Michael Kováts de Fabriczy
Michael Kováts de Fabriczy (1724 — May 11, 1779) was a Hungarian cavalry officer. Remembered as the Founding Father of the U.S. Cavalry he served and fell gallantly in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.
Kováts was born Kováts Mihály in Karcag, Hungary. Historical records indicate the spelling of his family name varies between “Kowatz” and “Kowatsch.”
As a young man Kováts became an officer in Maria Theresa’s Hungarian cavalry and later became captain of the famous Prussian Cavalry under Frederick the Great.
Upon learning of revolution in America, Kováts was called to the cause of freedom and the independence effort. Incredibly a letter penned by Kováts and directed to Benjamin Franklin, then American envoy in France, survived and clearly explains Kováts’ motivation:
Most Illustrious Sir:
Golden freedom cannot be purchased with yellow gold.
I, who have the honor to present this letter to your Excellency, am also following the call of the Fathers of the Land, as the pioneers of freedom always did. I am a free man and a Hungarian. As to my military status I was trained in the Royal Prussian Army and raised from the lowest rank to the dignity of a Captain of the Hussars, not so much by luck and the mercy of chance than by most diligent self discipline and the virtue of my arms. The dangers and the bloodshed of a great many campaigns taught me how to mold a soldier, and, when made, how to arm him and let him defend the dearest of the lands with his best ability under any conditions and developments of the war.
I now am here of my own free will, having taken all the horrible hardships and bothers of this journey, and l am willing to sacrifice myself wholly and faithfully as it is expected of an honest soldier facing the hazards and great dangers of the war, to the detriment of Joseph and as well for the freedom of your great Congress. Through the cooperation and loyal assistance of Mr. Faedevill, a merchant of this city and a kind sympathizer of the Colonies and their just cause, I have obtained passage on a ship called “Catharina Froam Darmouth “, whose master is a Captain Whippy. l beg your Excellency, to grant me a passport and a letter of recommendation to the most benevolent Congress. I am expecting companions who have not yet reached here. Your Excellency would be promoting the common cause by giving Mr. Faedevill authorization to expedite their passage to the Colonies once they have arrived here.
At last, awaiting your gracious answer, I have no wish greater than to leave forthwith, to be where I am needed most, to serve and die in everlasting obedience to Your Excellency and the Congress.
Most faithful unto death,
Bordeaux, January l3th, 1777. Michael Kováts de Fabricy
P.S: As yet I am unable to write, fluently in French or English and had only the choice of writing either in German or Latin; for this I apologize to your Excellency.
Upon arrival in America, Kováts joined Count Casimir Pulaski, who was then brigadier general and commander-in-chief of Washington’s cavalry.
The Continental Congress commissioned Pulaski’s legion on March 28, 1778. Michael Kováts was named colonel commandant and given the task of organizing and training hussar regiments for the American army. Kováts trained these men in the tradition of Hungarian hussars.
By October 1778 the legion comprised 330 soldiers.
In February of the following year the legion marched to South Carolina to join the forces of General Benjamin Lincoln where the Siege of Charleston was underway.
On May 11, 1779, Colonel Kováts gave his life in the American War for Independence while leading the Continental Army cavalry he had trained in Hungarian hussar tactics. The British remarked that Kováts’ forces were “the best cavalry the rebels ever had.”
To this day, cadets at the Citadel Military Academy in Charleston celebrate Michael de Kováts. Kováts Field on the Citadel campus is named in his honor.
The Hungarian Embassy in Washington, D.C., displays a statue of Kováts sculpted by Paul Takacs and executed by Attila Dienes. Some of Kováts’ descendants live today in Roseland, New Jersey.
*Content for this piece was gathered through research of biographical websites such as wikipedia.com and famoushungarians.com