God Bless America: Polish contribution to US Independence

The US Independence Day is celebrated on July 4, to commemorate the announcement of the United States Declaration of Independence, signed by representatives of Thirteen British Colonies on that day in 1776.

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The Declaration was signed by representatives of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, after the Second Continental Congress voted for declaring independence on July 2.

The declaration stated that the Thirteen Colonies were at war with the Kingdom of Great Britain and that they became sovereign states. The British army entered the territory of colonies, but, despite some initial successes, soon started to face problems.

One of them was the involvement of foreign powers, especially France, which supported the insurgents. The French court had already started to supply arms to colonists in 1775. In 1778 the war between London and Paris started, and in 1780 Spain joined it against Britain.

The American Revolutionary war ended after signing the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783. Great Britain acknowledged the independence of the United States.

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”Father of American Cavalry”

The American Revolutionary War had many international heroes who contributed to the independence of the Colonies. Two of them were Polish nationals: Kazimierz Pułaski and Tadeusz Kościuszko.

Pułaski, a Polish nobleman, was involved in 1767 in the so-called Bar Confederation against Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski. In early 1773 he was banished and sentenced to death in absentia for taking part in a plot to assassinate the monarch. He had to emigrate and in 1777 he went to America.

He joined the Continental Army as a brigadier general. He created Pułaski Cavalry Legion and carried out a real reform of American mounted forces. Pułaski became known as “the father of American cavalry.” His forces helped the Continental Army to defeat British troops in the Battle of Charleston in June 1779.

Pułaski died in October 1779 during the Siege of Savannah. He is considered as one of the heroes of the American Revolutionary War. In 2009 he received the Honorary Citizenship of the US. Only eight people have received such an honour.

His contribution to the independence of the US is commemorated every year in the Pulaski Parade organised in New York City. Moreover, many landmarks, towns and other objects in the US are named after him.

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General and Engineer

Tadeusz Kościuszko went to America in 1776, along with other European military officers, and joined the Continental Army.

Thanks to the engineering skills he was responsible for many fortifications during the American Revolutionary War. His work helped the Continental Army to win the Battle of Saratoga as well as many others.

In 1783, in recognition of his services, the Continental Congress promoted him to brigadier general. A year later he returned to Poland. He led the so-called Kościuszko Insurrection in 1794 against the Russian occupation, which was unsuccessful. He was seized by the Russians and placed in a prison in Petersburg.

Tsar Paul I, the successor of Catherine the Great, pardoned Kościuszko in 1796. He went to the US but returned to Europe again in 1798. He met Napoleon Bonaparte but did not see eye to eye with him and subsequently distanced himself from politics and the fight for Poland’s independence. He died in 1817 in Solothurn, Switzerland.