The chief of the Cossacks of the Don used to be so called. He was elected by the people, and the mode of choice was thus: The voters threw their fur caps at the candidate they voted for, and he who had the largest number of caps at his feet was the successful candidate. The last Hetman was Count Platoff (1812-1814).
A general or commander-in-chief. (German, hauptmann, chief man.)
“After the peace, all Europe hailed their hetman, Platoff, as the hero of the war.” —J. S. Mosby: War Reminiscences, chap. xi. p. 146.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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