Józef Antoni Poniatowski
Prince Józef Antoni Poniatowski (ˈjuzɛf anˈtɔɲi pɔɲaˈtɔfskʲi; 7 May 1763 – October 19, 1813) was a Polish
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

 leader, general, minister of war and army chief, who became a Marshal of France
Marshal of France
The Marshal of France is a military distinction in contemporary France, not a military rank. It is granted to generals for exceptional achievements...


Early Austrian years and war with Turkey

Prince Józef Antoni Poniatowski was born in Vienna, Austria in the Palais Kinsky
Palais Kinsky
Palais Kinsky is a Baroque palace in Vienna, Austria. It was originally built for Count Wirich Philipp von Daun, the garrison commander whose son Leopold Josef Graf Daun became a Field Marshal of empress Maria Theresa...

 He was baptized in Vienna's Schottenkirche
Schottenklöster is the name applied to the monastic foundations of Irish and Scottish missionaries in Continental Europe, particularly to the Scottish Benedictine monasteries in Germany, which in the beginning of the 13th century were combined into one congregation whose abbot-general was the...

. He was the son of Andrzej Poniatowski
Andrzej Poniatowski
Prince Andrzej Poniatowski, born Count Andrzej Poniatowski was a Polish-Lithuanian nobleman , General and Field Marshal....

, the brother of the last king of Poland Stanisław August Poniatowski, and a field marshal in the service of Austria. His mother was Theresia von Kinsky
The Kinsky family of the Counts and later Princes was one of the oldest and most illustrious families originating from Bohemia...

, a lady in the court of Maria Theresa
Maria Theresa of Austria
Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina was the only female ruler of the Habsburg dominions and the last of the House of Habsburg. She was the sovereign of Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Bohemia, Mantua, Milan, Lodomeria and Galicia, the Austrian Netherlands and Parma...

 belonging to the influential Czech
Czech lands
Czech lands is an auxiliary term used mainly to describe the combination of Bohemia, Moravia and Czech Silesia. Today, those three historic provinces compose the Czech Republic. The Czech lands had been settled by the Celts , then later by various Germanic tribes until the beginning of 7th...

-Austrian aristocratic family. His father died when Józef was 10, Stanisław August then became his guardian and the two enjoyed a close personal relationship that lasted for the rest of their lives. Maria Theresa was a godmother of Józef's older sister, who was named Maria Teresa, after the Empress. Józef was born and raised in Vienna, but was also spent time with his mother in Prague
Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic. Situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava river, the city is home to about 1.3 million people, while its metropolitan area is estimated to have a population of over 2.3 million...

 and later with his uncle the king in Warsaw. Brought up in the "ancient regime" society, he was tutored in French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, and spoke to his mother in that language. He also learned Polish and German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

. As a child he acquired the nickname "Prince Pepi", the Czech diminutive form of Joseph. He was trained for a military career, but also learned how to play keyboard instruments and had a portable one which he carried with him later even during military campaigns. It was because of Stanisław August's influence that Poniatowski chose to consider himself a Polish citizen, even though he transferred to the Polish army at the age of 26. In Vienna, he represented the Polish king at the funeral of Maria Theresa. In 1787 he travelled with Stanisław August to Kaniov and Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

, to meet with Catherine the Great.

Having chosen a military career, Poniatowski joined the Austrian imperial army where he was commissioned Lieutenant
A lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces. Typically, the rank of lieutenant in naval usage, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank...

 in 1780, in 1786/1788 promoted to Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 and when Austria declared war against Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 in 1788, he became an Aide-de-camp
An aide-de-camp is a personal assistant, secretary, or adjutant to a person of high rank, usually a senior military officer or a head of state...

 to Emperor Joseph II
Joseph II, Holy Roman Emperor
Joseph II was Holy Roman Emperor from 1765 to 1790 and ruler of the Habsburg lands from 1780 to 1790. He was the eldest son of Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis I...

. Poniatowski fought in that war and distinguished himself at the storming of Šabac
Šabac is a city and municipality in western Serbia, along the Sava river, in the historic region of Mačva. It is the administrative center of the Mačva District. The city has a population of 52,822 , while population of the municipality is 115,347...

 on April 25, 1788, where he was seriously wounded. At Šabac he also reportedly saved the life of a younger colleague, Prince Karl Philipp Schwarzenberg. Later their military paths crossed repeatedly, as friends and foes, and at the end of Poniatowski's career, Schwarzenberg delivered the crushing blow at Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

, after which Poniatowski was killed.

