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PATRIOTS OR MERCENARIES? POLISH LEGIONS IN THE SERVICE OF FRANCE (1797-1807)

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  • PATRIOTS OR MERCENARIES? POLISH LEGIONS IN THE SERVICE OF FRANCE (1797-1807)

    PATRIOTS OR MERCENARIES?
    POLISH LEGIONS IN THE SERVICE OF FRANCE (1797-1807)
    By Andrzej Nieuwazny

    The failure of the Kosciuszko insurrection (1794) and the third partition of Poland, carried out a year later by Russia, Austria, and Prussia, led to the emigration of the leaders of the insurrection and the Polish soldiers. Paris then became the center of attraction for a large majority of these emigrants who, divided into factions, competed for the favors of the Directory. The majority dreamed of a military force capable of recommencing the struggle for independence. The Polish legions in the service of France (1797-1807) marked the beginning of the phenomenon of massive service of Polish soldiers under foreign flags.

  • #2
    "HOPE RALLIES US"
    The radical and republican "Polish Deputation" believed in the national independence movement and following the French example, advocated equality and freedom for peasants. French support seemed important but not essential. The moderates, excluded from this "Deputation", assembled in an "Agency" then in an organization designated under the name of: "Polish emigrants". These supporters of the Constitution of May 3, 1791 concentrated around the former Polish envoy to the French Republic, Franciszek Barss, and Jozef Wybicki, and General Jozef Wielhorski, saw future Poland as a constitutional monarchy gradually introducing social change. But they considered that preparations for an insurrection in their occupied country were premature 1.
    1 On the beginnings of this emigration see: Zajewski (Wladyslaw), Jozef Wybicki in France after the 1794 insurrection, "Acta Poloniae Historica", no 39 (1979), p. 197-213.

    The two factions fiercely opposed each other, however they agreed on the need to create a Polish military force in exile. The attempts of the radicals to organize the Polish units on the border of Austria, of Turkey and in Venice having failed, similar approaches by the "Polish Emigrants" to the Directory had the same result, because not only did the French government fears incite the Russians to war against France but, also, because the entry of foreigners in the republican army was prohibited by the Constitution of 1795.

    With the arrival in Paris (end of September 1796), at the request of Wybicki, of Jan Henryk Dabrowski, former Saxon guard officer and Polish general, who had covered himself with glory against the Prussians, "hope changed from camp, the fight changed its soul ”. In the hope of an anti-Russian alliance between Prussia and France, Dabrowski had conducted talks in Berlin probing the possibility of creating Polish troops. Finally, this project was only finalized in France. Because if the government feared diplomatic complications, it saw the usefulness that the Poles could bring to fight against Austria in Italy. Dabrowski was therefore sent to the glorious commander of the Italian army, General Bonaparte, who already knew a little about Polish affairs thanks to his aide-de-camp Jozef Sulkowski, who was also opposed to the idea of the legions 2.
    2 Reinhard (Marcel), With Bonaparte in Italy. From the Inditex letters of his aide-de-camp Joseph Sulkowski, Hachette, 1946, 315 pages.

    Dabrowski proposed to organize these units with officers of the Polish army, dismissed after 1795, immigrants from Polish lands and to fill the ranks with thousands of recruits from Galicia in the service of Austria in Italy and taken captive by the French. The general was counting on the creation of these formations to encourage the Poles who remained under Austrian flags to desert. Convinced by his arguments, Bonaparte gave his agreement and on January 9, 1797, the Polish general signed an arrangement with the Lombard government under which the Polish auxiliary legions were created with the Republic of Lombardy, allied with France. On January 20, their leader invited his compatriots to join him in an appeal written in Milan in four languages: “Polish! Hope rallies us! France triumphs, she fights for the cause of the nations; let us try to weaken her enemies; she grants us asylum, let's wait for better destinies for our country. Let us line up under her flags, they are those of honor and victory! Polish legions are formed in Italy, on this land once the sanctuary of freedom; already, officers and soldiers, companions in our labors and your courage, are with me; battalions are organizing! Come, companions, throw away the weapons you were forced to carry! Let us fight for the common cause of nations, for freedom, under the valiant general Bonaparte, winner of Italy! The trophies of the French Republic are our only hope; it is through her; it is through her allies that we will perhaps see with joy these cherished homes that we have left with tears! "

