1900 drawing of Kazimierz Pulaski monument in Savannah, Georgia, USA
Kazimierz Michał Władysław Wiktor Pułaski of Ślepowron; March 4 or March 6, 1745 – October 11, 1779) was a Polish nobleman, soldier and military commander who has been called, together with his counterpart Michael Kovats de Fabriczy, "the father of the American cavalry".
Born in Warsaw and following in his father's footsteps, he became interested in politics at an early age. He soon became involved in the military and the revolutionary affairs in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Pulaski was one of the leading military commanders for the Bar Confederation and fought against the Commonwealth's Russian domination. When this uprising failed, he was driven into exile. Following a recommendation by Benjamin Franklin, Pulaski traveled to North America to help in the American Revolutionary War. He distinguished himself throughout the revolution, most notably when he saved the life of George Washington. Pulaski became a general in the Continental Army, and he and his friend, Michael Kovats, created the Pulaski Cavalry Legion and reformed the American cavalry as a whole. At the Battle of Savannah, while leading a cavalry charge against British forces, he was fatally wounded by grapeshot and died shortly after that.
Pulaski is remembered as a hero who fought for independence and freedom in Poland and the United States. Numerous places and events are named in his honor, and he is commemorated by many works of art. Pulaski is one of only eight people to be awarded honorary United States citizenship.
General Pulaski, by Polish artist Jan Styka
Franklin was impressed by Pulaski, and wrote of him: "Count Pulaski of Poland, an officer famous throughout Europe for his bravery and conduct in defense of the liberties of his country against the three great invading powers of Russia, Austria, and Prussia ... may be highly useful to our service."He subsequently recommended that General George Washington accept Pulaski as a volunteer in the Continental Army cavalry and said that Pulaski "was renowned throughout Europe for the courage and bravery he displayed in defense of his country's freedom." Pulaski departed France from Nantes in June, and arrived in Marblehead, Massachusetts, near Boston, on July 23, 1777. After his arrival, Pulaski wrote to Washington, "I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it."
On August 20, he met Washington in his headquarters in Neshaminy Falls, outside Philadelphia. He showed off riding stunts and argued for the superiority of cavalry over infantry. Because Washington was unable to grant him an officer rank, Pulaski spent the next few months traveling between Washington and the United States Congress in Philadelphia, awaiting his appointment. His first military engagement against the British occurred before he received it, on September 11, 1777, at the Battle of Brandywine. When the Continental Army troops began to yield, he reconnoitered with Washington's bodyguard of about 30 men, and reported that the
Statue of Pulaski at the Kazimierz Pułaski Museum in Warka, Poland.
Casimir Pulaski Monument in Savannah
Casimir Pulaski Monument in Savannah, or Pulaski Monument on Monterey Square, is a 19th-century monument to Casimir Pulaski, located in Monterey Square, on Bull Street, Savannah, Georgia, not far from the battlefield where Pulaski lost his life during the siege of Savannah.
Sources vary with regards to when the cornerstone for the monument was placed, with either 1825 (involving the presence of Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette) or 1853 being given. Coulter notes that the Lafayette cornerstone was originally located at Chippewa Square, but the funding proved insufficient to erect the monument at that time, and in 1853 it was moved to Monterey Square, where the monument would be erected. Construction of the monument at Monterey Square began after funding (approximately $17,000) was finally secured. The cornerstone was relaid on October 11, 1853 (anniversary of Pulaski's death). Nash notes it was unveiled in 1856; Knight, however, notes that the statue was dedicated on January 9, 1855. The monument is said, according to Knight, to have been "considered at the time one of the most elegant memorials in America." Alongside the monument, a body alleged to be Pulaski's was buried in it (recent genetic reexaminations of the body are conclusive that this was Pulaski).
Szczygielski notes that already on October 29, 1779 (Pulaski died on October 11 that year) the United States Congress passed a resolution that a monument should be dedicated to him. The Savannah monument, built over half a century later, was the first monument dedicated to Pulaski in the United States.
Work on restoration of the monument began in 1995.
The monument is made from Italian marble, with smaller elements of granite. It is 55 feet (17 m) tall. The monument has a bronze bas relief of mounted Pulaski and is topped with a Statue of Liberty, with the stars and stripes banner. The monument was designed by Robert Launitz. The bas relief was designed by Henryk Dmochowski and shows the moment of Pulaski's death. Additional elements present on the monument include the coat of arms of Poland and the coat of arms of Georgia. Inscription on the monument reads: "Pulaski, the Heroic Pole, who fell mortally wounded, fighting for American Liberty at the siege of Savannah, October 9, 1779."
