Baron Von Steubon

1 January 2017

He has become an exceptionally respected figure in European and American history. His services offered during the Revolution may be his most celebrated contributions today. Von Steuben played a critical role in training the American troops for battle during the Revolution and set the precedent for military practices today. It is no mystery that Baron von Steuben’s background and support from family had influenced his many achievements in life.

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His father, husband of Elizabeth von Jagvodin, was a royal Prussian engineer and he traveled to many exotic places with his son. Steuben was born in the fortress town of Magdeburg (today’s Germany) on September 17, 1730 (Bergen County Historical Society 1). After his adolescent years, he joined the military and was ranked as a captain in the Prussian Army. Furthermore, Baron von Steuben was a prominent drill-master and this proved to be his illustrious forte (Hakim 117). There were many foreign, but significant events in the life of von Steuben.

First of all, he enlisted in the Prussian army as a lance-corporal in 1746 and became ranked as a captain. During the duration of the Seven Years’ War he was appointed a general staff officer and “aide-de-camp” to Frederick the Great in 1761. He was wounded while fulfilling this duty and was secured the position of Grand Marshall in the court of the Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. A few years later in 1769, he was presented with Order of Fidelity, which is an honorary knighthood by the Margrove of Boden. Once introduced to Benjamin Franklin, he services transferred from Europe to America.

In 1777, Baron von Steuben served as a volunteer to Washington’s army. Throughout the next year he organized and trained the continental army (Bergen County Historical Society 1).

He agreed to work for free with only his expenses covered until he proved himself worthy to George Washington (Hughes 46). Steuben, being the accredited officer that he was, came about being very useful to the Americans. Using his skills as a great drill-master, he taught disorderly patriots to be more than capable fighters. Instead of the accustomed ways of battle, he used Europe’s style (muskets and bayonets) to shape the army (Hakim 117).

To start, Steuben picked an elite group of men at Valley Forge to train and teach drill-and-ceremony to. Due to language barriers because Steuben only spoke French, he sometimes had to act out what he wished the troops to do (Micklos 30, 31). His personality motivated the recruits and when they were put through successful training, those men worked outward through the ranks into each brigade and after a short period of time, the whole army way pretty much in tip-top shape (Ushistory 1). Baron von Steuben’s efforts truly showed at the battle of Barren Hill, the battle of Monmouth, and the battle of Bunker Hill.

The use of the bayonet was crucial to the victory of these fights (Wikipedia 1). Through his dedication and hard work, he was honored with the rank of Inspector-General to the Continental Army (Bergen County Historical Society 1). Other than the vital information listed above, there are many interesting facts about Baron von Steuben. First of all, he went by quite a few names. In America, he was known as Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus von Steuben. He was baptized as Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben and this was his most common name.

Later on he changed it to Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand (Ushistory 1). For the period of time that he was at Valley Forge, he wrote a Drill Manuel that was published into what is known as the Blue Book (Hughes 50). It is still used for many military practices today although it was no longer the standard Manuel since the War of 1812 (Wikipedia 1). When receiving a letter of recommendation from Franklin, to give to Washington he said that he was a General when he was only a captain (Kent 92). Oddly enough, Steuben was actually discharged from the Prussian army for reasons still unknown even today.

Historians can only speculate why this is so, but it led to why he sought to find work and help the Americans in the first place. After the Revolution was over, he became an American citizen by act of the Pennsylvania legislature and then by New York authorities a little while later. By reason of his insufficient funds and the great amount of debt he was in, Congress gave him copious sums of money and a yearly pension of $2,500 (Wikipedia 1). In addition to these acts of generosity, he was lent a small estate with the help of Alexander Hamilton to reside in until death (Ushistory 1).

Baron von Steuben died on November 28, 1794 in Oneida County, New York (Bergen County Historical Society 1). As it has been clearly shown, Steuben was an imperative factor in winning the Revolution by training the American troops. I explained his many achievements and why they were useful to his training at Valley Forge. He used strategic methods and prior knowledge to whip up one of the greatest fighting forces in our history. Baron von Steuben’s military genius certainly contributed immensely to our freedom even today.

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