Battle of Racławice

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Battle of Racławice
Part of the Kościuszko Uprising
Battle of Racławice
"Battle of Racławice", Jan Matejko 465 × 897 cm. Kraków's National Museum.
Date4 April 1794
Location
Result Polish victory
Belligerents
Kościuszko's rebels Russia Russian Empire
Commanders and leaders
Tadeusz Kościuszko
Antoni Madaliński
Fiodor Denisov
Alexander Tormasov
Strength
5,000[1]: 185 
11 guns
3,000[1]: 185 
12 guns
Casualties and losses
200-250[1]: 186  800[1]: 186 
12 guns captured
Battle of Racławice on a 19th-century sketch by Michał Stachowicz

The Battle of Racławice was one of the first battles of the Polish-Lithuanian Kościuszko Uprising against Russia. It was fought on 4 April 1794 near the village of Racławice in Lesser Poland.[1]: 185 

The battle site is one of Poland's official national Historic Monuments (Pomnik historii), as designated May 1, 2004. Its listing is maintained by the National Heritage Board of Poland.

Battle[edit]

General Denisov, with 2,500 troops, had planned to attack the Poles from the south, while Tormasov's force of 3,000 troops blocked Kościuszko.[1]: 185  Encountering Tormasov's force first, Kościuszko occupied a nearby hill, General Antoni Madalinski on his right and General Józef Zajączek on his left.[1]: 185  Not waiting any longer, Tormasov attacked the hill by 3:00 PM, setting up their cannon.[1]: 185  Kosciuszko inspired his peasant brigade with shouts of "My boys, take that artillery! For God, and the Fatherland! Go forward with faith!"[1]: 185 

The first group of serfs captured three twelve-pound cannons and the second wave captured eight more cannons.[1]: 186  Moving to his left flank, Kosciuszko led a bayonet charge when the Russians fled, followed closely by the scythemen.[1]: 186 

The Polish Order of Battle was as follows:

unit superior soldiers
2 battalions Infantry Regiment of Czapski 400 bayonettes
2 battalions Infantry Regiment of Wodzicki 400 bayonettes
2 battalions Infantry Regiment of Ożarowski 400 bayonettes
1 battalion Infantry Regiment of Raczyński 200 bayonettes
10 squadrons of cavalry under Antoni Madaliński 400 sabres
10 squadrons of cavalry under Magnet 400 sabres
4 cavalry squadrons under Biernacki 160 sabres
2 auxiliary cavalry squadrons Duchy of Württemberg 80 sabres
  2440 men altogether

In addition, Lesser Poland fielded approximately 2,000 peasants armed with war scythes and pikes, known as kosynierzy, as well as 11 cannon. The outcome of the battle was a tactical Polish victory, with Kościuszko defeating the numerically inferior enemy. However, his forces were too small to undertake a successful pursuit, and the Corps of General Denisov evaded destruction and continued to operate in Lesser Poland.

Aftermath[edit]

Kościuszko marched back to Kraków and made camp in the fields of Bosutow.[1]: 185  After the battle, Kościuszko paraded before his troops in a sukmana, a traditional attire worn in Lesser Poland, in honour of the bravery of the peasants, whose charge ensured the quick capture of the Russian artillery.[1]: 186  He also praised Wojciech Bartosz Głowacki, a peasant who was the first to capture the cannon (he is visible in Matejko's painting, above).[2] He smothered its fuse with his hat before it fired.[1]: 185  In return he received an award of nobility, his freedom, a tract of land and made standard-bearer.[1]: 186 

The victory was subsequently promoted in Poland as a major success and helped in spreading the Kościuszko Uprising to other areas of Poland and instigating the Warsaw Uprising of 1794. Also, the participation of peasant volunteers was seen by many as the starting point of the Polish peasantry's political evolution from serfs to equally entitled citizens of the nation.

Legacy[edit]

Emblem of the 303rd Squadron

Military[edit]

The red cap worn by Kościuszko's soldiers and the homemade war scythes were later featured on the emblem of the RAF's 303 (Polish) Fighter Squadron, which took part in the Battle of Britain.

The Battle of Racławice is commemorated on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Warsaw, with the inscription "RACŁAWICE 4 IV 1794".

Art[edit]

Jan Matejko's painting entitled "Kościuszko at Racławice" depicts the battle and is on display at the Sukiennice Museum, a branch of the National Museum in Kraków.[3] A monumental panorama (measuring 15 x 114 meters) known as the Racławice Panorama was completed a century after the battle in 1894, and is currently on display in Wrocław as a branch of the National Museum in Wrocław.[4]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Storozynski, A., 2009, The Peasant Prince, New York: St. Martin's Press, ISBN 9780312388027
  2. ^ Smaczniak, Anthony; Piotrowski, Wallace (2000). "The Military Genius of Tadeusz Kosciuszko". Info Poland. Polish Academic Information Center, University at Buffalo. Archived from the original on 13 July 2012. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  3. ^ "The Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art in the Sukiennice - National Museum in Krakow". mnk.pl. Retrieved 2022-02-14.
  4. ^ "History". Muzeum Narodowe we Wrocławiu. Retrieved 2022-02-14.

Coordinates: 50°18′38″N 20°13′44″E / 50.31056°N 20.22889°E / 50.31056; 20.22889