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Kazimierz Pułaski

Kazimierz Pułaski by Jan Styka
Born March 6, 1745
Died October 11, 1779 (age 34)
Occupation general, politician

Kazimierz Pułaski (Polish pronunciation: [kaˈʑimʲɛʂ puˈwaski]  ( listen); full name: Kazimierz Michał Wacław Wiktor Pułaski) of Clan Ślepowron, often written Casimir Pulaski in English (March 6, 1745[1] – October 11, 1779), was a Polish soldier, member of the Polish nobility and politician who has been called "the father of American cavalry".[2][3]

A member of the Polish landed nobility, he was a military commander for the Bar Confederation and fought against Russian domination of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. When this uprising failed, he emigrated to North America as a soldier of fortune. During the American Revolutionary War, he saved the life of George Washington[4] and became a general in the Continental Army. He died of wounds suffered in the Battle of Savannah.




In Poland

Pułaski at Częstochowa, an 1875 painting by Józef Chełmoński

Pułaski was born on March 6, 1745 (some sources cite March 4) in Warsaw [5]. His father, Józef Pułaski, was the Starost of the area and one of its most notable inhabitants. Early in his youth, Kazimierz Pułaski was sent to Warsaw, where he studied at the local college of Theatines.

In 1762, he started his career as a page of Carl Christian Joseph of Saxony, Duke of Courland, and a vassal of the Polish king. However, soon after his arrival at Mitau, the ducal court was expelled from the palaces by the Russian forces occupying the area. Pułaski returned to Warsaw, where in 1764, he took part in the election of the new Polish monarch, Stanisław II August.

A skilled military commander and a son of one of the notable families, Pułaski became one of the co-founders of the Bar Confederation, together with his father, on February 29, 1768. The confederation, aiming to curtail Russian hegemony over the Commonwealth, was actively opposed by the Russian forces stationed in Poland. As the Marshal of Nobility of the Land of Łomża, Pułaski became one of the best commanders of the confederate forces. That year, he was besieged in a monastery in Berdyczów, which he defended for two weeks against overwhelming odds. Taken captive by the Russians, he was set free after being forced to pledge that he would not return to the confederates.

However, he did not consider such a forced pledge binding and fought against the Russian forces for four more years. In 1769, he was again besieged by numerically superior forces, this time in the old fortress of Okopy Świętej Trójcy. However, after a brave defense, he was able to break through the Russian siege and lead his men to the Ottoman Empire, from whence they returned to Lithuania. There, Pułaski incited yet another revolt against Russia, with many local nobles joining the Confederation.

Between September 10, 1770, and January 9, 1771, Pułaski also commanded the Polish forces in the siege of Jasna Góra monastery, which he successfully defended. In November 1771, he was also the main organizer of an attempt to take the king hostage. However, the attempt failed, and the Confederation was disbanded soon afterwards. Pułaski was made a public enemy and sentenced to death in absentia for attempted regicide. He fled the country, but no European state would accept him. After a brief stay in Turkey, he moved illegally to France, where he was recruited by Lafayette for service in America.

In the United States

Benjamin Franklin recommended that General George Washington accept Kazimierz Pułaski as a volunteer in the American cavalry and said that Pulaski "was renowned throughout Europe for the courage and bravery he displayed in defense of his country's freedom."[6] After arriving in America, Kazimierz Pulaski wrote to General Washington, "I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it."[6]

His first military engagement against the British was on September 11, 1777, at the Battle of Brandywine. His courageous charge averted a disastrous defeat of the American cavalry and saved the life of George Washington.[7] As a result, on September 15, 1777, George Washington promoted Pułaski to the rank of brigadier general of the American cavalry.[6] His imperious personality and lack of English caused him to resign his general command, but he was allowed to organize an independent corps,[8] the Pulaski Cavalry Legion, one of the few cavalry regiments in the American Continental Army.

Later in 1778, through Washington's intervention, Congress approved the establishment of the cavalry and put Pulaski at its head. The "father of the American cavalry" demanded much of his men and trained them in tested cavalry tactics. He used his own personal finances when money from Congress was scarce, in order to assure his forces of the finest equipment and personal safety.[9] Congress named him "Commander of the Horse".