Polish military service and defense of the May 3 Constitution

Summoned by his uncle, King Stanisław August Poniatowski and the Sejm
The Sejm is the lower house of the Polish parliament. The Sejm is made up of 460 deputies, or Poseł in Polish . It is elected by universal ballot and is presided over by a speaker called the Marshal of the Sejm ....

, when the Polish Army was reorganized, Poniatowski emigrated to Poland. The King had made previous arrangements with the Austrian authorities for this transfer, which of course in the end depended on his nephew's willingness to make the move, but this, despite the sacrifice involved on his part, had other advantages. In October 1789, together with Tadeusz Kościuszko
Tadeusz Kosciuszko
Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kościuszko was a Polish–Lithuanian and American general and military leader during the Kościuszko Uprising. He is a national hero of Poland, Lithuania, the United States and Belarus...

 and three others, Poniatowski received the rank of Major-General, and was appointed commander of a division in Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 and devoted himself zealously to rebuilding the small, and for a long time neglected, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

's military.

This was taking place during the period of deliberations by the Four-Year Sejm, which ended with the proclamation of the May 3 Constitution in 1791. Poniatowski was an enthusiastic supporter of the reform and a member of the Friends of the Constitution Association. The passage of the document was assured partially by the military forces under the Prince's command, which surrounded the Royal Castle
Royal Castle, Warsaw
The Royal Castle in Warsaw is a castle residency and was the official residence of the Polish monarchs. It is located in the Castle Square, at the entrance to the Warsaw Old Town. The personal offices of the king and the administrative offices of the Royal Court of Poland were located there from...

 during the final proceedings; he himself was standing in the room with a group of soldiers.

On May 6, 1792 Poniatowski was appointed Lieutenant-General and commander of the Polish army in the Ukraine, with the task of defending the country against the imminent Russian attack. There Prince Józef, as he is affectionately referred to by the Poles, aided by Kościuszko and Michał Wielhorski, a friend from the Austrian service, displayed great ability. Badly outnumbered and outgunned by the enemy, obliged constantly to retreat, but disputing every point of vantage, he turned on the pursuer whenever he pressed too closely, and won several notable victories. The Battle of Zieleńce
Battle of Zielence
The Battle of Zieleńce was a battle in the Polish–Russian War of 1792, in defence of the Polish Constitution of 3 May 1791. The battle took place on 18 June 1792, between the Polish army of Józef Poniatowski and a Russian army group under the command of General Morkov, which was a part of...

 on June 18 was the first major victorious engagement of the Polish forces since Jan III Sobieski. Poniatowski personally got involved in the fighting when one of the Polish columns was faltering, as he had the habit of doing. Stanisław August marveled at the victory and to commemorate the occasion established the famous Virtuti Militari
Virtuti Militari
The Order Wojenny Virtuti Militari is Poland's highest military decoration for heroism and courage in the face of the enemy at war...

 order, with which he decorated Poniatowski and Kościuszko first - unfortunately his enthusiasm did not last long. At the Battle of Dubienka
Battle of Dubienka
The Battle of Dubienka occurred during the Polish-Russian War of 1792 where on July 18, 1792, the Polish army under the command of General Tadeusz Kościuszko defended the Bug River crossing against a Russian army under General Kachovski. The Russian attacks were stymied by field fortifications...

 fought by Kościuszko and his soldiers on July 18 the line of the Southern Bug River
Southern Bug
The Southern Bug, also called Southern Buh), is a river located in Ukraine. The source of the river is in the west of Ukraine, in the Volyn-Podillia Upland, about 145 km from the Polish border, and flows southeasterly into the Bug Estuary through the southern steppes...

 was defended for five days against fourfold odds. Finally the undefeated Polish armies converged on Warsaw and were preparing for a general engagement, when a courier from the capital informed the Commander in Chief that King Stanisław August had acceded to the pro-Russian Targowica Confederation
Targowica Confederation
The Targowica Confederation was a confederation established by Polish and Lithuanian magnates on 27 April 1792, in Saint Petersburg, with the backing of the Russian Empress Catherine II. The confederation opposed the Polish Constitution of May 3, 1791, which had been adopted by the Great Sejm,...

 and had pledged the adherence of the Polish Army. All hostilities were therefore to be suspended. The army remaining loyal to Prince Józef, he was offered a coup d'état option that involved kidnapping of the King, but he, after issuing contradictory orders, decided finally not to do so. Distressed, at the last skirmish at Markuszew on July 26 was supposedly seeking death, but was saved. After an indignant but fruitless protest, Poniatowski and most of the other Polish generals resigned their commissions and, the King's pleading notwithstanding, left the army.

