Tadeush Kosciuszko belonged to an old noble family. His ancestors were Russian (white Russians), they professed the Orthodox faith, and their native language was Russian. They were descended from the Kamenetz boyar and clerk Kostyushko Fedorovich, who lived in the beginning of the XVI century. For two centuries, representatives of the clan changed language and religion, so that it was commonplace in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. By the beginning of the XVIII century, it was already a poor noble family.
Tadeush's father, Ludwig Kosciusko, bore the title of Brest swordsman. He reached the rank of colonel, but never commanded anything, because he could not pay a certain amount for a patent for the right to command. Ludwig Kosciusko was so impoverished, during the course of his life he was more involved in putting households in order and accumulating funds than in military service. He died, leaving a young widow Teklyu (Thekla Ratomskaya, a Russian by birth and Orthodox) and four children. After the sudden death of his father, the family’s condition deteriorated significantly.
About childhood Kosciusko almost no information. It is believed that he was born 4 or 12 in February 1746 of the year in the estate of Merechovschina near the town of Kossovo in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (modern Ivatsevichy district, Brest region, Belarus). He had two sisters, Anna and Catherine, and brother Joseph (Jozef). At the age of ten years, Tadeusz was sent with his brother Joseph to the school of the monastic order of piarists (PR). In addition to vows of purity and obedience, the members of this order also took a vow of free Christian education for children. At the Piarist school, Tadeusz studied for five years.
In December, 1765, at 18, Kostyushko was enrolled in the privileged knight school established in Stanislav Poniatowski in Warsaw (in a different way, the cadet corps), where the children of the "Yelno-motivated" gentlemen studied. Tadeusz got into this newly established aristocratic corps thanks to his mother, who asked for the transfer of her son to the chief of staff of the Lithuanian army, Jozef Sosnowski, their neighbor. Even then, Kosciuszko surprised others with his asceticism, will and determination, reminiscent of his comrades of Charles XII, for which he received the nickname "Swede."
After graduating from school, among the best students, Kosciusko was sent to a government account in France to improve in military sciences, where he attended lectures at the Paris military school for five years and at the same time was engaged in an artillery and engineering school in Mezieres. In 1774, Kosciuszko returned to his homeland as a captain. But being a poor man, he had no connections for career development. One of the most talented young people in Poland was not needed at home. This fact very well shows the then Polish realities. A small handful of lords and their hangers-on burned their lives in luxury and entertainment, and provided them with claps (slaves). Read more about the decomposition of the Polish state in a series of articles: Decomposition of Polish statehood; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4.
Two years later, Kosciusko again went to France, and from there to America, which at that time was waging a war of independence. After coming to Franklin, Kosciusko was appointed to head engineering work in the Northern Army. The system of fortifications built by him turned out to be impregnable for the British troops. The same excellent facilities were made by Kosciuszko while strengthening his position in North Carolina. In the 1783 year after the end of the war for independence, the American congress, as proposed by Washington, decided to express special gratitude to Kosciuszko on behalf of the republic. He received a patent for the rank of brigadier general and the Order of Zincinata.
The following year, Kosciuszko returned to Poland. For unauthorized departure abroad, he was excluded from the lists of the Polish army and was deprived of an officer's rank, and upon returning to his homeland could only be a private person. Only in 1789, after long troubles of his friends in Warsaw, Kosciusko was again enlisted in the ranks of the royal army with the rank of general and was appointed commander of a brigade located near the Prussian border. Having taken the brigade, he began training troops, trying to use his combat experience. Kostyushko was the first to introduce maneuvers in the regiments, joint tactical exercises of all types of troops, combat practical shooting and long marches.
Often in Warsaw, Kostyushko met there with Ignatiy Pototsky, Hugo Kolontay, Nemtsevich and other Polish politicians who dreamed of restoring Rzecz Pospolita to its former borders. It was a time when the Polish elite brought their state to an extreme degree of decay. The Pans undermined all the foundations of statehood and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, formerly one of the most powerful powers in Europe, became the victim of other great powers. St. Petersburg needed a buffer separating Russia and Prussia, but the Polish elite, relying on Russian enemies - Turkey and France, led the country to the partition itself. In 1772, the first division of the Commonwealth took place between Russia, Prussia and Austria. At the same time, Russia returned its Western Russian lands to the modern territory of Belarus, and part of the Baltic states, which had long been a part of the Russian sphere of influence.
