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Thaddeus (Tadeusz) Kosciuszko (1746-1817) was a Polish freedom fighter and engineer. Kosciuszko endeared himself to this country during the American Revolution and later gained even greater recognition in defense of his native Poland.
Kosciuszko, born On February 12, 1746, in what was then part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and now Belarus. He was schooled first at the Royal Military Academy in Warsaw and afterwards in France, concentrating on artillery and engineering. Arriving in Philadelphia in 1776 to join the American cause, the Continental Congress appointed him a colonel of engineers in the Continental Army. Kosciuszko’s fortifications contributed to an American victory at Saratoga, and he then was assigned to further fortify West Point, a key point of defense on the Hudson River. Here, in addition to defenses, he created a small garden, which is still maintained at the U.S. Military Academy. At the close of the American Revolution, Kosciuszko returned to Poland, and his military leadership was soon on display in conflicts with Russia and Prussia. Despite his efforts, Poland was defeated and ceased to exist as an independent nation. Kosciuszko, badly wounded in a 1794 battle, was imprisoned in St. Petersburg, Russia. After the death of Catherine the Great, her son Czar Paul I granted him amnesty in 1796. He returned to the United States, arriving in Philadelphia in August 1797, where he quickly developed a lasting friendship with Thomas Jefferson. Although he stayed in the country less than a year, he maintained a correspondence with Jefferson until his death in 1817.