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Thaddeus Kosciuszko

By David Streater, Ph.D.

Burke County, NCDavid Streater Burke County foundation forward charters of freedom


This is an American history educational moment of those who made a difference during the Revolutionary War era and how they served our Country.

On February 4, 1746, Thaddeus Kosciuszko was born in eastern Poland.  He studied in a Warsaw academy, then was a civil and military engineering student in Paris.  When Thaddeus learned that the American Revolution needed engineers, he crossed the Atlantic, surviving a life-threatening voyage.

Shortly after arriving, Thaddeus read the Declaration of Independence and was overcome by patriotic emotions.  Discovering that Jefferson was its leading author, he made a point of meeting him.  This introduction began their lifelong friendship.  In addition, Jefferson oversaw Kosciuszko’s appointment as a colonial engineer to protect forts and waterways.

Kosciuszko built and improved defenses.  His designs stopped Burgoyne and his troops at the Battle of Saratoga, leading to a turning point in the Revolution.  He was also responsible for developing and defending forts and using cheveaux de frises (protruding spiked logs), to protect important sites and locations such as Philadelphia and West Point.

He also designed flat bottom boats for Nathaniel Greene and could carry them overland.  Thad’s boats and scouting maneuvers led to surmounting Cornwallis in the famous Race to the Dan River.  Kosciuszko chose the Guilford, North Carolina, battleground to array defenses.  Though Cornwallis technically defeated Greene there, Thad’s strategies all but shattered Cornwallis’ army, contributing to Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown.

Returning to Europe, Kosciuszko led troops against Russia and Prussia.  As the Polish commander-in-chief, Thaddeus offered perks to encourage citizens to join the military.  The incentives angered the nobility, but Kosciuszko continued.  As a result, he was wounded and became a prisoner of war.  Eventually freed, Thad reunited with Jefferson and Washington.

Thad again returned to Europe to fight with Napoleon’s army but soon realized that Napoleon was insincere.  Returning to America, Kosciuszko received his military back pay and was given acreage in Columbus, Ohio.

Brigadier General Thaddeus Kosciuszko died in 1817 in Switzerland.  Towns, streets, and buildings in America are named for him.  Thad willed his military accountments to Jefferson.  Perplexed by slavery in America, Thaddeus left instructions for his assets to pay for the freedom and education of the enslaved.

Washington revealed that Kosciuszko was a true patriot and involved in creating liberty.  Jefferson described him as supporting freedom for all.

Please visit your Charters of Freedom setting in most western North Carolina counties.  A Charters of Freedom setting consists of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  They are on permanent display analogous to the Charters of Freedom in the National Archives, Washington, DC.  Please visit our website ( to learn more about our existing settings.

All teachers are encouraged to contact Dr. Streater for information and complementary student education materials to enhance experiential field trips to a Charter of Freedom settings.  Everyone is welcome and urged to obtain a personalized engraved legacy paver for placement at their local Charters of Freedom setting.  Please get in touch with Dr. Streater ( for engraved legacy paver information and complementary educational materials.


Dr. David Streater is the director of education for Foundation Forward.  He is a retired college instructor and administrator, and a retired probation and parole officer/administrator.  David is a criminologist who has an acute history interest, served in the Navy, and is a resident of Burke County, NC.

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