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Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben
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Military Personnel
    (September 17, 1730-November 28, 1794)
    Born in Magdeburg, Germany
    Served in the Prussian Army during the Seven Years War (1756-63)
    Grand Marshall to Prince Josef Friedrich Wilhelm of Hohenzollern-Hechingen (1769-77)
    Made a baron (1771)
    Inspector General of the Continental Army (1778-84)
    Wrote 'Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States' (1779)
    His full name was the hefty Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand von Steuben.
    He left Europe for America one step ahead of being arrested for homosexuality.
    Upon landing in New Hampshire, he and his aides were almost arrested for being British because he had outfitted the party in red uniforms.
    His letter of introduction to George Washington penned by Ben Franklin falsely claimed he had been a lieutenant general in the Prussian army. (It is unclear whether Franklin mistranslated Steuben's actual rank or was helping him out with some resume padding.)
    He did not speak English, so he wrote out military drills in French and had an aide translate them.
    Despite receiving generous rewards of land and money for his service, he got himself heavily in debt.
    He was wounded twice and taken prisoner during the Seven Years War.
    Once that war ended, he was among the many Prussian officers who found themselves downsized out of the army.
    He volunteered his services to the US Army with the condition that he would be paid only after a successful end to the Revolution.
    An American soldier wrote that he resembled 'the ancient fabled God of War … he seemed to me a perfect personification of Mars.'
    He pointed out to the Continental Army that their camps would be a lot healthier if they put the kitchen and latrines at opposite ends.
    He exposed massive 'administrative incompetence, graft, war profiteering' in procuring supplies and enforced keeping exact records and strict inspections to stop it.
    He trained and drilled the Continental Army into a professional force equal to a European army.
    His 'Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States' remained the standard Army manual until the War of 1812 and influenced drills and tactics into the mid-19th century.

Credit: C. Fishel


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