Despite totally kicking serious ass, Casimir Pulaski still gets a hard time from most modern-day uptight dickwad military historians. Even though during his lifetime Pulaski was revered as a living legend, the savior of American Democracy, and one of the most godlike military minds of his generation, nowadays a lot of bored revisionist-history types like to sit back in their La-Z-Boys with a snifter of cognac talking shit about how this 18th-century Polish Count was too much of an inflexible hardass to be considered effective, and how his strategy of brazenly charging balls-first towards the enemy even after the battle was obviously already lost wasn't exactly the best way to keep your soldiers alive. They say he was foolhardy, reckless, and placed battlefield glory above anything resolving common sense or self-preservation. They say the fact that his flat refusal to take orders from anyone who wasn't either a member of European nobility or a Congressionally-appointed superior officer made him a poor fit for service in the Revolutionary American military. The people who make these arguments use well-thought-out hypotheses supported by primary source documents, painstaking historical research, and a basic fundamental understanding of military tactics and strategy.
I couldn’t care less. In fact, the idea of some uptight Polish Count telling George Washington to go fuck himself because he wasn't knighted by the King of England and then riding off into the sunset to randomly instigate a one-man charge saber-first into a British infantry regiment for no good reason makes this guy EVEN MORE awesome.
Now look, I don’t give two shits that this hardcore horseback-riding demolition machine was terrible at following orders, or that he never backed down from a good fight no matter how badly the battle had turned against him or how ridiculously he was outnumbered. As far as I'm concerned, any man who, in one lifetime, kicks the asses of the Russians, the Germans, and the Redcoats, charges blade-first into battle on horseback assaulting cannons with a sword at every opportunity, saves George Washington's life on the battlefield, drinks shots with Benjamin Franklin, creates the fundamental organizational and training doctrine for every American cavalry unit ever assembled (without actually even being able to speak the English language no less), then dies in a blaze of glory with a Royalist cannonball through his face is pretty fucking badass, and you're going to have to do better than some bullshit argument about his lack of appreciation for late 18th-century tactical small-unit reconnaissance practices to convince me that this guy isn't such a hardcore patriot that any mention of his name deserves to be accompanied by Hulk Hogan's "I Am a Real American" entrance music from Wrestlemania I. This was a man who took conventional military doctrine – touchy-feely bullshit like "don't have your men court-martialed and beaten with sticks when they fail to follow orders" and "you probably shouldn't launch full-speed cavalry charges against enemy artillery when they're behind hardened fortifications and outnumber you five-to-one" and rammed it up the asses of anyone who came in his path in a face-shanking explosion of rectum-rupturing devastation that spanned three continents and almost two decades.
Ok, so back in the good old days Poland used to be this uber-powerful, skull-crushing world power that stood as a mighty heathen-skewering bulwark against repeated Ottoman Turkish attempts to plunder Europe a new asshole with extreme ultra-violence. But by the 1760s, however, this once-proud European world power was just a sad hollow little candy-coated shell of its former self. Reduced to serving as a Protectorate of Russia, Poland's leaders were all hand-picked by the Tsar, and anyone who had a problem with their new Russian overlords could expect to find themselves rotting in a Moscow dungeon being forced to eat borscht every night until they died of it. The Tsar called the shots, forced the Polish Parliament to pass whatever bullshit laws he thought sounded interesting, and basically just told the entire country to kiss his Converse or he'd pummel them senseless with the largest army in Europe.
But, as I've alluded to earlier, Count Casimir Pulaski wasn't a guy who liked it when people told him the odds. And this guys wasn't afraid of those Tsarist assholes – he was a proud member of the aristocracy, a man who had been practicing his riding and shooting skills since he was eight years old, and he decided that no jackass Russian fuckstick was going to push him around just because they were capable of fielding an army that would outnumber the entire population of his country. So, in 1763, at the age of 15, Pulaski, his father, both his brothers, and 300 noblemen raised an army, revolted against the Tsar, and declared open rebellion against Russian tyranny throughout Poland.
