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Who was Haugwitz?


Jan Hanuš Haugwitz from Biskupice was a famous Czech rek, commander-in-chief of the dreadedThe Black Legion (army), a military unit composed mainly of Slavic and especially Hussite fighters, forming the core of the army of the Czech-Hungarian King Matthias Corvín, numbering up to several tens of thousands of fighters.


Hejtman Haugwitz was accompanied by the so-called Black Company, which mainly ensured his protection, helped with the organization of the troops and formed an elite unit within the dreaded Black Army, the Hungarians called "Fekete Serég".His famous achievements included, for example, the conquest of Vienna or the defeat of the Ottoman Turks inThe Battle of the Bread Field

Jan Hanuš came from the noble Haugvic family from Biskupice, originally from Silesia. He was the great-grandson of the ancestors of the family Sigmund and Kilián Haugvic, who came to Bohemia in the second half of the 14th century. In the sources, he is usually mentioned as the third bearer of the name Hanuš Jan Haugvic from Biskupice. His brothers Jindřich (Hynek) and Petr also served with him in the Black Company, as well as their relative Mikuláš Haugvic. He was succeeded by Mikuláš Haugvic at the head of the Black Company. However, after Corvín's death in 1490, the unit disbanded and was finally disbanded by force in the spring of 1492 after combat clashes with the Hungarian army.

Together with his relatives, from the beginning of the so-called Czecho-Hungarian wars, he appeared on the side of Matyáš Corvín, as a member of his division, which consisted mainly of Czechs, Bavarians, Serbs, Poles and Croats. Here, in the 1570s, he gradually became the commander-in-chief of this unit, which at that time already numbered several tens of thousands of fighters. It was later called the Black Company, allegedly after the black armor that Jan Hanuš was supposed to wear in battle. He also took part in Corvín's actions in Silesia and Poland, among other things he participated in the battle of Ivanovice in 1474. However, according to the findings, we find that the entire army wore black for many, mostly practical, reasons. Blackening was used to protect armor and as contemporary camouflage, suitable for the night military operations for which the Black Army became famous.

The Battle of the Bread Field (Kenyérmezei csata in Hungarian, Bătălia de la Câmpul Pâinii in Romanian, Ekmek Otlak Savaşı in Turkish) was a battle that took place on the so-called Bread Field (Kenyérmező) near the village of Şibot (now Romania) in Hungary on October 13, 1479 between the Hungarian and the Turkish army. Soldiers from Wallachia also stood on the side of the Turks. The place is located in the western part of the area called Königsboden (Fundus regius), on the border of Huňad County. At the site of the battle, he left Transylvania vEwater to build a chapel, the site of which could be seen until the beginning of the 20th century. The battle was the biggest Hungarian victory over the Turks, who after the defeat did not attempt to plunder Hungary again until the Battle of Mohács.

In 1477, on Matthias's order, he made a victorious invasion of Austria against the Roman Emperor Friedrich as far as Vienna, then he led another military campaign into Austria in 1481, the conflict here did not end until the war in Austria in 1486. Two years later, he was sent with an army against the rebellious Silesian princes, from whom he captured all the Hawthorn estates after a bloody battle at Thomaswalde (Tomkowic). At the beginning of 1489, he and the Black Company turned against the Margrave of Brandenburg, and after forcing the Olešnik prince to cede his territory to King Matthias, he returned to Moravia with his army.

Vladislav Jagiellon probably appointed him captain of the royal Czech army (Latin: capitaneus gencium nostrarum Bohemicalium) after the Peace of Bratislava in 1491, and then together with the chief captain Štěpán Zápolský drove the last claimant to the throne, the Polish prince Jan I. Olbracht, out of the country, after a decisive victory in at the Battle of Eperjes on January 1, 1492.

Bitva na Chlebovém poli 1479

Battle of the Bread Field 1479

Fekete Serég

Matyáš Korvín is not exactly one of the popular figures of history in our countries, because he desperately tried to take the crown from Jiřík of Poděbrady, who, on the other hand, is evaluated very positively in our country. In the end, Corvinus achieved only a partial victory in Bohemia, but in other territories he reaped one laurel after another. He owed this to a remarkable army that had no parallels in Europe at the time.

Throughout history, it has been proven that a small, modernly equipped professional army tends to be more successful than a large horde of recruited citizens with minimal military experience. In the Middle Ages, such a professional core was formed by knights and loyal to the king, who learned to handle the sword from an early age and were called to fierce combat in the event of a conflict. But as the nobility grew richer and more comfortable over time, they began to use more and more the possibility of paying their sons out of military service. In the end, people really died in battles, and a young noble life was not worth some heroic ode.

