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The Peasant Prince: and the Age of Revolution [Hardcover]

Alex Storozynski
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 28 2009

Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a Polish-Lithuanian born in 1746, was one of the most important figures of the modern world. Fleeing his homeland after a death sentence was placed on his head (when he dared court a woman above his station), he came to America one month after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, literally showing up on Benjamin Franklin’s doorstep in Philadelphia with little more than a revolutionary spirit and a genius for engineering. Entering the fray as a volunteer in the war effort, he quickly proved his capabilities and became the most talented engineer of the Continental Army. Kosciuszko went on to construct the fortifications for Philadelphia, devise battle plans that were integral to the American victory at the pivotal Battle of Saratoga, and designed the plans for Fortress West Point—the same plans that were stolen by Benedict Arnold. Then, seeking new challenges, Kosciuszko asked for a transfer to the Southern Army, where he oversaw a ring of African-American spies.

            A lifelong champion of the common man and woman, he was ahead of his time in advocating tolerance and standing up for the rights of slaves, Native Americans, women, serfs, and Jews. Following the end of the war, Kosciuszko returned to Poland and was a leading figure in that nation’s Constitutional movement. He became Commander in Chief of the Polish Army and valiantly led a defense against a Russian invasion, and in 1794 he led what was dubbed the Kosciuszko Uprising—a revolt of Polish-Lithuanian forces against the Russian occupiers. Captured during the revolt, he was ultimately pardoned by Russia’s Paul I and lived the remainder of his life as an international celebrity and a vocal proponent for human rights. Thomas Jefferson, with whom Kosciuszko had an ongoing correspondence on the immorality of slaveholding, called him “as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known.” A lifelong bachelor with a knack for getting involved in doomed relationships, Kosciuszko navigated the tricky worlds of royal intrigue and romance while staying true to his ultimate passion—the pursuit of freedom for all. This definitive and exhaustively researched biography fills a long-standing gap in historical literature with its account of a dashing and inspiring revolutionary figure.


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Review

**2010 FRAUNCES TAVERN MUSEUM BOOK AWARD WINNER**
 
"Despite his heroic efforts, Kosciuszko’s fatherland had to wait a century after his death before regaining independence from Russia. The world would have to wait even longer for an accessible, soundly researched, English-language biography. With “The Peasant Prince,” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Alex Storozynski has filled the void. And what a tale he has to tell. A melodramatic, foiled elopement deprived the young Kosciuszko of the love of his life and led him to cross the Atlantic and sign up with George Washington’s ragtag rebel army. The Polish émigré engineered the network of fortifications around West Point that ­Benedict Arnold unsuccessfully tried to betray to the British and that he lped keep the main British army bottled up in New York City. Kosciuszko also played a key role in the wilderness campaigns that ended in the crucial American victory at Saratoga. And he made a triumphal return to his native Poland in time to lead a doomed but heroic national struggle against Russia and overwhelming odds. All this and a supporting cast that amounts to a Who’s Who of 18th-century American and European history. In America, those who knew Kosciuszko included Benjamin Franklin (who helped recruit him); George Washington (who had trouble getting Kosciuszko’s name right but hailed him as a military “engineer of ­eminence”); Thomas Jefferson (who called him “as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known”); and Thomas Paine (who, like Kosciuszko, was granted honorary French ­citizenship by the revolutionary regime but spoke out against its brutal excesses). In Europe, Kosciuszko’s acquaintances included Napoleon Bonaparte (who tried—and failed—to use him as a pawn in European power politics) and Catherine the Great (who, after ruthlessly suppressing the Polish insurrection, kept Kosciuszko a political prisoner in Russia until her death in 1796)."—Wall Street Journal

