Insurgent Troops

Commanders of the Greater Poland Uprising – their actions and achievements

Bogusław Polak

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For several decades, the Greater Poland Uprising in 1918-1919 was traditionally divided into two stages of insurgent fighting; this remained uncorrected practically until the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of the Uprising. The discussion on the chronology of events as part of the uprising started again in the early 1970s and was related to the formation of a research team in Kościan whose task was to organise national seminars for historians interested in the uprising. The Historical Committee of the Society of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy, active in Kościan, was largely composed of former soldiers from the Home Army, officers of the Kościan District Command led by Klemens Kruszewski, the headmaster of a secondary school in Kościan, Jan Witkowski, the director of a local sugar refinery, and Bolesław Mocek, a refinery employee. Guided by Professor Zdzisław Grot, who was a scout and Major Stanisław Taczak’s runner in the 1918-1919 uprising, and with the cordial help of the veterans, we invited historians from Poznań, Warsaw, Bydgoszcz, Toruń, Gdańsk and local communities to come to Kościan on 2 February 1972. For the author of the present publication, for Marek Rezler and for Piotr Bauer it was an immense challenge in terms of organisation. Nearly all of the invited historians came, and the sessions held in the hall of the Kościan Culture Centre were attended by almost 300 (!) insurgents, secondary school pupils and other amateurs of Greater Poland’s history. A number of postulates in terms of publication were put forward, which were successfully implemented through the years.

At the first seminar (in a couple of weeks we are meeting for the twentieth time!) I presented a new proposition regarding the chronology of the uprising, broken down into schemes. Its central assumption was to move the upper limit of insurgent actions (the signing of the truce in Trier on 16 February 1919) to the recovery of lands awarded to Poland in the Treaty of Versailles and the liquidation of the front in Greater Poland in the spring of 1920. Following the suggestion of Włodzimierz Lewandowski, Ph.D, I defined this period as the war between Greater Poland and Germany, waged between the forces of the regular Greater Poland Army and the German units. As shown in the schemes provided, the division corresponded to the activity of both commanders of the uprising: Major Stanisław Taczak until 15 January 1919, and General Józef Dowbor-Muśnicki from 16 January. Thanks to the help of my team colleagues, years later the term “war between Greater Poland and Germany” made it into the historiography of the uprising.


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Fig. I. The Greater Poland Uprising.

Source: Powstanie Wielkopolskie. Źródła – Stan badań – Postulaty badawcze. Materiały z Ogólnopolskiego Seminarium Historyków Powstania Wielkopolskiego – Kościan, 2.II.1972 r.,  scientific editor: Zdzisław Grot, Komisja Historyczna Zarządu Oddziału Powiatowego Związku Bojowników o Wolność i Demokrację w Kościanie (Historical Committee of the Board of the Poviat Branch of the Association of Soldiers Fighting for Freedom and Democracy), Kościan 1973.  Scheme 1-2. 

There is an excellent question that several generations of historians and publicists have been posing: Was the uprising of 1918 well-prepared in military terms? It was not!

The outbreak of fighting in Poznań on 27 December 1918, the formation of the mixed Polish-German Poznań City Command with Commander Jan Maciaszek and the declaring of a state of emergency in the city were merely ad hoc measures or even half-measures. It became clear to the Polish leaders that it was necessary to appoint an actual commander who would have control over the insurgent operations. There was no time to wait for a commander from Warsaw, although in mid-December 1918 Jan Maciaszek, authorised by the Commissariat of the SPC, tried to obtain consent from the Polish Army General Staff for General Eugeniusz de Henning Michaelis to come to Poznań. On the same day I. J. Paderewski arrived in Poznań  and Captain Stanisław Nilski-Łapiński, General Staff Liaison Officer, came to Poznań from Warsaw. 

Around 28 December, Captain Stanisław Taczak, who was also the General Staff Officer, arrived in Poznań as well, to visit his sister. The news of his arrival reached Wojciech Korfanty, who was staying at the “Bazar” Hotel. According to Stanisław Taczak’s story, told in the 1930s to Lewandowski, as a result of talks with W. Korfanty, the Captain accepted the proposition to become temporary commander of the uprising, until the arrival of a general from Warsaw.

