Emilia Plater was a Polish noblewoman who fought in the November Uprising against Russia in 1830-31.
The estranged child of a noble Polish-Lithuanian family, Plater’s childhood was mostly spent in Latvia but she was raised to value her Polish ancestry. When the November Uprising against Russia occurred, Plater decided to join, declaring it to be a moment she had been hoping for her whole life. Cutting her hair short and wearing a uniform of her own devising, she assembled a volunteer army which contained 280 infantrymen, 60 cavalry and 700 peasants armed with war scythes.
In April 1831 her army crossed the border from Latvia into Russian-controlled Lithuania, where unconfirmed reports say she seized the town of Zarasai. She later joined with Polish forces to take part in the Battle of Prastavoniai and also fought at Maišiagala.
In May, Plater crossed swords with the Polish General Dezydery Chłapowski, who was unimpressed with her and advised her to return home. She refused adamantly, insisting she would wear her uniform until Poland was free. She became a Captain in the Polish–Lithuanian army and fought against the Russians until late June, when heavy losses caused Chłapowski to order a retreat to Prussia. Plater disagreed with the order and refused to follow it, choosing instead to try and break through to Warsaw. However shortly after separating from the main force she became seriously ill and died.
In death Plater was hailed as a hero of the uprising by the Polish press, and has since been immortalised in a number of paintings and poems still popular in Poland today.