Kosciuszko, a Hero
The Love Story of a Hero. By Mary Kyle Dallas.
21 October 1882
In Poland, somewhere about the year 1746, a little boy was born to a young couple of the lesser nobility, named Kosciuszko.
His parents named him Tadensz, which is our English Thaddeus, and they were very proud of him, and very fond of him, as, parents almost always are of their first-born. They were anxious that he should be a learned man and a brave man, and his father's greatest grief was that he was too poor to have him well educated, for the lesser nobility of Poland were often very poor.
However, as the boy grew old, enough, an influential person, Prince Adam Czartoryski, placed Thaddeus in the then new Cadet Institution of Warsaw, and the boy found his opportunities.
There were two little girls at home by this time, and the father had hard work to keep things comfortable; but they made as many sacrifices to get their young scholar and soldier ready as American families have to send some boy to West Point.
The mother and sisters stitched at his under-clothing. The father himself, rehabilitated, as well as he could, his own big fur, riding-coat; fine boots were bought for him, though dinners must be meagre, and he went away, at last, with blessings and embraces, and with tears in his own blue eyes.
At the Institution he worked hard, studying late into the night, though he had to put his feet, in coldwater to drive away the sleepiness which overpowered him, and rising at three o'clock to begin again.
A man was employed, in the building to heat the stoves; and at three every morning he tugged at a string which he found protruding from beneath the door of Thaddeus's bedroom. The other end was tied to the young fellow's elbow.
No wonder that when the King of Poland deposited a sum of money for the benefit of the four most distinguished youths in the academy, that Thaddeus was one of those chosen by the authorities.
With this help he, finished his studies at the Military Academy of Versailles and returned to Poland, where he entered the army, and young as he was, was at once given a company.
Shortly afterward the regiment was ordered to Lithuania, and here, being quartered in the, Castle of Joseph Sosnowski, Marshal of Lithuania, and vice-general of the crown, Thaddeus lost his heart to the daughter of the house - Louisa.
All his life he had been ambitious, but for a while he forgot his ambition in his love, or rather thought of his future career, but as a means of winning the woman who was so dear to him. Louisa was above him in rank.
Her parents were great and wealthy, but once sure that he had won her heart, Thaddeus bravely revealed his intentions. The parents, who had high views for their daughter, were furious. In vain Louisa besought her mother's pity.
In vain the young soldier pleaded with the father. A stern denial of his suit was all that Thaddeus received. The two young people were parted.
Spies dogged their steps; interviews were impossible; only now and then a little note was secretly conveyed from one to the other; but their hearts were as true as steel. "We will not be parted forever," wrote Thaddeus to Louisa. "You must be mine." And she replied in terms that made him determined to break down all obstacles.
An old servant, with a romantic Polish heart, was Louisa's confidante. The young lady occupied an apartment within that of her parents. She could not leave the castle without permission, and never alone; but love will break down all barriers.
One night the old servant, wrapped in cloak and hood, went into the bed-chamber of her young lady. She returned in a few minutes, shivering as with the cold, and bent and tottering. Slowly she crept down the stairs and out into the court-yard.
But once beyond the servant's eyes, the form straightened, the hood was thrown back, the step became light. The old woman who had entered Louisa's room still remained there. The lady Louisa herself was hastening to meet her lover, who had, at last, proposed an elopement.
Under the shadow of certain old pine trees they met, after a long and weary parting. He clasped her to his heart, and showered kisses on her lips. "We shall never be parted again, my love," swore the soldier; and together they hurried toward the spot where a carriage awaited them.
The night was intensely dark, not a star shone, and the moon was hidden under back clouds. The lovers could just see the forms of the horses and of the fur-clad driver; but assuredly at such a time they rejoiced in the shadows.
But as they stepped into the carriage, they were aware that through the darkness figures were stealthily approaching. They were surrounded. The correspondence had been discovered. Lady Louisa's mother had read her letters, and the marshal's people were upon them. Kosciuszko, maddened by his emotions, drew his sword.
It was one man against twenty, and he soon fell bleeding and senseless to the ground. His assailants thought him dead, and left him there, while they carried the fainting Louisa back to her home.
In the early dawn Thaddeus Kosciuszko came to himself. He lifted himself to his, elbow and looked around him. The trampled ground still bore signs of the conflict; and near him lay something soft and white as snow. It was a handkerchief that Louisa had dropped as they bore her away.
Thaddeus lifted it to his lips and hid it in his bosom, and then crawled away toward the village, where a friend, Julian Niemcesvicz, would have received and protected the bride and bridegroom, hid the wounded lover, who returned alone, and nursed him back to strength again.
As soon as he recovered, Thaddeus wrote to the king requesting leave to resign his commission, and receiving it, came, at once to America, where the Revolutionary War was then at its height.
He was penniless and had no introductions, but he sought at once the presence of Washington. "What; do you seek here?', asked the general. "I come to fight for American Independence,' said Thaddeus Kosciuszko. "What can you do?" asked Washington. "Try me, and see," replied the Pole. He was tried, and all the world soon saw.
At the end of the war he was a brigadier-general, with the thanks of Congress and the badge of the Cincinnati. Washington, Lafayette and Franklin were his friends. The soldiers adored him. He was one of the men who can inspire courage oven in hearts which are fast failing.
At the end of the war he returned to Poland, and all readers of history know him in his character of patriot, and have read of his brave efforts to shake the yoke of slavery from the shoulders of Poland. He was, perhaps, the truest and purest patriot ever known.
He died in Switzerland, in 1871, an old man, who had for some years devoted himself to deeds of charity, and the education of the little daughter of' a friend. He was tolerably rich, for one of his last acts was to free all the serfs on his estate in Poland, and to make a will in which large legacies were left, but he had neither wife nor child.
The great Patriot had never loved woman since Louisa Sosnowski had been torn from his arms. Her handkerchief, preserved by him as a precious relic, was buried with him. Its ashes now lie over the ashes of his noble heart under, the great monument at Cracow where his remains were taken. No other such monument has ever been built.
It is called Kosciuszko's Mount, and is three hundred feet high, and of immense width.
At this pile, people of all classes, noblemen, peasants, statesmen, soldiers, and delicate ladies, yes, the highest in the land, worked with their own hands, each anxious to add to its height.
And near it houses were built for four peasants, whose duty is to take care of the great monument - actually a mount - and see that it is always planted, watered, and made beautiful.
The path leading to it is a favourite promenade. And no Pole but knows the history of Thaddeus Kosciuszko.
Yet he was not good enough, in the opinion of Joseph Sosnowski and his wife, to marry their daughter, though his true and tender heart remained hers only until it ceased to beat.