Friday, 3 June 2011
Count Casimir Pulaski
Pulaski was born in Poland in 1745 into a well-known noble family. His soldiering began in his early twenties when he joined the Polish groups opposing Russian influence and intervention in their country. That opposition quickly led to armed conflict and Pulaski proved himself to be an excellent commander of men. Outlawed by the Russians in 1771 and accused of trying to kidnap the Polish king, he fled to Turkey and then Paris. There in 1777 he met Benjamin Franklin and Lafayette and agreed to join the struggle for independence, no doubt keen to support another country trying to win its freedom. Franklin introduced Pulaski to George Washington, who appears to have given Pulaski some sort of staff or advisory role. Pulaski's first engagement of the war was at Brandywine, where he led the scouting party that discovered the British flanking movement which threatened the American escape route. He collected whatever cavalry he could and bought time for the American army to withdraw.
Congress rewarded Pulaski with a commission as brigadier general and command of all American cavalry. He spent the winter of 1777-8 training and outfitting the cavalry units but in March he resigned his command due to difficulties with his officers (who appear to have disliked being ordered about by a foreigner who had not mastered English). Pulaski suggested to Washington that he form an independent legion of cavalry and light infantry. This idea was approved by Congress and Pulaski's Legion was born, which became the model for other legions such as Lee's and Armand's. Many of the recruits were German deserters and British PoWs, officered by Polish and French expatriates (apparently thirteen Polish officers served under Pulaski in the legion). In 1779 the legion , then only about 120 men strong, was sent to the south and Pulaski was instrumental is lifting the siege of Charleston. The Americans then moved onto their own siege of Savannah. By this time French forces had arrived and on 9 October 1779 the allies made their disasterous attack on the town. Seeing the French infantry falter, Pulaski galloped forward with his legion to rally the men but was mortally wounded by cannon shot. He died two days later, on 15 October 1779, and was buried at sea. He was 34 years old.
The Pulaski here is the "Baron Munchausen" figure from Eureka Miniatures. This was a kind freebie from Eureka. There is another variant of this set which has the Baron mounted on only half a horse that is drinking from a fountain (see here for an explanation). At first I thought about painting the figure as a German officer or a French cavalry commander but then I realised that it would make a perfect Pulaski. The uniform is light cavalry in style and suitably, while the sabretache has a design that looks vaguely like the white eagle that is emblem of the Polish coat of arms. I took my lead from the painting above, "The Death of General Casimir Pulaski" by S. Batowksi, and you can see that Pulaski's uniform in the painting (admittedly painted in 1932!) is not far off from that of Munchausen. The hat is a bit tall, perhaps (although see the troopers to the left of Pulaski in the painting), but is in keeping with the flamboyant look which seems appropriate for such a larger-than-life character. Following Batowksi, I painted the uniform and horse furniture in the standard Polish colours of crimson and dark blue.
Painted May 2011.