On 2 January 1919, Stanisław Taczak, promoted to the rank of major, received his military card on the SPC Commissariat’s letter sheet, which read as follows: “Major Taczak is the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish armies in the Prussian Partition”, signed by Wojciech Korfanty and Władysław Seyda.

Central Command’s office was initially to be located in a house at 3 Zwierzyniecka Street. However, Leokadia Świtalska, née Smolińska, made floors 1 and 3 (22 rooms in total) of her “Royal” hotel, located at 38 Św. Marcin Street available to the leaders of the uprising. In formal terms, the staff of Central Command had to deal with great difficulties, especially after the resumption of peace talks between the Commissariat of the SPC and representatives of the Berlin government on 30 and 31 December. Taczak was banned from publishing, be it in the press or in the form of notices or leaflets, any information concerning the activity of the CC, this included a ban on any possibility of issuing printed orders or instructions. This situation continued until 5 January 1919. Meanwhile, the publication of the orders of the Poznań-based Guard and Security Service was fully allowed.

The fact that the Polish formations in the Prussian Partition were, at least formally, subordinated to Major Taczak, was an expression of the Commissariat’s specific policy, recognising the unity of all – open and secret – Polish forces under common command in Poznań.

In practice, S. Taczak started from scratch. He was burdened with a multitude of tasks, without the necessary group of officers, without any organised services, not knowing the people and not having become familiar with the area. The organisation of even the simplest form of staff was made even more difficult due to the fact that in Poznań there were several centres that gave orders: the Command of the Guard and Security Service, the City Command and the People’s Guard Command. Each of the legal formations already had its command in Poznań, with the People’s Guard’s additional poviat commands. Until 8 January, the CC acted almost covertly, with its officers always wearing civilian clothes. Major Stanisław Taczak, having determined the names of the commanding bodies, was careful to avoid using the same titles as those referring to central military authorities in Warsaw. The following titles were used from the beginning: “Commander-in-Chief”, “Central Command”, “Staff of Central Command” – although the order of words was sometimes changed. In the documents issued by the SPC and its Commissariat, not to mention the less significant institutions, titles were used freely, or even chaotically, for instance: “Chief Commander of the Polish armies in the Prussian Partition”, “Supreme Command” etc.

One of Taczak’s first tasks was to draw up the manning of Central Command (Figure 2). The project had to meet the current needs, the Commissariat’s limited political capabilities, and the limited scope of affairs related to operations, organisation and mobilisation, with a minimum number of CC personnel. According to the project, the CC was directly subordinated to the SPC. On 3 January 1919, Lieutenant Colonel J. Stachiewicz  replaced Captain S. Łapiński as Head of Staff. Four divisions were created: Operational (Ia) – led by Rittmeister B. Wzacny; Organisational (Ib) – Captain Stanisław Nilski-Łapiński; Human Resources (IIa) – Lieutenant Stefan Czarnecki of the Prus III coat of arms, Weapons and Ammunition (IIb) – Captain Władysław Jaworowicz, Ph.D in Philology. The manning project also provided for liaison officers ensuring contact with City Command (Lieutenant Bronisław Sikorski), the fortress commander (Second-Lieutenant Bohdan Hulewicz) and the Commissariat of the SPC. On 1 January, Major S. Taczak presented the project to the Commissariat, which approved it on the next day.


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Fig. 2. Organisation of the Central Command according to the manning project of 2 January 1919 

Source: Bogusław Polak, Generał Stanisław Taczak 1874-1960, Koszalin 1998, p. 49.


The CC was formed by four officers: S. Taczak, S. Łapiński, B. Wzacny and J. Stachiewicz. At the beginning of January, more officers applied, and on 15 January, 18 officers occupied the positions of leaders. Lieutenant Colonel J. Stachiewicz and Captain S. Łapiński came from the Legions, Rittmeister B. Wzacny was from the Austrian army, while 15 officers, including S. Taczak, used to serve in the German army. Only one officer – Rittmeister Wzacny – was a graduate of a military academy. Lieutenant Colonel Stachiewicz and Captain Łapiński had received incomplete military education. Seven officers had complete university education, and six officers had not completed their graduation.

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