Statue of Brigadier General Thaddeus Kościuszko
On this ride I went to Lafayette Square Park, located just north of the White House between Pennsylvania Avenue and H Street, and between 15th and 17th Streets (MAP). I went there to see one of the four statues which anchor the four corners of the park. Today, I went to see the statue of Brigadier General Thaddeus Kościuszko, located at the northeast corner of the park. The other three statues, which all outrank Kosciuszko, are of Major General Marquis Gilbert de Lafayette, Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, and Major General Comte Jean de Rochambeau.
The four corner statues located in Lafayette Square honor foreign volunteers who fought for the new nation during the American Revolutionary War. As such, they are four of a total of fourteen statues known collectively as the “American Revolution Statuary”, which are scattered throughout D.C., mainly in squares and traffic circles, and are listed as a group on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Kościuszko statue was designed by a Polish sculptor named Antoni Popiel as part of a competition in 1907 to design a monument for the park. Popiel’s design placed second in the competition. For unknown reasons, however, President Theodore Roosevelt selected Popiel’s design for implementation. It is unknown what happened with the design of the contest’s winner. Kościuszko design was then erected in 1910, and dedicated by President William Howard Taft that same year.
The Kościuszko statue honors the Polish army officer, military engineer and statesman who gained fame both for his role in the American Revolution, and his leadership of a national insurrection in his homeland.
Born to a family of noble origin sometime in February of 1746, Andrew Thaddeus Bonaventure Kościuszko began his rise to prominenace when he attracted the attention of King Stanisław II Augustus Poniatowski while working as an instructor at a military academy in Warsaw. The king was so impressed, in fact, that he sent him to Paris for further study. Upon his return to Poland, he taught the daughters of General Józef Sosnowski. During this time he fell in love one of the daughters, Ludwika, and rather than ask her father for his daughter’s hand in marriage, he tried unsuccessfully to elope with her. Facing the wrath of her father, Kościuszko fled to France, and in 1776 he came to America, where he joined the colonial forces in their fight for independence. At the end of the war he was given U.S. citizenship.
In 1784, however, Kościuszko returned to Poland. But because of his association with the Czartoryski family, then in opposition to the king, he could not secure an appointment in the Polish army. So for the next five years he lived in poverty on a small country estate.
With the advent of reforms in Poland in 1789, Kościuszko returned to military service. Under the protection of his former love, Ludwika, now the wife of Prince Lubomirski, and with the support of local nobility, he was granted the rank of general major. Then in March of 1794, Kościuszko organized an uprising against Russia which, under the rule of Catherine the Great, had invaded Poland in an attempt to end Polish internal reforms designed to liberate the nation from Russian influence. While serving as commander-in-chief of the uprising, Russian forces captured him at the Battle of Maciejowice in October 1794, which led to the defeat of the Kościuszko Uprising.
In 1796, following the death of Catherine the Great, Kościuszko was pardoned by her successor, Tsar Paul I, and he emigrated back to the United States. It was then that be became a close friend of Thomas Jefferson, with whom he shared many ideals of human rights.
After receiving news of fresh possibilities to promote Poland’s cause in France, Kościuszko secretly left the United States on May 5, 1798. But his return to France was a disappointment when he could not gain Napolean’s support for Poland’s independence, nor later on, that of Alexander I of Russia. Hence, Kościuszko retired from public life, and for the rest of his life remained in exile from Poland, living first in France and later in Switzerland. It was not until after his death in 1817 that Kościuszko was finally able to return to his native Poland, when his remains were carried to Kraków and buried among the kings’ tombs in the cathedral.
Kościuszko was not only a supporter of American independence and a Polish national hero, but also a believer in social equality. Kościuszko wrote a will in 1798 dedicating his assets to the freedom and education of American slaves.
[Click on the photos to view the full-size versions]
Note: If you want to learn even more about Thaddeus Kościuszko, I would recommend a visit to the foundation named after him. Founded in 1925, on the eve of the 150th anniversary of his enlistment in the American revolutionary cause, The Kosciuszko Foundation is a national not-for-profit, nonpartisan, and nonsectarian organization dedicated to promoting educational and cultural exchanges between the United States and Poland, and to increase American understanding of Polish culture and history. It is located about ten blocks from the statue, at 2025 O Street (MAP), in northwest D.C.’s DuPont Circle neighborhood, just a block down the street from Sonny Bono Memorial Park.