Kosciuszko and West Point
This year the annual Kosciuszko Ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 3,
2003. All members of the Long Grey Line*, and friends and families, are
invited. The ceremony commemorates the debt that the United States, and
West Point in particular, owe to Thaddeus Kosciuszko. Best known as the
designer and builder of West Point, Kosciuszko gained intial fame for his
strategy at the battles of Ticonderoga and Saratoga.
Edward L. Rowny
Former Ambassador and LTG USA (RET)
Kosciuszko Garden, on an escarpment below Cullum Hall, was his favorite
retreat. Over the years the Garden has fallen into disrepair, but has
recently been refurbished by the family of the author (Class of '41 and
Thaddeus Kosciuszko, as a young military officer, studied military
engineering in France. He volunteered his services to General George
Washington. Kosciuszko was not only a good soldier, but also a superb
engineer and fiery patriot. After the battles at Fort Ticonderoga and
Saratoga, General Washington asked Kosciuszko, who had distinguished himself
as the premiere engineer of the American Revolution, to build a fort on the
Hudson River. The object was to deny the British the use of the river, by
which they could resupply their troops to the north. Kosciuszko selected
the site at the double bend of the Hudson River which is now West Point. It
served as the western anchor of the huge iron chain which he erected across
the river. Later, Kosciuszko fought with the Southern Army and took part in
the last battle of the war on James Island, South Carolina, November 14,
1782. After the war, he returned to Poland, where he took part in the
unsuccessful attempts to free Poland from Russian, Prussian, and Austrian
domination. In 1797 he returned to the United States with the intention of
retiring here. However, his friend Thomas Jefferson sent him to France to,
through diplomacy, lessen the tensions between the U.S. and the radical
At the end of Kosciuszko's service, the United States Congress promoted him
to Brigadier General, and awarded him back pay. Kosciuszko had designated
his friend Thomas Jefferson the executor of his will. In it, he specified
that the funds from his estate were to be used for the emancipation and
education of American slaves.
As a child I had heard about the exploits of the great Thaddeus Kosciuszko
from my uncle, A. C. Redziszewski. He designed and built a monument in
Baltimore to another great Revolutionary War Polish general, Casimir
Pulaski. In 1936, as a junior at Johns Hopkins University, I was awarded
one of the first scholarships given by the Kosciuszko Foundation. The
scholarship paid for my passage to and from Poland and for my room and board
for a semester at the Jagiellonian University at Krakow. While there I
travelled around Europe and attended the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. I not
only saw Jesse Owens win four medals, but observed the rising militarism of
Hitler's Germany. Conviced that a war was coming, I graduated from Johns
Hopkins, resigned my reserve commission, and entered West Point on 1 July,
At West Point, I learned more about Kosciuszko. I became convinced that if
his name had been more easily pronounceable, like other famous engineers
Robert E. Lee and Douglas McArthur, Kosciuszko would be better-known. As a
matter of fact, the pronunciation of Kosciuszko's name got me into trouble.
Shortly after my entry as a plebe to West Point, an upperclassman pointed to
the large monument on the plain and asked: "Dumb john, what's the name of
"Kosh-chu-sko," I said.
"No, dumb john, it's the Kos-ki-os-ko monument."
"Sir, I can speak Polish, and know how to pronounce the name."
"No, you don't," he said. "Do ten pushups."
Every week for the next year, the upperclassman came back and asked me the
same question. I stuck to my pronunciation, and every week did ten more
On the day I became an upperclassman, my tormentor shook my hand and
smiled. "Now," he said, "you can say Kosh-chu-sko. I know you were right,
but West Point is based on tradition, and to plebes, the name is pronunced
Barely six months after graduating in 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl
Harbor. My timing proved fortuitous since it had allowed me four years of
training at West Point. Quite naturally, I elected to join the Corps of
Engineers. After serving as Corps Engineer in Korea, I joined the
The events of May 3, 2003 will commence at 9:45 am with a mass at Holy
Trinity Chapel. The Corps of Cadets will parade on the Plain at 11:30 am.
Immediately thereafter, at 12:30 pm, the annual ceremony honoring Kosciuszko
will be held at his monument. All are invited to join the several thousand
Polish and Polish-American veterans, who are annually brought to West Point
by Dean Anthony Bajdek, to witness the ceremony. This year there will be an
additional group representing the Kosciuszko Foundation. At 2:00 pm there
will be a lunch at the Thayer Hotel. Seating will be on a first come, first
serve basis. People wishing to attend should contact Dean Bajdek at (617)
373-2695. At 5 pm a plaque will be unveiled at the Kosciuszko Garden.
Since space at this site is limited, attendance will be limited to the Rowny
family and friends.
For more information on the ceremony, contact the USMA Public Relations
Office at (845) 938-3614. For other details, contact me at Erowny@aol.com .
*Long Gray Line: those who can boast of West Point as their alma mater.