Baron von Steuben: A Gay Warrior Who Taught Washington’s Army How to Fight

Major General Friedrich Vilhelm von Steuben

During the exceptionally cold winter month of February, 1778, it appeared that the colonialists’ cause for freedom was slowly being strangled by a superior force. In this, America’s darkest hour, a ‘foreigner’ came to the aid of the struggling nation’s army and taught it how to stand up before the enemy and fight. That man was Baron Fredrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a Prussian warrior, general, and man of honor who arrived from Europe just in time to save the American dream of self-governance. Interestingly enough, school texts on the American Revolution leave out a notion shared my most modern scholars of American history: Von Steuben was gay, a fact he never denied throughout his life.

A warrior in every sense of the word, von Steuben never achieved the rank of general in his native Prussia. He had risen to the rank of captain before he resigned, or was dismissed, from the army. Historians also doubt his claim to nobility, but recent genealogy results prove that he had every right to the usage of both von and baron as a prefix to his name. According to eighteenth century standards, his honor had been tarnished by accusations in Europe and in the colonies that he was a homosexual. History has not denied these accusations except for one small reference to a female interest in a nineteenth century bibliography.[1] Von Steuben’s importance to Washington and the impact he had on the American army’s ability to fight is without question. However, one wonders, with all the rumors of his homosexuality that surrounded the man and the fact that he had roomed with two young men as close, live-in confidants, had the eighteenth century military in America mirrored that of the twentieth century’s draconian treatment of suspected homosexuals, would the American forces ever have come together and learn to fight as a cohesive unit?   Or would it have floundered before the power of British steel and England’s superior training leading to a collapse of the American rebellion?

Baron von Steuben’s Drill Manual

In 1859, noted early historian on the American Revolution, George Bancroft, stated von Steuben’s importance to America: “The memory of Steuben has many claims upon the present generation. To the cause of our country in the times of its distress, he, at the sacrifice of a secure career, devoted the experience and skill, which had been the fruit of long years of service under the greatest master of the art of war of that day. He rendered the inestimable benefit of introducing a better rule into the discipline of the American army, and stricter accountability in the distribution of military stores. He served under our flag with implicit fidelity, with indefatigable industry, and a courage that shrunk from no danger. His presence was important both in the camp and on the field of battle, from the huts of Valley Forge to Yorktown: and he remained with us till his death.”[2] So too did Joseph Doyle, in his 1913 biography of von Steuben, sum up the American general’s place in history: “From the time he joined the famishing little army at Valley Forge until he received the overtures for the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, he was at Washington’s right hand, planning campaigns, looking after the troops, bringing order out of chaos, turning defeat into victory, and, on more than one occasion, averting what threatened to be a fatal disaster.”[3]

Prussian/German troops

Von Steuben was an excellent soldier, knowledgeable in all military matters and a strict disciplinarian of established drill regulations. It is interesting that Bancroft blames his ‘dedication to the American cause’ for his “sacrifice of a secure career” in Europe. After the Seven Years’ War, there was a period of peace in Europe in which the American Rebellion against England filled a vacuum. Many military ‘foreigners’ shipped to America to offer their services, some hoping for much higher commissions than what they were offered back home. It was well known in Europe that the new American Congress was strapped for funds to pay officers from Europe. However, for the adventurous who wished to sell their services, the fact they were not paid did not become a deterrence. Fredrich Kapp, who wrote the first comprehensive biography on von Steuben in 1859, gives what he believes were von Steuben’s reasons for his exodus to American: “As soon as aspects of fame and active exertions were opened to him at Versailles, he threw up his agreeable but inactive appointment at home [in other words it was his decision to leave], to devote his military knowledge and experience to the conquest of American liberty…”[4] Listed among Jared Spark’s 1837 American Biography series, early historian Francis Bowen offers his opinion for Baron von Steuben’s appearance in America: “Most of the adventurers, therefore, who crossed the Atlantic, were led by a desire of fame, or by an enthusiastic wish to engage in a contest for freedom.[5] Bowen, through inference, referred to von Steuben’s flight from his native Prussia to France and ultimately to America.

Clearly left out of the early biographies on von Steuben, intentionally or from ignorance of reported firsthand accounts, were the numerous rumors and accusations that he was a homosexual. That it was that reason, and not his desire to seek active service or to aid the American cause, even without pay, that ended his career as an officer in the Prussian army and forced him to flee the continent for fear of incarceration.

