Racławice - Historic Battle Site, Dziemięrzyce
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Racławice is a well-known name to all Poles, appearing in literature, classical art, and above all in Poland’s national patriotic tradition. The legendary glory of the battle which took place there - the last military victory of the fading Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth - continued to grow throughout the period of Poland’s partitions. In Cracow, on 24 March 1794, Tadeusz Kościuszko proclaimed himself Supreme Commander of the National Armed Forces. In their euphoria, insurgents vowed to “Die and be buried in the ruins of our own country or to liberate the fatherland”. On 1 April Kościuszko set forth for Warsaw. On 4 April at Racławice he encountered the Russian army commanded by General Alexander Tormasov. The Russians were the first to strike, their heavy gun fire dispersing the Polish cavalry. It was then that Kościuszko personally led into action 320 peasant-soldiers armed with scythes, their bravura attack breaching the enemy lines. The next strike, aimed at the Russians’ right flank, secured victory for the insurgents. One hundred Polish troops fell in battle, the Russians losing 600 soldiers and 12 field guns. Wojciech Bartos, a peasant from Rzędowice, distinguished himself in battle by using his hat to cover the priming pan of a cannon, thus rendering it unable to fire, and capturing the first of the Russian cannons. Several days after the battle he was promoted to the rank of standard bearer of the Cracow Grenadiers.

During the first phase of the Uprising, this triumph over Russia’s light infantry was particularly significant: it inspired fervour and fostered belief in the idea that the Fatherland could be saved. The scythe-equipped volunteer infantry became battle heroes. Their commander donned a sukmana (a traditional peasant overcoat), and the Cracow Grenadier regiment received a standard emblazoned with a wheat-sheaf, crossed scythes and the motto “They feed and defend”. For this brief moment the peasantry ceased to be beleaguered ‘drudges’ and became fellow citizens, and though the uprising was swiftly quashed, the rise of the peasantry’s enduring consciousness, and the origins of the peasant movement, which was to become one of the most important political forces of the late 19th century, can be traced back to Racławice.

The fields of Racławice, Dziemięrzyce and Wrocimowice are unique locations. Their original historic landscape from the time of the battle survives to this day, featuring varied terrain covered with dense woodlands, steep slopes, elongated gullies and a hill known as Zamczysko, where the ruins of a 14th-century castle stand. The spatial layout of neighbouring villages has remained unchanged since the late 18th century. The parish church of SS Peter and Paul in Racławice, the parish church of St Andrew the Apostle in Wrocimowice and the manor estate in Dziemięrzyce are significant landmarks. The communal graves of the peasant insurgents are also located in Dziemięrzyce. The remains of a fortified residence on the Zamczysko hill in Janowiczki are also noteworthy. A manor house and park occupy the central portion of Janowiczki village. In the late 18th century the estate belonged to the Jakliński family. A new manor house was raised on the site of the earlier building in 1914. In the late 20th century the park still featured a 300-year-old lime tree known as “Kościuszko’s Lime”.

Visitors often came to the see the fields of Racławice. When, in 1820, work began on raising the Kościuszko Mound on St Bronisława’s Hill in Cracow, the first to arrive was a ceremonial procession bringing soil from Racławice. However, it was not until 1844 that a meticulous effort was made to remove the remains of the fallen from the battlefield and inter them in a collective grave next to the church at Wrocimowice. In 1917 it was suggested that a mound be raised to commemorate the battle. In 1925 an act to this effect was passed by the Miechów regional assembly, and in 1926 work on the project began, carried out by village locals and the army. In 1934 the mound (standing 13.80 m high) was officially consecrated. The residential villa of Walery Sławek, Prime Minister of Poland in the 1930s, stands at the foot of the hill, as does a monument to Bartosz Głowacki, erected in 1994. Głowacki himself - third symbol of the Uprising after Kościuszko and the Warsaw shoemaker Kiliński - died at the Battle of Szczekociny, when the counterattack of 1500 peasant infantrymen folded under heavy Prussian and Russian artillery fire. The heroics of the scythe-wielding peasantry proved futile; the defeat exploded the myth of the invincible scythemen, but not the symbolic status of the scythe at Racławice.

General information

  • Type: battlefield
  • Chronology: 4 kwietnia 1794 r.
  • Form of protection: Historical Monument
  • Address: Dziemięrzyce
  • Location: Voivodeship małopolskie, district miechowski, commune Racławice
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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