A Revolutionary War hero who served alongside Washington may have been intersex

By Piaoqi Yu

Recent research shows that Casimir Pulaski, who is one of the most famous generals in American Revolutionary War, has been identified to be intersex through DNA tests.

Pulaski was known as the “Father of the American Cavalry”, but new evidence suggests that the general may not have been male even though he was regarded as a male before.

Pulaski was born into nobility in Warsaw in 1745, when Poland was the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. There, he began his early military career before Benjamin Franklin ultimately recommended that he join the American Revolution. In 1777 Pulaski arrived in Massachusetts, and at the Battle of Brandywine helped save George Washington’s life and saved the Continental Army from defeat.

Washington made Pulaski a general, and the young commander set to work remaking the Colonial cavalry. He died after being wounded at the Siege of Savannah, Georgia in 1779.

He was just over five foot in height, and is depicted in portraits with dark hair and a thin moustache.

Pulaski’s bones had been kept in a metal container underneath a monument in Savannah, Georgia.

When the monument was temporarily removed about two decades ago, researchers were able to exhume his skeleton.

The skeleton belonging to Pulaski appeared to be that of a woman in DNA tests. The scientists concluded that he may have been intersex.

Charles Merbs, who was a forensic anthropologist at Arizona State University said that he examined the bones with forensic scientist Dr Karen Burns from the University of Georgia.

“The skeleton is about as female as can be,” he said.

Recently, three other researchers proved that the skeleton’s DNA was “identical” to that of Pulaski’s descendant.

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.

Dr Merbs says it is unlikely that Pulaski, who was raised male, ever believed he was female or intersex.

“Back in those days, they just didn’t know,” he said.

Featured image: A painted portrait of Casimir Pulaski. Source: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

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