Pulaski was captured by the Russians in one of his first battles, most likely because he spurred his horse on and charged them straight-on despite being badly outnumbered and outgunned. The Russians threw his reckless ass in prison, but eventually told him they'd let him go if he promised to stop fighting them. Pulaski told them sure, that sounds great, but then as soon as those dipshits let him go he was like "LOL LOOSERS" and re-joined the rebellion. Riding up and down the countryside launching lightning raids on Russian forts, garrisons, and supply depots, Pulaski quickly became famous throughout Europe for his daring attacks, hauling ass into hardened enemy bases on horseback in a blaze of musket smoke and blood-stained swords, chopping up anyone traveling slower than his steed, and then riding off into the night leaving behind a towering inferno of burning Russkies and s'mores.
For almost ten years Count Casimir Pulaski battled the Russians in an endless string of skirmishes, pitched battles, and guerilla raids across Poland. Appointed commander-in-chief of revolutionary forces in 1768, Pulaski still continued to lead his armies from the front lines, personally launching a night raid on Krakow, defending the fortified cloister at Czestochowa from a full-scale Russian assault, and breaking the siege of Starokonstantynow with about a hundred guys armed with two-by-fours and a roll of duct tape. In his wild melees against enemy cavalry and artillery units he was shot in the arm and slashed in the hand by a saber, was captured by the Turks and the Russians, escaped from both, met the Emperor of Austria, won a major pitched battle against the Tsar himself, and took part in a failed attempt to abduct the King of Poland and force him to grow a pair of balls so he could stand up to the Russians. When Pulaski's father and brothers were killed in action, he assimilated their units into his own. When the Prussians saw how much fun the Russkies were having looting and plundering Poland and decided to get in on the fun, Pulaski charged their asses as well. When the King of Poland confiscated Pulaski's land, stripped him of his wealth, and declared him an outlaw and an enemy of the Polish people, this determined war-mongering asskicker fled to Turkey, joined the Turkish Army, and participated in a 3-month campaign against the Russians that set most of the Crimean peninsula on fire.
Polish lancer. Not pictured: His lance.
Unfortunately for Pulaski, his revolution was eventually crushed by the overwhelming power of the enemy, and broke, wounded, and unable to find an army, the Count moved to Paris, where lived in poverty, and spent some time in debtors' prison. Then, in 1775, the defeated cavalryman met a dude named Benjamin Franklin who just so happened to be looking for a few good military commanders to help his fledgling revolution in its struggle against royalist douchebaggery. Pulaski, already renowned as one of the best guerilla cavalry commanders in Europe, heard Ben's story, got pumped up about beating up a whole new batch of Euro king-lovers, took the first ship to America, and was immediately appointed commander of George Washington's personal bodyguard force. In Pulaski's first military engagement the British broke through American lines and started bearing down on Washington himself, so Pulaski unhesitatingly led the 30-man bodyguard unit straight into combat, charging the rapidly-closing enemy while still wearing the military dress uniform of the Polish hussars. Pulaski was wounded in the melee, but is credited with saving the life of the commander-in-chief of Continental Forces and the future First President of the United States. Washington rewarded him by inducting the Count into the Freemasons and appointing him the first overall commander of all American cavalry forces.
General Pulaski responded to this honor by writing the book on American cavalry. Literally. As in, he wrote the manual for American cavalry tactics, strategy, training, and organization, basing it largely on time-honored Polish cavalry customs dating back to the days of the Winged Hussars. Some of the fundamentals set up by Pulaski are still employed in current U.S. cavalry operations, a detail that usually gets Pulaski referred to as "The Father of American Cavalry". Which is awesome (natch).
|Legend has it that the American cavalry's taste for napalm in the morning is derived from Pulaski's typical breakfast during the Revolution: Musketballs and firebombs, straight up, on the rocks with a fifth of vodka and the tears of his enemies.
