought to a standstill
    an Austrian force more than twice the size.

    Poniatowski rode to battalion of 1st Infantry. 
He dismounted and with bayonet in hand
led them in a counterattack. 
The Austrians (right) were routed. 
Picture by Kossak In the campaign of 1809, the Duchy of Warsaw sustained the full weight of the Austrian attack. Austrian corps under Archduke Ferdinand appeared on the Polish borders on April 14, 1809. Taken by surprise, the Polish government ordered general mobilization. Headed by Prince Poniatowski the few Polish troops offered an valiant resistance during the Battle of Raszyn. Poniatowski fought to a standstill an Austrian force more than twice the size. But it was necessary to abandon Warsaw and to withdraw to the right bank of the Vistula.

    All Austrian efforts to cross the Vistula River were in vain. While the Austrians were exhausting themselves in their attempts to get at the right bank of the Vistula, Poniatowski crossed the Austrian frontier to liberate Galicia. On May 14 the city of Lublin was taken and on the 18th the city of Sandomierz with its only major Vistula bridge. On the 20th, in a night attack, the Zamosc fortress was captured together with 2,000 prisoners and 40 cannons. These developments compelled the Austrians to withdraw from Warsaw. Everywhere enthusiastically received by the Poles, Poniatowski was able to liberate large areas of Galicia.

    "For the first time since the partitions a Polish army had taken to the field under Polish command and had succeeded in reuniting two important pieces of the shattered Polish lands. National sentiment revived. Hopes were raised anew. Poles from Lithuania swam across the Niemen river to escape from Russia and serve in the Duchy's army. Poles from the Prussian and Austrian partitions came over to swell the ranks: and all were offereed citizenship in the Duchy's service." (- Norman Davies, p 302)
    As a result of Polish offensive, and of the fact that Poniatowski had Polish administration and military structure in place there for some time, making it difficult for Napoleon to compromise the Polish gains for political expediency. Most of the liberated lands became incorporated into the Grand Duchy in October 1809.

    Polish grenadier After the victorious war against Austria and annexation of Galicia the Poles raised 6 new infantry regiments and 10 cavalry regiments (1 cuirassiers, 2 hussars and 7 uhlans).

    Strength of the Polish army in the end of 1809:

  • 18 infantry regiments (with depots) - 45.000 men
  • 16 cavalry regiments (with depots) - 14.500 men
  • artillery and sapers (with depots) - 2.620 men
  • Vistula Legion and Guard lancers (with depots) - 7.000 men

    Part of the army served in France, Germany and Spain under French and Polish generals.

    Polish Army in January 1809
    Artillery and Engineers
    1st Infantry Regiment (1.707 men)
    2nd Infantry Regiment (1.707 men)
    3rd Infantry Regiment (1.707 men)
    4th Infantry Regiment (1.808 men)
    5th Infantry Regiment (1.933 men)
    6th Infantry Regiment (1.635 men)
    7th Infantry Regiment (1.817 men)
    8th Infantry Regiment (1.539 men)
    9th Infantry Regiment (1.945 men)
    10th Infantry Regiment (???? men)
    11th Infantry Regiment (???? men)
    12th Infantry Regiment (1.178 men)

    1st Infantry Regiment of Vistula Legion
    2nd Infantry Regiment of Vistula Legion
    3rd Infantry Regiment of Vistula Legion
    (It never was able to form completely,
    so it was disbanded in 1810 and
    incorporated into the First Legion
    as a 4th Inf. Reg. of Vistula Legion)

    1st Chasseur-a-Cheval Regiment (745 men)
    2nd Uhlan Regiment (880 men)
    3rd Uhlan Regiment (719 men)
    4th Chasseur-a-Cheval Regiment (??? men)
    5th Chasseur-a-Cheval Regiment (596 men)
    6th Uhlan Regiment (691 men)

