#Onthisday in 1817, American War of Independence Officer Tadeusz Kosciuszko died from a fall from a horse.
Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko was a Polish-Lithuanian military engineer and a military leader who became a national hero in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and the United States. He fought in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s struggles against Russia and Prussia, and on the American side in the American Revolutionary War. As Supreme Commander of the Polish National Armed Forces, he led the 1794 Kościuszko Uprising.
Kościuszko was born in February 1746 in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in a village that is now in Belarus. At age 20, he graduated from the Corps of Cadets in Warsaw, Poland. In 1776, Kościuszko moved to North America, where he took part in the American Revolutionary War as a colonel in the Continental Army.
An accomplished military architect, he designed and oversaw the construction of state-of-the-art fortifications, including those at West Point, New York. In 1783, in recognition of his services, the Continental Congress promoted him to brigadier general.
Kościuszko is known in our community because of the Battles of Saratoga. In September, 1777 American General Gates tapped Kościuszko to survey the country between the opposing armies, choose the most defensible position, and fortify it. Kościuszko chose a raised area a few miles south of Saratoga, known as Bemus Heights, to build their fortifications and stop the British advance to Albany. Bemus Heights overlooked the Hudson River and the road to Albany at a natural “bottleneck” in the river valley. The heights gave a commanding view north, where the British would be advancing from. Dense woodland and difficult ravines prevented the British from traversing the land just east of the river. Swampland and ravines directly beneath Bemus Heights restricted Burgoyne’s advance to the river and the road, both of which were highly visible and vulnerable to American forces. These imposing defenses forced Burgoyne’s army to take the only safe route open to them and move inland, away from the Hudson, a few miles north of Bemus Heights. Kościuszko’s judgment and meticulous attention to detail frustrated the British attacks during the Battles of Saratoga, and American General Gates accepted the surrender of British General Burgoyne’s army on October 17, 1777.
Today, when people hear the name Kościuszko they think of the Thaddeus Kosciusko Bridge, commonly referred to as the Twin Bridges, which span the Mohawk River between the towns of Colonie, Albany County and Halfmoon, Saratoga County, on Interstate 87 or the Adirondack Northway. Others may think of the Kosciuszko Bridge spanning Newtown Creek between Brooklyn and Queen in New York City.
Saratoga has been defined by the people who by choice or by chance make up this community. There are many individuals like Tadeusz Kosciuszko that help define this country and our community. It is the determination of our forefathers, in surmounting overwhelming odds that help define the American spirit – the will and ability to shape a better future. It is the people it is that define this community by choice or by chance have changed this country and even the world political development. That is why studying the people of Saratoga is integral to a good understanding of the condition of being human.