Pulaski's Grand Burial in Savannah
October 7 - 10, 2005
Events leading up to the Military and Religious Funeral for General Casimir Pulaski started a whole week before the ceremonies scheduled to take place on Sunday, October 9th. During the preceding seven days, Pulaski's remains, already in the fine white-oak casket that was brought from Poland a year ago, the gift of the Liebchen and Godlewski families, made a tour of Savannah houses of worship. The first stop, on Sunday Oct. 2 was at the First African American Baptist Church where a grand memorial service was held that included the singing of black spiritual music and an oration by the pastor who stressed that Pulaski came to America to fight for the freedom of all. On the days that followed the remains lay in state at the Independent Presbyterian Church, St. John's Episcopal Church, the Mikveh Synagogue and the Unitarian Church. From this last place it would be transported to the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist for the memorial mass on Sunday.
On Thursday evening a special presentation "Pulaski at Brandywine, PA Charleston, SC and Savannah GA" was made by Ret. Colonel Francis Casimir Kajencki at Savannah's Visitors center. About 300 persons attended the speaker's slide-illustrated lecture which was enthusiastically received. The question session lasted well into the night.
By Friday, most of official visitors had all arrived. The Polish government delegation which had come in from Poland on the Polish Presidential aircraft was headed by Poland's Undersecretary of State Andrzej Majkowski. There were also 12 riders (from a ceremonial-parade unit) and several veterans from the "September 1939 Defensive Campaign." Bishop Tadeusz Ploski, a general and chief of the Polish Army Chaplains, was part of this delegation. Coming from Poland's embassy in Washington D.C. was the newly appointed Ambassador Janusz Reiter and military Attache General Kazimierz Sikorski, and others. Among the last to arrive was a group from Warka, the ancestral home of the Pulaski family, where a museum now stands dedicated to Pulaski's memory. Its members were: Iwona Stefaniak, the Pulaski Museum Director; Miroslaw Maliszewski, Grojec County Administrator (recently elected as deputy to the Polish Parliament); Teresa Knyzio, President of Warka City Council; and Jolanta Kazimierska, Director of the Warka Brewery.
On Saturday while Pulaski's casket was at St. John's Episcopal Church, final preparations were completed at the Pulaski Monument on Monterey Square to house the casket for perpetuity. A white marble crypt had been installed in front of the monument and the appropriate landscaping done with red and white flowers. That evening, a banquet was given at the International Trade and Conference Center - Grand Ballroom. This allowed out-of-town participants to meet the distinguished guests from Poland and mingle with local dignitaries. After dinner a number of presentations were made by the Sons of the American Revolution and the Pulaski Cadets honoring individuals for their roles in keeping the memory of Casimir Pulaski alive. Among those were American Council for Polish Culture (ACPC) President Debbie Majka and ACPC First Vice-president S. Paul Bosse. The Pulaski Cadets also presented two replica Pulaski banners, one to the City of Savannah, was received by Francis X. Hayes, and one to Poland that was given into the hands of the Polish Veterans from 1939.
Ceremonies on Sunday Oct. 9 started early. Before the sun had risen, Revolutionary war re-enactors and patriotic groups wishing to pay their respects to the fallen in the Battle of Savannah, gathered at the Visitors Center on Martin Luther King Boulevard. From there, to the sound of fife and drum, as the sun began to rise, they marched to the nearby battlefield where a replica rampart had been erected. There, after a speaker recounted the course of the battle, wreaths were placed. A cannon shot sounded in salute to those who like Pulaski, gave their all to the cause of American Independence.
Many of those present then proceeded to the cathedral for the memorial mass. Well before noon, a number of units began to assemble on Abercorn Street and on the steps leading to the church. These consisted of a US Army color guard with flags, a unit of infantry with a squad that was to fire a salute at the grave, sailors from the USS Roosevelt, the Knights of Columbus, the Pulaski Cadets, the Polish riders (5 on horseback), the 1939 veterans from Poland (on foot), and a burial detail (in nineteenth century uniforms) from Arlington Cemetery whose four white draft horses pulled a caisson that held Pulaski's casket. A riderless horse was included to memorialize the fallen General. On arrival, the casket was placed on a catafalque on the steps of the Cathedral where it remained throughout the mass, guarded by sailors from the USS Roosevelt in immaculate white uniforms. Bishop Ploski was the chief celebrant of a memorial mass conducted mainly in Polish, during which both the Cathedral Choir and a Polish Choir from Hamilton, Canada sang appropriate hymns. Then the congregation followed the bishop to the street and joined ranks with the units outside. The procession made its way down Abercorn Street toward the river, then turned onto Bull Street proceeding toward Monterey Square. It was a splendid sight with flags, horses, uniforms and flowers that wound its way over nearly twenty-two blocks.