    Uhlan Regiment of Vistula Legion

    Chevaulegere Regiment of Napoleon's Guard





    I Battalion of Foot Artillery (409 men, 24 guns)
    II Battalion of Foot Artillery (137 men, 24 guns)
    III Battalion of Foot Artillery (266 men, 24 guns)
    Train Battalion of Foot Artillery (402 men)
    I Squadron of Horse Artillery (119 men, 6 guns)
    Train Squadron of Horse Artillery (119 men)
    1st Sapper Company (79 men)
    2nd Sapper Company (103 men)
    3rd Sapper Company (91 men)
    Pontoneer Company (67 men)





    Polish Army in November-December 1809
    Artillery and Engineers
    1st Infantry Regiment
    2nd Infantry Regiment
    3rd Infantry Regiment
    4th Infantry Regiment
    5th Infantry Regiment
    6th Infantry Regiment
    7th Infantry Regiment
    8th Infantry Regiment
    9th Infantry Regiment
    10th Infantry Regiment
    11th Infantry Regiment
    12th Infantry Regiment
    13th Infantry Regiment
    14th Infantry Regiment
    15th Infantry Regiment
    16th Infantry Regiment
    17th Infantry Regiment
    18th Infantry Regiment

    1st Infantry Regiment of Vistula Legion
    2nd Infantry Regiment of Vistula Legion
    3rd Infantry Regiment of Vistula Legion
    (It never was able to form completely,
    so it was disbanded in 1810 and
    incorporated into the First Legion
    as a 4th Inf. Reg. of Vistula Legion)

    1st Chasseur-a-Cheval Regiment
    2nd Uhlan Regiment
    3rd Uhlan Regiment
    4th Chasseur-a-Cheval Regiment
    5th Chasseur-a-Cheval Regiment
    6th Uhlan Regiment
    7th Uhlan Regiment
    8th Uhlan Regiment
    9th Uhlan Regiment
    10th Hussar Regiment
    11th Uhlan Regiment
    12th Uhlan Regiment
    13th Hussar Regiment
    14th Cuirassier Regiment
    15th Uhlan Regiment
    16th Uhlan Regiment

    Uhlan Regiment of Vistula Legion

    Chevaulegere Regiment of Napoleon's Guard




    I Battalion of Foot Artillery
    II Battalion of Foot Artillery
    III Battalion of Foot Artillery
    Train Battalion of Foot Artillery
    I Squadron of Horse Artillery
    Train Squadron of Horse Artillery
    1st Sapper Company
    2nd Sapper Company
    3rd Sapper Company
    Pontoneer Company








    1812 - Invasion of Russia.
    The Poles formed the largest of the contingents
    provided by any of the states allied with France.
    The Poles stood by Napoleon through thick and thin.
    They formed a striking contrast to the Prussians, who as soon as
    Napoleon's defeat became known joined the Russians,
    as did also the Austrians.

    Polish fusilier The year of 1812 saw the climacteric of the Napoleonic era. For the French it was just another campaign, for the Russians it presented the supreme test for the integrity and durability of their mighty empire. For the Poles alone, it was a war of liberation.

    In early 1812 due to financial difficulties in the Grand Duchy, Napoleon took into French pay several units: artillery companies in the fortresses of Gdansk (Danzig) and Kostrzyn (Kustrin), the 9th Uhlan Regiment, 5th, 10th and 11th Infantry Regeiment. Napoleon approved Poniatowski's suggestion to add 2 light cannons to every Polish infantry regiment. The strength of companies in infantry and cavalry regiments was increased. Before the campaign against Russia the army of the Grand Duchy consisted of more than 75.000 men and 165 guns.

  • 22 infantry regiments (3 field and 1 depot battalion each)
  • 20 cavalry regiments (4 field and 1 depot squadron each)
  • 1 foot and 1 horse artillery regiment
  • Vistula Legion and Guard lancers