    The creation of legions seemed useful to all parties: Bonaparte won a few thousand soldiers to fight the Austrians and the Italian partisans; the Lombardy Republic gained defenders without taking the risk of arming its own people and the Polish emigrants, the hope of a better future 3.
    3 Jan Pachonski devoted his whole life to the study of the legions. The result was his capital work: Legiony Polskie. Prawda i Legenda 1794-1807 [Polish Legions. Truth and legend 1794-1807], volumes 1-4, Warsaw, 1969-1979 and the great biography General Jan Henryk Dabrowski 1755-1818, published in Warsaw in 1981. A biographical dictionary of officers (Slownik biograficzny oficerow Legionow Polskich 1796 -1807) was published after his death in 2003. In his doctoral thesis, published under the title The Eagle and the Phoenix. A century of Franco-Polish relations 1732-1832 (CNRS éditions, 2001), Lydia Scher Zembitska mentions many French sources concerning the legions.

    Comment


    • #3
      GLORY AND DECLINE
      The faction struggles within the emigration did not spare the creator of the legions often slandered near the Directory by his political and military rivals. Besides allusions to its past (financial irregularities, servility towards the Russians during the reduction of the army in 1792) and to its allegedly "Germanic" spirit, after 21 years spent in the service of Saxony, the opposition criticized the needlessly killing of compatriots for the service of a foreign country. "At the time and in the times of betrayals in which we live it may be that a most virtuous but unconscious man also takes Dabrowski as a traitor" - with these words Wybicki consoled his friend in a letter of 1799 4. Despite his disillusionment, Dabrowski remained faithful to his motto, formulated at the time of the decline of the legions: “Persevere! Events can produce positive change! "
      4 Wybicki to Dabrowski, Geneva on 30 fructidor year VII (September 16, 1799), Archiwum Wybickiego [Wybicki Archives], ed. Adam Skalkowski, vol. 1 (1768-1801), Gdańsk, 1948, p. 430.

      The general first organized his first 6,000 men into six homogeneous infantry battalions (with three artillery companies) divided into two legions. According to Jan Pachonski, after the reorganization carried out in May 1797 by Bonaparte, "the Polish legion as a whole, was distinguished from the model of the French demi-brigades by an enlarged staff, by the increase in the effective in the companies of grenadiers, from 83 to 123 soldiers, by the addition of a supplementary company of skirmishers which did not exist in French formations. Due to the constant shortage of officers [the largest wave of candidates only arrived in Italy in the summer], double companies were formed with a single officer corps for the two companies "5.
      5 Pachonski (Jan), "Polish military formations from 1794 to 1807 (organization-manpower-feats of arms)", International Review of Military History, no 28, 1969, p. 470.

      The first, and rare, operations of the Poles, in March-April 1797, consisted mainly of supporting the Republicans on the territory of Veneto; the 2nd legion, for its part, was incorporated into the garrison of Mantua, which was preparing an attack on Austrian territory. Leoben’s armistice and the peace signed at Campoformio (17-18 October 1797) sealed all hope of a successful offensive towards Austria’s occupied Galicia. The question then arose for the first time of the future of the Polish formations.

      The creation of the Cisalpine Republic instead of the Lombard Republic complicated the plans of Dabrowski, who nevertheless saved the situation by signing a new convention, on November 17, 1797, with the only French authorities. The latter therefore maintained an auxiliary Polish corps. Fearing the attitude of the Poles in the event of conflict with France and preferring to incorporate them directly into its army, the cisalpine legislative body did not approve this convention. At the beginning of 1799, the strength of the Polish auxiliary corps rose to more than 8,200 soldiers, thanks to the addition of a cavalry (a regiment of lancers was created), to the increase in artillery as well that the formation of a fourth company in each battalion.

      The 1st legion of General Kniaziewicz participated in the liberation of Lazio. On May 3, 1798, it entered Rome and fought against the enemies of the Roman Republic (especially peasant partisans) and the Neapolitan invasion (among others in the battles of Magliano, Otricoli, Civitacastellana, Calvi, Ferentino, Frosinone and Terracina). The most famous feat of arms was the capture of the Gaëta maritime fortress. The Commander-in-Chief, General Championnet, honored Kniaziewicz's soldiers by instructing Kniaziewicz to deliver to the Directory, the 33 flags taken from the enemy on March 8, 1799.

