Before the main, decisive charge of the Allied cavalry at Vienna (spearheaded by Hussars), there was a recon charge of one banner of Hussars (149 men) under Zbierzchowski into the Turkish lines, the goal of which was to reconnoitre if the terrain further towards Vienna was also favourable for cavalry as well as the dislocation of main Turkish defensive positions. That charge was quite suicidal, especially since the charging Hussars managed to penetrate deeply into enemy lines - as far as to the camp of Kara Mustafa - and got surrounded by overwhelming enemy numbers. In the end, with heavy losses, Zbierzchowski's Hussars managed to break through the enemy forces and carry the message about the results of their recconnaissance back to the Polish HQ. The banner lost 35-36 killed (including 12 NCOs - companions
), as Sobieski reported. Number of wounded was probably also 30 or more. Overall scale of casualties in men of Zbierzchowski's unit was probably between ca. 40% and ca. 50% (out of 149).
Turkish forces avoided head-on confrontation - Turkish cavalry stepped aside or ran away backwards before the charging banner (and it was just 149 men strong - a tiny force). The Polish unit penetrated deeply into the Turkish lines - up to the camp of their commander. Only encircling the attacking Hussars from all sides and hammering the riders with large battle mauls and battle axes helped. Here is a Turkish account of that combat:
"The first [Polish] unit, clad in iron, attacked the tent of the illustrious Serdar master [Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha]. Faced them and engaged them in combat levands [personal guard units] of the Serdar master under command of a sercheshmesh, as well as his palace and court aghas. Giaours however were all clad in iron, so saber wasn't useful there, but heroes experienced in battles [Turkish soldiers] weren't disconcerted by this at all. Each of them had a maul, an axe or a mace, so they started to hammer giaours in heads, faces and arms, while those who didn't have such weapons, tried to rip their horses with sabers. This way with grace of Allah they were forced to retreat, and most of them were killed or wounded."
No other Polish cavalry unit suffered heavier losses in the battle of Vienna than Zbierzchowski's banner.
Zbigniew Zbierzchowski - commander of the reconnaissance charge:
Here more info about that charge (in Polish) - including a map showing direction of the charge:http://www.historycy.org/index.php?showtopic=36547
There are words which carry the presage of defeat. Defence is such a word. What is the result of an even victorious defence? The next attempt of imposing it to that weaker, defender. The attacker, despite temporary setback, feels the master of situation.