Revolutionary War general Casimir Pulaski was dubbed the “Father of the American Cavalry” in a presidential proclamation , but an upcoming documentary will show research suggesting Pulaski may have been female or intersex. Researchers have examined remains believed to be Pulaski’s and used skeletal evidence to document the case that Pulaski, who lived as a man, may have been a woman or an intersex individual — a person who has both female and male biological characteristics.
Who was Casimir Pulaski?
Pulaski was born in Warsaw in 1745 and became interested in politics from an early age. As a teenager, he was outlawed by Russia for fighting for Polish independence, fleeing to Paris. It was there he met the American revolutionary Benjamin Franklin, who convinced him to support the colonies fighting against England in the American Revolution. He died in 1779 at the age of 34, a short time after being fatally wounded during the seige of Savannah. Pulaski’s bones had been kept in a metal container underneath a monument in Savannah, Georgia – so when the monument was temporarily removed about two decades ago, researchers were able to exhume and study his skeleton. Charles Merbs, who was a forensic anthropologist at Arizona State University at the time.
How did they confirm it was Pulaski?
After this, they had to prove that the bones did in fact belong to Pulaski and that they had not been replaced with the remains of someone else. They first studied the skeleton’s injuries, which were consistent with horse riding and battle. The next step, then, was to test the skeleton’s DNA. Since the type of DNA they needed to test is passed down through women, Dr Merbs and Dr Burns tracked down the remains of Pulaski’s grandniece to see if it was a match. But testing at the time wasn’t advanced enough, and they were not able to get any results. The bones were reburied next to the monument, and their findings were classed as “opinion”. The matter was forgotten until recently, when three other researchers decided to look back into the evidence and see if they could get better results with more up-to-date technology. When they tested the bones, the match was positive – the skeleton’s DNA was “identical” to that of Pulaski’s descendent. The UN says that up to 1.7% of the world’s population are born with intersex traits – meaning they are born with both male and female sex characteristics.