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Looks Like Revolutionary War Hero Wasn't Male

Casimiar Pulaski may have been female or intersex, researchers say
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 7, 2019 1:25 PM CDT
In this June 23, 2005, file photo a carving of Brig. Gen. Casimir Pulaski is shown on the 54-foot monument to his memory on Monterey Square in Savannah, Ga.   (AP Photo/Stephen Morton)
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(Newser) – A Revolutionary War hero dubbed the "father of the American cavalry" may well have been female or even intersex, if new research holds up. Experts analyzing the DNA and bones of Casimiar Pulaski—a Polish-American soldier who was fatally wounded in the 1779 Siege of Savannah—say the skeleton looks conspicuously female. "One of the ways that male and female skeletons are different is the pelvis," Georgia Southern University Professor Virginia Hutton Estabrook tells NBC News. "In females, the pelvic cavity has a more oval shape. It's less heart-shaped than in the male pelvis. Pulaski’s looked very female." Others had spotted Pulaski's feminine bone structure before, but without DNA confirmation no one could say it was really Pulaski.

Now researchers have linked the remains (which have wounds matching Pulaski's) to the mitochrondrial DNA of his grandniece, the Guardian reports. Which raises the question of whether Pulaski was intersex, meaning someone who can't be easily defined as female or male. The general had enough male hormones for facial hair and male pattern baldness, per Estabrook, who adds that "there was some genital development" because records show he—or she, or they—was "baptized as a son." Pulaski also had a close relationship with a woman who later married a Polish prince. The war hero's story is itself amazing, from early days among the Polish nobility to meeting Ben Franklin in Paris to leading cavalry charges in the Revolutionary War. See it all in a new Smithsonian Channel documentary. (Read more Revolutionary War stories.)

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