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Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski
Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski
Birth name Włodzimierz Bonawentura Krzyżanowski
Born (1824-07-08)July 8, 1824
Died January 31, 1887(1887-01-31) (aged 62)
Place of birth Rożnowo, Grand Duchy of Poznań
Place of death New York City, New York
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch Union Army
Years of service 1861–65
Rank Colonel and
Brigadier General (temporary)
Unit Army of the Potomac
Army of the Cumberland
Commands held Krzyżanowski's Brigade, XI Corps

1848 Polish Uprising
American Civil War

Awards Brevet Brigadier General
Relations cousin of Frédéric Chopin
Other work civil engineer, military territorial administrator, Treasury Department clerk, customs agent

Włodzimierz Bonawentura Krzyżanowski ([vwɔˈd͡ʑimjɛʂ kʂɨʐaˈnɔfski]; in the United States; 8 July 1824 – 31 January 1887) was a Polish engineer, politician, and military leader — a brigadier general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

A Polish noble, he took part in the 1848 uprising against Prussia and left Poland after its suppression. In early 1861 he enlisted in the US Union Army, recruiting a company of Polish immigrants, becoming colonel of the 58th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, listed in the official Army Register as the "Polish Legion" In the July 1863 Battle of Gettysburg, Krzyżanowski helped repel an evening assault by the famed Louisiana Tigers on the Union defenses atop East Cemetery Hill. He was appointed brigadier general in 1862. After the war, he held several government posts, and might have been the first American administrator of Alaska Territory.

Early life

Krzyżanowski was born in Rożnowo, Grand Duchy of Poznań, into an old Polish noble family that bore the Świnka coat of arms, and whose roots reached back to the 14th century and ownership of the village of Krzyżanowo near Kościan. Krzyżanowski's father and both uncles had fought for Polish independence under Napoleon's banners, and his brother fought in the November 1830 Uprising.[1]

Krzyżanowski was a first cousin to Frédéric Chopin, whose mother Justyna Krzyżanowska's brother was Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski's father.[1]

After the death of Krzyżanowski's father, the family fell into debt and had to leave their estate. The mother sent Włodzimierz to relatives in Poznań, while the rest of the family moved to Warsaw. Young Krzyżanowski attended St. Mary Magdalen Gymnasium in Poznań, a principal center of the Polish nationalist underground in Prussian Poland.[1] Krzyżanowski took part in the 1848 uprising against Prussia and, after its suppression, fled Poland to avoid arrest. He went to Hamburg, Germany, and from there sailed to New York. In the United States he learned the English language and continued his education.[1] After completing his education, Krzyżanowski worked as a civil engineer and surveyor in Virginia and was instrumental in pushing America's railroads west. There he made the acquaintance of General Burnett and married his daughter Caroline, with whom he moved to Washington, D.C., to set up his own company, which brought him substantial wealth. He also became active in Republican Party politics. In 1860 he supported Abraham Lincoln's candidacy for president of the United States.[1]

Civil War

In Washington, D.C., in early 1861, Krzyżanowski enlisted as a private two days after President Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers. Krzyżanowski recruited a company of Polish immigrants, one of the first companies of Union soldiers. He moved the company to New York City, enlisted more immigrants, and soon became colonel of the 58th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, listed in the official Army Register as the "Polish Legion".[2][3]

Krzyżanowski participated in the battles of Cross Keys in the Shenandoah Valley, and Second Bull Run (Second Manassas), where he was injured when his horse fell,[3] Chancellorsville, where his brigade and the corps they were part of were routed by a Confederate flank attack, and Gettysburg in the Eastern Theater.[4]

President Lincoln appointed Krzyżanowski brigadier general on November 26, 1862.[3] The appointment expired by law on March 4, 1863 because the U.S. Senate failed to confirm the promotion.[3] The Senate belatedly approved the appointment on March 9, 1863 but recalled and tabled it on March 11, 1863.[3]

At Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, his men were pushed back through the town as the Union XI Corps retreated. Krzyżanowski was injured when his horse stumbled during this action.[3] However, Krzyżanowski led a counterattack on July 2 on Cemetery Hill that helped stabilize the faltering Union line.[2]

Later in the year, the XI Corps was sent to the Western Theater to help relieve the Confederate siege of Chattanooga. Krzyżanowski played a role in the Battle of Wauhatchie, where he followed Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker's orders very literally; and he was present at the Battle of Missionary Ridge.[2]