      Minister of War - Prince Jozef Poniatowski
      . . . Secretary General - Col. Jean Bennet (Frenchman)
      . . . . . . . . . 1st Section of Finances - Fechner
      . . . . . . . . . 2nd Section of Military Operations - Col. Rautenstrauch
      . . . . . . . . . 3rd Section of Artillery and Engineers - Col. Redel
      General Directorate of Administration of War - GD Wielhorski.
      . . . Secretary General - Wilkoszewski
      . . . . . . . . . 1st Section of Military Hospitals - Doney
      . . . . . . . . . 2nd Section of Uniforms - J. Suchodolski
      . . . . . . . . . 3rd Section of Supplies and Forage - Deybell
      . . . Health Services - L. Lafontaine (Frenchman)
      . . . . . . . . . Inspector of Military Hospitals - Puchalski
      . . . Inspector of Military Reviews and Conscription - GB Hebdowski
      . . . . . . . . . Chief of the Office of Management of Reviews - Wyszkowski
      . . . . . . . . . Inspectors of Reviews in Poland - Miroslawski, Kasinowski, and Hryniewicz
      . . . . . . . . . Inspector of Reviews in Lithuania - Sarnowski
      . . . Military Paymaster - J. Wegierski

      Commander-in-Chief of the Army Prince Jozef Poniatowski
      . . . . . . . . . Command Adjutant Assistant Chief-of-General Staff - Col. Rautenstrauch
      . . . . . . . . . Adjutant Colonel Attached to the Commander-in-Chief - A. Potocki
      Chief-of-Staff - GD Fiszer
      . . . Inspector General of Infantry - GD Fiszer
      . . . Inspector General of Cavalry - GD Rozniecki
      . . . Inspector General of Artillery and Engineers - GB Pelletier (Frenchman)

    One of the causes of the war of 1812 was the existence of the Duchy. In spite of Napoleon's continuous assurances that "the dangerous Polish dreams" as Alexander called them, would never be permitted realization, the Russian monarch was forever restive. He demanded that the word "Poles" be not used in public documents, that Polish orders be abolished and that the Polish army be considered as a part of that of Saxony. Meanwhile, the "second Polish war," as Napoleon called it, broke out.

    According to Adam Zamojski Napoleon was determined to hold the possibility of the reunification of the Kingdom of Poland as a carrot before the Poles, a semi-sincere promise to ensure loyalty. He avoided any concessions toward Poland having in mind further negotations with Russia. Poniatowski talked with Napoleon about forming the Kingdom of Poland and thus mobilizing the entire country. "Poniatowski has had to appeal to Davout to put in a word on his behalf. And now standing there by the roadside as Colbert's lancers again file by, he's urging Napoleon to mobilize Poland and thus consolidate the army's rear, instead of marching on Moscow. But the Polish prince, who'd turned down the Tsar's handsome offers of advancement if he had side with him, gets nowehere. Napoleon simply tells him he doesn't matters of high policy." (Britten-Austin - "1812 The March on Moscow" p 173)

    In June of 1812, Poniatowski together with 100,000 of his fellow Poles were part of Napoleon's expedition. The Poles formed the largest of the contingents provided by any of the states allied with France. The dispersion, however, of the Polish regiments among the various French corps was strongly resented. For nowhere else had Napoleon a more loyal and devoted ally than the Poles who stood by him through thick and thin. They formed a striking contrast to the Prussians under Yorck, who as soon as Napoleon's defeat became known joined the Russians, as did also the Austrians.

    The war began when the napoleonic troops crossed the border with Russia. "At the sight of this crossing, a group of Polish uhlans, probably belonging to the 6th Uhlans, spurred their mounts froward into the river, hoping to seize the honor of being the first to be on Russian soil. Unfortunately, the current proved too swift and they were quickly swept downstream, engulfed by the river. As the men slipped beneath its waters they were clearly heard to cry, 'Vive l'Empereur !' (Nafziger - "Napoleon's Invasion of Russia" pp 114-5, 1998)

    In 1812 the Polish troops carried the fame of Polish heroism along the same roads which two and three centuries before, in the times of King Stefan Batory and King Wladyslav IV saw the Polish banners of the White Eagle in a triumphant march to Moscow. The memories of Hetman Zolkiewski and Gosiewski came back. At Czerepowo General Rozniecki "orders the Polish troops to halt, forms up in square and reminds us that we're standing at the limit of the Jagellons' and Batory's one-time empire. After painting for us the heroic aspects of our nation's glorious past he invites all present to dismount and pick up a little dust so as to be able to remind our descendants of this glorious event which has brought us back to Poland's former linits." (Britten-Austin - "1812 The March on Moscow" p 234)