Pulaski was born on March 6, 1745, in the manor house of the Pułaski family in Warsaw, Poland. Casimir was the second eldest son of Marianna Zielińska and Józef Pułaski, who was an advocatus at the Crown Tribunal, the Starost of Warka, and one of the town's most notable inhabitants. He was a brother of Franciszek Ksawery Pułaski and Antoni Pułaski. His family bore the Ślepowron coat of arms. The Pułaski family was Roman Catholic and early in his youth, Casimir Pulaski attended an elite college run by Theatines, a male religious order of the Catholic Church in Warsaw, but did not finish his education.
There is some circumstantial evidence that Pulaski was a Freemason. When Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette laid the cornerstone of the monument erected in Pulaski's honor in Savannah in 1824, a full Masonic ceremony took place with Richard T. Turner, High Priest of the Georgia chapter, conducting the service. Other sources claim Pulaski was a member of the Masonic Army Lodge in Maryland. A Masonic Lodge in Chicago is named Casimir Pulaski Lodge, No.1167, and a brochure issued by the claims he obtained the degree of Master Mason on June 19, 1779, and was buried with full Masonic honors. To date, no surviving documents of Pulaski's actual membership have been found.
In the United States
enemy was endeavoring to cut off the line of retreat. Washington ordered him to collect, as many as possible, the scattered troops who came his way, and employ them according to his discretion to secure the retreat of the army. His subsequent charge averted a disastrous defeat of the Continental Army cavalry, earning him fame in America and saved the life of George Washington. As a result, on September 15, 1777, on the orders of Congress, Washing-
winter, but this idea was rejected by the general staff. In turn, he focused on reorganizing the cavalry force, mostly stationed in Trenton. While at Trenton his assistance was requested by General Anthony Wayne, whom Washington had dispatched on a foraging expedition into southern New Jersey. Wayne was in danger of encountering a much larger British force sent to oppose his movements. Pulaski and 50 cavalry rode south to Burlington, where they skirmished with British sentries on February 28. After this minor encounter the British commander, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Stirling, was apparently convinced that he was facing a much larger force than expected and prepared to withdraw his troops across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania at Cooper's Ferry (present-day Gloucester City). Pulaski and Wayne joined forces to attack Stirling's position on February 29 while he awaited suitable weather conditions to cross. In the resulting skirmish (which only involved a few hundred men out of the larger forces on either side), Pulaski's horse was shot out from under him and a few of his cavalry were wounded.
American officers serving under Pulaski had difficulty taking orders from a foreigner who could scarcely speak English and whose ideas of discipline and tactics differed enormously from those to which they were accustomed. This resulted in friction between the Americans and Pulaski and his fellow Polish officers. There was also discontent in the unit over delays in pay, and Pulaski's imperious personality was a regular source of discontent among his peers, superiors, and subordinates. Pulaski was also unhappy that his suggestion to create a lancer unit was denied. Despite a commendation from Wayne, these circumstances prompted Pulaski to resign his general command in March 1778, and return to Valley Forge.
Pulaski went to Yorktown, where he met with General Horatio Gates and suggested the creation of a new unit. At Gates' recommendation, Congress confirmed his previous appointment to the rank of a brigadier general, with a special title of "Commander of the Horse", and authorized the formation of a corps of 68 lancers and 200 light infantry. This corps, which became known as the Pulaski Cavalry Legion, was recruited mainly in Baltimore, where it was headquartered. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow would later commemorate in verse the consecration of the Legion's banner. By August 1778, it numbered about 330 men, both Americans, and foreigners. British major general Charles Lee commented on the high standards of the Legion's training. 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. However, later that year a controversy arose related to the Legion's finances, and its requisitions from the local populace. His troubles with the auditors continued until his death; Pulaski complained that he received inadequate funds, was obstructed by locals and officials, and was forced to spend his own money. He was not cleared of these charges until after his death.
In the autumn Pulaski was ordered to Little Egg Harbor, wherein the engagement on October 15, known as The Affair at Little Egg Harbor, the legion suffered heavy losses. During the following winter, Pulaski was stationed at Minisink, at that time in New Jersey. Ordered to take part in the punitive Sullivan Expedition against the Iroquois, he was dissatisfied with this command and intended to leave the service and return to Europe, but instead asked to be reassigned to the Southern front. On February 2, 1779, Washington instead ordered him to South Carolina.
