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Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron De Steuben and the Making of the American Army
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Subscribe Top Menu Current Issue. Book Shop. While the many Americans who feted Baron von Steuben from Portsmouth to Boston and finally to York might have been impressed General Washington was more taken with the general's sincerity.
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As Steuben explained in a recent letter to Washington, the "only object" of his "greatest ambition" was to "render your Country all the Services in my Power, and to deserve the title of the Citizen of America by fighting for the Cause of your Liberty. When he finally met Steuben on the road from York, Washington was not disappointed. Even though the Baron was dressed in the crisp uniform of a Prussian general with a jeweled medallion across his chest, he only had a small entourage with him including a secretary, a servant, and his beloved dog Azor.
After the war ended, Steuben was dismissed from the army when Frederick the Great drastically reduced military spending. For the next twelve years, Steuben worked as the chamberlain of the kingdom of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. By the mids, he had restyled himself as a baron, but was in fact desperate for money and a better position.
At this low point in his life, Steuben met Benjamin Franklin in Paris who recognized him as an experienced soldier who could bring order to the Continental Army. In fact, by the time he was finished botching his Virginia command during Cornwallis invasion, the state government was ready to charge Steuben with cowardice and run him out of the state. That Von Steuben was able to assume command of a division at Yorktown was a gift from Washington to help restore Von Steuben to good standing.
A difficult man to be certain. Yes Twistification, after Guilford Courthouse Cornwallis went to Wilmington to restock and determine what to do next. He decided on Virginia while Greene went south to fight Rawdon. I think Cornwallis arrived in VA right around the first of june, It was at this point that Tarleton famously raided Monticello. However, the British had actually been in Virginia since January with 2, men under Benedict Arnold. Baron Von Steuben was the ranking Continental officer in Virginia at that time.
Which is a good thing since it went so poorly. His action seemed explainable only by assumption that Steuben had run from the fight. In reality, I believe it was actually due to his petty attitude. His own men deserted him rather than remain with such a detestable fellow. I guess he could figure out how to train Americans, but not lead them.
He should of got some tips from Lafayette. I think adaptability is probably the best characteristic of Von Steuben. He recognized that the American soldier was a different breed from a more hierarchically minded European soldier. He noted that Americans wanted to know WHY they were required to perform a particular drill or action and that an explanation was necessary to convince this unique brand of men. Other senior Continental officers, especially Greene and Wayne, were certainly better field commanders. As I alluded to in the article, nobody is going to remember Steuben for his battle performance.
But his impact as Inspector General remains significant beyond the drill field. In the spring of he thoroughly inspected every division in the main Army, regiment by regiment, to ensure that their training, equipment, and personnel met Blue Book standards. His inspection reports make fascinating reading.
The Prussian Nobleman Who Helped Save the American Revolution
In some he is clearly satisfied and complimentary. In others, not so much, and you can tell that some regimental commander definitely had a bad day. Having gone through a lot of inspections myself as both a soldier and commander, I appreciate the pain they surely experienced. The ability to gauge readiness was as important in the Revolution as it was now. For example, in late May , Gen.
He put Gen. This points to the maturity of the Continental Army. Steuben may not have shined on the battlefield, but his importance to the professionalization of the Continental Army, and how it laid a foundation for the future U. Army, is difficult to overstate.
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Let us not forget that he wanted almost nothing in return for his services.
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