Put on your Polka dots and broil a few sausages! It’s Casimir Pulaski Day! Who was this Polish American War General and why do we have so many bridges and tunnels named after him? Good questions. Outdated biographies and internet history sites tells us this much:

Born into a wealthy family in Poland in 1747, Casimir Pulaski, as a young man, fought for freedom from Russia in his homeland until 1771, when he was exiled to France. In Paris he met American envoy Benjamin Franklin, who influenced him to help Americans fight for their independence. Washington was so impressed with Pulaski’s abilities during the Battle of Brandywine Creek that he recommended the Continental Congress appoint Pulaski as general of the American cavalry. In 1778, Pulaski organized an independent corps of cavalry and light infantry known as the Pulaski Legion. It is reported that he spent $50,000 of his own money to help train and equip his troops.

"I came here, where freedom is being defended, to serve it, and to live or die for it," wrote Casimir Pulaski to George Washington in a letter in which he offered his military services to America during the Revolutionary War. He proved true to his word. At age 32, his heroic death at the Battle of Savannah on October 11, 1779 was received with sorrow across the land. General Pulaski’s life represents the dedication of countless Americans of Polish and other ethnic origins to the principles of personal liberty and independence, which have always defined the spirit of the United States of America.

Amen, brother!

Fast Fact: Illinois is the only state to officially recognize Casimir Pulaski Day, which falls on the first Monday of March. School is out!

In celebration, we’ve decided to post an early home demo of the song “Casimir Pulaski Day,” from Sufjan’s Illinois album, with clumsy banjo and slightly different lyrics. Q. What does the speaker consider doing “when your father found out what we did that night?" A. Pulling his hair and kicking him in the face! Woah. We’re not condoling violence in any way. But perhaps Casimir Pulakski, a remarkable fighter, would approve.

[Sufjan Stevens, "Casimir Pulaski Day" Demo (MP3)]