    Poles versus Russians at Smolensk, 1812.
Picture by Oleg Parkhaiev, Russia. The Poles fight with a great zeal. Britten-Austin writes: "Some units, perhaps many, are mortified to find their exploits have escaped official notice. To his left had seen the 7th Hussars make a brilliant charge against Russian ainfantry and cavalry, and only lose a few men in so doing. 'A short way away to our left,' writes Dupuy 'the 9th Polish Lancers [Uhlans ?] pierced a square of Muscovite chasseurs and wiped it out.' To Thirion it had seemed 'these men [Poles] had become fighting mad. How many didn't I see who, with arm or leg bandaged, returned to the scrum at a flat-out gallop, forcefully eluding those of their comrades who tried to hold them back." (Britten-Austin - "1812 The March on Moscow" p 136)

    The initial period of the offensive was wasted, because Poniatowski was placed under the direction of Napoleon's incompetent brother Jerome, who criticized by Napoleon eventually left, but for Poniatowski, then put in charge of Grande Armee's right wing, it was too late to make up for the lost opportunities (Later on St. Helena, the dethroned emperor reflected back on the 1812 war with Russia and expressed his belief, that if he had given Poniatowski Jerome's right wing command from the beginning, Bagration's army would have been destroyed early, and the campaign would have followed a different course.

    The Poles fought hard in every major battle of the campaign, including Smolensk, Borodino and Berezina.

    In the very end of 1812 the Polish forces consisted of less than 10.000 men. The splendid Vistula Legion had only 500 survivors. The campaign ended in a disaster. William Napier writes: "Napoleon, unconquered of man, had been vanquished by the elements. The fires and the snows of Moscow combined had shattered his strength, and in confessed madness nations and rulers rejoiced that an enterprise, at once the grandest and most provident, the most beneficial ever attempted by a warrior-statement, had been foiled - they rejoiced that Napoleon had failed to reestablish unhappy Poland as a barrier against the most formidable and brutal, the most swinish tyranny that has ever menaced and disgraced European civilization." (Napier - Vol IV, p 167)

    Polish troops in August 1812 in Russia

    V Army Corps - GdD Prince Jozef Poniatowski
    Chief-of-Staff: GdD Fiszer
    Chief-of-Artillery: GdB Pelletier [Frenchman]
    Chief-of-Staff of Artillery: Col. Jakub Redel