In February 1779, the legion ejected the British occupiers from Charleston, South Carolina.[6] In October 1779, Pułaski mounted an assault against British forces during the Battle of Savannah in Georgia.[6] On October 9, Pułaski—during a cavalry charge, while probing for a weak point in the British lines—was wounded by grapeshot. He was carried from the field by several comrades, including Col. John C. Cooper, and taken aboard the privateer merchant brigantine Wasp. Two days later, without having regained consciousness, he died of his wounds.[6]

According to several contemporary witnesses, including Pułaski's aide-de-camp, he was buried at sea. A long-standing rumor, however, has it that the wounded Pułaski was actually taken to Greenwich plantation near Savannah, Georgia, where he died and was buried. In 2004, an eight-year examination of remains buried at the plantation ended inconclusively. According to Find a Grave, he is buried in Monterey Square, Savannah, Georgia.


One of the first tributes to Pułaski was paid when George Washington on November 17, 1779, issued a challenge-and-password set for identifying friend and foe when crossing military lines: "Query: Pulaski, response: Poland".

The United States has long commemorated Pułaski's contributions to the American War of Independence, but Polish immigration in the 20th century accelerated the interest. In 1929, Congress passed a resolution recognizing October 11 of each year as "General Pulaski Memorial Day",[6] dedicated to Pułaski's memory and to the heritage of Polish-Americans. Each October Grand Rapids, Michigan, celebrates ([4]) "Pulaski Days". There is also a statue of Pułaski in Detroit, Michigan, in the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Michigan Avenue.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky has by law, since before 1942, recognized General Pulaski's Day. The State of Illinois has since 1977 celebrated Casimir Pulaski Day on the first Monday of March, doubtlessly due to the large Polish population of Chicago. Pulaski Day is treated as a full holiday and all government buildings are closed. School districts have the option of taking Pulaski Day as a holiday. Wisconsin and Indiana extend similar recognition, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, also holds an annual parade and school holiday. On this day there is a Pulaski Day parade on Fifth Avenue in New York City.[10]

America paid a special millennial tribute to Pulaski in the year 2000 involving a large party in Chicago's Grant Park. The party included live DJ Food and a varied dance setlist—including artists such as Two Hours Traffic alongside Snoop Dogg and Moby—followed by a multimedia presentation on Pulaski's life and accomplishments set to orchestral music performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and especially composed for the occasion by Yanni.

"Pulaski Park" sits on Main Street between City Hall and the historic Academy of Music Theater, in the town of Northampton, Massachusetts. Northampton and the surrounding area is home to many Polish American immigrants and their descendants.

"Casimir Pulaski Memorial Park" is located in Chepachet, Rhode Island. Located within the 4,000 acre George Washington Management Area, the 100 acre Casimir Pulaski Park features the 13 acre Peck Pond, hiking and cross-country skiing, and general recreation facilities.

The (General) Pulaski Skyway, a 3.5-mile series of bridges between Jersey City and Newark that connects to the Holland Tunnel, opened in 1932 in his honor. Interstate 93 in Boston has a Pulaski Skyway as well.

The Pulaski Bridge connects the neighborhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn, one of the largest Polonias in America, to Long Island City, Queens.

The American Civil War Fort Pulaski National Monument is named in honor of Kazimierz Pułaski.

A US Navy submarine, USS Casimir Pulaski, has been named for him, as was a 19th-century Revenue Marine (Coast Guard) cutter.[11]

