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A postage stamp featured Casimir Pulaski.

DECATUR — Pulaski Day is Monday, meaning some government offices and schools, including Decatur's, are out.

It marks a uniquely Illinois holiday for a Poland-born cavalry officer who never set foot in the state. 

How did we get here? Here's what to know about the Revolutionary War hero. 

WHO WAS PULASKI? 

Brigadier Gen. Casimir Pulaski was a Polish military officer who fought beside American colonists against the British during the Revolutionary War.

Born in Warsaw, Poland, on March 6, 1745, he was a cavalry officer and rebelled against the Polish King Stanislaw II, which forced him to exile in France. He met Benjamin Franklin, who recruited him to the colonies and the fight for independence. He offered his services as a private solider to Gen. George Washington. 

The Decatur Herald, 04 Mar 1974, Mon, Page 14

WHY WAS HE HONORED?

Pulaski, who Franklin called "an officer famous throughout Europe for his bravery and conduct in defense of the liberties of his country," led the Pulaski Legion, a group of foreign-born soldiers.

In October 1779, he died after driving an assault against the British in Savannah, Georgia. He was 29. 

His ability to train the men into a formidable force earned him the title, "Father of the American Cavalry." 

HOW DID IT BECOME A HOLIDAY? 

Pulaski never made it to the land that would become Illinois prior to his 1779 death, but many Polish people did. Chicago was once home to the largest population of Poles outside of Warsaw, and Pulaski was a proud hero.

Mount Pulaski in Logan County, founded in 1836, is named in his honor. 

The Illinois Legislature in the 1970s voted to have Pulaski's birthday be a commemorative holiday. In 1985, it was decided to make the day an official school and bank holiday. 

WHERE IS IT CELEBRATED?

Illinois lawmakers made the holiday optional for schools starting in 1995, and by 1999, 415 submitted requests to skip the holiday.

Four years ago, even public schools in Chicago stopped closing for Pulaski Day.

WHAT'S CLOSED?

Some school districts and courts. State and federal offices and banks are open, and mail is delivered. 

 

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