The statue in Monterey Square, dedicated to Casimir Pulaski
The Casimir Pulaski Monument in Savannah, Georgia, commemorates the celebrated Revolutionary General who came to America to help us defend our freedom. He fought fiercely and died honorably, paving the way for the Revolution and displaying what it truly means to be a hero.
Kazimierz Pułaski (1745-1779) was a Polish commander and nobleman, often referred to as “the father of American cavalry.” Born into an aristocratic family in Warsaw, Pulaski was exposed to all the luxuries imaginable. Ironically, his upbringing led him to become overconfident, the character flaw that ultimately proved to be his downfall. Yet, his social status also awoke his passion for political affairs, the same passion that eventually brought him to America.
At the time, Warsaw, the capital of the Polish-Lithuania Commonwealth, was in an odd political state. They were simultaneously battling against the imposing dominion of Russia, and the monarchical system the government had in place. Within the Commonwealth, the monarch did not inherit the throne from his predecessor. Instead, the Parliament elected and controlled the king, allowing the government to appoint rulers that would push their desired agenda.
In the 18th century, the existing tensions between the Commonwealth and Russia turned into a full-blown conflict as Russia took advantage of the weakened political state of the Commonwealth to gain full control over the country. As a countermeasure, nobles and patriots united to form the Bar Confederation as a way to overpower Russia’s military and political forces, and regain the sovereignty of their country.
As a nobleman, Pulaski was involved in the Bar Confederation movement, leading a small string of successful attacks against Russia and earning recognition as an astute soldier and skilled cavalryman. Everything changed, however, after failing to capture Polish pro-Russian King Stanislaw II Augustus and compromising the entire Revolution.
Faced with defeat and accused of attempting to murder the King, Pulaski fled to Prussia before settling in France. He tried to join the French Army but was denied a position due to his shortcomings in Poland.
Pulaski’s reckless bravery in battle attracted Benjamin Franklin’s attention, and he was invited to North America to fight in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783).
Determined and confident, Pulaski set sail to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1777. Upon arrival, he ventured to General George Washington’s Valley Forge encampment to join the Continental Army. Despite being told to wait for the Continental Congress to approve his request, his strong-will shined through when, during the Battle of Brandywine, he decided to fight anyway, without being adequately enlisted.
After Washington realized that a portion of his army was about to collapse, Pulaski volunteered to counter charge the British to allow the Continental Army to withdraw. His approach proved successful, delaying the enemy, and possibly saving General George Washington’s life. His precipitous acts immediately landed him a spot in the Continental Army cavalry as a Brigadier General.
Upon joining the army, Pulaski realized that the Continental cavalry consisted of only a few hundred men, scattered between numerous infantry formations. The small number of battlefield horse riders was likely due to the expensive nature of raising horses and the exorbitant supply costs.
Dissatisfied, the fervent horseman went straight to work, reforming the Continental cavalry and setting regulations for the unit. He spent most of his time in the Army recruiting men to join his Cavalry Legion, which he equipped with Polish weapons and trained based on his home country’s military strategies.
He got on Washington’s bad side, however, after he began to ask Loyalists for supplies and steeds for his Legion, which was customary in Europe but not a common practice in the Revolution, as it went against everything the Continental Army stood for: complete independence from Britain.
In 1779, a year after the British successfully captured the city of Savannah, Georgia, Pulaski was sent to the South to help General Benjamin Lincoln recapture the area. Although the Continental Army counted with the help of French soldiers, the British caught wind of the patriot’s planned battle strategies and dominated the conflict.
After a brief, failed encounter with British forces, Pulaski and his men were forced to retreat. Itching for a chance at redemption, he left his men concealed in the woods and rode forward to inspect the battlefield, but as he did, he was mortally struck in the groin by grapeshot.
There are conflicting accounts as to where Pulaski’s corpse was finally laid to rest. The war hero was either buried at sea or interred in an unmarked grave in Savannah, like the majority of the soldiers who died during the bloody siege.
The beautiful 55-foot-tall Casimir Pulaski Monument has towered over Savannah’s neatly landscaped Monterey Square since 1854. The memorial - designed by renowned Russian-born New York sculptor, Robert Eberhard Launitz - represents the life of Pulaski and the freedom he died to obtain.
Atop the Italian marble structure, stands a statue of liberty holding the American flag on her left hand and a laurel wreath on her right. When describing his inspiration for the design, Launitz expressed that: “The love of liberty brought Pulaski to America; for love of liberty he fought, and for liberty, he lost his life. Thus, I thought that Liberty should crown his monument and share with him the homage of the free.”
Aside from Lady Liberty, the memorial also exhibits a Bald Eagle resting on one of the many tiers that make up the monument. Finally, at the base, we find an expertly-carved bas relief of Pulaski mounted on his horse.
Although a construction honoring Pulaski was imminent, the project took decades to come into fruition. The city of Savannah intended to build two monuments: one for Casimir Pulaski and one for Pulaski’s contemporary, Nathanael Greene, but the astronomical cost of two structures crippled their plans.
Since 1825, both war heroes were commemorated with a single monument, a tall marble obelisk in Johnson Square. In 1852, almost 30 years later, the Casimir Pulaski Monument funds were finally secured, and the Johnson Square obelisk was renamed the Nathanael Greene Monument.
After some debate over the appropriate place to place the Pulaski memorial, the perfect location was found: Monterey Square. It was here where, in 1853, the first cornerstone was laid, and the remains of Casimir Pulaski were reinterred, leaving the hero to rest eternally in the same place he is remembered.
You can find the Pulaski Monument in the center of Monterey Square, in Savannah Georgia. Monterey Square can be found at 4 West Taylor Street, in the historic district.