A Wily Soldier of the Insurrection and the Cossacks
Article by: Tom Rozman – (as related by William Rozmysłowicz – Tom’s grandfather’s original family name)
The 1863 Insurrection in Congress Kingdom Poland against the Russian overlords foisted on the Poles at the Congress of Vienna had failed. The expected Russian reaction would be harsh and this would be the last of the several uprisings in Russian Poland until the new Polish Republic formed in 1919—and promptly found itself in a two year war for survival with the new Soviet Russian State, a contest finally decided at the Battle of the Siege of Warsaw.
A Polish soldier of the insurrection army was making his way home. The soldier knew nothing of these following events of the future. But he did know that the Russian reaction would be a bad one for the Poles, especially those who rose against them. He knew that soon the roads would be dangerous. He knew that his infantry regiment had disbanded and the individual soldiers were making there way home as best they could, many as he was, by themselves. He needed to make all haste in the direction of his home district. The Polish roads, now that the Russian Government had dominance and freedom of movement, would not be safe for travel without great care. Cossack patrols would be everywhere.
The soldier was making his way with firm step along the roads that took him back to his town in the Kurpie. His blanket roll was slung around his neck and shoulder and he had a long stout walking staff. He had done much of his march that day in the predawn hours. As the sun’s rays began to extend light into the fields and stands of trees bordering the dirt track of a road he was using, he felt he could risk pushing his march longer that day. He was another day from his destination and the temptation to shorten the distance was a powerful one—but he waited too long in maintaining his march.
As the sun’s early rays joined into continuous light, he saw in the distance two small specks on the road. He could make them out well enough to determine they were horsemen. He wasn’t certain of their identity and he thought he was far enough away that he had not been detected. In seconds he realized that the riders were moving at speed in his direction.
He’d been detected and in the rapidly closing distance he realized it was a Cossack patrol. Their lances with pennons fluttering were trailing and their version of a saber was drawn. The nearest wood line was too far to gain shelter and even if he did make it, there was no promise of escape. It seemed his predicament was hopeless and he would be cut down by the Cossacks. They’d take his possessions as much as they were in his blanket roll. He would not see his family again and they would not know how he had died.
But the soldier had iron fisted presence of mind. As the Cossacks drew closer he wagered they were not close enough to know if he was armed or not. Cossacks were notorious for pulling off from a straight up fight. The soldier gambled that if he confidently went into the musket drill with his walking stick, from the distance it would appear as if he was armed.
With relaxed, deliberate confidence the soldier went into the drill, loading, priming and shouldering his arm and aiming it at the two riders. The ruse had the desired effect. The Cossack patrol had no desire to take on an armed infantryman and veered off in another direction looking for other prey.
To maintain the impression, the soldier continued to act as if he had a weapon moving the walking stick to a carry position as if he remained ready to fire. When the Cossacks had moved out of sight, the soldier moved quickly off the road into a large stand of trees—after a distance and determining he wasn’t being followed he went deep into another wood stand and rested through the daylight hours.
That night he moved in the dark. As the sun’s rays broke the next day he closed on his home. He had made it alive. He was fortunate, the Russian suppression in his location wasn’t to the level that developed in other locations. He cautiously pursued normal life activity with his family and time passed. He raised a family and lived out the remainder of his life in good situation.
As a leadership example, this story is entirely of the individual—a soldier with training and personal discipline sufficient to calmly and with that discipline determine a course of action and follow it when confronted with a seemingly hopeless situation. The soldier demonstrated a form of behavior that only the best leaders are capable of. He never stopped thinking and determining actions he could take in a scenario where deadly force confronted him. He did not panic, he remained in control of his situation even though his options were slim to none—and he succeeded.
This soldier’s example would be a lesson to his grandson, one that would cause his grandson to refuse Russian service in his cantonal regiment as Russia mobilized for war with Japan. The grandson would walk out of Poland and immigrate to the United States. Seven of his sons would serve in the United States Army and a granddaughter would serve in the U. S. Navy.
The Polish insurrection soldier’s legacy of personal leadership and commitment to liberty was far reaching, so much so that his grandson would share his tale of personal leadership over 100 years later in another country with his great great grandson. The latter would extend the soldier’s legacy by serving as soldier and officer for an extended military career in an Army that would again confront the Russian Army in the Cold War in defense of liberty. Three other great great grandsons would serve in the U.S. Army, Navy and Marines.