Friedrich Wilhelm Baron von Steuben

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Steuben, Friedrich Wilhelm Von [Baron] (1730–1794), Revolutionary War general.Born at Magdeburg, Friedrich Steuben followed his father's path into the Prussian Army, eventually serving as an infantry officer, staff officer, and aide under Frederick the Great. Court life lured the young captain from the army in 1764, but the American Revolutionary War drew him back to military service. In 1777, the self‐proclaimed Lt. Gen. “Baron von” Steuben—who was neither a general nor a nobleman—arrived in Philadelphia and requested a commission in the Continental army. Americans soon found that if the Prussian had misrepresented his credentials, he did not exaggerate his talents.

After Congress accepted Steuben's offer to serve without rank in January 1778, he found the beleaguered Continentals at Valley Forge lacking the skill and knowledge of European regulars. Steuben consequently developed a system of drill that customized European methods to American needs, demonstrated its effectiveness on his personally trained “model company,” and eventually published its principal elements in Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States (1779). By May 1778, he became inspector general, with the rank of major general. Though he also served in the field, Steuben's most significant military contribution remained the greater degree of professionalism he gave to Continental forces.

Bibliography

John M. Palmer , General von Steuben, 1937; repr. 1966.

J. Mark Thompson

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