In a farewell gesture, Prince Józef's soldiers expressed their gratitude by having a memorial medal minted, and even writing to the Prince's mother in Prague, thanking her for such a great son. Poniatowski left Warsaw for Vienna, from where he repeatedly challenged the Targowica leader Szczęsny Potocki to a duel. But the Russian authorities wanted him removed from Poland even further, and the fearful king pressured him to comply, so he left Vienna to travel in western Europe, traumatized at that time by the violent events of the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...


In 1792 in a letter to the King, Prince Józef expressed his opinion that in order to save the country and preserve the great power of Poland he should have already at the outset of this campaign (since it was not properly prepared militarily) moved the whole country led the nobility on a horse armed the towns and given freedom to the peasants. The Polish-Russian War
Polish-Russian War of 1792
The Polish–Russian War of 1792 or War in Defence of the Constitution was fought between the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth on one side, and the Targowica Confederation and the Russian Empire on the other....

 was followed by the Second Partition of Poland
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

. It gave rise to four decades of intense warfare aimed at preserving Poland's independence. It included several major wars (1792, 1794, 1807, 1809, 1812, 1813, 1830) and a great deal of other fighting. It ranged from San Domingo
The labour for these plantations was provided by an estimated 790,000 African slaves . Between 1764 and 1771, the average annual importation of slaves varied between 10,000-15,000; by 1786 it was about 28,000, and from 1787 onward, the colony received more than 40,000 slaves a year...

 to Moscow, and included Dąbrowski's
Jan Henryk Dabrowski
-Biography:Dąbrowski was born to Jan Michal Dąbrowski and Sophie née von Lettow in Pierzchów, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth He grew up in Hoyerswerda, Electorate of Saxony, where his father served as a Colonel in the Saxon army...

 Polish Legions, as well as famous exploits, such as Somosierra
Battle of Somosierra
The Battle of Somosierra occurred November 30, 1808 in the Peninsular War, when a French army under Napoleon I forced a passage through the Sierra de Guadarrama shielding Madrid....

, Fuengirola
Battle of Fuengirola
At the Battle of Fuengirola a small Polish garrison of a mediæval Moorish fortress in Fuengirola held off a much larger Anglo-Spanish expeditionary corps under Lord Blayney.- Background:...

, and Albuera
Battle of Albuera
The Battle of Albuera was an indecisive battle during the Peninsular War. A mixed British, Spanish and Portuguese corps engaged elements of the French Armée du Midi at the small Spanish village of Albuera, about 20 kilometres south of the frontier fortress-town of Badajoz, Spain.From...


1794 Kościuszko Insurrection and private life

Stanisław August Poniatowski wrote to his nephew in the spring of 1794, urging him to return to Poland and volunteer for service under his former subordinate Kościuszko, in the uprising
Kosciuszko Uprising
The Kościuszko Uprising was an uprising against Imperial Russia and the Kingdom of Prussia led by Tadeusz Kościuszko in Poland, Belarus and Lithuania in 1794...

 which now bears his name. Possibly without much enthusiasm for the undertaking in which he had not been up to that point involved, Poniatowski came with Wielhorski again and reported for duty at Kościuszko's camp near Jędrzejów on May 27. Kościuszko proposed that Prince Józef lead the insurrection in Lithuania
Lithuania , officially the Republic of Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, the biggest of the three Baltic states. It is situated along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, whereby to the west lie Sweden and Denmark...

, where he was demoting the radical and successful leader Jakub Jasiński
Jakub Jasinski
Jakub Jasiński was a Polish-Lithuanian general, and a Polish poet of Enlightenment. He participated in the War in Defence of the Constitution in 1792, was an enemy of the Targowica Confederation and organized an action against its supporters in Vilnius...

, but Poniatowski, not wanting to be so far from his uncle who needed him, declined. He suggested instead Wielhorski, which the Naczelnik
Naczelnik is the Polish word for Leader. It was first used as an official title by Tadeusz Kościuszko during the Polish revolutions of the 18th Century...

 accepted. He himself participated in combat in and around Warsaw - as a division commander fought at Błonie July 7 – July 10 and led cavalry in anti-Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n diversion at Marymont July 26 – July 27. When during the Prussian siege of the city Mokronowski was sent to Lithuania to replace ailing Wielhorski, Poniatowski was given his post in Warsaw's defense parameter. There as always he fought valiantly. August 5 – August 10 in a victorious and promising series of confrontations he took from the Prussians the Góry Szwedzkie region, then lost it after a couple of weeks in a counterattack, for which, despite Kościuszko's warnings, he didn't properly prepare. Trying to recover the lost ground was injured, when his horse was shot under him. In October he led his outnumbered troops in attacks against Prussian entrenchments at the Bzura River, which at the cost of heavy losses tied up the Prussians and saved Dąbrowski's corps, by allowing its return to Warsaw. During the course of this war and revolution the Prince felt alienated by the actions and influence of the radical wing led by Hugo Kołłątaj, while the military cooperation between him, Dąbrowski and Józef Zajączek
Józef Zajaczek
Prince Józef Zajączek , was a Polish general and politician.His first important military post was that of an aide-de-camp to hetman Franciszek Ksawery Branicki...