    16th Infantry Division - GdD Zajaczek
    Infantry Brigade - GdB Mielzynski
    . . . . . . . . . 3rd Infantry Regiment (2.621 men, 2 3pdr cannons)
    . . . . . . . . . 15th Infantry Regiment (2.675 men, 2 3pdr cannons)
    Infantry Brigade - GdB Paszkowski
    . . . . . . . . . 13th Infantry Regiment (2.371 men, 2 3pdr cannons)
    . . . . . . . . . 16th Infantry Regiment (2.679 men,2 3pdr cannons)
    Divisional Artillery - Chef ?
    . . . . . . . . . 3rd Foot Battery (144 men, 4 6pdr cannons, 2 howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . 12th Foot Battery (159 men, 4 6pdr cannons, 2 howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . Sapper Company (72 men)
    17th Infantry Division - GdD Dabrowski
    Infantry Brigade - GdB Zoltowski
    . . . . . . . . . 1st Infantry Regiment (2.396 men, 2 3pdr cannons)
    . . . . . . . . . 6th Infantry Regiment (2.543 men, 2 3pdr cannons)
    Infantry Brigade - GdB Krasinski
    . . . . . . . . . 14th Infantry Regiment (2.544 men, 2 3pdr cannons)
    . . . . . . . . . 17th Infantry Regiment (2.666 men, 2 3pdr cannons)
    Divisional Artillery - Chef Gugenmus
    . . . . . . . . . 10th Foot Battery (167 men, 4 6pdr cannons, 2 howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . 11th Foot Battery (175 men, 4 6pdr cannons, 2 howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . Sapper Company (71 men)
    18th Infantry Division - GdD Kniaziewicz
    Infantry Brigade - GdB Grabowski
    . . . . . . . . . 2nd Infantry Regiment (2.420 men, 2 3pdr cannons)
    . . . . . . . . . 8th Infantry Regiment (2.422 men, 2 3pdr cannons)
    Infantry Brigade - GdB Pakosz
    . . . . . . . . . 12th Infantry Regiment (2.206 men, 2 3pdr cannons)
    . . . . . . . . . This infantry regiment was detached
    Divisional Artillery - Chef ?
    . . . . . . . . . 4th Foot Battery (163 men, 4 6pdr cannons, 2 howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . 5th Foot Battery (153 men, 4 6pdr cannons, 2 howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . Sapper Company (61 men)
    Light Cavalry Division - GdD Kaminski then Sebastiani, Lefebvre-Desnouettes
    18th Light Cavalry Brigade - GdB ?
    . . . . . . . . . 4th Chasseur-a-Cheval Regiment (786 men in 4 squadrons)
    19th Light Cavalry Brigade - GdB ?
    . . . . . . . . . 1st Chasseur-a-Cheval Regiment (652 men)
    . . . . . . . . . 12th Uhlan Regiment (497 men)
    19th Light Cavalry Brigade - GdB ?
    . . . . . . . . . 5th Chasseur-a-Cheval Regiment (791 men in 4 sq.)
    . . . . . . . . . 13th Hussar Regiment (755 men in 4 sq.)
    Corps Reserve Artillery - Col. Gorski
    . . . . . . . . . 2nd Horse Battery (152 men, 4 6pdr cannons, 2 howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . 14th Foot Battery (158 men, 6 12pdr cannons)
    . . . . . . . . . Pontoneers (121 men, bridging equipment)
    General Artillery Park
    . . . . . . . . . 7th Foot Battery (169 men, no guns)
    . . . . . . . . . 8th Foot Battery (81 men, no guns)
    . . . . . . . . . 9th Foot Battery (86 men, no guns)
    . . . . . . . . . 13th Foot Battery (75 men, no guns)
    . . . . . . . . . 15th Foot Battery (89 men, no guns)

    IV Cavalry Corps - GdD Latour-Maubourg
  • Corps Artillery - Chef Szwerin
    . . . . . . . . . Polish 3rd Horse Battery (168 men, 4 6pdr cannons, 2 howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . Polish 4th Horse Battery (167 men, 4 6pdr cannons, 2 howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . Saxon Horse Battery (176 men, 4 6pdr cannons, 2 howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . Westphalian Horse Battery (69 men, 4 6pdr cannons, 2 howitzers)
  • 4th Light Cavalry Division - GdD Rozniecki
    28th Light Cavalry Brigade - GdB Dziewanowski
    . . . . . . . . . 2nd Uhlan Regiment (596 men in 3 squadrons)
    . . . . . . . . . 7th Uhlan Regiment (672 men)
    . . . . . . . . . 11th Uhlan Regiment (551 men)
    29th Light Cavalry Brigade - GdB Turno
    . . . . . . . . . 3rd Uhlan Regiment (658 men)
    . . . . . . . . . 11th Uhlan Regiment (688 men)
    . . . . . . . . . 16th Uhlan Regiment (728 men)
    7th Heavy Cavalry Division - GdD Lorge
    1st Brigade - GdB Thielemann

    . . . . . . . . . Polish 14th Cuirassier Regiment (300 men ?)
    . . . . . . . . . Saxon 'Zastrow' Cuirassier Regiment (4 sq.)
    . . . . . . . . . Saxon Garde du Corps Regiment (4 sq.
    2nd Brigade - GdB Lepel
    . . . . . . . . . Westphalian 1st Cuirassier Regiment
    . . . . . . . . . Westphalian 2nd Cuirassier Regiment