Early Life and Military Career

17th century Magdeburg, Prussia

Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus Henry Ferdinand von Steuben was born at Magdeburg, a large Prussian fortress on the Elbe. His father was Wilhelm Augustine Steuben (April 23, 1699 – April 26 1783), captain of the engineering corps, and mother was Mary Dorothea von Jagow (Aug. 14, 1706 – Jan. 19, 1780). Friedrich was named after Frederick the I, father of Frederick the Great, with whom Steuben’s father was closely acquainted.

The most recent biography of von Steuben by Paul Lockhart gives his birth as September 17, 1730, agreeing with other recent biographies. Kapp, in his 1859 text lists a different date, November 15, 1730. Even at this early date, 1859, Kapp, states that many historians differ on his birth, however he writes that he contacted the general’s great-grand nephew, Lt. von Steuben in Gumnbinnen (Eastern Prussia), to ascertain the November date.[6]

Not much is known of Steuben’s early life. He wrote and spoke very little about it. The family remained poor throughout his childhood for his father’s salary was scarcely sufficient to enable his family to live according to the father’s rank.[7] Steuben had nine brothers and sisters in which only two lived to maturity. Dorothea Mary Justine was born in 1733 and Siegfried was born in 1743.

Sophie Henriette Countess of Waldeck

Captain Wilhelm von Steuben was a Junker, a class of lesser nobility. In Prussia, nobility was not synonymous with wealthy. Prussian officers were recruited almost exclusively from the lesser nobility, the Junker class, who were little better off than peasants. Military service was not required of the Junker class, but it was expected. As a poorer nobleman, a career as an army officer was most honorable, but the pay was low and promotions slow. Steuben, later in life, claimed status not as a Prussian aristocrat, but as a ‘poor Junker’ or a ‘Baron’. As part of the nobility, a Junker family was distinguished as such with the preparation ‘von’ before their name, also used the word Freiherren meaning baron. Steuben, when addressed in America, claimed both baron and von, no doubt to impress the colonialists.

There remains controversy over Steuben claiming his social status as nobly born.[8] Lockhart, in his recent text on von Steuben, argues effectively that Steuben had the right to his title. Until recently, historians believed that Augustus, Steuben’s grandfather, was the son of a lowly miller named Steube and falsely claimed a defunct branch of the noble lineage, von Steuben. Recent genealogy has uncovered evidence linking Augustus to noble bloodlines. Augustus was married to Charlotte Dorothea von Effern, daughter of the Count of Effern and the Countess of Waldeck, a woman of unimpeachable aristocratic credentials. Such a marriage never would have taken place if Augustus were not of the von Steuben nobility.[9] Also, the baptism of their children was attended by many of the local aristocrats, something that would not occur for a family not considered noble status.

Prussian Infantry

Steuben, as was common among the Junker class, was exposed to the military at an early age. When Friedrich was three, in1733, his father was transferred to serve with the Russian army. Capt. Wilhelm returned his family to Prussia when Fredrick the II (The Great) ascended the throne in1740. In 1741 Wilhelm re-entered the Prussian army as a Major. At fourteen, Steuben served under his father as a volunteer in the campaign of 1744, the war of the Austrian Succession, and was present at the protracted siege of Prague. In 1747, at seventeen, Steuben entered the army as a cadet of the famous infantry regiment von Lestwitz, afterwards von Tauenzien. He became an ensign in 1749 and a second Lt. in 1753. Two years later, in 1755, he was promoted to 1st lieutenant at the start of the Seven Years’ War.[10]

The Battle of Prague, 1757.

On May 6, 1757, Steuben was wounded at the Battle of Prague where the Prussian army lost heavily. He was present at the Battle of Rossbach on Nov. 5, 1757. On July 23, 1759, he was in the Battle of Kay and in the Battle of Kunersdorf on Aug. 12, 1759, a military disaster for the Prussian army[11]. He was wounded for the second time in this engagement. After the battle, Steuben falls from history until the autumn of 1761. Kapp believes that Steuben passed the rest of 1759 and 1760 with the army of Prince Henry[12] , King Fredrick the Great’s younger brother. It is believed that Steuben first developed his close friendship with Prince Henry as an aide-de- camp to General von Hulsen. It is also thought that he was present at the Battle of Liegnitz, Aug. 15, 1760. On Sept. 11, 1761, it is recorded that Steuben was an adjunct to General Knoblauch (Knobloch) and present at the Russian rout at Golkowka.[13]

Battle of Liegnitz, Aug. 15, 1760 from an illustration by Gunther Dorm.

