Thaddeus Kosciusko

THADDEUS KOSCIUSKO, the last generalissimo of the republic of Poland, one of the noblest characters of his age, was descended from an ancient and noble, though not rich family, in Lithuania, and was born in 1756. He was educated in the military school at Warsaw. The prince Adam Czartoriski, perceiving his talents and industry, made him second lieutenant in the corps of cadets, and sent him, at his own expense, to France, where he studied drawing and the military art. After his return, he was made captain. But the consequences of an unhappy passion for the daughter of Sosnowski, marshal of Lithuania (who was afterwards married to the prince Jos. Lubomirski), obliged him to leave Poland. Solitary studies, particularly in history and mathematics, and an elevated character, prepared him for the struggle for freedom, in which he engaged under Washington, who made him his aid. He distinguished himself particularly at the siege of Ninety-Six, and was very highly esteemed by the army and the commander in-chief. He and Lafayette were the only foreigners admitted into the Cincinnati. Kosciusko received the rank of general, and, in 1786, re turned to Poland. When the Polish army was formed (1789), the diet appointed him a major-general. He declared himself for the constitution of May 3, 1791, and served under prince Joseph Poniatowski. In the campaign of 1792, he distinguished himself against the Russians at Zieleneck and Dubienka. At the latter place, under cover of some works which he had thrown up in the course of 24 hours, he repulsed, with 1000 men, three successive attacks of 18,000 Russians, who prevailed only after the loss of 4,000 men. Kosciusko retired without having suffered severely. When king Stanislaus submitted to Catharine, he, with sixteen other officers, left the army, and was, therefore, obliged to retire from Poland. He went to Leipsic; and the legislative assembly of France, at this time, gave him the rights of a French citizen. The Poles becoming impatient under the oppression of Russia, some of Kosciusko's friends in Warsaw determined to make an effort for the liberation of their country. They chose Kosciusk o as their general, and made him acquainted with their plans. He imparted them to the counts Ignatius, Potocki and Kolontai in Dresden, who thought the enterprise injudicious. Kosciusko, however, went to the frontier, and sent general Zajonezeck and general Dzialynski into the Russian provinces of Poland, to prepare everything in silence. But when the Polish army was merged, in part, in the Russian, and the remainder reduced to 15,000 men, the insurrection broke out before the time fixed on. In Posen, Madalinski forcibly opposed the dissolution of his regiment. All now flew to arms; the Russian garrison was expelled from Cracow. Just at this moment, Kosciusko entered the city. The citizens now formed the act of confederation of Cracow (March 24, 1794), and Kosciusko, at their head, called upon the Poles to restore the constitution of May 3. Kosciusko then advanced to meet the Russian forces. Without artillery, at the head of only 4,000 men, part of whom were armed only with scythes and pikes, he defeated 12,000 Russians at Raclawice (April 4, 1794.) His army was now increased to 9,000 men, and he formed a junction with general Grochowski.

In the mean time, the Russian garrisons of Warsaw and Wilna had been put to death, or made prisoners. Kosciusko checked the outbreak of popular fury, sent troops against Volhynia, and organized the government at Warsaw. He marched out of the city, with 13,000 men, to oppose 17,000 Russians and Prussians, attacked them at Szezekocini, June 6, but was defeated after an obstinate conflict. He retreated to his entrenched camp before Warsaw. The Prussians took Cracow. Disturbances broke out, in conseqence, in Warsaw, June 28. The people murdered a part of the prisoners, and hung some Poles who were connected with the Russians. But Kosciusko punished the guilty, and restored order. The king of Prussia now formed a junction with the Russians, and besieged Warsaw with 60,000 men. Kosciusko, however, kept up the courage of his countrymen. After two months of bloody fighting, he repelled, with 10,000 men, a general assault. All Great Poland now rose, under Dombrowski, against the Prussians. This circumstance, together with the loss of a body of artillery, compelled the king of Prussia to raise the siege of Warsaw. Thus this bold general, with an army of 20,000 regular troops and 40,000 armed peasants, maintained himself against four hostile armies, amounting together to 150,000 men.