Tadeusz Andrzej Bonawentura Kościuszko

Pomnik Kościuszki na Wawelu w Krakowie

General of the U.S. and Polish armies, Commander-in-Chief in 1794. Born in the village of Merechevschina which then lay in the Polesie region, received education in a Piarist school. In 1865 he enrolled in the Corps of Cadets. In 1769, having obtained the rank of captain, he left the country and continued his education in France. He returned in 1774. His squabble with a brother, unrequited love and lack of hope for military service made him decide to leave Poland for France and at the beginning of June 1776 he embarked on a ship bound for America. In October 1776 Tadeusz Kościuszko was appointed engineer of the American army. He worked on the fortification of Philadelphia and built field forts along the Hudson River. He contributed to the capitulation of the British army under General Burgoyne in Saratoga. In the years 1778-1780 he fortified West Point. Four years later he returned to the country. It was not until 1789 that he obtained the function of a general in the Crown's army. He commanded a division in the 1792 war with Russia. He distinguished himself in the battle of Dubienka. His heroism brought him the golden medal of Virtuti Militari. After the armistice and the king's accession to the Targowica Confederation he left the army. He enjoyed indubitable authority among the plotters who prepared the future uprising against Russia. On 24th March 1794, at the Cracow's Main Square, in front of a great gathering of people, he swore an oath to the Polish Nation. In the battle of Racławice fought against Russians on 4th April, the victory of the Polish army was decided by the column of scythe-bearers led by Kościuszko. At the beginning of June the insurgents had to face the Prussian army. In the battle of Szczekociny, Poland fought a losing effort to the numerically superior Russian and Prussian forces, which were twice the size of the Polish force. From the end of July onward Kościuszko was defending Warsaw against the aggressors. The successful defence of the capital – during which on 28th August Kościuszko himself led the Warsaw municipal militia to battle – was the general's greatest military and political success. Not wanting to allow the union of two Russian armies, Kościuszko engaged the battle of Maciejowice on 10th September. It ended in a failure. The wounded Commander-in-Chief was held captive by the Russians. Transferred to Saint Petersburg and imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress, he lived to see the death of Catherine the Great. Paul I visited Kościuszko in prison. After his release he spent the remaining years of his life in Solothurn, Switzerland.

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