Battle of Racławice

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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.: 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.


General Denisov, with 2,500 troops, had planned to attack the Poles from the south, while Tormasov's force of 3,000 troops blocked Kosciuszko.: 185  Encountering Tormasov's force first, Kosciuszko occupied a nearby hill, General Antoni Madalinski on his right and General Józef Zajączek on his left.: 185  Not waiting any longer, Tormasov attacked the hill by 3:00 PM, setting up their cannon.: 185  Kosciuszko inspired his peasant brigade with shouts of "My boys, take that artillery! For God, and the Fatherland! Go forward with faith!": 185 The first group of serfs captured three twelve-pound cannons and the second wave captured eight more cannons.: 186  Moving to his left flank, Kosciuszko led a bayonet charge when the Russians fled, followed closely by the scythemen.: 186 The Polish Order of Battle was as follows: 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.


Kosciuszko marched back to Kraków and made camp in the fields of Bosutow.: 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.: 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). He smothered its fuse with his hat before it fired.: 185  In return he received an award of nobility, his freedom, a tract of land and made standard-bearer.: 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.


Both the red cap worn by his 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".
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