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Tadeusz Kosciuszko

[tad dA us kahs ih uhs' kO] Polish military engineer and freedom fighter

Tadeusz Kosciuszko

Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kosciuszko was born in Mereczowszczyno, Poland, on February 4, 1746. After completing his initial education at a school in Lubieszow, he attended the Cadet Academy in Warsaw. There, his engineering abilities attracted the notice of Prince Adam Casimir Czartoryski, who helped secure state funding for him to further his education in Germany, Italy and France. By the time he returned to Poland in 1774, he had earned a commission as Captain of Artillery.

While studying in Paris, Kosciuszko became interested in the American War for Independence. In 1776, he sailed to Philadelphia, where he offered his services to the Continental Congress. On October 18, he was commissioned Colonel of Engineers and assigned to General Nathanael Greene's army. He subsequently helped fortify Philadelphia and the Hudson River in New York, and also helped plan the defense of Saratoga. In 1778, he was made Chief Engineer of West Point, which ultimately became the U.S. Military Academy. After the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, Kosciuszko was rewarded by Congress with a promotion to Brigadier General, American citizenship, and a considerable pension with landed estates. General George Washington also thanked him, personally, and presented him with two pistols and a sword.

Upon returning to Poland in 1784, Kosciuszko helped organize the Polish Army and became a leader in Poland's fight for independence from French, Russian and Prussian control. In 1792, he led a division at the battles of Zielence and Dubienka. On March 23, 1794, he was given formal command of the Polish National Army; he was named de facto "dictator of Poland" the next day, in which capacity he vowed to work only for the liberation of Poland. Although his army enjoyed several victories over Russian and Prussian armies, it was ultimately defeated at Maciejowice on October 10, 1794. Kosciuszko was seriously wounded in the battle, and was carried off to Russia as a prisoner. He was finally released on December 16, 1796, after promising to never return to Poland.

After his release from Russian captivity, Kosciuszko returned to America, on August 17, 1797. He lived in a substantial house at 3rd and Pine in Philadelphia until May 1798, when he moved to Paris. In Paris, Kosciuszko tried to gain Polish independence through diplomatic means, but failed. All but ignored at the Congress of Vienna, he retired to Solothurn, Switzerland. He died there on October 15, 1817, and his remains were taken back to Krakow and buried among the tombs of Polish kings at Wawel Castle.

Polish American Center
Polish World

American Revolution
Nathanael Greene
U.S. Military Academy
George Washington

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The Robinson Library >> General and Old World History >> Eastern Europe >> Poland >> History

This page was last updated on October 14, 2017.