On Oct. 23, 1761, General Knobloch surrendered to the Russians at the Siege of Treptow[14]. His adjunct, von Steuben, negotiated the terms of surrender. He and fifty-eight other officers were taken captive to St. Petersburg. While there, he acquainted himself with Prince Peter and the two became friends. When Empress Elizabeth[15] died on Jan. 8, 1762, Prince Peter became Peter III.[16] He immediately made an armistice with Prussia. While captive, Steuben must have charmed the new emperor for Peter asked Steuben to remain in Russia and join his army. Steuben declined and in April, 1762, returned to Prussia.

Friedrich Heinrich Ludwig, Prince Henry of Prussia. Younger brother of Frederick the Great. He had a close and personal relationship with von Steuben and opened court doors for Steuben.

Steuben remained close friends with Prince Henry of Prussia, Fredrick the Great’s youngest brother. William North, Steuben’s intimate friend and companion in America until Steuben’s death, states that Steuben befriended Prince Henry and it was through him that he came to Fredrick the Great’s attention.[17] Steuben’s close personal relationship with Prince Henry opened many doors for Steuben with others of court, including ties to Fredrick the Great. A close friendship with the monarch soon developed. Kapp writes that it is certain that Steuben gained the affection and esteem of the King.[18] Fredrick the Great’s homosexuality is well documented and the argument that he was drawn to Steuben, and thereby granting him favors, has merit.[19]

Frederick the Great by Anton Graff c 1781.

Steuben was made a captain and appointed an aide-de-camp to the Prussian king.[20] His duties included quartermaster general. He retained this post until the conclusion of the Treaty of Hubertsburg, Feb. 15, 1763,[21] when, according to Kapp, he resigned. Reasons Kapp gave for Steuben’s resignation included the distress at not being further promoted and his unhappiness with garrison life. The most probable one is alluded to in a letter Steuben wrote towards the end of his life. In it he wrote that immediately after the war “an inconsiderate step and an implacable personal enemy” led to his leaving the army.[22] He gave no further details. Whether this meant he resigned or was forced to quit Steuben never elaborated. It is believed that this person Steuben mentions could be no other than Fredrick the Great who, at war’s end, found himself inundated with far more officers than the size of army he required. The Prussian monarch was renowned for dismissing his officers if there was the slightest disagreement. Since Steuben and he were considered intimate friends, this friendship may have been strained somehow with dismissal being the cause.

During this time Steuben was residing in Halle and Dessau. When traveling to Hamburg, he became acquainted with the Philosopher and ‘great pretender’ Count St. Germain,[23] then in the service of Denmark. While accompanying Germain, he visited the springs of Wildbad, in Swabia, in May of 1764. He was introduced to Prince Frederick of Wurtemberg and the Prince Josef Friedrich Wilhelm[24] of nearby Hohenzollern-Hechingen[25] who was present. Upon a warm recommendation from Prince Henry of Prussia, and the Princess of Wurttemberg (Dutchess Agustus of Brunswick), Steuben was offered the office of grand marshal of Hechingen’s court.[26] Steuben accepted, having by then, finally received his discharge from the Prussian army. This began many years of association with the prince of this small nation tucked along the southwestern portion of Prussia.

Duchess Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel. Wife of Frederick of Wuttenberg. She had a scandalous and unhappy marriage.

Steuben must have made quite the impression on Prince Wilhelm. The duties of the Grand Marshal consisted in running the reigning Prince’s household and in the arrangement of all court presentations and ceremonies. A person holding this office was always in the closest relations with and enjoyed the most intimate confidence of the prince.  The Prince had a flare for fine dining, gambling, carnival, and hunting. He also liked to travel incognito and Steuben accompanied him many times on these adventures to Strasbourg, Montpelier, Lyon, and Paris. While accompanying the Prince Wilhelm to Paris in 1771, Steuben met many dignitaries and prominent statesmen including the Comte de Saint-Germain[27], the minister of war under Louis XVI. It was Germain who, in 1777, recommended Steuben to Benjamin Franklin when the American diplomat was seeking confident officers to help train the American army. Interesting that Steuben, in his memoirs, states that while in the service of Prince Wilhelm, he was offered the rank of general. This was incorrect. There is no Hechingen court record verifying Steuben’s rank as general according to Kapp. As a matter of fact, the highest rank in the small army of Margrave of Baden was that of a colonel of the guards.