"Alex Storozynski has just published "The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution," a sweeping, colorful, and absorbing biography that should restore Kosciuszko to his proper place in history. President of the Kosciuszko Foundation, which promotes Polish-American educational exchanges, Storozynski is also a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who knows how to tell a good story. In his account, Kosciuszko—as soldier in America and then a revolutionary in his homeland— exemplified some of the best ideals of his era. He also experienced some of its worst betrayals and disappointments. ... Emancipation was 'a controversial idea ahead of his time,' Storozynski writes—just, as this stirring biography makes clear, like the man himself.”—Newsweek.com

“In The Peasant Prince Alex Storozynski fills a gap in our picture of the American Revolution, and relates it to the worldwide struggle for freedom. Thaddeus Kosciuszko was a noble soul with few options, a friend of liberty in an age of aggression and tyranny. Storozynski shows how he navigated a life of romance and realpolitik, keeping his principles intact.”—Richard Brookhiser, senior editor of the National Review, and author of What Would the Founders Do? Our Questions, Their Answers

“Prize-winning journalist Storozynski pulls military strategist and engineer Thaddeus Kosciuszko (1746–1817) back from the brink of obscurity by including almost every documented detail to create the first comprehensive look at a man who once famously symbolized rebellion. His were the plans sold to the British by Benedict Arnold. And Kosciuszko's years of devotion to the American cause framed his efforts to transform Poland into a self-governing republic freed from the oversight of Russia's interests. He antagonized Catherine the Great and, later, Napoleon. Kosciuszko rallied the first Jewish military force since biblical times to fight for Polish independence, and consistently supported equality and education for peasants, Jews, Muslim Tatars and American slaves—which earned him the devotion of the masses and lectures by the upper classes. Readers of military and American history should take note: the minute details will enthrall devotees. Casual readers will benefit from Storozynski's expert crafting of a readable and fact-filled story that pulls readers into the immediacy of the revolutionary era's partisan and financial troubles.”—Publishers Weekly

The Peasant Prince is an objective history that is needed in today’s America and Poland. The hero of Alex’s book is one of the fathers of modern democracy in the same mold as Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Lincoln.”—Adam Michnik, Solidarnosc activist and editor in chief of Gazeta Wyborcza

“In a meticulously researched work, Storozynski greatly enhances our understanding of Kosciuszko’s personality and motivations by investigating the Pole’s relationship and feelings toward Africans, Jews, and peasants. His contribution advances our knowledge of this complex character whom Jefferson considered the ‘purest son of liberty’ he ever knew.”—James Pula, Purdue University

“Tapping new sources in archives in Poland and Switzerland, Alex Storozynski provides a fresh perspective on Thaddeus Kosciuszko, the Polish engineer most responsible for the construction of Fortress West Point, General Washington’s ‘key of America.’”—Colonel James M. Johnson, U.S. Army (Ret.), military historian of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, and former chief of Military History, U.S. Military Academy at West Point

The Peasant Prince is a testament to a great man and an important addition to world history.”—Byron E. Price, Texas Southern University

About the Author

Alex Storozynski is president and executive director of the Kosciuszko Foundation. Also a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, he was an editorial board member at the New York Daily News, the founding editor of amNew York, and a former city editor and contributing editor to the The New York Sun. He lives in West Orange, New Jersey. 


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By GeorgeZ
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This well researched biography is easy to read and super interesting!. The author Strorozynski , describes the life and times of Tadeusz Kosciuszko , who fought for the independence of Poland from Russian, Austrian Prussian Domination, as well as for American Independence.

He was ahead of his time with his ideals of liberating Serfs/peasants from endless labor for rich landowners, as well liberating the slaves in the USA, and providing them with a good education and respectable employment.
Kosciuszko, through his personal example of tolerance and embracing all cultures and religions, was able to motivate Jews and Peasants to volunteer in the Polish revolt for independance!

Kosciuszko's life journey is an adventure that spans many countries in which he meets a few notable historical figures, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin. His meeting with Napoleon is revealing as to the true nature of his Napoleon's ambition to use the Poles to fight for him ( Italy, Spain, Haiti, Russia, etc.) without promising Poland its independence.

