There was a Hungarian hussar who fought all over Europe and even against Hungarians. Once he heard about the revolution of the thirteen English colonies, he immediately decided to travel to the New World and help the Americans win their independence from the English Empire.
It was none other than noble-at-birth Mihály Kováts, who, through his adventurous life, ended up helping establish the United States Cavalry, along with the more well-known Polish General Kazimierz Pułaski (Casimir Pulaski).
According to Telex, American history views the Polish Pułaski as the “Father of American Cavalry”, and RevolutionaryWarNewJersey reported that he was also awarded the Honorary Citizen of the United States title in 2009, one of the eight people in the history of the US to have ever received such title.
The story of the Hungarian hero who helped the Polish general and the efforts of the United States soldiers started in Hungary when Mihály Kováts was born in 1724 in Karcag, to a then gentry family, but he became an orphan at the age of eight. To make his career, after finishing the local secondary school of the reformed church in his hometown, he, lying about his age, entered the Hávor hussar regiment, Telex reports.
This is when his adventurous career started, and not long after he joined the hussar regiment, the War of the Austrian Succession broke out after Emperor Charles VI had no son to inherit his throne, and he wanted his daughter, Maria Theresa, to be his heir.
Történelemútravaló reports that the Hávor hussar regiment immediately joined the First Silesian War, and Kováts fought among them. Then, the regiment moved to Prague where they first fought Hungarian units. These units were former Kuruc, who joined forces with the French to weaken the tyrannical grasp of Vienna. These hussars, the Bercsényi regiment, laid the foundation of the French light cavalry.
After 1742, when he was marched to today’s Italy, there is not a lot of information about his life. In 1745, he was detained in Passau and sent back to Buda, and then he joined the Haller Hungarian hussar regiment to fight against the Czechs, but after the conflict ended, Kováts was dismissed.
After this point, he became a mercenary and fought on many sides. He became a prisoner but was absolved, he found himself a wife and even had a son who, unfortunately, died at the age of three.
At 52, he once again took on an adventure and, in 1776, he was in Bordeaux, from where he wrote his letter to Benjamin Franklin. Történelemútravaló writes that Kováts must have known about the revolution of the thirteen colonies, and he must have started his journey from Hungary to eventually join the fight for independence.
In his letter, Kováts wrote the following:
The price of freedom is not paid in gold. People who fight for freedom used to listen to their forefathers. I, too, who respectfully send this letter to Your Highness, am a free nobleman of Hungarian nationality.
Finally, I wait in anticipation of a favourable response, to leave hastily to live and die in military service where it is most required.
To Your Highness, faithful until death,
Micheal Kováts de Fabriczy
Bordeaux, 13 January 1777”
Kováts did not hesitate to leave. Not waiting for an answer, he almost immediately took off to the colonies and sought out George Washington in person and handed him confidential letters from Europe, suggesting that he was also fulfilling missions as a messenger. Despite this, however, he did not win over one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
At first, Kováts became a recruiting officer for the German units, but Kováts’s career took a turn after he developed a friendship with Kazimierz Pułaski (Casimir Pulaski).
While the Polish general had advised Washington to use Prussian military orders, it was Kováts in the background who worked on these orders, since only the Hungarian officer had served under the Prussians earlier in his life.
Kováts and Pułaski saved the colonial army on several occasions by founding the light cavalry, taking the previous advantage from the English army from their hands, Telex writes.
“I am fortunate to report to your Highness that the dragoons have performed miracles,” they told Washington on March 3, 1778, after the battle near Haddonfield.
The light cavalry led by Kováts and Pułaski had helped the thirteen colonies win the battle near Charleston, South California, in 1779. According to legends, after travelling 1,200 kilometres, the Polish general rushed into the room of the leaders of the defence of the city and immediately restored their fighting spirit.
Unfortunately, the Hungarian hero of the American Revolutionary War and the Polish general had not lived to see the thirteen colonies achieve their independence and the foundation of the United States.
Kováts’s memory is maintained in the US by local Hungarian groups, and May 11th has been declared as a day of commemoration for Mihály Kováts. In his hometown, Karcag, a school was named after him, and there is also a statue, a plaque, and a memorial place that guards the memory of this great hero.
Source: telex.hu, tortenelemutravalo.hu, mult-kor.hu