Gaspard (Kacper) Tochman

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Gaspard (Kacper) Tochman, Polish revolutionary and southern rebel, was born in December, 1797, in Letowna, Poland. Of upper-class lineage, his uncle was General Jan Skrzynecki, who led the Polish army in the rebellion of 1830. Tochman matriculated at the prestigious University of Warsaw and after graduation practiced law in that city. During the Polish Revolution of 1830, he joined the rebels, rose to the rank of major, and for his distinguished bravery earned the Gold Cross of the Polish Legion of Honor. When the Russian army crushed the rebellion Tochman fled Poland for France. Tochman was ordered out of France four years later and, after a brief stop in England, emigrated to the United States. The New World was kind to the Old World rebel. Tochman prospered in New York and Maryland as a lawyer, involved mainly in prosecuting government claims for his fellow Poles. Lecturing extensively on Poland and editing the Polish Slavonic Literary Association Literary journal, Tochman was recognized as the leading American spokesman on Poland. In 1852 he settled in Alexandria, Virginia. Active politically, Tochman was a Douglas Democrat elector for Virginia in 1860.

Originally favoring a peaceful settlement of sectional issues, Lincoln's call for troops to suppress the rebellion drove Tochman to join the southern cause. Writing his old friend Jefferson Davis, Tochman offered to raise a "Polish brigade" composed of southerners of foreign birth. The offer was accepted; the secretary of war promised Tochman a brigadier generalship if he raised more than one regiment. Commissioned colonel on May 11, 1861, Tochman repaired to New Orleans and commenced a vigorous recruitment drive among that city's foreign-bom citizens. By June 20 two regiments (the 14th Regiment and 3rd Battalion of the Louisiana Infantry, mostly non-Poles)ó1,700 menówere raised. Tochman did not receive the promised general's commission; President Davis did not honor his secretary's promise. Subsequent congressional investigators thought it was clear that the president had not authorized a rank above colonel. Tochman suspected that objecting Louisiana politicians induced Davis' about-face. He spent the rest of the war pressing his claims to rank, pay, and reimbursement upon the Confederate Congress. In September, 1864, Tochman proposed to President Davis that he be sent abroad to recruit Polish refugees, pointing out that unless this were done, those refugees might enlist in the Union army. Davis rejected the offer in favor of another emigre group.

After the war Tochman practiced law in Richmond. In 1866 he was appointed that state's European agent for the Bureau of Immigration. Tochman's plan was to establish a settlement ("New Poland"), near Spotsylvania. The plan met with some initial success; over one hundred immigrant families settled in Virginia. However, the state failed to appropriate funds to sustain the program, and after two years Tochman quit his post. He thereafter retired to his estate in Spotsylvania County. General Tochman died there on December 20, 1880, and was buried on a hill overlooking his house.

Tochman is called a general in SHSP, Lonn, the journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865, and the Moffett Papers.

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Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.