      1799 turned out to be a disastrous year for the Poles. In the battles of Magnano and Legnano, the 2nd legion lost its leader, General Rymkiewicz and 1,750 men. The 1,500 survivors (including 300 artillerymen) were sent to Mantua, considered as an already lost fortress. At the time of the capitulation, General Foissac-Latour signed "the additional article concerning the deserters", thus delivering his Polish subordinates (except the officers) to the Austrians. This disloyal act deeply shocked the Polish corps, already persuaded to be the "canon pulpit" neglected by the French. Like Colonel Kosinski (taken prisoner in Mantua), the legionaries condemned this "article unknown to the extraordinary council of war, unworthy of the greatness of the French nation, ashamed of the whole garrison, contrary to its reputation and its enlightenment , so painful and hurting for all Poles who are the victims ... article which the Austrians have not failed to abuse by snatching the arms of Polish soldiers as deserters, indiscriminately such or not, by tearing up one of their flags and by filling all the officers with the most ignominious insults and offences6.
      6 Amilcar Kosinski in Italy 1795-1803. Materials for use in the history of the Polish Legions in Italy taken from the papers of the late Major General Amilcar Kosinski, Posen, 1877, p. 120.

      The 1st legion, now under the command of Dabrowski, was almost wiped out by the Russians between June 17 and 19 at the Battle of Trebbia. It took all the determination of the General to spare the remains of his troops who still participated in the defense of the Ligurian Republic. After the battles of Novi and Bosco, the survivors (975 out of 1,800) took part in the defense of Genoa. France’s military defeats and the valor of the Polish troops changed the attitude of the Directory towards these legions. With the support of Kosciuszko, on September 8, 1799, a "legion of the Danube" was created and placed under the command of General Kniaziewicz 7. There was no longer any question of convention, but the 6,000 legionaries wearing Polish uniforms were to have discipline, promotions, and a pay equal to those of the French 8.
      7 This name symbolized the shortest route to Poland from the Rhine via the Danube.
      8 On the attitude of the former leader of the 1794 insurrection see the article by W. M. Kozlowski, "Kosciuszko and the Polish Legions in France (1798-1801)", Revue historique, tome CXIX (1915), p. 86-115 and CXX (1915), p. 56-85.


      Bonaparte's takeover seemed to secure the future of the Polish formations. Thus, France decided to take over the legion of Dabrowski which was reorganized near Marseille. The legion of Kniaziewicz, whose seat was successively Phalsbourg, Metz, Strasbourg and Ulm, and which counted in 1800 more than 5,000 infantrymen and 950 horsemen, took part in the campaign of Frankfurt (summer 1800) and distinguished itself in Hohenlinden (3 December) by taking 3,500 prisoners. General Decaen, who passed through the Polish ranks on the morning of the battle, remembered "the zeal of the officers and soldiers. Not speaking their language, I expressed to them by my looks that I counted on their value, and that soon they were going to have the opportunity to prove it "9.
      9 Memoirs and journals of General Decaen, Paris, Plon, 1911, volume 2, p. 143.

      The hope of seeing the Polish fate decided by victorious France was disappointed by the peace of Lunéville (February 9, 1801), where France and Austria undertook mutually not to support "the internal enemies". This sounded the death knell for the legions (15,200 men, 12,000 of whom were under arms) and many Polish officers, including Kniaziewicz, resigned brilliantly. The soldiers, especially those of the Danube legion, deserted massively. During 1801, the number of legionaries, all concentrated in Italy, was no more than 10,700. The First Consul decided to make three demi-brigades, placed in the service of France but in the pay the Cisalpine (Italian) Republic and the Kingdom of Etruria. On January 21, 1802, the Polish Inspectorate General with Dabrowski at its head, responsible for administrative matters and instruction, as well as the 1st and 2nd demi-brigades (formed from the Italian legion) and the regiment Lancers went into the pay of Italy. The total of these forces, whose uniform and command were to be Polish, was 8,366 men and 1,000 horses.

      Comment


      • #4
        SOLDIERS AND OFFICERS
        Until 1807, the number of soldiers (65% of the peasants) reached, according to Jan Pachonski, 33,000 of which 18,000 died or remained abroad. We must add 3,000 deserters, 2,000 emigrants, and 1,000 men who left occupied Poland to the 27,000 prisoners of war of the Austrian (1797-1800), Russian (1799) and Prussian (1806) army.

