Wargaming Machines
A Site for Computer-Assisted Historical Miniatures Wargames


Nominee 1: Countess Emilia Plater

The Countess Emilia Plater was a heroine of the November Uprising in partitioned Poland-Lithuania in 1830. She first raised her own force of several hundred volunteers, including infantry, cavalry, and the famous scythe-armed militia (kosynierzy) of Polish tradition, fighting against their Imperial Russian oppressors. She later was promoted to captain, commanding the first company of the Polish–Lithuanian 25th Infantry Regiment. She participated in several battles, eventually dying of illness in Prussia, where she had voluntarily journeyed, knowing that she would be interned. She sacrificed all of her material wealth to the cause, her estates being siezed by the Russians. Here she is with her scythemen:

The Polish were defeated at the battle of Šiauliai, in which she fought, as depicted in the painting below, skirmishing with some cossacks while uhlans come up in support. Note that she is again wearing skirts and riding side-saddle while she blows away one of her foes with a pistol. She no longer has the low czapka common in mid-19th Century conflicts (or is it a rogatywka? I am no expert in these matters...).

She fought in a uniform of her own design, at least initially, and her attire appears to be consistent across all of the depictions here. As shown in the anonymous print below, she wears a tunic with the Hungarian-style button loops so often seen in eastern Europe during the various conflicts there. If the painting can be believed, this would have been in a dark blue (or black?), as would her skirt, with (presumably) black braid for the button loops. Belting is clearly black.

She has become a symbol of Polish national sentiment, and has appeared on commemorative coins and on the Polish 20- and 50-zloty notes. There is a statue of her in Lithuania where she is buried (although depicted wearing trousers and a standard military coatee, perhaps the uniform of the 25th Infantry). I thought there was an Osprey MAA book on the uniforms of the Polish-Lithuanian forces, but I can't find it on Google, so it must not exist. I know the topic has been raised on the Osprey forums in the past.

This is not a conflict I'd really thought about much, but it looks like a good candidate for tabletop play. I am not the only person to think so - Chris Pringle of Bloody Big Battles has posted something about it on his blog. Note that the line of figures he mentions by Steve Barber Models is now a reality, not just a rumor, with 28mm figures for both Poland and Russia. There were several large battles, and the uniforms are - as is so often the case with the Poles - very colorful. It also looks like a great candidate for figure conversions: many troops seem to be Napoleonic in style, with the scythemen made from Russian peasants or Prussian militia in flat caps and trenchcoats, etc. As you can see in the illustration below, depicting part of the 1830 conflict in the Poznan partition, the Polish uhlans were still wearing their Napoleonic-era kit.

As for Countess Emilia Plater herself, the closest I can find to a good miniature representation is Hinterland's Princess Tatiana. Not a good match, I'm afraid, but a conversion would still be possible.

So, my thanks to Countess Emilia Plater! For me, at least, she has inspired thoughts of wargaming a fascinating conflict which had previously gone ignored.

Copyright (c) 2018 by Arofan Gregory. All rights reserved.