Casimir Pulaski

Casimir Pulaski (1747-1779), Polish patriot and American Revolutionary War hero, fought unsuccessfully against foreign control of his native Poland and then journeyed to America to fight in the American Revolution.

Born in Podolia, Casimir Pulaski was the eldest son of Count Joseph Pulaski. After brief service in the guard of Duke Charles of Courland (now a part of Latvia), Pulaski returned home to Poland. In 1768 he joined forces with the Confederation of Bar, a movement founded by his father, in a revolt against Russian domination of Poland. The confederation, however, proved to be too small to be victorious and was decisively defeated. Pulaski's estates having been confiscated, in 1772 at the time of the first partition of Poland he fled to Turkey. Here he remained for several years in a vain attempt to provoke the Turks into an attack on Russia. Finally, penniless and destitute, he left for Paris to seek other employment.

In the spring of 1775, as the American Revolution was beginning, the American commissioners to France gave Pulaski money to make the voyage to Boston. He arrived there armed with a letter of introduction to Gen. George Washington. Shortly after a meeting with Washington in August of that same year, Pulaski became a volunteer member of the general's staff. Distinguishing himself at the Battle of the Brandywine in September, he was consequently given command of a newly created cavalry troop in Washington's army. During the winter of 1777 he and his men served at Trenton, at Flemington, and at Valley Forge, where Pulaski shared responsibility with Gen. Anthony Wayne for the provisioning of the starving Americans. But difficulties with Wayne and some of the junior officers caused Pulaski to resign his command in March 1778.

As a result, later that same month the Continental Congress, on the advice of Washington, authorized Pulaski to raise an independent cavalry corp in the Baltimore, Md., area. Anxious for an active command, he was sent to Egg Harbor, N.J., to protect supplies there but was badly mauled by a surprise British attack on Oct. 15, 1778. He was next dispatched to defend Minisink on the Delaware River from further attacks by Native Americans. The command was too tame for Pulaski's liking, however, and 3 months later he obtained orders to join in the siege of Charleston. He reached that city on May 8 and promptly directed a headlong attack on advancing British forces. Badly defeated there, Pulaski sought vainly to redeem himself. Five months later while leading another heroic charge, this time during the siege of Savannah, he was mortally wounded. He died on board the American ship Wasp, probably on Oct. 11, 1779.


Further Reading on Casimir Pulaski

Two biographical studies in English of Pulaski are Clarence A. Manning, Soldier of Liberty (1945), and Wladyslaw Konopczynski, Casimir Pulaski (trans. 1947).

Additional Biography Sources

Jamro, R. D., Pulaski, a portrait of freedom, S.l.: s.n., 1981?.

Kopczewski, Jan Stanisaw, Casimir Pulaski, Warsaw: Interpress, 1980.

Szymanski, Leszek, Casimir Pulaski: a hero of the American Revolution, New York: Hippocrene Books, 1994.

Szymanski, Leszek, Kazimierz Pulaski in America: a monograph, 1777-1779, San Bernardino, Calif.: Borgo Press, 1986, 1979.