Kovacs Mihaly (1724-1779), also known as Michael Fabrizy de Kovats, earned his place in United States history by commanding American cavalry forces in the Revolutionary War. After successfully leading troops in Hungary’s Pugachev revolution of 1772-1774, de Kovats went to France. He met with Benjamin Franklin, who was then stationed in Paris campaigning for aid against the British crown, and sent word to George Washington that he wished to contribute to the American Revolutionary effort.
Born in Karcag, Hungary, the nobleman’s years of commanding experience in the Royal Austro-Hungarian Cavalry, the Prussian Cavalry of Frederick the Great, and in France made de Kovats a prime candidate for revolutionary leadership. Upon his 1777 arrival in the United States, the Congress of the Thirteen Free States awarded de Kovats American citizenship and appointed him Colonel-Commander of the Pulaski Legion, commissioning him to build the first U.S. light cavalry.
Casimir Pulaski (1748-1779), a Polish military hero of the American Revolution who also has a park named in his honor, made de Kovats head of his lancers. When the war required the Pulaski legion to deploy in Charleston, South Carolina, Pulaski strategized a surprise attack on the British that would require a swift charge followed by an even quicker retreat to lie in wait for the enemy. The battle did not go according to plan. One third of the company was killed, including de Kovats. The respected officer, who had written in a letter to Franklin that, “Golden freedom cannot be bought with Yellow Gold,” became one of the first Hungarian-Americans to die in the American Revolution. British historians have called de Kovats’s troop, “the best cavalry the rebels ever had.” De Kovats’s skill inspired the United States Cavalry’s adoption of Hungarian cavalry style weapons, and a light saddle known as the “Hungarian Saddle.”
DeKovats Triangle, bounded by 92nd Street, York Avenue, and an FDR Drive entrance ramp, was acquired by the Department of Highways as part of the land planned for the construction of the FDR Drive. Although the triangle has never officially come under Parks jurisdiction, Parks maintains the small street triangle, which was built in 1934 and named by local law in 1940. Across the street from the triangle is DeKovats Playground, also named for the Revolutionary War hero.