Historical Markers
Tadeusz Kosciuszko Historical Marker
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Tadeusz Kosciuszko

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
NW corner 3rd and Pine Sts.

Dedication Date:
October 22, 1967

Behind the Marker

"He was as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known, and of liberty which is to go to all not to the rich and few alone." So wrote Thomas Jefferson to Tadeusz (Thaddeus) Kosciuszko's former commanding officer, Horatio Gates, in 1798.
Oil on canvas of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, by Julian Rys, c. 1897.
Thaddeus Kosciuszko, by Julian Rys, c. 1897.
Born on February 12, 1746 in Mereczowszczyna, Poland, Kosciuszko hailed from a family of noble status but modest means. He studied at the Royal Military School in Warsaw and at the school of artillery and engineering in Mezieres, France. Unable to secure a promotion in the Polish military, he became consumed by a failed love affair that eventually drove him to America.

There, he planned Pennsylvania's defensive works on the Delaware River - markerForts Mifflin and Mercer (the latter on the New Jersey side) - that prevented a British fleet from approaching Philadelphia. In October 1776, Kosciuszko earned a commission as colonel of engineers in the Continental Army. During the war, he participated in the 1777 Saratoga campaign, unsuccessfully urging the fortification of Mount Defiance overlooking Fort Ticonderoga, which the British captured along with the fort. Kosciuszko designed the parapets and artillery batteries that the American army used to besiege and then capture British General John Burgoyne's entire army, the most significant British defeat before Yorktown in 1781.
William Faden's Atlas of the American Revolution
The Course of Delaware River from Philadelphia to Chester, with the Several...

After designing the defenses of West Point and planting a garden there that still bears his name, Kosciuszko in 1780 accompanied Horatio Gates, the victor at Saratoga, to his new command in the South. Here he invented wagons that converted into boats, enabling Gates' successor, Nathanael Greene, to successfully dodge British General Cornwallis' army. After the war, he joined his fellow Continental Army officers in founding the Order of the Cincinnati, a hereditary organization that still survives.

In 1784, Kosciuszko returned to Poland, where he commanded the Polish army that unsuccessfully defended the nation against partition by Prussia, Austria, and Russia in 1793 and 1795. (Poland ceased to exist as an independent nation until 1919.) Mobilizing civilians, including serfs, to augment the professional soldiers used by the European monarchies, Kosciuszko managed to win the battle of Ralaciwce against the Prussians and successfully defend Warsaw before being defeated and captured. After two years in a Russian prison, the new Czar Paul I freed him.
Kosciuszko House at 301 Pine Street in Philadelphia, before renovation.
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Kosciuszko House at 301 Pine Street in Philadelphia, before renovation

Kosciuszko spent the rest of his life in exile rather than live in a subjugated Poland. His journeys took him to Paris (1794-1796), and England (1796-1797), before his return to triumphant welcome in the United States, and an award of land in Ohio worth over $18,000 for his services during the War for Independence. In 1797 and 1798, he lived in boarding house at 301 Pine Street in Philadelphia, outside of which this marker stands. Then he returned to Poland to continue the fight for independence. After a final, futile, effort to rally Polish forces against Russia, Kosciuszko retired to Switzerland, where he remained until his death in 1817.

While in exile, Kosciuszko penned the "Act of Insurrection," a Polish declaration of Independence modeled on that of the United States, and proposed freeing the serfs. Upon his death, he freed his own serfs on his Polish estate and earmarked the money from the sale of his lands in Ohio to support a school for black children in Newark, New Jersey.

Kosciuszko was one of many European soldiers, including fellow Pole markerCasimir Pulaski, German "Baron" Von Steuben, the French Marquis de Lafayette, and the Irishman Richard Montgomery, who participated in the American Revolution and embraced its principles. Like many other exiles in the 1790s, including the French royalists who fled that nation's revolution for markerAzilum, and British scientist markerJoseph Priestley, Kosciuszko sought refuge in Pennsylvania. Unlike many of them, who took sides in American politics, Koscuiszko was universally welcomed by the Americans regardless of their political views. Like Pulaski, he remains a hero to Americans to this day, a reminder of how the American Revolution, and the nation itself, attracted people from different nations who loved liberty.
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