Pulaski Memorial in Patterson Park, Baltimore, Maryland

Several cities and counties in US states are named after Pulaski, including the city of Pulaski, Tennessee, counties in Arkansas (of which Arkansas' state capital is the county seat), Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and Virginia, as well as villages in Wisconsin and New York. There are also Casimir Pulaski elementary schools in Chicago, Illinois, Detroit, Michigan, New Bedford, Massachusetts, Wilmington, Delaware, and Meriden, Connecticut, Pulaski High School in Milwaukee, Pulaski Middle School (formerly Pulaski Senior High School) in New Britain, Connecticut and an industrial park is named for him in nearby Wallingford, Connecticut. Within the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia, Pulaski House is the name for a student residential building. Additionally, there is Pulaski Square in downtown Savannah and Fort Pulaski National Monument outside Savannah. In McGlachlin Park, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, stands a statue of Count Casimir Pulaski. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, there is a Pulaski Days Festival the first weekend of October, including a parade and celebration at local Polish Halls honoring his contribution to the Revolutionary War. There is a small park named in his honor in Northampton, Massachusetts and in South Bend, Indiana. Streets named for Pulaski, in various cities including Riverhead, New York, Hamtramck, Michigan, South Bend, Indiana, Columbia, South Carolina and the Chicago area. Interstate 65 through Lake County, Indiana is designated as Casimir Pulaski Memorial Highway.[12] U.S. Route 40 from Midvale, Delaware, to Baltimore, Maryland, is named Pulaski Highway, and the latter city's Patterson Park contains a monument in honor of him.

Statue at the Kazimierz Pułaski Museum in Warka, Poland.

There is a technical university in Poland known as Kazimierz Pułaski Technical University of Radom.

Although there are several disputed birth and baptismal records, Kazimierz Pułaski's birth is honored in Warka, Poland, by the Kazimierz Pułaski Museum, which opened in 1967. The museum occupies the manor house which Pułaski's family lived in during the 1760s, and includes rooms dedicated to his activities in Poland and the USA. It also includes rooms dedicated to Polish-American emigration and contributions of Polish émigrés to American culture and history.

After a previous attempt failed,[13] the United States Congress passed a joint resolution conferring honorary U.S. citizenship on Pulaski in 2009, sending it to the President for approval.[14] President Obama signed the bill on November 6, 2009, making Pulaski the seventh person so honored.[15]

In Hammond, IN got a park named in his honor on the north part of Hammond which is 2 blocks square between Sheffield Ave & Grover Ave & Between 137th St. & 139th St.


  1. ^ Father Stanislaw Makarewicz (1998), "The Four Birth Records of Kazimierz Pulaski", Archiwa, Biblioteki i Muzea Koscielne (The Catholic University of Lublin (KUL)) 70,, retrieved 2009-03-04  
  2. ^ Casimir Pulaski Day, the Office of Civil Rights and Diversity at Eastern Illinois University. Leszek Szymański, Casimir Pulaski: A Hero of the American Revolution, E207.P8 S97 1994.
  3. ^ From Da to Yes, Yale Richmond, p. 72
  4. ^ U.S. Senate Passes Resolution Granting Honorary Posthumous Citizenship to Casimir Pulaski [1][2]
  5. ^ The Four Birth Records of Kazimierz Pulaski (pol. Cztery metryki Kazimierza Pułaskiego) Stanisław Makarewicz
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Resolution of 111th [Congress]: 1st Session; S. J. RES. 12 Proclaiming Casimir Pulaski to be an honorary citizen of the United States
  7. ^ Kazimierz Pulaski Granted U.S. Citizenship Posthumously (11 March 2009) - U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Warsaw, Poland. Retrieved 2010-01-16.  
  8. ^ pp. 876-877, Presidential Studies Quarterly Vol. XXIV No. 4 Fall 1994
  9. ^ Seidner, Stanley S (1976). In Quest of a Cultural Identity: An Inquiry for the Polish Community. New York: IUME, Teachers College, Columbia University. Retrieved 2009-10-14.  
  10. ^ [3]
  11. ^ Pulaski, 1825; U.S. Coast Guard
  12. ^
  13. ^ S.J.Res. 5
  14. ^ H.J.Res. 26
  15. ^ Mann, William C. (2009-11-06). "Revolutionary War hero becomes honorary US citizen". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-11-06.  

See also

  • Pulaski, for a list of things and places named Pulaski
  • Tadeusz Kościuszko (Anglicized as "Thaddeus Kosciusko"), another Polish commander in the American Revolutionary War

External links


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