On reaching Monterey Square the participants of the march took their places and Bishop Ploski began the ceremony of Christian Burial. He was assisted by an Anglican priest, a member of the Savannah Masonic Lodge and the Rabbi from the nearby synagogue. With the casket in the crypt chamber, the solemnities concluded, and a twenty-one gun salute was fired and "Taps" sounded.
Later in the evening the officer and crew of the USS Roosevelt, in cooperation with the Navy League, hosted a outdoor reception on the rear helicopter landing pad of the guided missile destroyer. The Stawski family, importers of fine spirits from Poland, donated several cases of Polish wine to be enjoyed by the guests. A tour of the ship was afforded to all visitors. Commemorative USS Roosevelt plaques were presented to ACPC President Debbie Majka, ACPC First Vice-president S. Paul Bosse and other members of the Pulaski Jubilee Committee.
On the following day a dedication ceremony was held at 10 am. By then the crypt had been sealed with a white marble capstone and the area prepared for the subsequent wreath laying. After the choir from the First African Baptist Church sang, patriotic, city and Polonia organizations paid respect by placing flowers and wreaths on the grave. Pulaski was inducted into the Georgia Military Hall of Fame and the Sons of the American Revolution. The ceremonies concluded with the reading of several proclamations, one of them from the president of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski. Photographs were taken to memorialize the event, after which the city hosted the Polish delegation at a special luncheon. There the Pulaski Identification Committee: James Metts, Karen Burns, Charles Powell, Joan Flowers, Frank Seiler, Preston Russell, Donald Gardner and Todd Grace; were awarded plaques from the city for their work. The Polish ambassador honored Paul Bosse for his special efforts in organizing and coordinating details connected with the participation in the ceremonies by international visitors and American Polonia. The visitors from Warka were awarded Pulaski-O'Neill medals for keeping the memory of Pulaski alive in Poland after which they presented several mementos to the city. The lunch concluded on a upbeat note promising future October Pulaski - Battle of Savannah Anniversary Commemorations, and a Sister City Partnership between Savannah and Warka, Poland. A video made at during the event is in the process of being edited. It will be made available through the ACPC.
Photographs - Savannah 2005Click on "thumbnails" to see full size pictures
542 - Pulaski's Casket being taken to St. John's Episcopal
Church by sailors from the USS Roosevelt
555 - Visitors from Warka, Poland and friends at Evening Banquet: (left to right) Jolanta Kazimierska, Director of the Warka Brewery ; Paul Bosse; Ambassador Janusz Reiter; Iwona Stefaniak, the Pulaski Museum Director; Teresa Knyzio, President of Warka City Council; Miroslaw Maliszewski, Grojec County Administrator (recently elected as deputy to the Polish Parliament) 561 - Presenting the Pulaski Banner Replica to the Polish Veterans of the 1939 Defensive Campaign. The last survivors of the 9th (Pulaski) Regiment of Polish Cavalry 567 - Wreaths at the Savannah Battlefield 573 - Bishop Tadeusz Ploski, Teresa Knyzio, Miroslaw Maliszewski, Iwona Stefaniak, Paul Bosse, Jolanta Kazimierska (at Cathedral of St. John the Baptist) 580 - The caisson with Pulaski's casket arrives at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist 583 - The Polish riders with drawn sabers escort the caisson. 586 - Crowd gathered on the stairs at the entrance to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist 588 - US Army Color Guard (at Monument in Monterey Square) 590 - Veterans of 1939 596 - Bishop Plonski assisted by Anglican priest at the Casket (at gravesite) 599 - Crowd gathered at Monterey Square for the burial ceremony included members of the Free Masons in their official regalia. 612 - Jolanta Kazimierska, Gen. Kazimerz Sikorski, Iwona Stefaniak, Miroslaw Maliszewski, Teresa Knyzio 644 - Paul Bosse, Debbie Majka, Peter Obst (at Pulaski Monument wreathlaying) 645 - Victorian Ladies re-enactors at the monument 647 - Polish Riders, Gen, K. Sikorski, Commander of Fort Stewart, Veterans of 1939 655 - After Pulaski-O'Neill medal ceremony - Karen Burns, Teresa Knyzio, Iwona Stefaniak, Chuck Powell, Jeanne Flowers, Miroslaw Maliszewski, Jolanta Kazimierska 656 - Pulaski grave in Monterey Square, Savannah, Georgia
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