    28th Infantry Division - GdD Girard
    Infantry Brigade - GdB Ouviller
    . . . . . . . . . 2nd Infantry Regiment (1.331 men, 2 3pdr cannons)
    . . . . . . . . . 7th Infantry Regiment (967 men, 2 3pdr cannons)
    . . . . . . . . . 9th Infantry Regiment (1.281 men, 2 3pdr cannons)
    Infantry Brigade - GM Klengel
    . . . . . . . . . Saxon "Von Low" Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . . . . . Saxon "Von Rechten" Infantry Regiment
    Divisional Artillery - Chef ?
    . . . . . . . . . 1st Foot Battery (67 men, 4 6pdr cannons, 2 howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . 2nd Foot Battery (?? men, 4 6pdr cannons, 2 howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . Sapper Company (97 men)

    Infantry Division of Vistula Legion - GdD Claparede
    Chief-of-Staff: Colonel Briatte
    1st Infantry Brigade - GdB Chlopicki
    . . . . . . . . . 1st Infantry Regiment of Vistula Legion
    . . . . . . . . . 2nd Infantry Regiment of Vistula Legion
    2nd Infantry Brigade - GdB Bronikowski
    . . . . . . . . . 3rd Infantry Regiment of Vistula Legion
    . . . . . . . . . 4th Infantry Regiment of Vistula Legion
    Divisional Artillery .
    . . . . . . . . . Foot Battery (4 cannons and 2 howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . Foot Battery (4 cannons and 2 howitzers)

    in the Imperial Guard:
    4th Guard Cavalry Brigade - GdB Krasinski
    Chevaulegere-Lanciers de la Garde Imperiale - GdB Konopka
    . . . . . . . . . I Squadron - Kozietulski
    . . . . . . . . . II Squadron - Chlapowski
    . . . . . . . . . III Squadron - Jerzmanowski
    . . . . . . . . . IV Squadron - Krasinski
    . . . . . . . . . V Squadron - Fredro
    . . . . . . . . . company of Vistula Uhlans

    1813 - Campaign in Germany
    Though the ranks of Poniatowski's troops were thinned,
    their determination was strong.

    Polish infantry at Leipzig, 1813.
Bowden - Napoleon's Grande Armee's of 1813 "The last act of independent will was carried out in the Duchy's behalf by Jozef Poniatowski. Refusing offers of clemency from the Russians, he determined to fight to the last at Napoleon's side. He gathered the reserves of his army together and retreated into Germany." (- Davies, Vol II, p 304)

    Poniatowski began withdrawing across Poland "as Schwarzenberg's perfidious maneuvers exposed him to the approaching Russians. His 8.000 army was joined by about 6.000 light cavalry..." (Nafziger and Wesolowski - "Poles and Saxons of the Napoleonic Wars" p 22)

    In July, few months before the battle of Leipzig was fought, Polish infantry and artillery had allowance for exercises in life fire training and shooting competitions. According to Mariusz Lukasiewicz's "Armia Ksiecia Jozefa" (p 215) the best shooters were awarded with 20 francs each. Captain Baka worked very hard to train the hundreds of young recruits in the 'Krakus' (pronounced: crack-coos) Regiment. It was a new unit and mounted on small horses. Fighting the feared Cossacks became Krakusi's specialty. Napoleon called them "Pygmy cavalry", others called them "Polish Cossacks" this is because of their horsemanship and tactics. The Krakusi had simpler maneuvers and orders but all movements had to be done in great speed. It was probably the only one regiment in entire Napoleonic army which captured Cossack Color. The Empreror expressed his wish to have 3.000 of them.

    Near Zittau in Saxony Prince Poniatowski ordered intensive and large scale "war games" for his troops. The quarters were excellent and the food was pretty good. Many soldiers received new uniforms, shoes, shirts, and headwears. Morale of the troops was very high despite of lack of weapons. According to General Sokolnicki only 20 % of men in IV Cavalry Corps had carbines. The average cavalryman was armed with lance, saber and one pistol.
    In May 1813 Napoleon formed so-called Grenadier Corps, which became part of the French Imperial Guard. It consisted of three battalions (each of 4 companies); the 1st Battalion of Poles, 2nd of Saxons and 3rd of Westphalians. It was Napoleon's attempt to establish closer ties to the Poles and Germans. The grenadiers were selected by Prince Poniatowski from the infantry of VIII Army Corps. They were brave men, at least 23-years old and with 2 years' service.