        For two centuries, national legend has idealized legionaries, presented as patriotic volunteers from all strata of society. Dariusz Nawrot notes that the memoirs of former legionaries "repeat the information about the arrival of many volunteers from the country which legitimized the vision of the Legions as a national force. We do not find there any lamentations on the small influx of volunteers but their number either. The promotion of the role of volunteers in the creation of the Legions served the authors of the memoirs to justify the ideological motive of their own service and to underline the dedication of the legionaries. And yet they contradict themselves by evoking the massive enlistment of Austrian prisoners of war of Polish origin "10.
        10 Nawrot (Dariusz), Kondotierzy - patrioci? Historyczne i historyczno-literackie studium „Pamietnika wojskowego” Jana Henryka Dabrowskiego [Historical and historical-literary analysis of the “Military Memories” by Jan Henryk Dabrowski], „Acta Universitatis Wratislaviensis, no 2966, Wroclaw, 2006, p. 556.

        Evidence of Polish enthusiasm for service in national uniforms only describes part of the reality. Not only was the national conscience of the peasants of Galicia not sufficiently developed to push them to join the legions (and what can we say about the Ruthenians enlisted with Poles?) But more than one Czech, Hungarian, Croat or German profited recruitment to escape the misery of prison camps. Waclaw Tokarz recalled that after the enlistment the Polish soldiers "considered themselves for a long time as "men of the Emperor of Austria" and looked with suspicion at their new officers whom they called "foreigners from Warsaw"; they even threatened to resume their old service which by that time had already fairly well assimilated our peasants ”. Among the new legionaries, there were of course adventurers who "wanted to change their lives and sometimes looked for a possibility of deserting on the road leading to the depot". Furthermore, discipline in the legions remained lenient even after the introduction of French military articles in 1798. In the first period, Dabrowski, who wanted to increase the number of legionaries to strengthen his position, feared that too severe discipline would discourage new recruits 11.
        11 Tokarz (Waclaw), Dabrowski jako organizator [Dabrowski as organizer], Warszawa, 1919, p. 7-8.

        The senior officers of the former Polish army - because of their age, families, property, or hostility to the revolution - did not come to Italy. According to Jaroslaw Czubaty, 13 of the 63 generals who had served Kosciuszko left the country but only Kniaziewicz, Niemojewski, Wielhorski and Wojczynski followed Dabrowski, which constitutes only 8.2% of the group. Of these five "elders", only Dabrowski would remain in service until the legions were dissolved. Jozef Zajaczek had a fine “French” career and became a major general (1802) 12. The lack of generals was partially compensated by the competition of talented officers for whom service in exile would become a springboard. Amilkar Kosinski, Michal Sokolnicki and Jean Henri Wollodkowicz received their general epaulettes before 1804. Wollod even served in the French army.
        12 Six (Georges), Biographical Dictionary of French Generals and Admirals of the Revolution and the Empire (1792-1814), Paris, 1934, volume 2, p. 577-578; Czubaty (Jaroslaw), Wodzowie i politycy. Generalicja polska lat 1806-1815 [Warlords and politicians. Polish generals, 1806-1815], Warszawa, 1993, p. 30-31.

        The officers (about 1,200 in the Italian formations and the Danube legion) were all volunteers and Poles, except for 70 foreigners including 49 French 13. Dabrowski bet on their national spirit because he could not guarantee them careers. In the years 1797-1798, the condition of the Polish formations provided for a maximum of 311 officers, 65 of whom were outside the cadre 14. In January 1797, their leader hoped "that the patriotism of our officers will bring them here not to get promotions but for their development, so that they can, please God, then profitably serve their country." A lucid man, he added: "It would be better to see especially those arriving who have little to lose at home. "
        13 To this must be added 43 military doctors of Italian, French or German origin.
        14 In 1799, during the bloody campaign against the Russians, there were 355, in 1800 - after the creation of the Danube legion - 319 in Italy and 178 in Germany.

        The officers formed a group ready for sacrifice (about 900 perished), but often divided by struggles for promotions and commandments. It could not be otherwise since, especially after the crisis of 1799, the officers "were of very varied character: sometimes of great, remarkable military and moral value, sometimes adventurers, intriguing and rebels, men mostly positive and easy to lead during the battle but to be watched closely and requiring training during service and on the move ”15.
        15 Tokarz, Dabrowski jako…, p. 9.