Steuben led a leisure life in the employ of the Prince, however the salary was minimal. The court was continually in debt due to the Prince Wilhelm’s extravagance. Steuben was still able to purchase a small estate and throughout the 1770’s, he had enough money to travel frequently throughout Germany and to France. It was during this time that he visited Baron von Waldner at his country residence in Alsace where he also renewed his acquaintance with the Comte de Saint-Germain. In the winter of 1776, during his stay in Montpelier in the south of France, he met and became acquainted with the English Earls of Warwick and Spencer along with the French Prince de Montbarey, then France’s minister of war. According to Steuben[28] his relationship with these gentlemen was ‘of the most intimate and friendly in character.’

Prince Josef Friedrich Wilhelm of Hohezollern-Hechingen. After he left the Prussian army, von Steuben spent many years as the Grand Marshal of Hechingen’s Court.

According to Steuben’s memoirs, he decided during this time to try and find employment in a foreign army. He was not alone in this endeavor. There were many former officers seeking the same employment. Most wanted rank and compensation far higher than their last held commission. Steuben was no different, expecting at least a colonel of a regiment. He was unsuccessful in his attempts gain a commission and might have continued his employ with Prince Wilhelm had problems not been brewing over his personal and intimate activity with members of his own sex.

Homosexual accusations in Europe

None of Steuben’s early biographers, such as Kapp, Sparks, or Doyle mention accusations of Steuben’s ‘impropriety’ toward men and young boys. They go so far as to state that Steuben’s relationships with heads of state and men of power were intimate, but do not elaborate. To explain Steuben’s interest in America, they write of his desire to assist the colonies ‘in the cause of liberty.’ They also turn to Steuben’s own words that some enemies forced him to flee Europe and seek employment elsewhere. Rumors at the time that Steuben had ‘questionable’ relationships with young men which would force him into prison gained historical credence only within the last fifty or so years.

Steuben, at every turn of his career, befriended many of the most important military and influential members of the Prussian state including the courts of Russia and France. His ties to these powerful people had a common factor; most of these men stated or were strongly rumored to be homosexual.

He was around 29 years old when, during the Seven Year’s War, in 1759, he entered under the command of King Fredrick the Great’s youngest brother, Prince Henry. They soon became close and ‘intimate friends.’ After the war they would travel together and attend bath houses and spas known to attract those seeking relations with other men. Though Prince Henry married Princess Wilhelmina of Hesse-Kassel, they had no children. He did not conceal his passion for other men, developing close, personal friendships with the actor Blainville[29] and the French émigré Count La Roche-Aymon; both renowned homosexuals. A favorite of his, Major Kaphengst, exploited his sexual relationship with Henry by obtaining an estate.

Grand Duke Peter Fedorovich, Peter III, and Grand Dutchess Catherine Alexeyevna, future Catherine the Great after Peter’s assassination.

After the siege of Treptow on October 23, 1761 and Steuben was taken prisoner by the Russians, he gained the favor of Emperor Peter III. The Prussian born monarch, unpopular in Russia because of his leanings towards Prussia, requested that Steuben accept a commission in the Russian army. Peter had many lovers outside his marriage with Catherine (later Catherine the Great after Peter was assassinated) and it was rumored that there was a homosexual relationship between Peter and Steuben. Catherine was not intimate with her husband and also had her lovers. Their child was claimed by Catherine not to be Peter’s.

Prince Henry introduced Steuben to his brother Fredrick the Great who was strongly believed to be homosexual; the King and philosopher Voltaire’s flirtatious letters and encounters were known in both courts of Prussia and France. Voltaire and Frederick used the language of Greek love in their correspondence, and Frederick made constant allusions to homosexuality in his poetry.[30] King Fredrick grew fondly of Steuben and kept him close to court until a possible dispute between the two either ended with Steuben’s dismissal from the military, or as Steuben recalls it, encouraged him to resign.

Prince Frederick of Wurttemberg (later King Fredrick I of Wurttembur) became a close friend of von Steuben after the war, attending bath houses with the Baron on numerous occasions. He had an unhappy marriage with the Dutchess Agustus of Brunswick because of rumors he was homosexual.