Pulaski arrived in Charleston on May 8, 1779, finding the city in crisis. General Benjamin Lincoln, commander of the southern army, had led most of the army toward Augusta, Georgia, in a bid to recapture Savannah, which had been captured by the British in late 1778. The British commander, Brigadier General Augustine Prevost, responded to Lincoln's move by launching a raiding expedition from Savannah across the Savannah River. The South Carolina militia fell back before the British advance, and Prevost's force followed them all the way to Charleston. Pulaski arrived just as military leaders were establishing the city's defenses. When the British advanced on May 11, Pulaski's Legion engaged forward elements of the British force and was badly mauled in the encounter. The Legion infantry, numbering only about 60 men before the skirmish, was virtually wiped out, and Pulaski was forced to retreat to the safety of the city's guns. Although some historians credit this action with Prevost's decision to withdraw back toward Savannah the next day (despite ongoing negotiations of a possible surrender of Charleston), that decision is more likely based on news Prevost received that Lincoln's larger force was returning to Charleston to face him and that Prevost's troops had gone further than he had originally intended. One early historian criticized Pulaski's actions during that engagement as "ill-judged, ill-conducted, disgraceful and disastrous". The episode was of minor strategic consequence and did little to enhance the reputation of Pulaski's unit.
Although Pulaski frequently suffered from malaria while stationed in Charleston, he remained in active service. At the beginning of September Lincoln prepared to launch an attempt to retake Savannah with French assistance. Pulaski was ordered to Augusta, where he was to join forces with General Lachlan McIntosh.Their combined forces were to serve as the forward elements of Lincoln's army. Pulaski captured a British outpost near the Ogeechee River. His units then acted as an advance guard for the allied French units under Admiral Charles Hector, Comte d'Estaing. He rendered great services during the siege of Savannah, and in the assault of October 9 commanded the whole cavalry, both French and American.
Death and burial
While attempting to rally fleeing French forces during a cavalry charge, Pulaski was mortally wounded by grapeshot. The reported grapeshot is on display at the Georgia Historical Society in Savannah. The Charleston Museum also has grapeshot reported to be from Pulaski's wound. Pulaski was carried from the field of battle and taken aboard the South Carolina merchant brig privateer Wasp, under the command of Captain Samuel Bulfinch, where he died two days later, having never regained consciousness. His heroic death, admired by American Patriot supporters, further boosted his reputation in America.
Pulaski never married and had no descendants. Despite his fame, there have long been uncertainties and controversies surrounding both his place and date of birth and his burial. Many primary sources record a burial at sea. The historical accounts for Pulaski's time and place of burial vary considerably. According to several contemporary accounts, there were witnesses, including Pulaski's aide-de-camp, that Pulaski received a symbolic burial in Charleston on October 21, sometime after he was buried at sea. Other witnesses, including Captain Samuel Bulfinch of the Wasp, however, claimed that the wounded Pulaski was actually later removed from the ship and taken to the Greenwich plantation in the town of Thunderbolt, near Savannah, where he died and was buried.
In March 1825, during his grand tour of the United States, Lafayette personally laid the cornerstone for the Casimir Pulaski Monument in Savannah, Georgia.
Pulaski mortally wounded by grapeshot while leading cavalry charge
Monument in Baltimore, Maryland
ton made Pulaski a brigadier general in the Continental Army cavalry. At that point, the cavalry was only a few hundred men strong organized into four regiments. These men were scattered among numerous infantry formations and used primarily for scouting duties. Pulaski immediately began work on reforming the cavalry and wrote the first regulations for the formation.
On September 16, while on patrol west of Philadelphia, Pulaski spotted significant British forces moving toward the Continental position. Upon being informed by Pulaski, Washington prepared for a battle, but the encounter was interrupted by a major storm before either side was organized. On October 4, Pulaski took part in the Battle of Germantown. He spent the winter of 1777 to 1778 with most of the army at Valley Forge. Pulaski argued that the military operations should continue through the
United States postage stamp featuring General Casimir Pulaski. Issue of 1931, 2 cents
Fort Pulaski National Monument is located on Cockspur Island between Savannah and Tybee Island, Georgia.
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