    ~ Polish troops in Leipzig, in October 1813 ~

    VIII Army Corps - GdD (MdE) Prince Jozef Poniatowski
    Chief-of-Staff: GdD Aleksander Rozniecki
    Chief-of-Artillery: Col. Jakub Antoni Redel
    Chief-of-Engineers: Col. Jean C. Mallet [Frenchamn]

    Advance Guard of VIII Army Corps - GdB Jan Nepomucen Uminski
    . . . . . . . . . Krakus Cavalry Regiment (4 squadrons)
    . . . . . . . . . 14th Cuirassier Regiment (1-2 squadrons, no armor)

    26th Infantry Division - GdD Ludwik Kamieniecki
    1st Infantry Brigade - GdB Jan Kanty Julian Sierawski
    . . . . . . . . . Vistula Legion Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . . . . . 1st Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . . . . . 16th Infantry Regiment
    2nd Infantry Brigade - GdB Kazimierz Malachowski
    . . . . . . . . . 8th Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . . . . . 15th Infantry Regiment
    Divisional Artillery - Cpt. Franciszek Orlinski.
    . . . . . . . . . Foot Battery (4 6pdr cannons and 2 5.5" howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . Foot Battery (4 6pdr cannons and 2 5.5" howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . Foot Battery (4 6pdr cannons and 2 5.5" howitzers)
    27th Infantry Division - GdD Jan Henryk Dabrowski
    1st Infantry Brigade - GdB Edward Zoltowski
    . . . . . . . . . 2nd Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . . . . . 4th Infantry Regiment
    2nd Infantry Brigade - GdB Stefan Grabowski
    . . . . . . . . . 12th Infantry Regiment
    . . . . . . . . . 14th Infantry Regiment
    Divisional Artillery -
    . . . . . . . . . Foot Battery (4 6pdr cannons and 2 5.5" howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . Foot Battery (4 6pdr cannons and 2 5.5" howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . Horse Battery (4 6pdr cannons and 2 5.5" howitzers)
    Corps Reserve Artillery - Col. Pierre-Charles-Francois Bontemps
    . . . . . . . . . Foot Battery
    . . . . . . . . . Foot Battery
    . . . . . . . . . Sapper Company

    IV Cavalry Corps - GdD Michal Sokolnicki
    Chief-of-Staff: GdB Charles Antoine Benoist de Tancarville ?

    7th Light Cavalry Division - GdD ....
    17th Light Cavalry Brigade - GdB Jozef Tolinski
    . . . . . . . . . 1st Chasseur-a-Cheval Regiment
    . . . . . . . . . 3rd Uhlan Regiment
    18th Light Cavalry Brigade - GdB Jan Krukowiecki
    . . . . . . . . . 2nd Uhlan Regiment
    . . . . . . . . . 4th Uhlan Regiment
    Divisional Artillery - Capitaine Schwerin
    . . . . . . . . . Horse Battery (4 6pdr cannons and 2 5.5" howitzers)
    8th Light Cavalry Division - GdD Antoni Pawel Sulkowski
    19th Light Cavalry Brigade - GdB Kazimierz Turno
    . . . . . . . . . 6th Uhlan Regiment
    . . . . . . . . . 8th Uhlan Regiment
    20th Light Cavalry Brigade - GdB Jan Weyssenhoff
    . . . . . . . . . 16th Uhlan Regiment
    . . . . . . . . . 13th Hussar Regiment
    Divisional Artillery - Cpt. Masson
    . . . . . . . . . Horse Battery (4 6pdr cannons and 2 5.5" howitzers)
    Corps Artillery:
    . . . . . . . . . Horse Battery (4 6pdr cannons and 2 5.5" howitzers)
    . . . . . . . . . Horse Battery (4 6pdr cannons and 2 5.5" howitzers)

    1814 - Campaign in France.
    When informed of the French surrender
    the Vistula Regiment nearly mutined.