 was not what it should had been, and things had gotten worse after Kościuszko's capture at Maciejowice
Battle of Maciejowice
The Battle of Maciejowice was fought on October 10, 1794, between Poland and the Russian Empire.The Poles were led by Tadeusz Kościuszko. Kościuszko with 6,200 men planned to prevent the linking of two larger Russian armies, 12,000 under Iwan Fersen and 12,500 under Alexander Suvorov...


The Insurrection having failed, Poniatowski stayed for a while in Warsaw, his estates were confiscated, but having refused a position in the Russian army and unwilling to comply with the loyalty conditions that the Russian authorities wanted to impose on him, was ordered to leave the Polish capital and in April 1795 moved once more to Vienna. The Kościuszko Rising led to the Third (and final) Partition of Poland.

1796 saw the death of Catherine II of Russia. Her son, Tsar Paul I
Paul I of Russia
Paul I was the Emperor of Russia between 1796 and 1801. He also was the 72nd Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta .-Childhood:...

 returned Poniatowski's estates and again tried to hire him into the Russian army. To excuse himself Prince Józef claimed being (as a result of past wounds) in an extremely poor health. But in 1798 his uncle, the former king Stanisław August, died in St. Petersburg . Poniatowski left Vienna for his funeral and to arrange for the proper disposition of the late king's finances, inheritance and obligations. He stayed in St. Petersburg for several months, and then, being on good terms with Tsar Paul and his court, returned to Poland, into his estates in Warsaw (Copper-Roof and Myślewicki
Myślewicki Palace
The Myślewicki Palace is a rococo-neoclassical palace in Warsaw's Royal Baths Park. It was created for king Stanisław August Poniatowski as one of the first buildings in the Royal Baths. Its name derives from the nearby not-existing village Myślewice....

 palaces) and in Jabłonna. Warsaw at that time was under Prussian rule.

There until 1806 Poniatowski lived a private life of parties and play, politically not very active, often shocking the public opinion by the conduct of himself and his friends. His household was managed strictly by one Henrietta Vauban, an older woman whom he brought from Vienna and who was apparently able to exert a great deal of influence over the Prince. His residences were open to various personalities, and from 1801 the future Louis XVIII, brother of the executed by the Revolution Louis XVI, who with his family and court needed a place to stay, was Poniatowski's guest at the Łazienki Palace for a few years. In 1802, beset by legal troubles stemming from Stanisław August's succession, Poniatowski made a trip to Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, where he stayed for months and established cordial personal relations with the Prussian royal family. Prince Józef never married; had two sons with two of his unmarried partners, of which the last and most important was Zofia Czosnowska from the Potocki
Potocki is the surname of a Polish noble family.-History:The Potocki family is a great artistocratic family originated from Potok in the Kraków Voivodeship; their family name derives from that place name. The family is heavily entwined with the cultural development and history of Poland's Eastern...

 family, mother of his younger son Karol Józef Poniatowski.

Duchy of Warsaw and victory in the 1809 Austro-Polish War

Following French Emperor Napoleon I
Napoleon I
Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader during the latter stages of the French Revolution.As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815...

's victory at the Battle of Jena and the ensuing evacuation by Prussia of her Polish provinces, in November 1806 Poniatowski was asked by the Prussian king Frederick William III to assume the governorship of Warsaw, to which he agreed; he also assumed the command of the city's municipal guard and citizen militia forces organized by local residents. All of this turned out to be a short-lived Polish provisional authority, because quick succession of events on the European scene presented the Poles with new opportunities and forced upon them new choices.

At the end of that year Joachim Murat
Joachim Murat
Joachim-Napoléon Murat , Marshal of France and Grand Admiral or Admiral of France, 1st Prince Murat, was Grand Duke of Berg from 1806 to 1808 and then King of Naples from 1808 to 1815...

 and his forces entered Warsaw and Poniatowski had to define his role within this new political reality. It took protracted negotiations with Murat (they liked each other and quickly became friends) and persuasion by Józef Wybicki
Józef Wybicki
Józef Rufin Wybicki was a Polish general, poet and political figure.-Life:He was a close friend of General Jan Henryk Dąbrowski, and in 1797 he wrote Mazurek Dąbrowskiego , which in 1927 was adopted as the Polish national anthem.During the Kościuszko Uprising, he was counselor of the Military...

