Thaddeus Kosciusko

(Tadeusz Kosciuszko)


A soldier and a revolutionary, Thaddeus Kosciusko is an important figure of both Polish and American liberty. Although he did not succeed in liberating Poland from Prussia and Russia, he was an important figure in the American Revolution, and contributed much towards American liberty. Born a member of impoverished nobility, Kosciusko found learning wherever he could. Although he had to leave school when his father died, he enrolled in the Polish Cadet Corps, and earned the rank of Lieutenant. He left Poland when a revolution broke out; his brother was fighting on the side of the revolutionaries, and Kosciusko did not want to have to fight and kill his own siblings.

He came to Paris, and attempted to continue his education. Denied admittance to the French Military Academy, he instead audited the lectures (attended them for no credit), and pursued art and architecture at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. When the American Revolution broke out, Kosciusko headed for America, where he served seven years in the engineering corps of the Continental Army.

His return to Europe was less successful. The Revolution that bears his name failed in its purpose, and Poland was partitioned between Russia and Prussia once more. Kosciusko was imprisoned and then exiled, for his revolutionary tendencies. Ultimately, Kosciusko was to fail the cause that was closest to his heart; that of freeing Poland from Russian rule. He died in Switzerland, after a failed attempt to emancipate the peasantry on his remaining Polish properties.

Key events during the life of Thaddeus Kosciusko:

Born in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (modern-day Belarus)
Enrolled in school, but did not finish due to family's financial troubles caused by father's death.
Death of father, leaves school.
Joins Corp of Cadets, trained as military officer. Graduated the year after, promoted to Lieutenant.
Stays on at the Corp as instructor, gains rank of Captain.
Civil war in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Kosciusko leaves rather than fight against his brother.
Leaves Poland for Paris; attempts to enroll in French Military Academy but is denied because he is not French. Instead enrolls at Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture.
Audits courses at Military Academy, developes artistic talents.
Russia and Prussia annex large parts of Poland.
Returns home; not enough money to purchase Army commission. Recieves post as tutor.
Attempts to elope with employer's daughter, caught and beaten.
Emigrates to Paris, learns of American Revolution.
June, leaves for America. Initially served as volunteer under Benjamin Franklin. Congress later appoints him colonel of engineers in the Continental Army.
Serves in American Continental Army under several different commanders.
Returns to Poland.
Recieves Royal commission as general in the Polish army.
Russia invades Poland, begins Russian-Polish War. Polish king surrendurs; Russian victory.
Leaves Poland; Russians plan to arrest him if he returns to territory under their control.
Plans begin for Polish uprising, goes to Paris to attempt to get support. Prussia and Russia sign Second Partition of Poland.
Kosciusko Uprising. Russians set a bounty on his head; 'dead or alive'.
Captured and imprisoned in Peter and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg. Uprising ends at Battle of Praga. Third Partition of Poland.
Death of Catherine the Great, released from prison on condition he sign oath of loyalty to Russia. Paul I gifts him with 12,000 rubles.
Leaves again for America.
Attempts to renounce oath of loyalty to Russia and return Paul I's money.
Leaves for France with assistance of Thomas Jefferson. Returns to Europe to again take up cause of Polish nationalism. Does not get along with Napoleon.
Meets with Tsar Alexander I, who offers him rule of new, Russia-allied Polish state. Kosciusko declines.
Attempts to emancipate all peasants on his lands in Poland but is blocked by Alexander I. Dies in Solothurn, aged 71.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Thaddeus Kosciusko  in  Famous Men of Modern Times  by  John H. Haaren
Kosciusko and the Fall of Poland  in  Historical Tales: Russian  by  Charles Morris

Image Links

 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Kosciusko at Raclawice
 in Famous Men of Modern Times

Short Biography
Catherine the Great German Princess who was proclaimed Empress after the murder of her husband Peter III. Favored modernization and progressive policies.
Thomas Jefferson Third President. Author of the Declaration of Independence. Founder of Democrat-Republican Party.
Benjamin Franklin Statesman, publisher, inventor, and non-conformist. Founding father, and benefactor of Philadelphia.
General Burgoyne British leader who surrendered with 6000 men to American forces at Saratoga.
George Washington Leader of the Continental Army of the U.S. during the Revolutionary War, and first President.
Benedict Arnold Hero of the Revolutionary War, but tragically turned traitor. He escaped to the British before discovery.
Horatio Gates Leading Patriot General during the Revolutionary war. Credited with winning the Battle of Saratoga.
Alexander I Leader of Russia during the Napoleonic Wars.
Napoleon Victorious general who rose to power during the French Revolution. Crowned himself Emperor and restored France to greatness.