It’s Casimir Pulaski Day!

Many of your children are off from school today, and you’re probably wondering just who Casimir Pulaski was – other than a guy who has a very long north/south Chicago (and suburban) street named after him.

Like many of the men we celebrate, Pulaski was a war hero. He fought and died in the American Revolution, specifically in Savannah, Georgia in 1779. The story goes that the Americans and French were trying to unseat the British, and Pulaski, trying to rally the troops in what ultimately was a failed effort, was shot off of his horse.

But that would describe a lot of people. So why is Pulaski a hero? He is believed to be one of the first Polish immigrants to the new colonies. If he wasn’t the first, he was certainly the most distinguished.

He was also apparently a really smart tactician. Soon after he arrived in 1777, he was made a brigadier general and put in charge of the cavalry. He is known as the Father of the American Cavalry.

Pulaski came from a military family in Poland. His father commanded troops who fought against Russia. When his father died, he took over and did well, but somehow fell afoul of the king and had to run into exile to Paris. There he met Benjamin Franklin, who somehow convinced Pulaski to come to the colonies with him and fight for American independence.

In Illinois, we’ve officially celebrated the first Monday in March as Pulaski Day since 1980. It is also a holiday in Wisconsin. And it is widely celebrated with parties and parades in cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, Buffalo and Grand Rapids – where there are large Polish populations.

So, happy Pulaski Day everyone!

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