 (who urged the Prince to get on board, before the window of historic opportunity closes), but before the year was over Poniatowski was declared by Murat to be "chief of the military force" and was leading the military department on behalf of the French authorities. Dąbrowski, who was the choice of many Polish veterans of the Polish Legions and of the Insurrection, as well as Zajączek were bypassed, even though they both had served under Napoleon when Poniatowski was inactive. On January 14, 1807 by the Emperor's decree the Warsaw Governing Commission was created under Stanisław Małachowski, and within this structure Poniatowski became officially Director of the Department of War and set about organizing the Polish army.

In July 1807 the Duchy of Warsaw
Duchy of Warsaw
The Duchy of Warsaw was a Polish state established by Napoleon I in 1807 from the Polish lands ceded by the Kingdom of Prussia under the terms of the Treaties of Tilsit. The duchy was held in personal union by one of Napoleon's allies, King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony...

 was created. In its government Poniatowski on October 7 became Minister of War and Head of Army of Warsaw County (minister wojny i naczelny wódz wojsk Ks. Warszawskiego), while Napoleon, not yet quite trusting him, left the supreme military command in Davout's
Louis Nicolas Davout
Louis-Nicolas d'Avout , better known as Davout, 1st Duke of Auerstaedt, 1st Prince of Eckmühl, was a Marshal of France during the Napoleonic Era. His prodigious talent for war along with his reputation as a stern disciplinarian, earned him the title "The Iron Marshal"...

 hands until summer of 1808. Poniatowski officially became Commander in Chief on March 21, 1809. The Minister of War became completely devoted to the creation and development of this new, ostentatiously Polish army. The Duchy's army existed and operated under most difficult circumstances and its success depended largely on the military and political skills of the chief commander. For example, it was severely underfunded and most of the military units were kept by Napoleon outside of the country, to be used in numerous campaigns, which is why Prince Józef had a rather small force at his disposal during the war of 1809.

In spring of 1809 Poniatowski led his army against an Austrian invasion under the Archduke Ferdinand Karl Joseph of Austria-Este
Archduke Ferdinand Karl Joseph of Austria-Este
Archduke Ferdinand Karl Joseph of Austria-Este was the third son of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria-Este and of his wife Princess Maria Beatrice Ricciarda d'Este, last member and heiress of the house of Este. For much of the Napoleonic Wars he was in command of the Austrian army.Ferdinand was born...

, in the war that was regarded by Austrian high command as a crucial element of their struggle with Napoleonic France. At the bloody Battle of Raszyn
Battle of Raszyn (1809)
The first Battle of Raszyn was fought on April 19, 1809 between armies of the Austrian Empire and the Duchy of Warsaw as a part of the War of the Fifth Coalition in the Napoleonic Wars. The Austrian army was defeated....

 near Warsaw on April 19, where he personally led his men in an infantry bayonet charge (throughout his career he did a number of these), Polish forces under Poniatowski's command fought to a standstill an Austrian force twice their number. Afterwards however decided not to defend Warsaw and withdrew with his units to the east bank of the Vistula River, to the fortified Praga suburb, which the Austrians attacked, but were defeated at Grochowo on April 26. An Austrian division then crossed the Vistula again trying to pursue the Poles, but was routed on May 2 at Góra Kalwaria in a daring attack led by General Michał Sokolnicki. Ferdinand made a couple of attempts more, trying to establish a bridgehead on the other side of the Vistula, but those were defeated, which left the initiative in Poniatowski's hands. From there he quickly advanced south, staying close to the Vistula to control the situation and taking over large areas of Galicia, that is southern Poland that was controlled by Austria under the partitioning arrangement. On May 14 Lublin
Lublin is the ninth largest city in Poland. It is the capital of Lublin Voivodeship with a population of 350,392 . Lublin is also the largest Polish city east of the Vistula river...

 was taken, on the 18th fortified and vigorously defended Sandomierz
Sandomierz is a city in south-eastern Poland with 25,714 inhabitants . Situated in the Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship , previously in Tarnobrzeg Voivodeship . It is the capital of Sandomierz County . Sandomierz is known for its Old Town, a major tourist attraction...

. On the 20th the Zamość
Zamość ukr. Замостя is a town in southeastern Poland with 66,633 inhabitants , situated in the south-western part of Lublin Voivodeship , about from Lublin, from Warsaw and from the border with Ukraine...

 fortress was overpowered, where 2000 prisoners and 40 cannons were taken, and even further east Lvov was taken on May 27. These military developments compelled the Austrians to withdraw from Warsaw - a counteroffensive by their main force resulted in the retaking of Sandomierz on June 18.