Monarchs rarely refused the money offered, and empty positions in the army were filled by hired mercenaries. They were mostly foreigners who had nothing to do at home and service in the army provided them with a steady salary. They basically didn't care who they were fighting, especially if they got paid. But as soon as the armistice came, their services were no longer needed and they had to look for another army that was in action. During their lifetime, they changed several "employers" in this way.

The mercenary army was also formed by Matyáš Korvín's father János Hunyadi. Meanwhile, little Matthias was reading the biography of the Roman general Julius Caesar, watching his father and summing up in his head what he would do differently when he came to power. And then the day came when he did. He offered the mercenaries permanent employment. Not just for a season, not just for one battle, but it really happened.

Thus was born the Black Company, sometimes also called the Black Army or the Black Legion, which operated between 1458 and 1494 and brought Corvinus one victory after another. It was a professional unit whose core consisted of Czechs, Moravians and Silesians, supplemented by Bavarians, Poles, Serbs and Croats. It must be remembered that the Czechs at that time had decent know-how from the recently fought Hussite wars and enriched the company with valuable tactics. Thanks to this, Matthias Corvín easily won over the Ottoman Turks and conquered a significant part of Austria, including Vienna. He was only stopped by Jiřík from Poděbrady, who did not let Prague take him. But he was forced to submit Moravia, Silesia and both Lusatia to Corvín.

The Black Army cost Corvinus a lot of money. In the beginning, it numbered 6,000 mercenaries, but over time it grew to 28,000 soldiers. All these men had to be permanently paid by someone, otherwise they would start to rebel (and such a rebellion could turn out really badly for the monarch). Corvín also invested in modern firearms. About one in four soldiers marched with an arquebus, which was very unusual for its time - even at the beginning of the 16th century, only about 10 percent of all soldiers in Europe used firearms. The reasons were apparently mainly financial - gunpowder was not from a cheap region.

It was the high expenses that led to the fact that Corvinus' successor Vladislav Jagiellon disbanded the Black Company. He was pushed to the decision by the Hungarian nobility when they exchanged a radical tax reduction. As a result, there were no longer any means to maintain a professional army, and the country's defense capability declined rapidly. The consequence was, among other things, the tragic battle near Mohács, in which Vladislav's son Ludvík perished.


Knight of the Black Legion


King Corvinus' Great Alliance Seal

The Black Army was a late medieval Hungarian mercenary army in the service of King Matthias Corvinus. The birth of this mercenary army began during the reign of his father János Hunyadi around 1440, but it was only Matthias Corvinus who came up with the idea of introducing a permanent professional mercenary army, which was probably inspired by his youth when he read about the life of the Roman general Julius Caesar. The mercenary army existed between 1458 and 1494. Compared to other armies, the Black Company was a permanent professional mercenary army, with which Matyáš achieved many victories and successes when, in the Austro-Hungarian War against Emperor Frederick III. conquered a large part of Austria, including the capital Vienna in 1485, and in the Czecho-Hungarian War more than half of the Lands of the Czech Crown (Moravia, Silesia and both Lusatia). Another victory was achieved by Matthias with the Black Army over the Ottoman Turks in 1479.

Matyáš recognized the importance and key role of infantry firearms, which subsequently contributed significantly to efficiency and success. Roughly every fourth member of the Black Army was equipped with an arquebus, an unusual ratio at the time. Only the high price of gunpowder in the Middle Ages prevented them from increasing this number even more. Even decades after the collapse of the Black Army at the turn of the 16th century, only about 10% of soldiers in Western European armies used firearms. The main components of the Black Army were infantry, artillery, and light and heavy cavalry. The function of the heavy cavalry was to protect the light armored infantry and artillery while the other corps delivered sporadic, surprise attacks on the enemy. In the early days, the core of the army consisted of 6,000–8,000 mercenaries. In 1480 the number was between 15,000 and 20,000, however, at the great Viennese military parade in 1485, the Black Company numbered up to 28,000 men (20,000 cavalry and 8,000 infantry). The soldiers came from various countries and nations, among them were mainly Czechs, Bavarians, Serbs, Poles, Croats and, from 1480, also Hungarians. The Black Army was also a much larger mercenary army than King Louis XI of France had at his disposal at the time, the only other standing professional army in Europe.

The death of King Matthias Corvín also meant the end for the Black Army. The Hungarian parliament pushed for a 70–80% reduction in the tax burden at the expense of the country's defense capabilities, leaving the newly elected King Vladislav Jagiellonian unable to cover the costs of the army. After the collapse of the Black Army, the Hungarian magnates dissolved, among other things, the systems of state administration and bureaucracy throughout the country. The country's defenses deteriorated overall as border guards and castle garrisons also lost their income, fortresses fell into disrepair, and calls for increased taxes to bolster defenses went unheeded.


The Black Army is at war with the Ottoman Turks


Reconstruction of the banner of the Black Army

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