After this section, the Polish elite did not learn the “lesson” and again went the way of intrigue and conspiracy, wanting to restore Greater Poland to the old borders. Rich pans arranged balls, masquerades, hunting and at the same time moaned about the "troubles of the fatherland." Moreover, almost all of the hatred was directed against Russia, although the Russians did not take a single city or village that belonged to ethnic Poles.
The Polish elite split: the “patriotic” party (Malakhovsky, Potocki, Adam Chartorizhsky and others) wanted a break with Russia, although Petersburg, unlike Berlin and Vienna, was interested in preserving a weakened Polish state; she was opposed by the “royal” and “hetman” parties, which were set up to union with Russia. In the “four-year seym” (1788-1792) the “patriotic” party prevailed. At this time, the Russian Empire entered the war with the Ottoman Empire and Prussia provoked the Sejm to break with Russia. The Poles hoped that Russia would be occupied by a war with Turkey and Prussia would support them. In reality, Prussia was not going to really help Poland, but hoped in the new confusion to snatch a new piece of Polish territory. The adoption of the May Constitution entailed interference from the Russian Empire, which feared the restoration of the Commonwealth within the boundaries of 1772. The pro-Russian "hetman" party created the Targowitz Confederation, gained the support of Austria and opposed the Polish "patriotic" party that supported the Constitution. As a result, Poland was embraced by a new distemper, predictably ending in the next section.
Kosciuszko drew the attention of the “patriotic” party and he himself easily made contact with her, as he dreamed of reviving the Great Poland. In 1792, Kosciusko joined the army of Joseph Poniatowski. In the summer of 1792, General Kakhovsky, who commanded Russian troops, launched an offensive. A decisive battle took place 17 June 1792 near the village of Dubenki. The entire force of the strike of the Russian troops was brought down against the rear guard Kosciuszko, since the commander of the Polish forces Poniatowski located the rest of the Polish regiments far from the battlefield, and they could not take part in this battle. Despite the desperate resistance, the Kosciusko detachment was surrounded and defeated, losing almost all the guns. Kosciusko with the remnants of the troops retreated. This fight decided the outcome of the entire campaign. Poniatowski took the Polish army west, not daring to continue fighting. Prussia did not support the party of the Constitution, and the Polish rebels fled the country.
In January, 1793, Prussia and Russia signed a convention on the second division of the Commonwealth. Russia received a part of the Baltic states, West Russian lands - the eastern part of Polesie, the Podolia and Volyn regions. Prussia captured the indigenous Polish lands - Danzig, Thorn, Great Poland, Kuyavia and Mazovia.
This fight, though ended in defeat, but glorified the name of Kosciusko among the Polish people. In the absence of other capable Polish generals, Kosciuszko became a national hero as early as 1792. In October 1792, Kostyushko went abroad. Arriving in Paris, he asked for help from the Minister of War Lebrun. Lebrun promised money and support for Turkey in the event of a Polish uprising. Warsaw conspirators preparing a new uprising found Kosciusko in December 1793 of the year in Rome. He was offered to lead the uprising and he agreed. His first order was the drafting of a proclamation in which the Polish people called for armed struggle for freedom.
Earlier in the Grodno Diet, it was decided to disband part of the Polish crown troops. Some shelves were completely disbanded, others were subject to reduction. The officers and soldiers who remained outside the service became the main participants in the uprising. A signal to an open uprising was given by the brigade of General Madalinsky, stationed in Ostrolenka and subject to disbandment. General Madalinsky, having received an order about it, did not obey and started a revolt. He made a brigade from Ostroleka, crossed the border, and seized the Prussian military treasury in Soldau, fled to Poland, to Krakow.
Kostyushko, who was at that time in Italy, having learned about the actions of Madalinsky and the arrests of the conspirators in Warsaw, decided to start an uprising, although he considered him to be unprepared, and hurried to Krakow. Arriving in the city, Kosciuszko and other leaders of the uprising gathered in the church and in front of the audience solemnly consecrated their sabers. An “Act of the uprising of citizens” was drawn up, then Kostyushko was proclaimed “the highest commander of all the forces of national defense” with unlimited powers of the dictator. Becoming openly at the head of the uprising, he published a manifesto to the Polish people, urging everyone to stand up under the Polish banner and donate money, supplies, horses and other property for the common good.
