Josef Anton Poniatowski (1763-1813), was a soldier without a country. Poland was partitioned three times over the course of the 19th century. By 1795, there was no Poland on the European maps at all. That didn’t keep this prince from a lifetime of service. His personal motto was “God, Honor, Fatherland.”
Poniatowski first served in the Austrian army. In 1787, he distinguished himself by volunteering to lead an assault against the Turks at the fortress of Sabatch.
Siege of Sabatch, 1787 (Library of Congress)
Poniatowski fought in the uprising of 1794 as a common soldier. Later, during the Napoleonic wars he served as the Minister of War for the newly created (by the French) Grand Duchy of Warsaw.
Then Poniatowski made military history as a daring, skilled, and courageous military commander fighting for the French (hoping that a triumphant Napoleon would one day restore the general’s beloved Poland).
In 1809, Poniatowski led a brilliant campaign against the Austrians seizing Lublin. Napoleon was impressed. He awarded Poniatowski a saber of honor. The general also received the Grand Eagle of the Legion of Honor and the Grand Cord of the Military Order.