Tadeusz Kosciuszko


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Kościuszko, Tadeusz

 

Born Feb. 4, 1746, in the village of Mereczowszczyzna in Volyn’; died Oct. 15, 1817, in Solothurn, Switzerland. Polish political figure and army officer.

The son of a well-to-do landowner, Kosciuszko attended the school of the Piarists monastic order in Lubieszów from 1755 to 1760 and the Knights’ School in Warsaw from 1765 to 1769. He continued his education in Paris, studying at the military academy on a royal stipend from 1769 to 1774, when he returned to Poland. The next year he left for the United States, where he took part in the North American War for Independence (1775-83), serving first as a colonel and later as a brigadier general. The colonists’ first major victory, at Saratoga (1777), was achieved largely through his efforts.

In 1784, Kosciuszko returned to Poland. He did not obtain a command in the Polish army because of his open espousal of freedom and his anger at the antinationalist policies of the magnates. Only at the end of 1789, with the promulgation of progressive reforms at the Four Year Sejm (1788-92), was he appointed commander of a brigade with the rank of major general. He introduced instruction in coordinated operations among various types of military units, employing the latest tactics. He participated in the campaign against the reactionary Confederation of Targowica (1792). After the Polish government capitulated to the confederation he retired to Saxony and became a leader of the patriotic Polish forces preparing to struggle for the country’s restoration. In 1793 he visited Paris, unsuccessfully seeking the support of revolutionary France.

On Mar. 24, 1794, Kosciuszko proclaimed the Polish uprising in Kraków and was made commander in chief of the national armies. Under his command the insurgents defeated a tsarist force at Raclawice on April 4, ensuring the spread of the uprising. He sought to make the revolt a democratic uprising of all the people. On May 7, 1794, he issued the Polaniec Manifesto, promising the peasantry personal freedom and a reduction in feudal rent. On October 10 he was seriously wounded and captured by tsarist forces in a battle near Maciejowice and was afterward imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress.

In 1796, together with 12,000 other Polish prisoners, Kościuszko was freed by Emperor Pavel I. He went first to the United States and later, in 1798, to Paris. Remaining true to his republican and democratic principles, he refused to accept the command of the Polish Legions, which the counterrevolutionary French Directory hoped to use for its own ends. He also rejected offers of cooperation from Napoleon I (1806) and Alexander I (1814-15). Kościuszko’s plans for the Polish struggle for in-dependence, outlined in the pamphlet Can the Poles Achieve Independence? written by his secretary J. Pawlikowski in 1800, reveal his faith in the Polish people’s capacity to struggle for freedom and independence.

Kościuszko died in Switzerland, where he spent his last years, and his remains were taken to the Wawel in Kraków. The 1st Infantry Division of the Polish Army, organized in 1943 in the USSR, was named in his honor. There are monuments to Košciuszko in many cities in Poland and the United States, and the highest mountain in Australia is named after him.

WORKS

Pisma. Warsaw, 1947.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. proizv. progressivnykh pol’skikh myslitelei, vol. 1. Moscow, 1956. Pages 495-584.

REFERENCES

Korzon, T. Kościuszko, 2nd ed. Kraków.
Werfel, R. Tadeusz Kościuszko, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1944.

I. S. MILLER

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