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Bem, Józef Zachariasz

Bem, Józef Zachariasz born March 17, 1794 in Tarnów (Galicia), died February 24, 1850 in Aleppo (Syria), general of Polish, Hungarian and Turkish armies; an artillery officer and theoretician (theory and construction of rockets). After studies in a school of artillery and engineering, took part in the 1812 Moscow campaign and in the defence of Gdansk 1813, for which he received the Cross of the Legion of Honor. In 1816, as the result of a duel, he was punished by Great Prince Constantine with a transfer, and asked for dismissal in 1817. Deprived of a means of subsistence, B. soon return to military service; for a time lectu red on artillery and art of fortification in the Winter School of Artillery; and carried on experiments with skyrockets, which resulted in a work Notes sur les fusees incendiares, published in Bavaria in 1820. In 1822, for membership in the secret National Freemasonry society [Wolnomulars two Narodowe], B. was reduced in rank and expelled from the army. Thanks to influential protectors, B. was accepted back in 1823; expelled again in 1824 for alleged financial malversation; in 182 5 he asked for dismissal and in 1826 went to Galicia, where he leased a village Basiówka, carried on technical experiments, and published a book O maszynach parowych [On steam machines] (Lwow, 1829). During the November Uprising 1830-31, B. proved himself as an artillery commander in the battles at Iganie, Ostroleka, and in the defence of Warsaw, after which he was nominated general of brigade. After the collapse of the Uprising B. emigrated to France; joined the Hotel Lambert, was one of the founders of the History and Literary Society [Towarzystwo Historyczno-Literackie] in Paris and a member of the secret Society of National Unity [Zwiazek Jednosci Narodowej]. His efforts to organize Polish legions in Belgium, Egypt and Portugal led to an unsuccessful attempt on his life (P. Pasierbski). In 1835 B. was involved in the organization of the Towarzystwo Politechniczne Polskie [Polish Polytechnic Society] which was meant to train Poles on emigration in "various useful trades" and to help them find occupations in France; financial difficulties led to a suspension of the enterprise in 1836. The same year, forced by his own financial restraints, B. published La Pologne dans ses ancienne limites, le Duche de Moscou en 1743 et l'empire des Russes actuel. Ouvrage historique et politique. B. was convinced that a new rising should be evoked in Poland after the unsuccessful revolutionary attempt of 1846; in a memorial of May 17, 1 846 he proposed a plan for military organization of future uprising, including formation of a Polish legion in Algeria. In 1848 B. arrived in Lvov in order to organize an uprising in Galicia, but the projeot did not materialize; on September 14, 1848 he took over command of the defense of the revolutionary Vienna against the imperial troops; among others organized a mobile guard, consisting of workers and artisans. After the collapse of the revolution in Vienna, B. played an important role in the defence of the Hungarian revolution; in November 1848 he took command of the Hungarian army in Transylvania and Banat, and within four months ousted Austrian troops from Transylvania; later several times spectacularly defeated Russian troops. Admired by his soldiers, he was named "father Bem" attempted to win support of peasants in Transylvania, both Hungarian and Rumanian, for the revolutionary idea and to mitigate the conflicts between the Magyars and a Romanian minority in Transylvania. At the end of the revo lution nominated by Lajos Kossuth commander-in-chief of the Hungarian army; at the end of July 1849 defeated in the battle at Segesvar and on August 9 at Temesvar, which finally sealed the fate of the Hungarian revolution. Subsequently, B.left for Turkey, and converted into Islam in the hope of obtaining a position in the Turkish army. Interned at Aleppo, in June 1850 he was given the rank of general of division (ferik-pasha), and began to organize troops of Arab cavalry, as well as establishing a saltpeter factory for military use; in 1850 organized a defense the town against a Bedouin siege, which made an impression throughout Turkey. Died suddenly of malaria and was buried in Aleppo; his ashes were brought to Poland in 1929 and buried in a mausoleum in Tarnow. Author of works on mathematics, military questions, and history; among others: O powstaniu narodowym w Polsce [On the national uprising in Poland] (Paris, 1846-48), in which he presented his own interpretation of the November Uprising.

Jolanta T. Pekacz


E. Kozlowski, Jozef Bem, 1794-1850. Warsaw, 1989.

_______., Legion polski na Wegrzech 1848-1849. Warsaw, 1983.

E. Kovacs, Bem Jozsef. Budapest, 1954.

L. Russjan, Polacy i sprawa polska na Wegrzech w r. 1848. Warsaw, 1934. P>

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