The Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial, located in Philadelphia’s Society Hill Neighborhood, is a tribute to the Polish military engineer who served with distinction along side his American counterparts in the Revolutionary War. The memorial is located in the former boarding house in which Kosciuszko convalesced, after returning to America, in 1797 and 1798. While there, he received numerous and notable guests, to include Thomas Jefferson, Dr. Benjamin Rush, William Paterson and Chief Little Turtle. The home is the smallest national memorial park in the country and was designated as such in 1972. It was also added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.
In the same
tradition of the Marquis de Lafayette and Baron von Steuben, Thaddeus
Kosciuszko was a foreign national who believed in the goals of the American Revolution
to such a degree that he was willing to place is life in jeopardy to help
achieve them. He was born in a small
Polish town in what is now Belarus in 1746.
He was trained as a military engineer in France from 1769-1774. Upon hearing of the outbreak of the American
Revolution while there, he left for America in the summer of 1776. He immediately offered his services to the Continental
Army and was commissioned a colonel of engineers.
task was to fortify Philadelphia’s breastworks along the Delaware. He then served under General Horatio Gates at
Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York. After
the American forces were forced to abandon the fort, he was instrumental in
delaying the British forces as they pursued Gates’ forces south in 1777. He next played a key role in the pivotal
American victory at Saratoga which convinced the French to join the American cause. He then applied his skills to the defense of
West Point for two years, the same fort Benedict Arnold attempted to “deliver”
to the British.
He went from
West Point to the southern theater of the war under General Nathanael
Greene. He assisted the Americans as they
escaped from British General Cornwallis during the “Race to the Dan” River in
1781 and was wounded at the Siege of Ninety-Six, a small town in South Carolina. He came to command two cavalry squadrons and
an infantry unit and last fought at James Island in 1782. Towards the end of his American military
career, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in 1783.
along with many others, struggled to get paid for his military service, then
returned to his native Poland in 1784 and led his country’s struggle against
Russian and Prussian control for over a decade.
He was eventually severely wounded, captured and imprisoned by the
Russians and finally pardoned by Tsar James I in 1796. He then returned to the U.S. to recover from
his wounds and to receive his military back pay. He stayed at the Society Hill boarding house
from August of 1797 until he returned to France to assist the Polish forces
fighting with Napoleon against the Prussians in March of 1798. He then spent the rest of his life fighting
for the restoration of the Polish state until his death in 1817.
National Memorial features first floor interpretive exhibits, an introductory
video, photos of his memorials that are located throughout the world, a
memorial room that focuses on his military career, and his bedroom that
features period artifacts and furnishings.
Visitors can also read about how he was the champion of the underprivileged,
to include American slaves and European peasants and Jews.