Thursday, July 27, 2017


Kazimierz Michał Władysław Wiktor Pułaski,
Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko,
Michael Kováts de Fabriczy,
Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette,
Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand von Steuben
(Left to right, top to bottom Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
Today I want to talk about five heroes of the American Revolution. Maybe you've heard of them, maybe you haven't. Two Poles, a Hungarian, one Frenchman, and a Prussian. One could make the argument that if these five fellows hadn't shown up on our shores, we might have remained part of the British Empire, however grudgingly for a tad longer than we did. In face, we may have gone the way of Canada. Eventually sovereign, part of the British Commonwealth, and perhaps with lingering memories of a bloody revolution which failed.

But those five guys did show up and today I want to tell you a little about them.

Now this country was built by immigrants and the original inhabitants as well. (Code-talkers anyone?) But most of those folks were people like you and me, we did our bit without a lot of shouting and cheering, then went home to get on with our lives. But these five guys I'm going to talk about? All were professional soldiers, some went on to other wars, other revolutions, and like I said, without their presence and assistance in the birth of this nation, who knows where we might have wound up.

One thing you might notice is that "them furriners" all seem to have really long names, I mean Kováts is bringing up the rear in that category, but do you know what is name was in Hungarian, his birth name if you will? Kováts Mihály, the shortest name of the lot. (Note that in Hungary the family name comes first, like Japan and Korea, and others I'm sure.)

Anyhoo, let's get to it!

Kazimierz Michał Władysław Wiktor Pułaski, or Casimir Pulaski, as we Americans like to keep things simple, especially names we can't pronounce, (We can, we're just impatient and perhaps unwilling to spend the time to do it right. For fun and games, plug his name into Google Translate and then hit the little speaker icon, the pronunciation isn't that hard. But it is tougher than say "Fred" or "Bob.") was born in Poland in 1745. His father was a count (hence the long name, nobles always get long names, I'm sure there is a rationale behind that) and the two of them were big in resisting the Prussians and the Russians who, along with the Austrians, were always dividing Poland up between themselves.

He came to the Americas in 1777, after a correspondence with Ben Franklin, who was much impressed with the young man (he was 32) -
Franklin was impressed by Pulaski, and wrote of him: "Count Pulaski of Poland, 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." He subsequently recommended that General George Washington accept Pulaski as a volunteer in the Continental Army cavalry and said that Pulaski "was renowned throughout Europe for the courage and bravery he displayed in defense of his country's freedom." Pulaski departed France from Nantes in June, and arrived in Marblehead, Massachusetts, near Boston, on July 23, 1777. After his arrival, Pulaski wrote to Washington, "I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it." (Source)
Washington made him a brigadier general and along with his friend Michael Kováts de Fabriczy were known as the fathers of the U.S. cavalry. (Some sources say Pulaski was the dad, some say Kováts, as they were friends, I'm guessing it was a cooperative effort.) So our horsemen have some pretty fine ancestors, the Poles and Hungarians are famous for their cavalry (and their sometimes insane bravery!)

General Pulaski was killed in action at Savannah, Georgia on October the 11th, 1779. He was mortally wounded by grapeshot (canister?) while attempting to rally fleeing French cavalry. He had been in command of the combined American and French cavalry at the time of his death.

He is celebrated in his native Poland as a hero and also here, to a lesser extent in the United States. We Americans are all too often ignorant of out own history and the men and women who build this country.

Sad, innit?

Michael Kováts de Fabriczy also corresponded with Ben Franklin (a really useful fellow that Franklin) and offered his sword to Franklin, who was then serving as the ambassador to France. He was accepted and soon joined General Pulaski in the south.
Upon his arrival in America, Kováts joined Count Casimir Pulaski, who was then brigadier general and commander-in-chief of Washington's cavalry. Pulaski's cavalry was poorly trained. There were few trained cavalry officers which made the task of commanding the forces formidable. On February 4, 1778, Pulaski proposed a plan for the formation of a training division of hussars. In a letter to Washington Pulaski wrote: "There is an officer now in this Country whose name is Kovach. I know him to have served with reputation in the Prussian service and assure Your Excellency that he is in every way equal to his undertaking." Later, in another letter to Washington dated March 19, Pulaski again recommended Kovats: "I would propose, for my subaltern, an experienced officer, by name Kowacz, formerly a Colonel and partisan in the Prussian service." (Source)
On the 11th of May, 1777 Colonel Michael Kováts was killed in action before Charleston, South Carolina at the head of Pulaski's Legion. His British opponents admitted that the cavalry trained by him was the best they had seen in American service.

