Name Carries Meaning

Looking Back with Lloyd Mathews, originally printed October 26, 1978

 

It was not until this past October 11 that I ever gave much thought to why our county was named Pulaski. On that day, this county, along with several other localities throughout the United States, took time out to honor Count Casimir Pulaski, the Polish patriot, who gave his life for American liberty.

By the time our county was formed the names of Revolutionary heroes were running out, and had it not been for the impression Count Pulaski made on those with whom he fought, we might very well be living in Washington or Wayne, or some such county. The name Pulaski was chosen, probably because of the great admiration felt for the Polish native by colonel Hancock of Montgomery County, who fought with him.

Casimir Pulaski was born in Poland on March 4, 1748, the son of a nobleman and lawyer. Casimir himself was sent to France to study law, and upon his return to Poland at age 21 he joined with his father and brother in an attempt to overthrow or capture the puppet king. Failing in this he was imprisoned for a time, and later forced to leave his native country. It was at this time that he decided to devote his talents to the cause of another oppressed people in their struggle for freedom. He made himself known to Benjamin Franklin, who was so impressed with the zeal of the young Pole that he sent him to General George Washington.

Pulaski reached the shores of American in the year 1777, when the tide of the war seemed to be turning against the Americans. His credentials were complete, but there was no command for the foreign officer, so after a period of waiting Pulaski asked for permission to take over the group of soldiers who were Washington’s bodyguard.

With this group and 30 horses, he made his own fighting unit, and drove off a contingent of British troops who were trying to cut off the American line of retreat. He went about this task with such courage that he was given the command of the cavalry. Seldom do we read of a man attaining the rank of general before reaching his 30th birthday, but at age 29, Casimir became Brigadier General Pulaski.

The young general was fighting against two enemies; the British on the one hand, and on the other hand he was not an American and there was bitterness on the part of his officers and they would not cooperate. Also he was having trouble trying to convince the congress that the cavalry should be enlarged. Finally, in March 1778, he resigned his command, and asked for permission to organize an independent corps. This permission was granted, and Pulaski set out on his own, commanding the famous Pulaski Legion. He remained a brigadier general.

In order to equip his unit, Pulaski spent approximately $50,000 of his own money, which was a sizeable amount for the time. Leading his legionnaires, astride his horse, with strong profile, black eyes and black mustache, the young General made a striking figure that put fear in the hearts of the enemy, as he went about winning battle after battle for the American cause.

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