Drill Master At Valley Forge

How Baron von Steuben used a tough winter to make a solid army out of a collection of untrained volunteers

On the first day of December, 1777, a group of four foreign gentlemen landed from the French ship Le Flamand at Portsmouth, New Hampshire. They had had a rough voyage, 66 days at sea diversified by a mutiny of the crew and three occasions when the vessel was on fire. But they were not traveling in search of comfort and safety: they had come to offer their services to the army of the infant United States of America. Read more »

The Magnificent Fraud

How a lying poseur gave America its army

There is no evidence of any such events taking place at Valley Forge. The baron’s letter was one more piece of theater in what may well be the greatest public deception ever perpetrated in a good cause.

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After Valley Forge

Baron von Steuben remained an important officer in the Continental Army until the end of the war. He grew weary of his role as drillmaster and yearned for a fighting command. Washington found him more useful as a spokesman for the army’s needs before Congress. In 1780, when Washington’s great lieutenant Nathanael Greene took command of the shattered Southern Department, Washington sent Steuben with him to help reorganize the battered Southern army.Read more »

How The Baron Got His Day

Baron von Steuben lay in his northern New York grave more or less forgotten by everyone but scholars of the American Revolution until 1919. Then German-Americans, deeply disturbed by the propaganda generated by World War I, set about reviving him as a symbol of their patriotism. Chapters of the Steuben Society were founded in cities and towns with large German-American populations. During the 1930s they were vociferously anti-Nazi.Read more »