Biography of Revolutionary War Leader Baron Von Steuben Part 2

About the Revolutionary War leader Baron Von Steuben, his place in American history as he trained and drilled the soldiers.

BARON VON STEUBEN (U.S., Revolutionary War)

But Steuben was a patient man; he set about writing his own manual, reducing the 21 motions considered necessary to "load firelock" to 10. This was translated into formal French by Duponceau, then to formal English, then to English the soldiers could understand. It became the "bible of the Continental Army."

It was Steuben's language barrier, however, that endeared him to the troops. In the painfully slow process of training, he would curse at them in German, sometimes bellowing at them for up to 5 minutes, red in the face, his huge hands gesturing, almost overcome with frustration over his limited English. A ripple of good-natured laughter would go through the ranks--the men liked this blustering butterball foreigner who was willing to admit his own mistakes--and Steuben, not lacking a sense of humor, would laugh with them. Then turning to Duponceau and young Benjamin Walker, he would say, "My dear Walker, my dear Duponceau, come swear in English for me."

By the end of March a new spirit was evident among the troops, despite the hardships of hunger, cold weather, and lack of clothing. From 6 in the morning until 6 at night, Steuben was out on the drill field, pains-takingly putting the men through their paces, his guttural voice booming over the sound of shuffling feet. The men learned to march in column, and from that into compact masses, marching in double rank and in columns of 4. They were soon skilled in the art of bayonet combat, too. There was no doubt that their jovial Prussian teacher had turned them into a crack brigade.

Steuben was a godsend to Washington, who wrote to Congress extolling the qualities of this man who had turned the Army from a motley crew into a highly disciplined fighting force. On May 6 Washington held a reception for his officers, introducing Maj.-Gen. Baron von Steuben as the new inspector-general of the U.S., by act of Congress.

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