KOSCIUSKO AND THE FALL OF POLAND
 OF the several nations that made up the Europe of the eighteenth century, one, the kingdom of Poland,
vanished before the nineteenth century began, Destitute of a strong central government, the scene of
continual anarchy among the turbulent nobles, possessing no national frontiers and no national
middle class, its population being made up of nobles, serfs, and foreigners, it lay at the mercy of
the ambitious surrounding kingdoms, by which it was finally absorbed. On three successive occasions
was the territory of the feeble nation divided between its foes, the first partition being made in
1772, between Russia, Prussia, and Austria; the second in 1793, between Russia and Prussia; and the
third and final in 1795, in which Russia, Prussia, and Austria again took part, all that remained of
the country being now distributed and the ancient kingdom of Poland effaced from the map of Europe.
Only one vigorous attempt was made to save the imperiled realm, that of the illustrious Kosciusko,
who, though he failed in his patriotic purpose, made his name famous as the noblest of the Poles.
When he appeared at the head of its armies, Poland was in a desperate strait. Some of its own nobles
had been bought by Russian gold, Russian armies had
 overrun the land, and a Prussian force was marching to their aid. At Grodno the Russian general
proudly took his seat on that throne which he was striving to overthrow. The defenders of Poland had
been dispersed, their property confiscated, their families reduced to poverty. The Russians,
swarming through the kingdom, committed the greatest excesses, while Warsaw, which had fallen into
their hands, was governed with arrogant barbarity. Such was the state of affairs when some of the
most patriotic of the nobles assembled and sent to Kosciusko, asking him to put himself at their
As a young man this valiant Pole had aided in the war for American independence. In 1792 he took
part in the war for the defence of his native land. But he declared that there could be no hope of
success unless the peasants were given their liberty. Hitherto they had been treated in Poland like
slaves. It was with these despised serfs that this effort was made.
In 1794 the insurrection broke out. Kosciusko, finding that the country was ripe for revolt against
its oppressors, hastened from Italy, whither he had retired, and appeared at Cracow, where he was
hailed as the coming deliverer of the land. The only troops in arms were a small force of about four
thousand in all, who were joined by about three hundred peasants armed with scythes. These were soon
met by an army of seven thousand Russians, whom they put to flight after a sharp engagement.
The news of this battle stirred the Russian general in command at Warsaw to active measures.
 All whom he suspected of favoring the insurrection were arrested. The result was different from what
he had expected. The city blazed into insurrection, two thousand Russians fell before the onslaught
of the incensed patriots, and their general saved himself only by flight.
The outbreak at Warsaw was followed by one at Vilna, the capital of Lithuania, the Russians here
being all taken prisoners. Three Polish regiments mustered into the Russian service deserted to the
army of their compatriots, and far and wide over the country the flames of insurrection spread.
Kosciusko rapidly increased his forces by recruiting the peasantry, whose dress he wore and whose
food ho shared in. But these men distrusted the nobles, who had so long oppressed them, while many
of the latter, eager to retain their valued prerogatives, worked against the patriot cause, in which
they were aided by King Stanislaus, who had been subsidized by Russian gold.
To put down this effort of despair on the part of the Poles, Catharine of Russia sent fresh armies
to Poland, led by her ablest generals. Prussians and Austrians also joined in the movement for
enslavement, Frederick William of Prussia fighting at the head of his troops against the Polish
patriot. Kosciusko had established a provisional government, and faced his foes boldly in the field.
Defeated, he fell back on Warsaw, where he valiantly maintained himself until threatened by two new
Russian armies, whom he marched out to meet, in the hope of preventing their junction.
 The decisive battle took place at Maciejowice, in October, 1794. Kosciusko, though pressed by
superior forces, fought with the greatest valor and desperation. His men at length, overpowered by
numbers, were in great part cut to pieces or obliged to yield, while their leader, covered with
wounds, fell into the hands of his foes. It is said that he exclaimed, on seeing all hopes at an
end, "Finis Poloniee!" In the words of the poet Byron, "Freedom shrieked when Kosciusko fell."
Warsaw still held out. Here all who had escaped from the field took refuge, occupying Praga, the
eastern suburb of the city, where twenty-six thousand Poles, with over one hundred cannon and
mortars, defended the bridges over the Vistula. Suwarrow, the greatest of the Russian generals, was
quickly at the city gates. He was weaker, both in men and in guns, than the defenders of the city;
but with his wonted impetuosity he resolved to employ the same tactics which he had more than once
used against the Turks, and seek to carry the Polish lines at the bayonet's point.
After a two days' cannonade, he ordered the assault at daybreak of November 4. A desperate conflict
continued during the five succeeding hours, ending in the carrying of the trenches and the defeat of
the garrison. The Russians now poured into the suburb, where a scene of frightful carnage began. Not
only men in arms, but old men, women, and children were ruthlessly slaughtered, the wooden houses
set on fire, the bridges broken down, and the throng of helpless people who sought to escape into
 the city driven ruthlessly into the waters of the Vistula. In this butchery not only ten thousand
soldiers, but twelve thousand citizens of every age and sex were remorselessly slain.
On the following day the city capitulated, and on the 6th the Russian victors marched into its
streets. It was, as Kosciusko had said, "the end of Poland." The troops were disarmed, the officers
were seized as prisoners, and the feeble king was nominally raised again to the head of the kingdom,
so soon to be swept from existence. For a year Suwarrow held a military court in Warsaw, far
eclipsing the king in the splendor of his surroundings. By the close of 1795 all was at an end. The
small remnant left of the kingdom was parted between the greedy aspirants, and on the 1st of
January, 1796, Warsaw was handed over to Prussia, to whose share of the spoils it appertained.
In this arbitrary manner was a kingdom which had an area of nearly three hundred thousand square
miles and a population of twelve millions, and whose history dated back to the tenth century,
removed from the map of the world, while the heavy hand of oppression fell upon all who dared to
speak or act in its behalf. One bold stroke for freedom was afterwards made, but it ended as before,
and Poland is now but a name.
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