Count Claude-Louis Robert De Saint Germain by Jean Joseph Taillasson.

Steuben also had a close relationship with the Count St. Germain, later the French minister of war. According to historian Lucienne Ercole, the Comte de Saint Germain “was at least as queer a bird as Casanova himself.’[31] There is no substantiated proof that Prince Wilhelm, Steuben’s employer for several years, was gay, having fathered six children in which only one survived to adulthood. While in Paris, Steuben befriended many of the leading poets, dramatists, philosophers, and military personnel, many of whom were rumored to be gay.

In his papers, Steuben wrote that his desire to leave the service of Prince Wilhelm of Hohenzollern-Hechingen resulted in his need to seek further military service. A convincing argument states that he had to leave after being accused of having taken “familiarities with young boys.”[32]

Von Steuben & Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin

In 1777, towards the end of April, Steuben was still considering his options for future employment. On his way to England at the invite of the English Earls, Warwick and Spencer, he stopped off to visit friends in Paris. Shortly after, the Comte St. Germain, French minister of war, arrived in Paris. He sent Baron de Pagenstecher,[33] colonel of the Legion Conde, to summon Steuben. Steuben waited upon the count who received him in his cabinet. Germain told Steuben that he had intended to write to him to suggest a project in which he thought would prove very advantageous, and for the execution of which he thought the baron the most proper person. He proceeded to open a map and pointed to America, “Here, he said, “is your field of battle.[34] Germain then entered into a minute detail of the political situation of the United States, which, after having once declared themselves independent, would undoubtedly sustain this declaration; adding that it would be a meritorious to ‘assist in building up the grand edifice of that rising republic.[35]

He described the resources which the insurgents had and the support they could indirectly expect from France and Spain. To this he added that if some order were not established with their troops, the resources of the United States must very soon be exhausted. It would not be in the power of their friends in Europe to supply so enormous an expense. Germain told Steuben that he was to meet with de Aranda[36] and the Prince de Montbarey[37] who were acquainted with this project; ‘and in order that you may have every possible information with respect to the United States, I will send Mr. Deane[38] to you.’[39]

Silas Deane

The next day, Steuben met with Germain again. The Count gave him a letter to give to Mr. de Beaumarchais[40], the author of Figaro and Barber of Seville. This wealthy and influential Frenchman had taken a deep interest in the American Revolution. According to Kapp, Steuben took a greater interest in the proposition and agreed to take the letter to Beaumarchais. Beaumarchais introduced Steuben to Duane who, a few days later, took Steuben to Dr. Benjamin Franklin at Passy.   At this meeting, both Deane and Franklin told Steuben that after St. Germain’s recommendation, that he was the man who they were looking for to establish order and discipline to the American army. When Steuben mentioned compensation for his journey to America and payment while in America’s service, Deane offered no difficulties, however Franklin said it was out of the question. He explained that he had no authority to offer any compensation and that it was totally within the power of Congress to grant such things.[41] Steuben was put off by Franklin’s air and mannerism which he later wrote “[he] was then little accustomed.” On July 24, 1777, Steuben, with injured ego, informed St. Germain that he was no longer interested and was returning to Prussia.[42]

Though Steuben states that he was returning to Prussia after Franklin’s offhand treatment, he remained in France for nearly three months before traveling to the Netherlands to seek a possible position with the Dutch military. Something kept him from Prussia which suggests that he feared retribution from Prussian authorities for the accusations that he had homosexual relations with young boys while employed by the Prince of Hechigen.

According to Kapp and Francis Bowen[43], when Steuben arrived at Rastadt, he met Prince Louis William of Baden[44], a lieutenant general in the Dutch army and governor of Arnhem. The governor convinced him to accept the American offer and return to Paris to which he did.[45] According to Lockhart in the most recent biography on Steuben, The Drillmaster of Valley Forge, Steuben was summoned from Paris for Karlsrube, at the court of the Margrave of Baden, for a military vacancy. But, Lockhart notes, “what he found waiting for him at Karlsrube was not an officer’s commissioner but a rumor, a horrible, vicious rumor” that the Baron had “taken familiarities with young boys.” Steuben immediately returned to Paris, far more interested in the American offer with or without pay.