    After Napoleon's defeat at Leipzig the majority of Polish soldiers were either killed, wounded and taken prisoner, others wandered back to Poland. Only few followed the French. Napoleon entertained thoughts of completely disbanding Polish infantry and organizing four uhlan and two Polish-Cossack regiments. (Nafziger - "Poles and Saxons of the Napoleonic Wars" p 28)

    In December Napoleon formed so-called Polish Corps, it consisted of the following troops (strength on 1st January 1814):

  • Krakusi Regiment
  • 1st Uhlan Regiment (530 men + 399 horses)
  • 2nd Uhlan Regiment (530 men + 336 horses)
  • Vistula Infantry Regiment (854 men in 2 battalions)
  • four companies of foot artillery (520 men)
  • company of horse artillery (125 men + 47 horses ONLY)
  • sapper company (68 men)

    There were in France other Polish units, but all were cavalry:

  • 4th, 8th and 16th Uhlan Regiment
  • 1st Chasseur-a-Cheval Regiment
  • 13th Hussar Regiment
  • 3rd Eclaireur Regiment of the Guard
  • 1st Lancer Regiment of the Old Guard

    In 1814 officer Skarzynski overwhelmed and ridden down by a flood of Cossacks, wrenched an "especially heavy" lance from one of them and - wild with the outraged fury of despair - spurred amuck down the road, bashing every Cossack skull that came within his reach. Rallying and wedging in behind him, his Polish handful cleared the field. Impressed Napoleon made Skarzynski the Baron of the Empire.

    The last stand of Polish troops took place in March 1814 at Soissons. Soissons was defended by a very weak garrison: 792 men of Vistula infantry, 80 eclaireurs, 20 French guns and 300 French municipal guardsmen. The overall command was in the hands of GdB Moreau. Napoleon ordered him to hold his position at all costs. On 1st March numerous Prussian and Russian troops arrived before Soissons. The next day they bombarded the town and stormed the ramparts. Approx. 300 men of Vistula Regiment "attacked them with such impetus that they were pushed out of the suburb, far into the surrounding fields." (Nafziger - "Poles and Saxons of the Napoleonic Wars" p 129)
    In the evening an emissary arrived with a call to surrender. During a war council Moreau and the commander of Vistula Regiment voted categorically against capitulation. Soon another emissary arrived with stronger worded ultimatum threatening to put the garrison to the sword and sack the town. Moreau agreed to capitulate.
    When informed of this the Vistula Regiment nearly mutined. The Allies were in such a hurry that at 3 pm two battalions entered the town and found themselves facing the angry Vistula Regiment. The commander of the Poles told the allies general to leave for another hour or he would start shooting !
    The Allies general quickly agreed. At 4 pm the garrison departed Soissons with its weapons, receiving military honors. Allies generals asked Moreau why he didn't order his division to march after the vanguard, Moreau replied that this was his entire force. The Vistula Regiment was awarded by Napoleon with 23 crosses of Legion d'Honneur for its actions at Soissons.

    In Waterloo in 1815, there was only one single squadron of Poles. They formed the 1st Squadron of the Red Lancers.

  • Sources and Links.
    Recommended Reading.

    Kukiel - "Wojny Napoleonskie"
    Bielecki - "Grand Army" 1995
    Elting - "Swords Around a Throne"
    Davies - "God's Playground. A History of Poland." Vol II, 1982
    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
    Gembarzewski - "Wojsko Polskie. Ksiestwo Warszawskie 1807-1814" 1912
    Gembarzewski - "Rodowody pulków i oddzialów równorzednych" 1925
    Little plastic soldiers for dioramas and wargames:
    Polish infantry, Polish uhlans

  • Polish Renaissance Warfare.
  • Hussaria: Polish Winged Cavalry - Tactics, Diversity of Enemies, Mobility.
  • The ultimate weapon of the Winged Knights was psychological...
  • The Winged Husaria: a model for competitive success.
  • Husaria. (in English)

    Polish Infantry
    Polish Cavalry
    Polish Artillery

    Napoleon, His Army and Enemies.