When the XI Corps was dissolved, much of it being added to XX Corps, Krzyżanowski was assigned to command at Bridgeport, Alabama, to guard the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad, and later to Stevenson, Alabama, both commands within the Department of the Cumberland.[2] He also commanded the 3rd Brigade of the Defenses of the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, reporting to Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy.[3]

On March 2, 1865, President Lincoln nominated Krzyżanowski for the award of the grade of brevet brigadier general of volunteers to rank from March 2, 1865.[5] The U.S. Senate confirmed the award on March 9, 1865.[5] Krzyżanowski was mustered out of the volunteers on October 1, 1865.[3]


After the war, Krzyżanowski was given governing duties in Alabama.[6] He later served as the appointed governor of several Southern states (Florida, Georgia, and Virginia.)[6] Supposedly he also served as the first American administrator of Alaska Territory. However, the Anchorage Daily News was unable to find conclusive information to support or disprove this claim.[7] It is said that the supposed posting was a reward for his performance as personal representative of Secretary William H. Seward during the negotiations for the purchase of Alaska.[8]

He served in the U.S. Treasury Department and later in the customs service in Panama and New York.[9]

Krzyżanowski died in New York City.[9] On October 13, 1937, the 50th anniversary of his death, his remains were transferred with military honors from Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, to Arlington National Cemetery.[10] President Franklin D. Roosevelt broadcast a nationwide tribute via radio, and Poland's President, Ignacy Mościcki, transmitted his from Warsaw.[10]


Krzyzanowski's legacy was honored by the American Polish Civil War Centennial Committee during the 1960s, which lobbied politicians for a greater appreciation of his remembrance. Thomas J. Lane pushed for a House Joint Resolution 707 which would have made July 9, 1962 Gen. Kryzanowski Memorial Day. It did not receive the support of the U.S. Congress and was abandoned.[11]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Mirosława Kruszewska, "Pierwsi Polacy w Ameryce, [23] Zapomniany bohater" ("The First Poles in America, [23] A Forgotten Hero"), Gwiazda Polarna (Pole Star), vol. 102, no. 23 (5 November 2011), p. 10.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Warner, p. 274.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Eicher, p. 337.
  4. Terry L. Jones (2002). Historical Dictionary of the Civil War: A-L. Scarecrow Press. p. 792. ISBN 978-0-8108-4112-3. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Eicher, p. 750
  6. 6.0 6.1 Gen Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski: Memoirs from the stay in America of Gen Włodzimierz Krzyżanowski during the War 1861-1864, page 43, Polish Museum of America, Chicago, 1963 (Polish).
  7. Ruskin, Liz (December 17, 2002). "Poland honors second 'ski' to lead Alaska". 
  8. Web page of Świat Polonii (World of Poles living outside of Poland).
  9. 9.0 9.1 Jack D. Welsh (16 August 2005). Medical Histories of Union Generals. Kent State University Press. pp. 197–198. ISBN 978-0-87338-853-5. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Stanley S. Sokol; Sharon F. Mrotek Kissane; Alfred L. Abramowicz (1 January 1992). The Polish Biographical Dictionary: Profiles of Nearly 900 Poles Who Have Made Lasting Contributions to World Civilization. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. p. 214. ISBN 978-0-86516-245-7. Retrieved 15 May 2012. 
  11. The American Polish Civil War Centennial Committee Henry Archacki Polish American Studies Vol. 23, No. 2 (Jul. - Dec., 1966), pp. 114-122, 128 Published by: University of Illinois Press


  • Eicher, John H., and David J. Eicher. Civil War High Commands. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8047-3641-3.
  • Krzyżanowski, Wladimir. The Memoirs of Wladimir Krzyżanowski, translated by James S. Pula. San Francisco: R&E Research Associates, 1978. ISBN 978-0-88247-492-2.
  • Tagg, Larry. The Generals of Gettysburg. Campbell, CA: Savas Publishing, 1998. ISBN 1-882810-30-9.
  • Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964. ISBN 0-8071-0822-7.
  • Kruszewska, Mirosława, "Pierwsi Polacy w Ameryce, [23] Zapomniany bohater" ("The First Poles in America, [23] A Forgotten Hero"), Gwiazda Polarna (Pole Star), vol. 102, no. 23 (5 November 2011), pp. 10–11.

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