In the Polish Revolt, Kosciuszko recognized that to win, all the Poles would need to participate whole-heartedly in the Uprising. The revolution would enshrine the new constitution that would liberate the serfs/peasants from endless days of labor for the rich land owners and eliminate other restrictions based on religion or class.

Storozynski's biography of Kosciuszko's life story is well written and easy to read, making it difficult to put it down!.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  74 reviews
62 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome "historical action book", superb biography May 15 2009
By Pawel Stefanski - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As the author, Alex Storozynski, points out in his tour speeches - this book is not about "Kosciuszko Bridge", "Kosciuszko Mustard", "Kosciuszko County", or any other of several dozens of "Kosciuszko" names, scattered throughout America. It's about the real guy, who lived in one of the most dynamic periods in the modern history - and (before the age of jet travel, mind you!) shuttled back and forth between Europe and America, managing to substantially contribute to the success of the American Revolution, organize his own (ultimately - failed) uprising in Poland, spend some time in jail in Russia, emigrate to America, then go back to Europe to continue his lifelong struggle for Poland's independence. Far ahead of his time in his efforts to free slaves in America, and end the serfdom in Europe, this champion of "liberty for all" died in Switzerland in 1817. While his body was buried in the Wawel's castle in Krakow a few months after his death, his heart was returned to Poland in 1919, only after the country regained its independence in 1918. At mere 280 pages, with 50+ pages of extensive references and bibliography, this extremely well-written book is a fast paced read, which brings to life and to well deserved spot-light one of the greatest, yet so little known, freedom fighters of all ages! See also YouTube video ([...]) of Mr. Storozynski, discussing this book at the Polish Embassy in May, 2009.
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History comes alive and takes you by the hand... June 13 2009
By RPS - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I was amazed at the thorough research conducted by Alex Storozynski, and enjoyed reading the entire work. In the intro Storozynski mentioned that he wanted the true person of Kosciuszko to be portrayed, and not just a eulogized image, and that purpose was most definitely fulfilled. You meet a real a man with a real human nature, someone you can identify with, and also greatly admire because of his nobleness of purpose and his perseverance to his ideals of equality for all humanity, and the freedom he desired for his homeland, Poland. My only problem with the book, was there were a few times that I wanted to know `more' and I can easily see how the book could be twice its length! I don't know how long Storozynski spent conducting research and writing, but his depth of knowledge of Kosciuszko and Polish history is evident. I also really enjoyed Storozynski's `word-smithing' that was evident throughout the book, from the chapter titled `Napoleon comes up short' (gotta love that one!) to "It would be sixty years before the healing powers of the fountains of Lourdes would first mystify southern France, yet when Kosciuszko's ship docked nearby at the port of Bayonne on June 28, 1798, he cast aside his crutches and stood up on his own." Being much more than just a list of facts in chronological order, Storozynski's book brings you face to face with real people. He not only brought the person of Kosciuszko alive to me, but I also enjoyed meeting others... I didn't realize that Niemcewicz was such a blabber mouth and tried to ride Kosciuszko's coat tails. And Chief Little Turtle's advice on having an affair with Catherine was priceless. Jefferson came alive, as did others, like Ludwika his first love. I had no idea that Kosciuszko's will (the purpose of which was to free and educate African slaves in America) never materialized after his death. I also had not realized the Washington/Lafayette vs the Jefferson/Kosciuszko connection and found that thought-provoking as well.
And I really enjoyed reading about the last part of his life. In my own studies on Kosciuszko, I had not come across any more than `he spent the last years of his life in Switzerland with the Zeltner family.' I love the prayer that he wrote during his last years... there was just so much that I enjoyed reading and discovering about Kosciuszko that my own copy of Storoznski's book The Peasant Prince has many `dog-eared' pages so I could easily find this or that fact that fascinated me about this great man's life. This book will captivate anyone who wants to read the life story of a true hero; his trials, triumphs and temptations: and be inspired!
35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful insight into one of America's most underappreciated heroes... May 19 2009
By Paul C. Martin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A self-admittedly poor writer, Kosciuszko left this earth as perhaps the most accomplished free-thinker of the past three centuries to have done so without so much as leaving even a brief personal memoir. Had he been even an iota more prolific, it would be the ultimate "no-brainer" that Kosciuszko, the hero of Poland, would have stood the test of time in being held to equal esteem alongside the great heroes of the American Revolution (and not just a once-or-twice mentioned minor figure in our collective secondary school / collegiate US history classes). Thankfully, we have the author's painstaking research in putting together this volume to remind us all that true greatness, however buried under the sediments of history, is eternal.

