Kosciuszko, Son of Liberty

Karen Dziurzynski Cox, Del Norte High School, Albuquerque Public Schools, Albuquerque, NM

DESIGN LEVEL: Middle School-High School



Upon hearing “the shot heard around the world,”  Poland’s Thaddeus Kosciuszko was eager to test his military skills in America, serving the ideals of freedom that inspired the Revolution. Kosciuszko truly believed that equality and liberty for all were the only means to a sound future. When he left America, Kosciuszko directed that all his American assets be sold and used to buy and free the enslaved, becoming one of the very first American Revolutionary War heroes to explicitly oppose slavery.


Upon completion of all the lessons in this unit, students will be able to:

  • Explain why this war hero was lauded “as pure a son of liberty” as there ever was by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington.
  • Discuss the role of Thaddeus Kosciusko during the Revolutionary War.
  • Identify the political and philosophical beliefs that he had in common with our nation’s founders.
  • Identify the contradictions he found between the beliefs of the founders and their actions as American revolutionaries.
  • Explain how Kosciusko’s will expressed his beliefs about slavery and his desire for Thomas Jefferson, as executor, to resolve his contradiction as a founder and slave owner.
  • Examine why recent scholars believe that in not carrying out Kosciuszko’s last will and testament, the United States missed an opportunity to fulfill the spirit of liberty expressed by the American Revolution.




Recommended Time

Two 60-minute class periods.

Activity 1: Kosciuszko, Son of Liberty

Students will read the historical overview of Thaddeus Kosciusko written by the National Park Service as well as the background information compiled by Ms. Cox titled, Kosciuszko, Son of Liberty Background Information.

Students will examine and analyze the portrait engraving of Thaddeus Kosciusko and the patriotic recruitment poster appealing for the Liberty of Poland using the artifact, photograph and poster analysis worksheets created by the National Archives, then answer the following questions:

          1. Who was Thaddeus Kosciuszko?
          2. What was his background and training?
          3. What were his experiences, both personal and military?
          4. What was the basis of Kosciusko’s desire for liberty?
          5. How did Kosciusko’s experiences influence his actions in Europe and in the United States?


Activity 2: Kosciuszko’s Defining Role in the American Revolution, the Creation of West Point and the Battle of Saratoga

Students will examine and analyze the West Point and Saratoga maps and the depiction of General Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga using the map analysis and photograph worksheets created by the National Archives, then answer the following questions:

          1. What was Kosciusko’s role in the American Revolution?
          2. How did the nation’s founders feel about him?


Activity 3: Kosciuszko’s Last Will and Testament to Thomas Jefferson

Students will analyze Kosciuszko’s Last Will and Testament using the written document analysis worksheet created by the National Archives, then answer the following questions:

          1. What did Kosciuszko find contradictory about American founders like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington?
          2. Why didn’t Thomas Jefferson adhere to Kosciuszko’s wishes?
          3. What would do you think the result would have been if Jefferson had honored Kosciusko’s will?


Standards Addressed

COMMON CORE: English Language Arts StandardsHistory/Social StudiesGrade 6-8
Historical Analysis and Skills Development: Reading, Writing, Speaking, Listening; Writing: Key Ideas and Details; Craft and Structure: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas