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Database: Tadeusz Kościusko

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B. 1746

More commonly known as Thaddeus Kościusko – and even more commonly mispronounced – this gentleman was a Polish soldier who served as an engineer in the Revolutionary War. Kościusko was the son of a Polish noble, and learned military tactics as part of his private schooling. He joined the Continental Army in 1776.

His full name was Tadeusz Andrzej Bonawentura Kościusko and while his surname may sound like a sneeze, but Kościusko was in charge of founding and training the much needed corps of engineers for the Continental Army. He’s probably best-known for overseeing the fortifications of Saratoga, which were crucial to the American victory there in 1777. He also helped build the fortifications at West Point (the ones Benedict Arnold tried to sell to the British).

When the war ended, Congress promoted Kościusko to Brigadier General – probably just so they could call him “Brigadier General” instead of attempt his name – but also clearly in recognition for his service. He returned to Poland, where in 1794 he led a rebellion of his own – now known as the Kościusko uprising. He lost, and was jailed for 2 years in Russia before being exiled to France.

Get this – after he died, Kościusko left some of his money to Thomas Jefferson with directions that it be used to free and educate black slaves. Unfortunately, Jefferson never bothered to use the money. It was returned to Kościusko’s heirs in 1852.

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