CASIMIR PULASKI (1747-1779) -Obviously from my last name I’m Polish-American and therefore grew up immersed in the role played by Casimir Pulaski and Tadeusz Kosciuszko in America’s War of Independence. I’m often surprised by how comparatively unknown they are to the public at large, so in keeping with Balladeer’s Blog’s theme here’s a look at Pulaski. I’ll cover Kosciuszko separately.
Casimir Pulaski began fighting against tyranny when he was 21 years old. In 1768 he served in the Bar Uprising against Russian domination of Poland. The uprising was facing overwhelming odds and was deemed hopeless, but it became a minor cause celebre around the western world as the fierce insurgents kept the war going through four long years.
The war never became as romanticized as the later Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Turks, but the conflict drew attention to Russian totalitarianism and to the abilities of Polish officers like Casimir Pulaski. In fact, it took an invasion by Russian-allied Austria and Prussia to help Russia put down the rebellion in 1772.
Pulaski and other Polish soldiers from the Bar Uprising flirted with an alliance with Turkey against the Russians but when the Ottomans made peace with Russia in 1774 that possibility was eliminated. By December of 1776 Casimir was living in Paris where, the following spring, he was introduced to Benjamin Franklin, one of the American Commissioners in France.
Franklin was impressed with what he could learn about Pulaski and sent him on to America with a letter of introduction to George Washington. Franklin described the Pole as “an officer famous throughout Europe for his bravery and conduct in defence of the liberties of his country against the three great invading powers of Russia, Austria and Prussia … may be highly useful to our service.”
Casimir told Washington “I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it.” During the summer of 1777 the 30-year-old Pole was made Chief of Cavalry by Congress. Continue reading