        Unlike the Polish-Lithuanian army, but in accordance with the revolutionary spirit and that of the uprising of 1794, the ranks of officer were accessible to commoners. Initially, the legions recruited officers from among the emigrated soldiers present in France or in northern Italy while awaiting the arrival of the country's volunteers. In these two groups dominated the former career officers, often promoted to higher ranks during the Kosciuszko Uprising. The progressive stabilization of the troops then, the war, made it possible to verify the quality of these officers. Dabrowski and Kniaziewicz tried to promote the fittest at the various hierarchical levels and to separate the officers who were too weak or without authority. It is true that the commission established by Dabrowski to examine future officers ran up against the arbitrariness of the Chief of the Legions, distrustful of promotions dating from 1794 and reluctant to promote "from the rank" non-commissioned officers. After the reorganization of 1801, he preferred young people coming from the country and educated for some time as non-commissioned officers. The synergy between all these currents produced a body of officers made up of 83% nobles (80% from the middle and lower nobility), 14% Christian bourgeois (especially from Warsaw) 1% Jewish bourgeois. 1.5% of the officers were of peasant origin. More than a third (34%) were under 25 and only 8% were over 40 16.
        16 Pachonski (Jan), Slownik biograficzny oficerów Legionów Polskich 1796-1807, Krakow,1998-2003.

        Comment


        • #5
          A NEW TYPE OF ARMY?
          Dabrowski, anxious to maintain his autonomy, based the instruction and training of the soldier on the Polish regulations adapted by General Wielhorski. The French regulations of 1791 were only introduced in 1802 and only in the infantry. On the other hand, the service was done in 1797 according to French rules adapted for the Polish legions; a special commission was responsible for adaptations. The corporal punishments used in the former Polish army had been abolished and the death penalty was applied only for the most serious crimes. For Dabrowski, the motto "all free men are brothers", written in Italian on the epaulettes of the legionaries was to symbolize the change in attitude of the officers towards the soldiers, no longer peasants in uniform, indifferent to the national cause but comrades in arms and future citizens of their homeland. The education (patriotic and practical, including literacy) of the troops and future non-commissioned officers, during long periods of inaction, helped to form a particular esprit de corps. Until 1802, the number of desertions remained relatively low.

          Attempts to establish a regular school for officers failed, the leaders of the legions organized refresher courses and encouraged self-education. Dabrowski, himself the owner of a large maps collection and library, favored the intellectual work of his best officers. Good theoretical preparation combined with various war experiences (Russian, Austrian, Neapolitan, and partisan enemies) produced a type of valiant and initiative-minded officer. The limited nature of the operations entrusted to the Polish troops did not, however, allow the staff officers to be better prepared 17.
          17 Pachonski (Jan), The Polish Legions carrying the ideas and experiences of the Revolution, in: The army in times of great social transformations, Warsaw, 1980, p. 11-35.

          Comment


          • #6
            THE DRAMA OF SANTO DOMINGO
            Concentrated in Italy and frustrated, the Poles began to cause problems and their contacts with the Italian anti-French opposition could only accelerate the decision of the First Consul. After its refusal to serve under the orders of the King of Etruria, the 3rd Polish demi-brigade (former "Danube") was "as a reward for his valor" transformed into 113 French demi-brigade and sent to Santo Domingo (May 1802 ) to quell the insurrection of the black slaves. In February 1803, it was joined by the 2nd (114th) demi-brigade, also transferred to the pay of France. Of the 6,000 legionaries landed in Santo Domingo, 4,000 died in battle or from illness; half of the 1,000 Polish prisoners of war were forcibly incorporated into the 63rd Foreign Regiment of the English army, and the rest went to vegetate on the pontoons, sometimes until 1815. In the Spanish part of the island, the last Poles struggled until 1809. More than 450 former legionaries settled in Santo Domingo, Cuba or the United States. Only 340 Poles returned to Europe 18.
            18 The most detailed synthesis: Pachonski (Jan), Wilson (Reuel K.), Poland's Caribbean Tragedy: A Study of Polish Legions in the Haitian War of Independence 1802-1803, East European Monographs, New York, 1986.