But Poniatowski in the meantime moved west of the Vistula and on July 5, the day of the Battle of Wagram
Battle of Wagram
The Battle of Wagram was the decisive military engagement of the War of the Fifth Coalition. It took place on the Marchfeld plain, on the north bank of the Danube. An important site of the battle was the village of Deutsch-Wagram, 10 kilometres northeast of Vienna, which would give its name to the...

, began from Radom
Radom is a city in central Poland with 223,397 inhabitants . It is located on the Mleczna River in the Masovian Voivodeship , having previously been the capital of Radom Voivodeship ; 100 km south of Poland's capital, Warsaw.It is home to the biennial Radom Air Show, the largest and...

 his new southbound offensive aimed at Kraków
Kraków also Krakow, or Cracow , is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life...

. He arrived there on July 15, and while the demoralized and not capable of effective defense Austrians tried to turn the city over to the Russians, Poniatowski at this point was not to be outmaneuvered or intimidated: Seeing a Russian hussar cavalry unit in attack formation blocking the street leading to the bridge on the Vistula, he rode his raised up horse into them, so that several flipped as they were falling.

Most of the liberated lands, with the exception of the Lvov region, became incorporated into the Duchy through the peace treaty of October 14, 1809. Prince Józef himself, celebrated by the residents of the old royal capital of Poland, remained in Kraków until the end of December, supervising the provisional Galician government in existence from June 2 to December 28. The Austrians kept demanding the return of Kraków and he felt that his presence there was the best assurance that the city remains in Polish hands.

Napoleon's Russian campaign

In April 1811 Poniatowski went to Paris, where he represented the king of Saxony
The Free State of Saxony is a landlocked state of Germany, contingent with Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria, the Czech Republic and Poland. It is the tenth-largest German state in area, with of Germany's sixteen states....

 and duke of Warsaw Frederick Augustus I
Frederick Augustus I of Saxony
Frederick Augustus I was King of Saxony from the House of Wettin. He was also Elector Frederick Augustus III of Saxony and Duke Frederick Augustus I of Warsaw...

 at the baptism ceremonies of Napoleon's son. He stayed there for four months and worked with the Emperor and his generals on plans for the campaign against Russia. He tried to convince the French leaders that the southern route, through the current day Ukraine would provide the most benefits. Not only was the region warmer, Polish gentry from the Russian partition would join in, and possible Turkish action against Russia could be supported, which was the most advantageous theater for the upcoming war. Napoleon rejected the idea, as well as the back-up scenario, according to which Poniatowski would follow such a route alone with the Polish corps, hoping to take over these formerly Polish areas with the expected help from a Polish uprising planned there. For the Moscow expedition Poniatowski became commander of the part of the nearly 100,000 strong Polish forces (the greatest Polish military effort before the 20th century), namely the V Corps of the Grande Armée.

The initial period of the offensive, when Poniatowski was placed under the direction of Jérôme Bonaparte
Jérôme Bonaparte
Jérôme-Napoléon Bonaparte, French Prince, King of Westphalia, 1st Prince of Montfort was the youngest brother of Napoleon, who made him king of Westphalia...

, was wasted, but after Napoleon's brother left Poniatowski was briefly put in charge of Grande Armée's right wing. Fighting on the avant-garde on the advance to Moscow he distinguished himself at a number of battles. On August 17 at Smolensk
Smolensk is a city and the administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the Dnieper River. Situated west-southwest of Moscow, this walled city was destroyed several times throughout its long history since it was on the invasion routes of both Napoleon and Hitler. Today, Smolensk...

 he personally led his corps' assault on the city. On September 7 at Borodino
Battle of Borodino
The Battle of Borodino , fought on September 7, 1812, was the largest and bloodiest single-day action of the French invasion of Russia and all Napoleonic Wars, involving more than 250,000 troops and resulting in at least 70,000 casualties...

 the V Corps
V Corps (Grande Armée)
The V Corps of the Grande Armée was a military unit during the Napoleonic Wars. Formed in 1805 and later few times reorganized. In 1805-1807 there serviced mainly French troops under command French Marshals Lannes, Mortier, Lefebvre, general Savary and Marshal Massena.In 1812 the V Corps was made...

 was involved in the daylong fight over the Utitza Mound, which was finally taken toward the evening, stormed by the entire corps led by Prince Józef again. On September 14 the Polish soldiers were the first ones to enter the Russian capital; by that time however Poniatowski, unlike Napoleon, was convinced that the campaign was doomed. The Polish corps fought then the battles at Chirikovo on September 29 and Vinkovo on October 18, where Poniatowski saved Murat from a complete defeat by Kutuzov's forces.

