Josef Poniatowski

Marshal  Josef PoniatowskiFrench Marshal
Polish Prince

Nephew to Poland's King Stanilaus II, Poniatowski had the strange upbringing of living in the capital of his country's oppressor, Austria, for his early years.

Serving in the Austrian army from 1780, Poniatowski honed his military skills against the Turks but, when offered a senior command, returned to Poland.

His abilities saw regular offers to join either the Russian - whom he fought against during the Polish uprising during the 1790s - or Austrian armies, but his prime aim was to have a strong, independent Poland.

Poniatowski saw France's emperor Napoleon Bonaparte as the key to winning independence for his nation and so agreed to form Polish units for him.

His countrymen proved excellent troops and, in 1809, they led the campaign to expel Austria from Polish territories.

In Russia in 1812 he led the French right wing at Borodino, where his troops performed heroicly.

Disappointed by the emperor's lack of speed at giving Poland independence, Poniatowski nevertheless continued to support France during the 1813 campaign and received promotion to marshal only days before drowning while trying to cross the Elster River after Leipzig.

Too much a nationalist to be fully trusted by Bonaparte, Poniatowski was still a man upon whom the emperor relied to fight mutual enemies.


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