Francis Smuglevich. Tadeusz Kosciusko's oath on the Krakow market (1797)
After that, Kosciusko hurried to the aid of General Madalinsky, against whom 5-th. Was sent. detachment of General Tormasov. Kosciusko joined with the rebel general. The Poles have chosen a strong position and entrenched in it. Kosciusko had up to 4 thousand people with 12 guns. 4 April 1794, Tormasov attacked the enemy. The Poles fought off all the attacks of the Russians, and then Kosciusko counterattacked and forced the Russian squad to retreat, capturing the 18 guns. This victory caused universal rejoicing in Poland. Polish patriotic youth began to flock under the banner of the general. Inspired by the success, Kosciusko decided to go to Warsaw.
Meanwhile, Warsaw has risen. Conspirators handed out money and weapon urban "bottom". Began Russian beating. At the same time, the uprising began in Vilna. Russian garrison was defeated. In Warsaw, Polish nobles, who were known for pro-Russian sentiments, were executed. By order of Kosciuszko, the Supreme Government Council was formed.
At the end of April, Kosciuszko declared “Commonwealth destruction”, according to which the entire male population of Poland for fifteen to fifty years was called upon to join the ranks of the Polish army. All the arsenals were opened for the backgammon weapons. May 7 was released manifesto ("Polanetsky wagon"), which called on all Poles to unite to fight a common enemy. This manifesto, despite its space and the promise of various rights to the common people, was not a success. The landowners saw in him a violation of their centuries-old privileges, the peasants also treated him with suspicion, since the manifesto stated that the promised benefits and freedoms are subject to revision in the future Sejm. The rebel treasury was empty, taxes were not paid, donations to the army received little. An attempt to form an army of volunteers also failed. The Poles did not hurry to fight and die for freedom. It was possible to form only one unit in 2 thousand people. In order to attract slaves to the uprising, of which Kostyushko wanted to form detachments of "trainers" (armed with braids), he began to wear a peasant sermyag and himself traveled through the villages, trying to imitate the appearance and lifestyle of the flaps (slaves), promised them freedom and land. However, this campaign was not noticeable success. By the beginning of autumn instead of the planned uprising 400-thousand. Kosciusko's troops managed to gather only 40 thousand people.
Soon the Prussian army led by King Frederick William himself invaded Poland. The Prussians were in a hurry not so much to smash the Polish insurgents as to seize as much territory as possible. After the suppression of the uprising, the Prussians wanted to get a good piece of the rest of Poland. Kosciusko tried to break up the Russian detachments separately, so that they did not join. The Polish generalissimo attacked Denisov’s detachment near the village of Schekovichi. But Denisov, supported by the Prussians, himself attacked and defeated the Poles.
15 Jun Cracow surrendered to the Prussians. Prussian army went to Warsaw. Kostiushko pulled together considerable forces to the capital, and the Prussians, having stood for a couple of months near Warsaw, retreated. Kostiushko, trying to improve financial affairs, ordered to take to the treasury for the needs of the army all the valuables in silver and gold kept in official and public places, in monasteries, churches and from private individuals. These values were to be the security of the securities issued by the provisional government. From the collapse, the “Commonwealth's destruction” was declared dissolved, and instead it was reinforced by the recruitment set. Among the subordinates of Kosciusko's generals, there were constant quarrels, which adversely affected the entire course of military operations. The enthusiasm that gripped many at the beginning of the uprising gradually began to fade. Not enough money, weapons, experienced personnel. Discipline in the army fell.
Meanwhile, the Russian troops acted more successfully than the Prussians. At the end of August 1794, the Russian army took Vilna. Catherine the Second handed P.A. Rumyantsev-Zadunajsky, the senior general officer of the elderly and sick. Rumyantsev immediately made his first and last decision — summoned A. Suvorov to Poland without the permission of the tsarina (Cheers, field marshal!). The Polish uprising was doomed. Suvorov immediately marched from the Dniester to the Bug and began to beat the Polish rebels. September 4 Suvorov defeated General Ruzic's detachment near Kobrin. September 6 at the monastery at Krupchitsu Suvorov broke the selective corps of General Serakovsky. September 8 Brest miracle heroes Suvorov finished off Serakovsky corps.