Another man little known in this country. But the cadets of The Citadel remember him and honor the memory of this brave patriot from across the seas who shed his blood for our freedom.

Tadeusz Kościuszko was actually Polish-Lithuanian (those two nations have a long intertwined history together) and was a military engineer. He arrived in America in August of 1776. He petitioned Congress to join the Continental Army and joined the very next day. (I should note that Congress in those days was very infatuated with foreign officers. Even those whose claims to military greatness were largely exaggerated. Washington was very frustrated by this but found a number of the foreign officers to be most useful. Including Kościuszko who went to work straightaway.)

His work on the field fortifications at Saratoga was critical.
Gates tapped Kościuszko to survey the country between the opposing armies, choose the most defensible position, and fortify it. Finding just such a position near Saratoga, overlooking the Hudson at Bemis Heights, Kościuszko laid out a strong array of defenses, nearly impregnable from any direction. His judgment and meticulous attention to detail frustrated the British attacks during the Battle of Saratoga, and Gates accepted the surrender of Burgoyne's force there on October 16, 1777. The dwindling British army had been dealt a sound defeat, turning the tide to an American advantage. Kościuszko's work at Saratoga received great praise from Gates, who later told his friend Dr. Benjamin Rush: "[T]he great tacticians of the campaign were hills and forests, which a young Polish engineer was skillful enough to select for my encampment." (Source)
The defenses at West Point that Benedict Arnold tried to betray to the British? Designed by Kościuszko over two years. Heading south with the army when the struggle in the north dwindled into stalemate, Kościuszko proved his worth again and again.
During the Race to the Dan, Kościuszko had helped select the site where Greene eventually returned to fight Cornwallis at Guilford Courthouse. Though tactically defeated, the Americans all but destroyed Cornwallis' army as an effective fighting force and gained a permanent strategic advantage in the South. Thus, when Greene began his reconquest of South Carolina in the spring of 1781, he summoned Kościuszko to rejoin the main body of the Southern Army. The combined forces of the Continentals and Southern militia gradually forced the British from the back country into the coastal ports during the latter half of 1781 and, on August 16, Kościuszko participated in the Second Battle of Camden. At Ninety Six, Kościuszko besieged the Star Fort from May 22 to June 18. During the unsuccessful siege, he suffered his only wound in seven years of service, bayonetted in the buttocks during an assault by the fort's defenders on the approach trench that he was constructing. (Source)
After the Revolution, Kościuszko returned to his native Poland where he led a revolt against the Russians, which bears his name, The Kościuszko Uprising. This uprising failed and led to the Third Partition of Poland in 1795, which took Poland off the map of Europe for 123 years. Not on the map but always alive in the hearts of the Polish people.

I wonder if they still teach about Kościuszko? Sad if they don't, but not surprising.

We should all know the Marquis de Lafayette, they must still teach that. They must.

This young Frenchman, who endeared himself to George Washington, may not have been the best soldier on our side, but he learned fast.
Born in Chavaniac, in the province of Auvergne in south central France, Lafayette came from a wealthy landowning family. He followed its martial tradition, and was commissioned an officer at age 13. He became convinced that the American cause in its revolutionary war was noble, and traveled to the New World seeking glory in it. There, he was made a major general; however, the 19-year-old was initially not given troops to command. Wounded during the Battle of Brandywine, he still managed to organize an orderly retreat. He served with distinction in the Battle of Rhode Island. In the middle of the war, he returned home to lobby for an increase in French support. He again sailed to America in 1780, and was given senior positions in the Continental Army. In 1781, troops in Virginia under his command blocked forces led by Cornwallis until other American and French forces could position themselves for the decisive Siege of Yorktown. (Source)
Lafayette is indeed remembered in Rhode Island. In fact, there is an old inn (which is now a private home) not far from where I live where Washington and Lafayette stayed for a while. There are signs on the road from where I live to where I work commemorating the battles in Rhode Island during the Revolution.

