Władysław Franciszek Jabłonowski

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Władysław Franciszek Jabłonowski
Born(1769-10-25)25 October 1769
Gdańsk, Poland
Died29 September 1802(1802-09-29) (aged 32)
Jérémie, Haiti
Years of service1786–1802
RankBrigadier general
Battles/warsSzczekociny, Warsaw, Maciejowice and Praga, Kościuszko Uprising, Haitian Revolution

Władysław Franciszek Jabłonowski (25 October 1769 – 29 September 1802) was a Polish military officer who served in the French Revolutionary Army during the Napoleonic Wars. He is the first known Polish general of African descent.

After joined the French army, he died of yellow fever in 1802 in Saint-Domingue,[1][2] after being sent there as part of the Saint-Domingue expedition, which saw Polish troops fighting alongside the French to restore slavery in the colony. After the French and Polish suffered heavily from yellow fever, they withdrew their surviving forces from Saint-Domingue.

Some of Polish soldiers sent to Saint-Domingue deserted and joined the Haitian rebels in their quest for independence, and about 400 settled on the island after the war. They were granted full citizenship by Jean-Jacques Dessalines, who led the country.[3]

Early life[edit]

Of mixed ancestry, Władysław was the illegitimate child of Princess Maria Franciszka Dealire, who was born in Britain and married into the Polish aristocracy, and an unidentified man of African descent. He acquired the nickname "Murzynek".[4] Dealire's husband, Polish nobleman Konstanty Jabłonowski, accepted the boy as his son and gave him his family name, so he was considered Polish.

In 25 February 1783, Jabłonowski as a youth was admitted to the French military academy at Paris École Militaire. There he was a schoolmate of Napoleon Bonaparte and Louis Nicolas D'avout. In a climate of bullying, he was subjected to racist taunts, including from Napoleon.[5] Upon graduation on 20 February 1786, he joined the Régiment de Royal-Allemand with the rank of second lieutenant. He achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel within 8 years.[6]

Military career[edit]

In 1794 Jabłonowski fought in Tadeusz Kościuszko's uprising against Tsarist Russia.[2] He participated in battles of Szczekociny, Warsaw, Maciejowice, and at Praga. A member of the Polish insurrectionist group Centralizacja Lwowska, he was sent to the Ottoman Empire to gain the support of the Ottoman and French governments for the creation a Polish army to antagonize Russia.[6] Another opportunity for this later appeared with the French fighting in Italy.[6]

He was appointed brigade chief in the French army on 4 January 4 1798. In 1799, he was under the command of General Jan Henryk Dąbrowski.[6] In 1799 he was made General of Brigade of the Polish legions[5] (the Dąbrowski Legion). He became provisional brigade general in the Army of Italy on 20 May 1800 after being nominated by General André Massena. However, his French superiors would not approve this rank.[6] He distinguished himself in the battle of Bosco and Pasturana[6] and commanded a legion in the Alps.[6]

On July 24, 1801, he was again nominated to the rank of brigade general in the Polish legions by General Joachim Murat, an appointment that was confirmed on 21 December 1801 by the First Consul. In 1801, he took strategic command of the 113th Infantry Demi-Brigade, which was formed from the Legia Naddunajska.[6] He enlisted in the colonial forces to serve in Louisiana or Saint-Domingue. He was sent at his own request to Saint-Domingue in May 1802 to assist French forces (before Napoleon recruited more of the Polish legions to assist his French forces), and was accompanied by his common-law wife Anne Penot.[7] There he worked to put down the Haitian Revolution being waged by formerly enslaved Africans. Jabłonowski died from yellow fever on 29 September 1802 in Jérémie, three weeks after more Legionnaires landed but before he had seen any.[7]

The disease caused many deaths among both French and Polish forces, killing more than those who died because of warfare.[5] Eventually some 400 of the surviving Polish Legions (who started with 5200 soldiers) abandoned the French and joined the slaves in their fight for freedom.[8] They settled in what became Haiti, where their descendants are known as Polish Haitians.

In Polish culture[edit]

Jabłonowski is mentioned in Adam Mickiewicz's notable epic poem Pan Tadeusz, in the context of a veteran of the Polish legions recounting what he had seen:

how Jabłonowski had reached the land where the pepper grows
and where sugar is produced, and where in eternal spring'
bloom fragrant woods: with the legion of the Danube there
the Polish general smites the Negroes, but sighs for his native soil[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Judycki, Zbigniew (2016). Pod obcymi sztandarami : generałowie polskiego pochodzenia w siłach zbrojnych państw obcych : popularny słownik biograficzny. Warszawa. p. 72. ISBN 978-83-937112-2-2. OCLC 961014022.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  2. ^ a b Boston, Nicholas (22 June 2021). "How the defacement of two statues could lead to Poland's reckoning with its Black history". The Calvert Journal. Retrieved 25 April 2023.
  3. ^ Kępa, Marek (16 February 2015). "Pirates, Freedom, & a Voodoo Goddess: The Story of Polish Haitians". Culture.pl. Archived from the original on 29 November 2022. Retrieved 11 November 2023.
  4. ^ PWN
  5. ^ a b c Pachonski Jan, Jan & Wilson, Reuel K. (1986), Poland's Caribbean Tragedy: A Study of Polish Legions in the Haitian War of Independence 1802-1803, New York: East European Monographs, pp. 60–61
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Marcin Dzierżanowski (26 April 2018). "„Murzynek" - czarnoskóry polski generał". Kurier Historyczny. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  7. ^ a b Rypson, Sebastian (2008). Being Poloné in Haiti: Origins, Survivals, Development, and Narrative Production of the Polish Presence in Haiti. Warsaw: academia.edu. p. 47. ISBN 978-83-7545-085-9. Retrieved 16 June 2021.
  8. ^ Rypson (2008), Being Poloné in Haiti
  9. ^ Mickiewicz, Adam (1917). Pan Tadeusz. London: J. M. Dent. pp. 31. Retrieved 8 October 2013. Translated by George Rapall Noyes