The impression in the troops of Suvorov’s victory was so strong that panic began. Things reached the point that the Polish commander-in-chief created fencing detachments. Kostyushko issued an order in which he declared: “If anyone says that they cannot hold out against the Muscovites, or during the battle they will shout that the Muscovites have gone to the rear, he will be shot. I order the infantry units to keep behind the line with the cannons from which they will shoot at the runners. Let everyone know that, going forward, he receives victory and glory, and leaving the battlefield, he meets shame and death. ” But such harsh measures did not lead to success.
Intending not to let Suvorov unite with other Russian forces, Kosciuszko secretly left Warsaw for the camp of Polish troops in Korytnitsa. Here he intended to give a general battle to the detachment of General I. Ferzen, although all the forces of the Poles did not exceed 9 thousands, while the enemy had at least 18 thousands. Kosciusko chose a position near the village of Matsejowice. On the morning of September 29, the Poles went on the attack, but were repulsed by artillery fire. Then the Russians went to the counter and surrounded the Poles. Directly the defeat of the Poles led by Major Fyodor Denisov. Kosciusko himself, badly wounded in the head and leg, was captured. In October, Suvorov took Prague - a suburb of Warsaw, the Polish capital fell. The uprising was crushed. Russia, Prussia and Austria held the third section of the Commonwealth. Polish statehood was eliminated.
Koscius was also taken to the Russian capital, where he was kept until the death of the queen. Paul the First personally returned freedom to the Polish general. At his request, they received their freedom and the remaining 12 thousand Poles. All of them were sworn allegiance to Russia and Emperor Paul. A month later, Kosciusko traveled through Finland and Sweden to London, receiving generous gifts from the Russian emperor: a village, a carriage, a sable fur coat and a hat, 12 thousand rubles and silver.
Then Kosciusko traveled to Europe and even visited America. His journey represented a solid triumph and was accompanied by solemn meetings and the presentation of memorable gifts to him. In America, Kosciusko learned that Congress decided to vest him, as a former officer of the American army, with land and give him about 20 thousand dollars, which were due to him from 1788 year. In the summer of 1798, Kosciuszko learns that General Dombrowski is gathering Polish legions, hoping with the help of Napoleon Bonaparte to achieve the restoration of the Polish state. Arriving in Paris in August, Kostyushko returned to Pavel the money given to him, and in a letter in rather sharp expressions, declared his refusal of gifts received. Pavel Petrovich ordered to send the money back and declare that "he does not want to accept them from the traitors."
In emigration, the Polish generalissimo clearly exaggerated its value, expecting big concessions from interested parties. In 1807, he told Minister Fouche that if Napoleon needed his support, he was ready to provide it, but on condition that Bonaparte made a written promise (published in the newspapers) that the form of government in Poland would be the same as in England. That the peasants will be liberated from the land, and the borders of Poland will be from Riga to Odessa and from Gdansk to Hungary, including Galicia. Napoleon wrote to Fouche: “I don’t attach any importance to Kosciusko. He does not use in his country the influence in which he believes. However, all his behavior convinces him that he is just a fool. It is necessary to provide him with what he wants, without paying any attention to him. ”
Kosciuszko stepped back from political activities and lived in complete seclusion near Paris. Kosciusko realized that Napoleon would not restore the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and was only flirting with the Polish elite in order to use it. Therefore, he decided not to appear in the Duchy of Warsaw and refused to join the army of the new Polish state, which fought on the side of Napoleon. It was only after the capture of Paris by the Allied forces in 1813, that Kostyushko’s hopes somewhat revived. Emperor Alexander I, arriving in Paris, spoke with Kosciusko about the future structure of Poland. He assured Kosciuszko that he firmly decided to give Poland a constitution, and asked him to help in the work on the device of Poland. However, soon Kosciuszko again had to endure disappointment. When he came to Vienna during the Congress of Vienna and resumed talking about the Polish question there, Alexander I made him understand that he was tired of everything. Russia, Prussia and Austria - the winners of Napoleon’s empire, were not interested in the restoration of Poland.
Offended, Kosciuszko went to Switzerland, where 15 died on October 1817. However, despite the defeat of the uprising and the failure of Kosciusko's further activities, he remained a hero of Poland.
Tadeush Kosciuszko. Portrait of the work of Karl Gottlieb Schweickart, near 1802