A very useful young man he later participated in the French Revolution and at one point was the commander of the National Guard of France. Lafayette fell afoul of the Jacobin radicals and eventually had to flee France.

He was stripped of his French citizenship which Napoléon reinstated in 1800. Lafayette was offered the ambassadorship to the United States but he turned it down, wanting nothing to do with Napoléon and his ilk. (Smart guy that Lafayette.)

A brave, intelligent, and scrupulous man.

Growing up I learned the story of the great Baron von Steuben who trained we unruly and undisciplined Americans in the ways of European soldiery. (That whole hiding behind rocks and trees thing was also taught. Early in my life I had one of those "wait a minute" moments. If we can beat the British by skulking about the woods, why would von Steuben be so important? I posted about that a while back, read it at your leisure.)

The Baron's story is an interesting one, he did serve as an officer in the Prussian Army but there is some conjecture as to whether or not he was actually a "baron" as he claimed. Doesn't really matter as -
Washington appointed von Steuben as temporary inspector general. He went out into the camp to talk with the officers and men, inspect their huts, and scrutinize their equipment. Steuben established standards of sanitation and camp layouts that would still be standard a century and a half later. There had previously been no set arrangement of tents and huts. Men relieved themselves where they wished and when an animal died, it was stripped of its meat and the rest was left to rot where it lay. Steuben laid out a plan to have rows for command, officers and enlisted men. Kitchens and latrines were on opposite sides of the camp, with latrines downhill side. There was the familiar arrangement of company and regimental streets.

On May 5, 1778, on General Washington's recommendation, Congress appointed Steuben inspector general of the army, with the rank and pay of major general. Internal administration had been neglected, and no books had been kept either as to supplies, clothing or men. Steuben became aware of the "administrative incompetence, graft, war profiteering" that existed. He enforced the keeping of exact records and strict inspections. His inspections saved the army an estimated loss of five to eight thousand muskets.

Steuben picked 120 men from various regiments, to form an honor guard for General Washington, and used them to demonstrate military training to the rest of the troops. These men in turn trained other personnel at Regimental and Brigade levels. Steuben's eccentric personality greatly enhanced his mystique. In full military dress uniform, he twice a day trained the soldiers who, at this point, were themselves greatly lacking in proper clothing.

As he could only speak and write a small amount of English, Steuben originally wrote the drills in the German dialect of Prussian, the military language of Europe at the time. His secretary, Du Ponceau, then translated the drills from Prussian into French, and a secretary for Washington translated it to English. They did this every single night so Washington could command his soldiers in the morning. Colonel Alexander Hamilton and General Nathanael Greene were of great help in assisting Steuben in drafting a training program for the Army. The Baron's willingness and ability to work with the men, as well as his use of profanity (in several different languages), made him popular among the soldiers. It is here he met his reputed future lover, Captain Benjamin Walker. Upon meeting Walker for the first time he exclaimed "If I had seen an angel from Heaven I should not have more rejoiced." Within weeks, Walker was Steuben's aide-de-camp.

Steuben introduced a system of progressive training, beginning with the school of the soldier, with and without arms, and going through the school of the regiment. This corrected the previous policy of simply assigning personnel to regiments. Each company commander was made responsible for the training of new men, but actual instruction was done by sergeants specifically selected for being the best obtainable.

In the earlier part of the war, Americans used the bayonet mostly as a cooking skewer or tool rather than as a fighting instrument. Steuben's introduction of effective bayonet charges became crucial. In the Battle of Stony Point, American soldiers attacked with unloaded muskets and won the battle solely on Steuben's bayonet training.

The first results of Steuben's training were in evidence at the Battle of Barren Hill, May 20, 1778 and then again at the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778. Steuben, by then serving in Washington's headquarters, was the first to determine that the enemy was heading for Monmouth.