Rearguarding the retreat of the Grande Armée, Poniatowski was badly injured during the Viazma battle on October 29. He continued in active service for a few days, but on November 3 his condition forced him to give up his command. He then continued the westbound trip in a carriage with two wounded aides. At the Berezina
Battle of Berezina
The Battle of Berezina took place November 26–29, 1812 between the French army of Napoleon, retreating after his invasion of Russia and crossing the Berezina , and the Russian armies under Mikhail Kutuzov, Peter Wittgenstein and Admiral Pavel Chichagov. The battle ended with a mixed outcome...

 crossing they barely avoided being captured by the Russians, but finally on December 12 arrived in Warsaw.

German Campaign of 1813 and death at Leipzig

After the disastrous retreat of Napoleon's army, while recovering from his injuries, Poniatowski quickly undertook the rebuilding of the Polish army, to replace the forces devastated by the Moscow campaign. When many Polish leaders began to waver in their allegiance to the French Emperor, Poniatowski resisted this sway of opinion and remained faithful to him, even as tsar Alexander I was offering him amnesty and proposed future cooperation. With the formation of this new army only partially completed, on February 5, as the Russian army was about to enter Warsaw, the Polish units moved out, not sure of their immediate purpose, but eventually they reached Kraków, where they stayed for a few weeks getting ready for their final trial. On May 7, as the Russians were getting close again, Prince Józef and his army left Kraków, to go through Bohemia
Bohemia is a historical region in central Europe, occupying the western two-thirds of the traditional Czech Lands. It is located in the contemporary Czech Republic with its capital in Prague...

, where, as the VIII Corps, they guarded the passes of the Bohemian mountains and defended the left bank of the Elbe River, to Saxony
The Free State of Saxony is a landlocked state of Germany, contingent with Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria, the Czech Republic and Poland. It is the tenth-largest German state in area, with of Germany's sixteen states....

. The total forces with which he joined Napoleon during armistice numbered 22,000, which included a small, separately operating Dąbrowski's division.

The corps fought major successful battles at Löbau
The Lobau is a Vienna floodplain on the northern side of the Danube and partly in Großenzersdorf, Lower Austria. It has been part of the Danube-Auen National Park since 1996 and has been a protected area since 1978. It is used as a recreational area and is known as a site of nudism. There is...

 on September 9, and at Zedtlitz on October 10, where General Pahlen attempted to stop their movement toward Leipzig, but was defeated in a cavalry charge led by Poniatowski. On October 12 he was about to sit down with Murat at the breakfast table, when they were surprised by enemy units. Poniatowski got on his horse, broke through (received a superficial wound in the arm) and returning with another timely cavalry charge saved the situation. As a reward for his brilliant services, on October 16 during the Battle of Leipzig
Battle of Leipzig
The Battle of Leipzig or Battle of the Nations, on 16–19 October 1813, was fought by the coalition armies of Russia, Prussia, Austria and Sweden against the French army of Napoleon. Napoleon's army also contained Polish and Italian troops as well as Germans from the Confederation of the Rhine...

, Poniatowski was made a Marshal of France
Marshal of France
The Marshal of France is a military distinction in contemporary France, not a military rank. It is granted to generals for exceptional achievements...

 and entrusted with the dangerous duty of covering the French Army's retreat. He heroically defended Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

, losing half his corps in the attempt, finally falling back slowly upon a bridge over the Weisse Elster River, near Leipzig
Leipzig Leipzig has always been a trade city, situated during the time of the Holy Roman Empire at the intersection of the Via Regia and Via Imperii, two important trade routes. At one time, Leipzig was one of the major European centres of learning and culture in fields such as music and publishing...

. In the general confusion, the French blew up the bridge before he could reach it. Contesting every step with the overwhelming forces of his pursuers, Prince Józef refused to surrender, and covered with wounds plunged into the river. There he died.
His remains were transported to Poland in 1817 and buried in the cathedral on Kraków
Kraków also Krakow, or Cracow , is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life...

's Wawel
Wawel is an architectural complex erected over many centuries atop a limestone outcrop on the left bank of the Vistula River in Kraków, Poland, at an altitude of 228 metres above the sea level. It is a place of great significance to the Polish people. The Royal Castle with an armoury and the...