            Comment


            • #7
              LATEST FORMATIONS
              In 1803, survivors of the legionary epic: General Grabinski's 115th demi-brigade and the Rozniecki Lancers regiment became part of the occupation force in Apulia. Two years later, after the creation of the kingdom of Italy, approximately 4,700 Poles automatically passed into its service, and participated in the operation against the corps of the Prince of Rohan (Castel Franco, November 24) and in the capture of Naples, and of Caserta (February 1806). During the fighting in Calabria (Campo Tenesco, March 9), Polish infantrymen protected the coastline against attempts by the Anglo-Sicilian army to land; Rozniecki's Lancers liaised with Rome and watched the coast between Terracina and Ostia. The new king of Naples, Joseph Bonaparte who, among other tasks entrusted the Poles with the instruction of his young army, resumed their service in July 1806. Meanwhile Grabinski lost 350 men in the unfortunate battle of Maida (July 4) against the English landing; the revolt in Calabria cost the lives of 650 Poles.

              The survivors with Grabinski at their head, were to constitute the frameworks of the Polish-Italian legion, created by the decree of Napoleon on April 5, 1807. These 9,200 men divided into six infantry battalions and a regiment of lancers, organized in Silesia, were to be sent to Spain under the name of "Legion of the Vistula" (1808) 19. Dabrowski, separated from his soldiers in 1803 and divested of command, was nevertheless appointed inspector general of the Italian cavalry. Decorated with the Commander's Cross of the Legion of Honor, he was part of the Italian delegation to the coronation of Napoleon. During the war against the Bourbons (1806), he commanded a division of dragons and ended his career in Italy as governor of the province of Three Abruzzo.
              19 Pachonski (Jan), Jozef Grabinski, general polski, francuski i wloski, naczelny wodz powstania bolońskiego 1831 roku [Joseph Grabinski, general, French and Italian, commander-in-chief of the Bologna uprising of 1831], Krakow [sd], p .149-227.

              Despite all these disappointments, the majority of former legionaries continued to see France as the only natural ally whose conflicts with Austria, Prussia and Russia made it possible to hope for a radical change in the balance of power in Europe. The assistance of these veterans was to prove indispensable at the end of the Prussian campaign which, at the end of 1806, led the Grand Army on the soil of ancient Poland. Thus, Napoleon decided to use the Polish card that came to hand, which he would certainly not have done if Prussia had asked for peace the day after Jena. Putting on the costume of the virtuous protector of the Polish cause, Napoleon summoned Dabrowski and Wybicki to Berlin on October 1806. The result was their proclamation of November 3 which announced the entry into Poland of "Napoleon the Great, the invincible."

              Comment


              • #8
                THE BALANCE SHEET
                The political record of the legions is gloomy, without forgetting that the Poles could only suffer the events. In the military field, the quantitative aspect (30,000 soldiers in 10 years) is not necessarily decisive, but it is quite different from the qualitative aspect. Preparing a considerable group for modern warfare was to prove particularly important. As Pachonski writes, "taking advantage of the experience of the years 1792-1794, the Legions were able to merge the Polish heritage with the achievements of the French Revolution".

                According to Czubaty, more than half of the 51 Polish Generals appointed between 1797 and 1814 (including 48 after 1806) had known the legions; 15 remained in service until their dissolution 20. “For the most part, they were young and their attachment to the cause of the Legions was the result of their patriotism. Very often they had no reason to return to the occupied country, having neither land nor the prospect of a military career. Unlike the Generals appointed by Stanislas Auguste Poniatowski, they did not necessarily perceive service in the Legions as a voluntary "degradation" in the military hierarchy. "
                20 Remained at the service: Sokolnicki, Rozniecki, Hauke, Chlopicki, Aksamitowski, J. M. Dabrowski, Estko, Grabinski, Klicki, Konopka, Casimir Malachowski, Paszkowski, Sierawski, Dembowski, Zoltowski. Six future generals decided to return to Poland. The decisions of Stanislas Fiszer, Kosinski and Ksawery Kossecki were politically motivated (the disappointment of Lunéville or Saint-Domingue); for Benedikt Laczynski, Karol Pakosz and Joseph Wasilewski we must add economic reasons. Czubaty, Wodzowie i politycy, p. 31-32.

