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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Kościuszko and Monuments

     We have had occasion to note other foreign leaders in the American Revolution, including Casimir Pulaski.  Here we go a bit farther afield, and look at the monument to Tadeusz Kościuszko in Warsaw, Poland.

    Kościuszko (1746-1817) graduated from the Corps of Cadets School in Warsaw; on the recommendation of Ben Franklin, joined the American forces in the Revolution as a colonel, rising to brigadier general at the end of the war. As an engineer he was responsible for fortification efforts in various places, including Fort Mifflin outside Philadelphia.  He pursued Polish independence, fought the Russians (and was imprisoned), and helped finance a school in Newark, New Jersey for freed slaves.

     It is interesting to think about who warrants a monument.  It is testament to the modest heroism of this man, whose efforts, noted Washington in a letter to Kościuszko dated August 31, 1797, were "so instrumental in establishing" the United States.  Today we name bridges after local politicians, buildings after senators, airports after presidents, often during their lifetimes.  Why? Here was a man who did not seek election or acclaim, traveled from his native land to the unknown, provided his engineering expertise to the Continental Army.  He did not stop there, and fought for his own country's independence.  He was one of those rare people who actually deserve the monuments erected to them.

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