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Revolutionary Ideas

Think of colonial America and names like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Benedict Arnold and Thomas Jefferson come to mind. But there's one man who's name doesn't always pop up in history books as often as Alex Storozynski thinks it should.

So Storozynski wrote his own book, The Peasant Prince, to tell the story of a man who helped shape the history of this country and region.

Thaddeus Kosciuszko was a polish man who tried to start a revolution against feudalism in Poland in the late 1700s. When that didn't work, he came to America to tackle the similar situation of colonists being "enslaved" or controlled by the British. Here, he found his engineering skills and ideas put to use almost immediately, when he was put in charge of building forts to protect against the British in Philadelphia.

"They were quite impressive for their day because they included something that is a sharpened log with ironed tips underwater which would puncture holes in any British ships that would attack" said Storozynski.

Leaders in the American Revolution quickly realized that Kosciuszko was gifted, so he was given other tasks, like a project to protect troops as the escaped capture at the Battle of Fort Ticonderoga, designing and building the main fortress at West Point (Benedict Arnold tried to sell those plans to the British in one of the most well-known examples of treason) and devising the plan for the Battle of Saratoga.

It was what Kosciuszko did after the Revolutionary War was over, though, that struck Storozynski as "amazing" and prompted him to write a biography.

"He was a man ahead of his time because after the war he gave his salary to Thomas Jefferson and said, 'take my salary and use it to buy me [Black] slaves and then give them their freedom.' Kosciuszko told him to use the money to buy them land and farming tools so they could make their own living and money in this country. Unfortunately, Jefferson never did it," said Storozynski. "I thought he not only talked the talk but walked the walk. How many would be willing to give all their money to people who are suffering?"

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