                In the army of the Duchy of Warsaw (1807-1814), the veterans of the Italian campaigns were an influential and seasoned group in intrigue. Their experience put them in a good position, certain careers were rapid: among 24 former legionaries appointed Generals before the fall of the Empire only 6 had been Colonels in 1807 21. Two (Dabrowski and Zajaczek) out of three divisional officers of the 5th corps of the Grande Armée, created on the eve of the Russian campaign, had served France before 1806 as well as General Paszkowski, who replaced the injured Zajaczek. The chief of staff, Major General Fiszer (killed in Vinkovo), had been a colonel in the Danube legion.
                21 In 1807, 2 future generals of the duchy were majors, 7 chiefs of battalion (squadron) and 4 captains.

                In total, the army of the Duchy and the Polish formations taken in his pay by Napoleon counted nine Generals of Division "legionaries" as well as 23 Brigadiers, 41 Colonels, 51 Lieutenant-colonels, 26 Chiefs of Battalion (squadron), 22 superior officers in the war or health administration and 164 junior line officers 22. Minority among the Duchy officers but well placed and fairly supportive, they took a decisive part in the instruction (Fiszer being inspector-general of the infantry and Rozniecki of the cavalry) and in the democratization of the young army. In 1807 Dabrowski threatened to resign to fight the reintroduction of the old Polish code of military discipline allowing for corporal punishment.
                22 Pachonski (Jan), Korpus oficerski Legionów Polskich 1796-1807 [Corps of Polish Legion Officers], Krakow, 1999, p. 291-292.

                For two centuries, the memory of the legions encouraged the patriots who - at the risk of deserving the name of mercenaries - set up national units for foreign service (Portugal in 1828-1834, Hungary and Rome in 1848, Turkey in 1855, Austria and Russia in 1914). For them, the words of Dabrowski's Mazurka (1797): "Poland is not dead since we live. What the foreign force has taken from us, we will take back by the sword "did not lose their meaning.

                At the same time, the Santo Domingo affair left a feeling of bitterness in the Polish collective memory which accused (wrongly) Napoleon of sending his loyal brothers-in-arms to certain death. It served as an example for all those (including the communists after Yalta) who opposed the idea of training Polish troops from necessarily cynical foreign powers. The first was Kosciuszko who, after Lunéville, already renounced all cooperation with Bonaparte.

                After 1918, independent Poland incorporated the legions into its pantheon and, in 1927, adopted their song as a national anthem, the only one in the world to name Bonaparte 23.
                23 The text of the Mazurka was published for the first time by Leonard Chodzko in: History of the Legions in Italy under the command of General Dombrowski, Paris, 1829, volume 1, p. 400-401.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by daddut roger View Post
                  PATRIOTS OR MERCENARIES?
                  POLISH LEGIONS IN THE SERVICE OF FRANCE (1797-1807)
                  By Andrzej Nieuwazny

                  The failure of the Kosciuszko insurrection (1794) and the third partition of Poland, carried out a year later by Russia, Austria, and Prussia, led to the emigration of the leaders of the insurrection and the Polish soldiers. Paris then became the center of attraction for a large majority of these emigrants who, divided into factions, competed for the favors of the Directory. The majority dreamed of a military force capable of recommencing the struggle for independence. The Polish legions in the service of France (1797-1807) marked the beginning of the phenomenon of massive service of Polish soldiers under foreign flags.
                  They no longer had a country to fight for, so they served France as free Poles. I wouldn't call that being mercenaries.
                  We are not now that strength which in old days
                  Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                  Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                  To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Poles invented a new kind of stupidity. Dying under foreign flags but not for the money.
                    There are no Nazis in Ukraine. © Idiots

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Fighting for your country that has been dismembered by three foreign enemies is neither stupid nor mercenary. There are principles which are worth fighting for.
                      We are not now that strength which in old days
                      Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                      Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                      To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

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                      • #12
                        Being cannon fodder is not a good principe.
                        There are no Nazis in Ukraine. © Idiots

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Emtos View Post
                          Being cannon fodder is not a good principe.
                          Too bad the Russian leaders never learned that lesson...
                          We are not now that strength which in old days
                          Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                          Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                          To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Massena View Post

                            Too bad the Russian leaders never learned that lesson...
                            They did. Poles fought in Russian army and on side of Soviet army.
                            There are no Nazis in Ukraine. © Idiots

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Emtos View Post

                              They did. Poles fought in Russian army and on side of Soviet army.
                              And those that Stalin thought would oppose Soviet rule were slaughtered at Katyn...
                              We are not now that strength which in old days
                              Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
                              Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
                              To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

                              Comment

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