I stumbled across this in the course of doing a little research on Charles Martel, and it sure is fun stuff.
At the Battle of Beresteczko in 1651, Jan Sobieski led the Hussars in an attack that smashed the light cavalry formations of the Ukrainian Cossacks. In 1664 he battled Swedish invaders at the gates of Warsaw. In 1667 he led warriors against the Mongol Tatars, raising 8,000 men with his own money and successfully defending the city of Podhajce against 20,000 steppe horsemen with the sheer force of his own impenetrable fucking steel ballsack. At Chocim he destroyed 20,000 Turkish front-line warriors and captured over 100 pieces of artillery, an heroic asskicking that made him such a national hero that he was elected King of Poland a year later based on his own popularity alone. Known as “The Unvanquished Northern Lion”, by a Turkish army that had the good sense and honor to appreciate a righteously-hardcore badass even when he wasn’t fighting under the same flag, Jan Sobieski had fought his way to the Crown on military awesomeness alone, then went home at the end of every day to share a bed with a fucking hot French countess he’d brought in straight from the court of Louis XIV.
And, more importantly even than his track record kicking ass in the name of Poland, Jan Sobieski was a man of honor. So when the Pope sent him a letter desperately requesting he send aid to the battered defenders of Vienna, Sobieski assembled every single goddamn warrior he had – at the expense even of garrisoning his own cities against attack – and personally rode to the rescue at the head of a force that was 20,000 men strong.
…Then, on the morning of September 12th, 1683, almost a week after he should have stormed the walls, Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa turned to his right flank and noticed something he wasn’t really expecting.
King Jan Sobieski of Poland. And 76,000 Polish, German, Saxon, Bavarian, and Imperial troops riding hard behind him.
The Turks fought like heroes, adjusting to their flank attack and resisting with everything they had, but once again Kara Mustafa fucked them. Rather than redirect all 200,000 guys to repel the attack, he kept half his guys in the trenches facing the city and somehow thought he could hold back the largest cavalry charge in human history with only half his force.
It didn’t work. Racing down from the hills as hard as he could, Jan Sobieski led an epic attack of heavy European cavalry through the Wienerwald Forest (hahahahaha) and straight into the flank of the Turkish formation. The Turks battled bravely. They didn’t break right away. For several hours the infantry of the Turks, known for their hard fighting, battled like the kind of warriors who conquer kingdoms. But in the end, the mighty Poles were too much. Sobieski raced ahead, Hussar wings fluttering behind him, on a final charge that smashed through them, cut off their flank, sacked their baggage train and forced the Turks to flee. They withdrew in good order – their defeat had been decisive and total, but hadn’t inflicted an insane number of casualties.
Still, Sobieski rode into the gates of Vienna a hero. The Savior of Christendom. Because he totally was.
The guy has a whole long list of these articles, including one I can’t say I’m entirely down with myself; see if you can spot which it is. There are some that are sort of, um, unexpected, shall we say—like the Komodo Dragon, North Sentinel Island, and…Spock?!? All in all, though, it’s another deep well of entertaining and informative reading that I’ll spend a long time wading through as and when I can.