Introduction page Battles and campaigns 1450 to 1697 Army composition
main conflicts 1450-1697 Maps of Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth Army's development 1450-1697

Army Development

Second Half of 15th Century

First Half of 16th Century

Second Half of 16th Century

First Half of 17th Century

Reforms of 1632-1633

Second Half of 17th Century

The end of 17th Century

Wladyslaw's Reorganisation (1632-33)

Wladyslaw IVWhen 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. At Breda he was the guest of the Spanish general Spinola, who was besieging the town, and saw the latest methods of siege warfare and the use of a powerful artillery. Wladyslaw knew well of the high quality of Poland's cavalry, as King he decided to enlarge and improve those arms and the methods of warfare which had previously been treated as second rate, namely infantry, artillery and fortifications. With this in mind he formed a cudzodziemski autorament or foreign section.

The Foreign Section
It consisted mostly of pike and shot infantry, dressed, equipped and organised following the German infantry. It was also, initially at least, mainly commanded by Germans. Regiments varied from 4 to 8 companies, with two shot to every pike and the pike stood in the centre flanked by the shot in the normal manner. The dragoons also formed part of the foreign section. They were identical to the infantry except they travelled on horseback and so were especially useful in support of the cavalry when it carried out quick incursions and raids.

There were also cavalry, which again were modelled after the Germans and included arquebusiers, cuirassiers and lighter cavalry called rajtaria, similar to the Swedish 'light' cavalry. The word rajtar is Polish for reiter and was used to cover Western style, pistol armed cavalry, whether mercenary, German or Polish. Their dress and equipment was imported from Germany, but they used shallower formations of four ranks and did not use the caracole. Though this section was called foreign the vast majority of the troops were Polish.

The National SectionHusars at the relief of Smolensk 1634
This section was composed mostly of cavalry and was little altered. The husars now charged in three ranks, with poczets of more than three being banned, though still found. The most numerous cavalry were the Cossacks.

A major characteristic of the national section was its large camp, due to its supply being based around the poczet (each towarzysz organised the supply of his own poczet). This meant a much larger number of traders, servants and camp followers compared to the foreign troops' camp section.

Standards of different types of troops were formed into regiments, usually armoured Cossacks with the light cavalry or the husars. The Polish-Hungarian type infantry were now little used and usually only formed guard units.

The Artillery
Wladyslaw greatly expanded the size of the artillery, standardising calibres and casting many new cannons. He set up a second kwarta tax to ensure the artillery remained well furnished and 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.

With the introduction of a strong infantry arm the main battle formation altered. King Wladyslaw IV usually formed his army in three lines: a front, a corps and a rear of reserve. Each line was composed of infantry in the centre and cavalry on the wings. The largest proportion of the infantry was in the front, while most of the cavalry stood in reserve. The foreign cavalry sometimes stood intermingled with the infantry. Although this formation allowed little manoeuvrability, unlike the old Polish battle formation, it had a very powerful defensive strength because of its firepower. Most of the cavalry on the wings was from the national section and stood in deep formations forming a powerful strike force.



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