General Pulaski Council #3323

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Who was General Casimir Pulaski?

Kazimierz (Casimir)Pulaski was born in Poland on March 6, 1745. In America he is considered a hero of the American Revolution and Father of the U.S. Cavalry. . He is also a patriot and hero in his native Poland.

At the time of Pulaski's birth, Poland was embroiled in a fight for it's independence. Many countries wanted to control Poland, especially the Tsarina Catherine the Great of Russia. Catherine actaully occupied the country with the Russian Army and staged a rigged election to guarentee Poland would do what she wanted. The man she had elected King was Stanislaw August Poniatowski. The Russians used 60,000 soldiers to make sure Catherine's hand-picked man was made King.

Despite being hand picked by Catherine, Poniatowski, decided he was going to try and do what was best for Poland. He tried on several occasions to bring about reforms and help the Polish People but their was little he could do. The Polish Army was limited to just 12,000 men. The Russians, were free to arrest and deport to Siberia any Polish parliamentarians who dared criticize the tTsarina or any of the Russian laws.

Fianlly, the patriotic Poles had had enough and a new Confederation was formed. Led by Jozef Pulaski, Kazimierz's father. The confederates met in the town of Bar and formed an armed Confederation whose aim was to liberate the country of the Russian presence.

Jozef's son, Kazimierz became one of the Confederation's main leaders. He led his army accross Poland, into battle after battle. Kazimierz was amost always outnumbered by the Russians but his daring and superior strategy, combined with his personal bravery led him from one victory after another. In the four year years of the Confederacy, he was involved in over 30 separate battles against the Russians.

Among the most memorable of these was his brilliant defense of the Czestochowa monastery against a Russian siege. He held the fortress for two years thereby evoking memories of the almost legendary events of 1655 when the successful defense of the same fortress, as the last piece of free Polish soil, had resulted in the stemming of a Swedish invasion. At 25, Pulaski had emerged as the greatest Polish military leader since Sobieski, and a man whose devotion to the concept of a truly free Poland was an inspiration to all.

Unfortunately, as the war with Russia raged on, it became obvious that so long as the King did not condemn Russian occupation of Poland, the confederation would ultimately fail. Many Poles, including Kazimierz were loyal to the King and would not fight against the Polish Army, but after four years of figthing it became obvious that they must choose between loyalty to the king or the love of a free Poland.

A bold attempt was made to kidnap the King and remove him from office. The attempt failed and all those involved in the plot were charged with attempted regicide. (attempting to murder a King). Kazimierz was implicated in the plot was had to flee Poland or risk being executed. He left the homeland he so loved and went to Prussia and then finally France.

It was in France that Pulaski met Benjamin Franklin. The latter, aware of Pulaski's reputation, recommended him highly to both George Washington and the Continental Congress as "famous throughout Europe for his bravery and conduct in defense of the liberties of his country."

Pulaski arrived in Boston in late July 1777, and reported to the Continental Army's Commander-in-chief, General George Washington. Pulaski immediately offered his military services to the Continental Congress. Before he could actually take command of unit, Pulaski would have to receive a commission from the Continental Congress. Unfortunately this was too slow for the couragous Pulaski. While waiting for his commission to come through, he saw the loss suffered by the Continental Army at the battle of Brandywine Creek. From his scoutiung experience, he knew the young American army was in grave danger. Without waitng for word from the Congress, Pulaski asked and received Washington's permission to use the headquarters' cavalry detachment of some 30 men to attack and delay the British.

Pulaski personally led a charge against the center of the British troops which was just enough to scare and disorganize the British and allow the Americans to withdraw safely. In the process, he saw that the British were trying to cut off the road to Chester. This was the road the Continental Army was using to escape. Again Pulaski went to Washington and asked if he could collect as many of the scattered American soliders and attack the British flank. His action worked perfectly. Pulaski was able to prevent the British from capturing or killing the retreating Continental Army. And he wasn't even a solider in the Continental Army yet!

In 1931, Pulaski was honored by the
U.S. Post Office as a hero of the Revolution
Pulaski was quickly appointed by Congress as General of the Contintental Cavalry. He bagan to create a highly mobile fighting force that would give the advantage to the Americans. Unfortunately most American commanders had no understanding of how to use cavalry. As a consequence, they tended to assign cavalry men to liaison and escort duties. This lack of understanding and the high price the of steeds prevented the force from ever becoming fully established.

Over time, many of the ideas advanced by Pulaski, an expert on the use of the cavalry and irregular warfare, became part of the way American forces would fight, but that came about only after his death.

Because of the difficulties in making the cavalry an effective force within the Continental Army, Pulaski resigned his commission and, with the permission of Congress, formed a Foreign Legion (cavalry men from, France, Germany, and Poland who would fight for America). The legion only had about 250 men in it but they fough bravely. They took part in the defense of Charleston. One of their first fights was the defense of Charles Town (Charleston) South Carolina. Pulaski was outnumbered but attacked the well trained British forces advancing on the city. The attack caused the British to withdraw and saved the city. This was the last successful action in which Pulaski took part.

Pulaski At Savanah
Later he tried to free Savannah, Georgia from British occupation. Again he attacked eventhough he was grossly outnumbered. A french force led by General d'Estaing had tried to recapture the Savanah but the attack faltered and was ready to collapse. The French were caught in a cross fire, and d'Estaing himself was wounded. Pulaski was to wait for the proper moment for his cavalry to enter the battle but he could see the French infantry breaking ranks under heavy fire. To try to save the situation, he charged forward into the battle only to be grievously wounded by cannon fire. His men carried him from the battlefield, he was put on a ship to be taken back to Charles Town, but Pulaski would never regain consciousness. On October 11, 1779, the 34 year old Polish commander died at sea, where he was buried at sea. The Continental Army had lost one of its most experienced generals.

After his death, he was also cleared of all charges in Poland and was declared a national hero. Pulaski was a devout Roman Catholic who once fought for religious freedom in Poland. He fought equally hard for an America that espoused religious freedom but which, in fact, harbored an ironic hostility toward Pulaski's Catholic faith.

He was recklessly brave and fanatically dedicated to the causes of his beloved Poland and the fredom he hoped to acheive in America. Pulaski was unquestionably an inspirational leader, a quality that led to all of his battlefield successes.

Pulaski has been credited with laying the foundations of American cavalry but arguably his greater significance lies in the strong bond that he and his fellow countryman and Revolutionary War volunteer, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, established between Poland and the United States. A friendship that, more that two centuries later, still remains strong.


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