When discussing the history of cavalry in the United States, the American Civil War and the battles against Native American tribes in the Old West are always the first to come to mind. Names like Phil Sheridan, John Buford, Judson “Kill Cavalry” Kilpatrick, and George Armstrong Custer from the Union while, J.E.B. Stuart, Wade Hampton, Nathan Bedford Forrest, and “Rooney” Lee from the Confederacy excite the popular imagination. Custer and Sheridan would figure in the wars out west, and Custer would die at the Little Big Horn with most of the U.S 7th Cavalry.

However, the name of Casimir Pulaski is rarely mention. Yet, Pulaski created some of the very first and very effective cavalry forces for the United States during the Revolutionary War.

After creating a name for himself in Europe, he came to America and joined the 13 colonies in their war of independence against the British thank to the efforts of Benjamin Franklin. 

Pulaski served in the Continental Army under General George Washington. He was killed fighting against the British Army on October 11, 1779.

Pulaski was born in Poland in March of 1745. Like his father, he developed an interest in military affairs and politics at a very young age. In the early 1760s, he and his father came out against the puppet King Stanislaw who had been installed by the Russians. He was given the rank of Colonel and command of a cavalry unit that fought with distinction against King Stanislaw. He was captured by the Russians in 1768 and was returned to Poland in a prisoner exchange with the express vow not to take up arms again against the king. 

Nevertheless, he returned to the fight until 1773 when he was forced into exile in France. Although considered a very accomplished commander, many in Poland also believed that Pulaski was somewhat of a loose cannon. The courts in Poland had declared that all of his assets be seized and sentenced him to death in absentia. 

In 1775, the Marquis de Lafayette became acquainted with Pulaski and introduced him to Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was impressed with the young Polish officer and wrote about him in glowing terms: 

“Count Pulaski of Poland, an officer famous throughout Europe for his bravery and conduct in defense of the liberties of his country against the three great invading powers of Russia, Austria, and Prussia… may be highly useful to our service.”