 Hill, where he lies beside Tadeusz Kościuszko and Jan III Sobieski. In 1829 his monument by Bertel Thorvaldsen
Bertel Thorvaldsen
Bertel Thorvaldsen was a Danish-Icelandic sculptor of international fame, who spent most of his life in Italy . Thorvaldsen was born in Copenhagen into a Danish/Icelandic family of humble means, and was accepted to the Royal Academy of Arts when he was eleven years old...

 was placed in Warsaw. It went through a rather turbulent history and was destroyed during World War II, but a more recent copy is still standing before the presidential palace in Warsaw. Poniatowski's cult developed after his death - it was a Polish version of the Napoleon's legend. He never married and had illegitimate issue. Among his living relatives is Elena Poniatowska
Elena Poniatowska
Elena Poniatowska is a Mexican journalist and author. Her generation of writers include Carlos Fuentes‎, José Emilio Pacheco and Carlos Monsiváis.-Life:Poniatowska was born in Paris to Prince Jean Joseph Evremont Sperry Poniatowski and Paula Amor Yturbe...

, a famous Mexican journalist.


English historian Norman Davies
Norman Davies
Professor Ivor Norman Richard Davies FBA, FRHistS is a leading English historian of Welsh descent, noted for his publications on the history of Europe, Poland, and the United Kingdom.- Academic career :...

He was an inspiration for Polish freedom fighters throughout a number of armed conflicts, but especially during the November Uprising
November Uprising
The November Uprising , Polish–Russian War 1830–31 also known as the Cadet Revolution, was an armed rebellion in the heartland of partitioned Poland against the Russian Empire. The uprising began on 29 November 1830 in Warsaw when the young Polish officers from the local Army of the Congress...

 of 1830, since many of its leaders had served under Poniatowski's command during the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

. The Duchy of Warsaw, which Napoleon created and Poniatowski defended, remained as a residual Polish state to the end of the Partitions period. If it fell in 1809, the Kingdom would not have been established and the historic chance for the November Rising would not have occurred. For over a century following Poniatowski's death the Poles experienced mostly struggle, oppression, and hardship, and the figure of a brilliant aristocrat, warrior and unyielding leader lifted their spirits and added luster to the nation needing a hero.

A Polish bomber squadron
No. 304 Polish Bomber Squadron
No. 304 Polish Bomber Squadron was a Polish World War II bomber unit. It fought alongside the Royal Air Force under their operational Command and operated from airbases in the United Kingdom, serving as a bomber unit in RAF Bomber Command, as an anti-submarine unit in RAF Coastal Command and as a...

, named after Poniatowski, took part in the defense of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 during the Second World War. It was 304 Sqn. RAF "Land of Silesia" Polish Bomber Squadron (Ziemi Śląskiej im. Ks. Józefa Poniatowskiego) which mainly flew Fairey Battle
Fairey Battle
The Fairey Battle was a British single-engine light bomber built by the Fairey Aviation Company in the late 1930s for the Royal Air Force. The Battle was powered by the same Rolls-Royce Merlin piston engine that gave contemporary British fighters high performance; however, the Battle was weighed...

, Vickers Wellington
Vickers Wellington
The Vickers Wellington was a British twin-engine, long range medium bomber designed in the mid-1930s at Brooklands in Weybridge, Surrey, by Vickers-Armstrongs' Chief Designer, R. K. Pierson. It was widely used as a night bomber in the early years of the Second World War, before being displaced as a...

, Vickers Warwick
Vickers Warwick
The Vickers Warwick was a multi-purpose British aircraft used during the Second World War. Built by Vickers-Armstrongs at Brooklands, Surrey, the Warwick was used by the Royal Air Force as a transport, air-sea rescue and maritime reconnaissance platform, and by the civilian British Overseas...

 and Handley Page Halifax
Handley Page Halifax
The Handley Page Halifax was one of the British front-line, four-engined heavy bombers of the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. A contemporary of the famous Avro Lancaster, the Halifax remained in service until the end of the war, performing a variety of duties in addition to bombing...

 bombers. Their base airfield was mostly at RAF Chivenor in Devon.

He is one of the figures immortalized in Jan Matejko
Jan Matejko
Jan Matejko was a Polish painter known for paintings of notable historical Polish political and military events. His most famous works include oil on canvas paintings like Battle of Grunwald, paintings of numerous other battles and court scenes, and a gallery of Polish kings...

's 1891 painting, Constitution of May 3, 1791
Constitution of May 3, 1791 (painting)
Constitution of May 3, 1791 is a late 19th century Romantic genre painting by the Polish artist Jan Matejko, commemorating the centenary of an important event in the history of Poland. It is an oil painting on canvas measuring 247 x 446 cm, and like many of Matejko's works, is a large and crowded...


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