Issued: January 16, 1931 • Location: Brooklyn, NY
In January 1931, the Post Office Department issued this stamp commemorating the 150th anniversary of the death of General Casimir Pulaski. Often referred to as the “father of American cavalry,” Pulaski was a Polish soldier who made a name for himself fighting for his country against Russia. He became involved in the American Revolutionary War after meeting Benjamin Franklin in Paris. Franklin convinced the Polish hero to join American’s war for independence.
Pulaski soon sailed for America, arriving in Philadelphia in 1777. He served as a general in the Continental Army and quickly developed a reputation for reckless courage and the ability to lead small bands of cavalry to great effect.
Early in 1778, Pulaski offered to raise an independent cavalry unit for the Continental Army, which he was able to do with little interference from his American counterparts. This lack of collaboration had much to do with the American officers’ dislike of Pulaski and his monumental ego. Initially, the General’s demeanor was tolerated due to the fighting effectiveness of his men. However, Pulaski ran afoul of General Washington after appropriating supplies and horses from citizens he suspected of loyalty to the Crown.
General Washington ordered Pulaski to Charleston, SC in 1779. His mission was to support the plan to retake Savannah from the British. During one of the skirmishes leading toward the goal, Pulaski’s characteristically reckless style took over when he charged a British raiding party resulting in great losses to his unit. Then, on the last day of the Siege of Savannah, he led a charge against a British position hoping to rally French troops who were retreating. In the melee, Casimir Pulaski was shot and mortally wounded. He died of his wounds several days later.
Although in life Pulaski was hated by his contemporaries, in death he became a symbol of independence for both his native country, Poland, and his adopted nation, America. His valor on the battlefield and his sacrifice for the Colonies earned Casimir Pulaski the respect of the new nation and, eventually, a stamp honoring his service. In 2009, the United States Senate granted him the posthumous reward of honorary United States citizenship, one of only eight individuals to ever be granted such an honor.
This article was first published in the January 2020 edition of The United States Specialist, the monthly journal of the United States Stamp Society. Click this link to read the article in the original print layout.