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Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben
Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (November 15, 1730 – November 28, 1794) was a Prussian army officer who served as inspector general of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He is credited with teaching the Continental Army the essentials of military drill and discipline, helping to guide it to victory. He wrote the Revolutionary War Drill Manual, the book that became the standard United States drill manual until the War of 1812, and served as General George Washington's chief of staff in the final years of the war.
Steuben was schooled in Breslau by Jesuits and, by the age of 17, was a officer in the Prussian military. During the Seven Years' War he was a member of an infantry unit but served primarily as a staff officer. By 1761 he had risen to the rank of captain and was serving in the Prussian general headquarters. The army was greatly reduced in size at the end of the war, and Steuben was one of many Prussian uld later be exaggerated—he was not one of Frederick the Great's generals—but his experience on a professional general staff, an agency then practically unknown outside of Prussia, would prove to be valuable in his American career.
In 1764 Steuben became chamberlain at the petty court of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. In 1769, he started using the title of baron, based on a falsified lineage prepared by his father. He was the only courtier to accompany his incognito prince to France in 1771, hoping to borrow money. Failing to find funds, they returned to Germany in 1775, deeply in debt. Steuben tried employment in several foreign armies including Austria, Baden, and France.
Another program developed by Steuben was camp sanitation. He established standards of sanitation and camp layouts that would still be standard a century and a half later. There had previously been no set arrangement of tents and huts. Men relieved themselves where they wished and when an animal died, it was stripped of its meat and the rest was left to rot where it lay. Steuben laid out a plan to have rows for command, officers and enlisted men. Kitchens and latrines were on opposite sides of the camp, with latrines on the downhill side. There was the familiar arrangement of company and regimental streets.
Perhaps Steuben's biggest contribution to the American Revolution was training in the use of the bayonet. Since the Battle of Bunker Hill, Americans had been mainly dependent upon using their ammunition to win battles. Throughout the early course of the war, Americans used the bayonet mostly as a cooking skewer or tool rather than as a fighting instrument. Steuben's introduction of effective bayonet charges became crucial. In the Battle of Stony Point, American soldiers attacked with unloaded rifles and won the battle solely on Steuben's bayonet training.
The first results of Steuben's training were in evidence at the Battle of Barren Hill, 20 May 1778 and then again at the Battle of Monmouth in June 1778. Steuben, by then serving in Washington's Headquarters, was the first to determine the enemy was heading for Monmouth. Washington recommended appointment of Steuben as Inspector General on April 30; Congress approved it on May 5. During the winter of 1778-1779, Steuben prepared Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, commonly known as the "Blue Book." Its basis was the training plan he had devised at Valley Forge.
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