Though the volume is often uneven and is quite liberal with the time-line of events in the subjects life, it is, overall, one of the most entertaining, fascinating, and comprehensive nonfiction personal histories I have ever read. It reads as if it was made for the silver screen. Having read the all-too-brief chronicle in a single rainy day (sitting on a spot this great man may very well have trodden on over two centuries ago), I became increasingly skeptical an official biographer sitting across from the man for years could have put together a better picture of this most complex of men.

Of course, anyone who is interested in the singular cult of hero-worship of Kosciuszko and his involvement in the American and/or Polish Revolutions will love this book. For the casual reader, however...if you appreciate the best that a fallible human being can become, through uncompromising humility, thoughtfulness, work ethic, zest for knowledge, compassion, and dedication to his fellow man, you will enjoy the story of Thaddeus Kosciuszko...for it is the American story.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Man June 21 2009
By J. J. McCarthy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I recently saw the author do a book reading on C-SPANs Book TV and was so impressed that I immediately went out and purchased the book. When I got home I realized that I had actually purchased a signed copy. How lucky can you get? I finished the book while on vacation in 4 days. I live in Troy, NY and have traveled many, many times over the Thaddeus Kosciuszko bridge. I knew very little of the man but one of the engineers who built the bridge was a friend of my father's so for most of my life it was Mr. White's bridge. The opportunity to find out about the man who had a bridge named for him intrigued me. I have read other books on the American Revolution but never learned so much as I did when I read this book. As the book closed on the American Revolution, I had to admit that I wasn't sure the rest of his story would hold my attention. I was wrong. Never before had the story of Poland and Europe been explained in such a way. My history teachers did a poor job of relating such interesting facts and people. I don't think the story of Thaddeus Kosciuszko was ever taught. How could he be left out of any story of the world's history at that time? What a noble and fascinating human being. I often wonder where our great thinkers and leaders are now. We seem overwhelmed with public figures who are all about greed and self promotion. Are our schools presenting history with the attention it should be given in the classroom? Are we presenting the facts and human drama that shaped the course of the world in a way that our young people can make the link between the past, the present and the future? I'm not so sure but I do my part by trying to educate myself and pass on what I learn. This book has done a lot to help me with my very minor effort to enlighten whoever will indulge me as I relate the stories I read. The story of Thaddeus Kosciuszko has given me a lot to talk about as I sit with my children and try to "turn the light on".
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution" June 1 2009
By Anna Bonney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The biography of Kosciuszko called, "The Peasant Prince: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution" is a wonderful and very well written story of a Polish rebel who joined the Continental Army during the American Revolution and helped win the Battle of Saratoga.The author,Pulitzer Prize wining journalist,Alex Storozynski "painted" a great picture of a hero who fought for the rights of many people including black slaves,white peasants serfs,Jews,Native Americans, and women.This is also a well crafted and fact filled story in which reader can find out how Kosciuszko built West Point, which the traitor Benedict Arnold tried to hand over to the British,and how he left a last will with Thomas Jefferson which said that the money should be used to free slaves. This book is easy to read for anybody and definitely is a MUST READ literature.I am strongly recommending this fascinating story build on true,historical facts.
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