Casimir Pulaski continued to prove himself in battle against the loyalists time and time again, waxing the redcoats in the face with a sword any time he could find them. He fought at Brandywine Creek. He covered the American withdrawal during the Battle of Germantown. He set up a secure perimeter around Valley Forge while the army was in winter quarters. He assisted Mad Anthony Wayne in a balls-out attack that captured the town of Haddonfield from the British.
Despite being placed in overall command of every Colonial cavalry unit in America, Pulaski was a war-mongering hardass who just wasn't smiling unless he was there on the front lines embedding the point of his saber into the fleshy part of his enemies. When George Washington suggested that maybe the Overall Commander of American Cavalry Forces shouldn't be out there at the head of his men charging enemy towns with a sword raised over his head, Pulaski resigned his post and requested permission from Congress to set up his own independent mercenary unit that could act without military or Congressional oversight whatsoever. The result was Pulaski's Legion – six companies of cavalry and infantry comprised of Maryland militiamen, disenfranchised British deserters, and hardcore soldiers of fortune from Ireland, Germany, Poland, and France. Equipped with the best swords, armor, and guns Pulaski could afford with his own personal funds (which were quite extensive once his sister managed to free up the holds on his family's wealth), these guys were notable because they employed two companies of Lancers – which is exactly what it sounds like – dude charging across the battlefield with fucking lances, European feudal knight style, then pulling out pistols and muskets and capping fools at close range when need be. Charging into combat under a banner hand-embroidered by Moravian nuns from Bethlehem, PA, Pulaski raided British camps in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and South Carolina, charging anyone he could find with reckless/badass abandon, without orders or any regard for his own safety. Sure, he got some of his guys bayoneted to death in their sleep by some New Jersey-based British ninjas once, but he also helped defend the city of Charleston from British siege by bum-rushing a force that outnumbered him three-to-one while he was basically dying of malaria.
Casimir Pulaski's last ride came in 1778, during his defense of the British attack on Savannah. Despite being heavily outnumbered by a ridiculously-huge force of redcoats, Pulaski knew his only options were to surrender or launch a Butch and Sundance blaze of glory death charge. So, without thinking twice, the former Overall Commander of American Cavalry Forces launched a psycho assault straight into the teeth of the enemy, hoping that his attack would rally the morale of his troops to fight even harder and hold the city. He was blasted with grapeshot at extreme close range and died of his wounds at the age of 34.
Now, as I mentioned in the beginning, there are some historians who claim this guy was worthless as a military commander. He didn't win his revolution, most of his heroic attacks were cavalry charges launched in battles that had already been lost (albeit not by him directly), and while he sided with America in the revolution he still thought aristocratic societies were the bomb and never really "got it" with regards to liberty and equality and democracy and all that shit. I'd argue that if this guy was so terrible, they probably wouldn't have honored him by naming ten American cities, a county in Illinois, a half-dozen bridges, two highways, a skyway, a fort, a Polish warship, four American warships, and a Star Trek: The Next Generation character after him. He wouldn't have been one of only 7 foreign-born people in history to receive honorary United States Citizenship, or have his face on a U.S. postage stamp. And he definitely wouldn't have had his name on the side of the Cold War American nuclear ballistic missile submarine, the USS Pulaski, a fun little detail that means that if we had actually gone to Matthew Broderick Wargames Thermonuclear War with the Soviets in the 80s then Pulaski would have had the last laugh in his life-or-death murder-feud with the Russians.
"He died as he lived – a hero, but an enemy to kings."
– The King of Poland, upon hearing of Pulaski's death
Polish-American Cultural Center
Polski Internet Bio
Timeline of His Life
Denslow, William R., and Harry S. Truman. 10,000 Famous Freemasons from A to Z. Kessinger, 1959.
"Casimir Pulaski". American Monthly Magazine, vol. 37, August 1910.
Griffin, Martin Ignatius Joseph. Catholics and the American Revolution. Author, 1911.
Lanning, Michael Lee. The American Revolution 100. Sourcebooks, 2009.