Casimir Pulaski Day

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Casimir Pulaski Day-1st Monday in March

The Moldau, SMETANA, Bedrich (1824-84)

Why do we recognize Casimir Pulaski Day?
Official Casimir Pulaski Stamp and Postcard.
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem entitled "Hymn of the Moravian Nuns of Bethlehem" was inspired by the fact that General Pulaski's Legion is said to have marched into battle with a silk banner embroidered by Moravians in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Hymn of the Moravian Nuns of Bethlehem.

When the dying flame of day
Through the chancel shot its ray,
Far the glimmering tapers shed
Faint light on the cowled head;
And the censer burning swung,
Where nere before the altar, hung
The crimson banner, that with prayer
Had been consecrated there.
And the nun's sweet hymn was heard while,
Sung low, in the dim, mysterious aisle.

"Take thy banner, May it wave
Proudly oer the good and brave;
Wnen the battle's distant wail
Breaks the Sabbath of our vale,
When the clarion's music thrills
To the hearts of these lone hills,
When the spear in conflict shakes,
And the strong lance shivering breaks.

"Take thy banner! and, beneath
The battle-cloud's encircling wreath,
Guard it, till our homes are free!
Guard it! God will prosper thee!
In the dark and trying hour,
In the breaking forth of power,
In the rush of steeds and men,
His right hand will shield thee then.

"Take thy banner! But when night
Closes round the ghastly flight, If the vanquished warrior
bow, Spare him! as thou wouldst be
spared! By our prayers and many tears, By the
mercy that endears, Spare him! he our love hath
shared! Spare him! as thou wouldst be spared

"Take thy banner! and if e'er
Thou shouldst press the soldier's bier,
And the muffled drum should beat
To the tread of mournfulfeet,
Then this crimson flag shall be
Martial cloak and shroud for thee."

The warrior took that banner proud,
And it was his mattial cloak and shroud!

Sometimes called the "Father of American Cavalry," Casimir Pulaski was born March 4th, 1747, in Warka, Poland. (It may have been 1746 or 1748.) He became a national Polish hero in 1771, when he and his army overwhelmingly defeated Russian forces in Czestochwa, Poland. Pulaski was wrongly accused in a plot to capture and kill the King of Poland and was banished from Poland.

While in Paris, Casimir heard of the American Revolutionary War and the colonies' struggle to break free from England. He wrote Benjamin Franklin, who was in Paris, to ask if he would consider hiring him to fight against the British. After hearing of his reputation as a great leader, Franklin recommended him to General George Washington.

Washington knew that the colonists had no trained cavalry, so he met with Pulaski and introduced him to LaFayette and John Hancock. In September 1777, Washington convinced Congress to give Pulaski temporary command of the small, new cavalry detachment. On the same day Pulaski saved military supplies and pushed back the British at the Battle of Brandywine. The next day he prevented a surprise attack at an area called Warren's Tavern. Congress acknowledged Pulaski's leadership and bravery and commissioned him as Brigadier General. He was placed in command of four light cavalry regiments.

During the winter at Valley Forge in 1777-78, Pulaski wanted to train the cavalry properly, but was instructed by Congress to rest his men during the winter, as was customary at the time. Later in 1778, Pulaski became frustrated that his cavalry had not been involved in any important battles. Considering resignation, he asked Washington to allow him to start his own legion. He offered to recruit men, outfit them, and train them his own way. He would prepare this cavalry for active duty. After many letters from Pulaski, Congress finally agreed. With 68 horses and 200 foot soldiers, the Pulaski Legion would become the colonists' first true fully-trained cavalry.

The EIU Library contains many books on Polish-Americans. See, for example:

Leszek,Szyma'nski, Casimir Pulaski: A Hero of the American Revolution, E207.P8 S97 1994

Edward R. Kantowicz, Polish-American Politics in Chicago, 1888-1940, E548.9P7 K36,

Dominie A. Pacyga, Polish Immigrants and Industrial Chicago: Workers on the South Side, 1880-1922, F548.9.P7 P33 1991

He recruited many men, European and some Americans. At first, some of the American soldiers did not like him because he did not speak English, but they soon began to respect him in battle for his courage and intelligence.

During a battle in Savannah, Georgia, Casimir was wounded by a cannon. He died from complications of this wound. The first Monday in March has been designated Pulaski Day in Illinois. There is also Pulaski County honoring this great war hero. The Pulaski National Monument is located in Savannah.


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