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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.
Fredrich von Steuben was born on Magdeburg, Duchy of Magdeburg, the son of Wilhelm Augustin Steuben (1699-1783), a lieutenant of engineers. His mother was Elizabeth von Jagvodin. Steuben accompanied his father to the Russian Empire when Friedrich Wilhelm I, King of Prussia and Elector of Brandenburg, ordered Wilhelm into the service of Czarina Anna I. The family returned to Prussia after the accession of Frederick the Great to the throne in 1740.

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.
Steuben traveled to Paris in the summer of 1777. As luck would have it, he had formerly been introduced to the French Minister of War, Claude Louis, Comte de Saint-Germain. The Count, fully realizing the potential of an officer with Prussian general staff training, further introduced him to Benjamin Franklin. Upon the Count's recommendation, Steuben was introduced to George Washington by means of a letter from Franklin as a "Lieutenant General in the King of Prussia's service," an exaggeration of his actual credentials that appears to be based on a mistranslation of his service record. He was advanced travel funds and left Europe from Marseilles.
On September 26, 1777, he, his young secretary and male lover Theveneau de Francy and four other very young handsome male traveling companions, reached Portsmouth, New Hampshire and by December 1, was extravagantly entertained in Boston. Congress was in York, Pennsylvania, after being ousted from Philadelphia by the British advance. By February 5, 1778, Steuben had offered to volunteer without pay (for the time), and by the 23rd, Steuben reported for duty to Washington at Valley Forge. Steuben spoke little English and he often yelled to his translator, "Here! Come swear for me!" Colonels Alexander Hamilton and Nathanael Greene were of great help in assisting Steuben in drafting a training program for the Army, which found approval with Washington.
Steuben's training technique was to create a "model company", a group of 120 chosen men who in turn successively trained other personnel at Regimental and Brigade levels. Steuben's eclectic personality greatly enhanced his mystique. He trained the soldiers, who at this point were greatly lacking in proper clothing themselves, in full military dress uniform, swearing and yelling at them up and down in German and French. When that was no longer successful, he recruited Captain Benjamin Walker, his French speaking aide and male lover, to curse at them for him in English. Steuben introduced a system of progressive training, beginning with the school of the soldier, with and without arms, and going through the school of the regiment. This corrected the previous policy of simply assigning personnel to regiments. Each company commander was made responsible for the training of new men, but actual instruction was done by selected sergeants, the best obtainable.

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.
The following winter (1779-1780) Steuben's commission represented Washington to Congress regarding the reorganization of the army. In 1780 Steuben sat on the court-martial of the British Army officer Major John André, captured and charged with espionage in conjunction with the defection of General Benedict Arnold. He later traveled with Nathanael Greene, the new commander of the Southern campaign. He quartered in Virginia since the American supplies and soldiers would be provided to the army from there. During the spring of 1781, he aided Greene in the campaign in the south, culminating in the delivery of 450 Virginia Continentals to Lafayette in June.

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