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The Warsaw Voice » Society » December 16, 2009
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Colorful History of Dashing Lancers
December 16, 2009   
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A new book called The Army of the Duchy of Warsaw: The Uhlans traces the history of the glamorous cavalrymen who were the poster boys of the Polish military for nearly two centuries.

The uhlans, or mounted lancers, have become part of Polish history and culture. For the average Pole, an ułan is a synonym of a dashing, valiant soldier.

The two-volume, nearly 600-page book by military expert Ryszard Morawski and journalist Adam Paczuski is the first monograph on the "Polish national weapon," as the uhlans were sometimes referred to. The book, entitled Wojsko Księstwa Warszawskiego - Ułani in Polish, describes the origins of this type of cavalry and its development in the Polish and foreign armies at the end of the 18th and the start of the 19th centuries.

A light cavalry armed with lances was part of most 19th-century European armies, including the British and Russian. Most these units were modeled after the Polish uhlan regiments formed in the Napoleonic era. The most famous of those included the cavalrymen of the imperial guard and the lancers of the Vistula legion, or Légion de la Vistule, who served in the French army. In those days, Poland was partitioned among Russia, Prussia and Austria, and uhlan regiments became the core of the cavalry of the Duchy of Warsaw, a short-lived Polish state established by Napoleon in 1807.

Historically, the uhlans originated from mounted Tatar units that once served in the army of the Polish Commonwealth. The word "uhlan" was originally used to describe Tatar princes from the family of Genghis Khan.

The book's main theme is the history of Polish and Lithuanian uhlans in the Napoleonic era. In those times, the uhlans, commanded by Prince Józef Poniatowski, fought in Pomerania in 1806/07, in Galicia in 1809, in Russia in 1812, in Germany and Denmark and Germany in 1813, and in France in 1814. They also took part in the battles of Gdańsk, Friedland, Vilnius, Smolensk, Borodino, Berezina, Leipzig, Hamburg, Craonne and Arcis-sur-Aube.

The book includes nearly 190 color illustrations by Morawski, who is an artist as well as an expert on weapons. The illustrations show the uniforms of uhlan units and every detail of their weapons and equipment, from lances to buttons.

In addition to the Polish version, the book includes descriptions of illustrations and a comprehensive summary in English, French and German.

The book can be ordered from the publisher at: www.karabela.waw.pl
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