During the winter of 1778–1779, Steuben prepared Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, commonly known as the "Blue Book". Its basis was the training plan he had devised at Valley Forge. It was used by the United States Army until 1814, and affected American drills and tactics until the Mexican War of 1846.
Proper record keeping? Discipline? Drill? Yeah, tickles the Old Sarge's heart it does (yes, I have one). Huge von Steuben fan here. Yuge.

Five men you should know.

Pulaski at Częstochowa - Józef Chełmoński
Kościuszko (Source)
Kováts (Source)
Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge (Source)
Baron von Steuben Drilling Troops at Valley Forge - E. A. Abbey
American heroes...

Even if they were "furriners."


  1. Knew the basics of 4 of them. Hadn't heard of Kovats until this morning, so Thanks. Great post.

    1. Yeah, I hadn't heard of Kováts until I was researching Kościuszko and Pulaski.

  2. Excellent work Herr Professor OAFS!! Thanks for the wonderful history lesson over coffee and breakfast. Well done!

  3. Kosciuszko is amongst biggest heroes in Polish national history.
    He is also remembered as protector of peasants in time when nobility considered itself the nation, and a staunch republican who in book dedicated late in life in exile urged the country to develop mass citizens army as a means of opposing the aggressive empoires who did the partitioning.
    Every day on the way to work I ride the street tram across a square named after him. It is hard to find a city in Poland without a street or square dedicated to him...

    1. He was the real deal, a true hero and patriot.

  4. Likewise, Kovats is new to me.
    I would venture Hungarian-Americans know him, though.

  5. You talk about me being in your head? More like you're in mine!

    And all of these great men, saviors of our forming nation, have been thrown on the scrapheap of history in order to find female and people-of-color to serve as 'heros'. Makes me sick.

    At least the Cajuns in Louisiana acknowledge Lafitte as both a hero and a villain. (And there was a nice movie made about him in the '30s.) Without his guns, Andy Jackson might not have done so well. Though the new government down there has been working at getting rid of him along with all the men who wore grey. Sad times, sad fallen times.

    1. Sad times indeed.

      Jean Lafitte, now there was a badass!

  6. Thanks for another is your series of great post.

    Paul L. Quandt

    P.S. Almost signed as LttB, then counted the number of comments ahead of mine; not enough.


    1. You are fashionably, sort of, late. But not really.

      Thanks Paul.

  7. OAFS:

    I tried to leave a comment on yesterday's post and it kept getting erased. The comment was/is:

    "This comment thread is almost Lexian."

    Paul L. Quandt

  8. Well done, Sarge. I'm printing this so I have copy that can be read with a candle, if need be.
    Meanwhile, Enjoy---

    1. Nothing quite like seeing a lovely frigate standing out to sea.

      And Hermione is a beauty!

      Thank you so much for that.

  9. Strictly speaking, the Code Talkers was furriners too. We're all furriners here, and we're all in this together.

    The long names prompted this delightful childhood memory. I knew I was growed up when I was allowed to run the phonograph by myself.

    1. Someone had to be here first, I do recall the Navajo came after someone else.

      Hahaha, I need to listen to that when I get home. I was getting funny looks at the office.

      At least where I work, no one moos. Well, maybe a little.

  10. Off topic:

    If any of you ( OAFS, juvat, or Tuna ) read John Ringo, he is fund raising to work toward having a movie made about his " Black Tide Rising " series. I have a link to that site; let me know if you would like me to give you the link.


  11. In other words, if it hadn't been for these foreign guys we would be speaking English! Something like that . . . I am not good at stirring slogans.

    1. "...we would be speaking English!"

      Instead of the American we do speak?


    2. Lewis - love it, yeah, we'd all be speaking English, with funny accents. (Said the guy from New England.)

    3. Paul - reminds me of a friend of mine who once said, "I speak two languages, English and bad English." As for myself, I am only fluent in the latter.

  12. We have a Pulaski, here in WI, and Chicago has Casimer Pulaski day. He is remembered in the Upper Midwest.

    1. Yes, he is remembered by some. Especially places with a large Polish community.


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