Ben Franklin’s freewheeling approach to sex proved to be a huge asset for von Steuben. Franklin discovered von Steuben’s reputation for having “affections” with males and the issue became pressing. Members of the French clergy demanded that the French court, as in other countries, take action against this sodomite, whom they considered a pedophile. The clergy had decided to make their effort a crusade and run him out of France.

Public Baths by Hans Bock the Elder

Franklin was desperate for an experienced military officer who could train Washington’s army. He most likely decided von Steuben’s “affections” was less important than what he, Washington, and the colonies needed to win the war with England. Since von Steuben could not remain in France and was facing incarceration if he returned to Prussia, Franklin figured that Steuben would come cheap, accepting his offer without payment or travel expenses. Franklin must have discussed the rumors of Steuben’s gay activities, and that the French clergy was investigating the Prussian captain, with Deane. We know that Deane learned of von Steuben’s indiscretions from a letter he penned to the Prince of Hechingen. It read in part: “It has come to me from different sources that M. de Steuben is accused of having taken familiarities with young boys, which the laws forbid and punish severely. I have even been informed that that is the reason why M. de Steuben was obliged to leave Hechingen and that the clergy of your country intend to prosecute him by law as soon as he may establish himself anywhere.”[46]

Illustration of a Paris Bath House. This is the Chinese Baths of late 1700’s.

Franklin’s favorite bathhouse in Paris, the Pot-d-Vin[47], was also the city’s premier gay pick-up place. Franklin met there with Steuben (it is not recorded if Franklin ever openly discussed with Steuben his gay tendencies) and eventually the two worked out a deal. The rumors that Steuben was being forced out of Europe because of his gay activities had to be countered with another story. Franklin decided that American officials and Congress were to be informed that von Steuben was offering his services as a volunteer, leaving behind a vast wealth and an exalted position out of an idealistic commitment to liberty. Franklin wrote to Washington exaggerating Steuben’s military rank, promoting him to Frederick the Great’s general staff. Later in life Steuben wrote that he was promoted to the rank of general while employed by the Prince of Hechingen. At the time he might have mentioned this to Franklin. However, the military of that tiny nation in southern Prussia could only sustain the highest rank of colonel, a commission that Steuben was never offered.

Franklin gave Steuben letters of introduction addressed to Washington, Samuel Adams, Henry Laurens – President of Congress, and financier Robert Morris, including other men of congress and business. Captain Steuben’s title while a staff officer under Fredrick the Great read Lieutenant General Quarters Maitre. When Franklin wrote his letters to Congress and Washington he kept the Lieutenant General, leaving off the Quarters Maitre – basically raising Steuben’s rank from captain to Lt. General in the flash of the quill.   When Steuben reported to Congress, he was immediately made a Lt. General in the American Army.

Von Steuben sails from Marseilles for America on Sept. 26, 1777. His ship le Flamand was similar to Lafayette’s 24 gun ship The Hermione featured here.

Steuben’s finances were stretched to the point that he could ill afford passage to America. Count Germain once more turned to Beaumarchais whose vast wealth regularly bankrolled dozens of ships loaded with arms and supplies of war bound for Washington’s armies. Beaumarchais promised to loan Steuben enough for passage and to establish himself in America.   De Monthieu, one of the royal commissioners, gave Steuben the choice of two vessels, one sailing from I’Orient, the other from Marseilles. The Count Aranda (Spanish minister) advised the ship from Marseilles which was the twenty-four gun le Heureux, changed to le Flamand for the voyage. Steuben’s name was also changed to Frank. He was given dispatches for the Marquis de Bouilly, governor of Martinique, as a cover in case the ship was captured by the British. Seventeen year old linguist Pierre-Etiene du Ponceau[48] accompanied Steuben as secretary and interpreter. His aide-de-camp Louis de Pontiere made the trip and a young boy, Carl Vogel, who accompanied Steuben as his servant from Prussia. Aboard ship were also seventeen hundred weight of powder, twenty two tons of sulfur, fifty two brass cannon, nineteen mortars, and a great number of smaller field-pieces; muskets and pistols. This was an advance to America which, after sixty years of litigation, was finally reimbursed to Beaumarchais’s relatives.[49] Steuben set sail on September 26, 1777 and after sixty-six days arrived Portsmouth, New Hampshire on December 1, 1777.[50]

Service in the American Army

General Langdon, commanding the garrison at Portsmouth, met Steuben and took him into his home. On the sixth of Dec. Steuben wrote to Congress offering his services as a volunteer, giving his desire to fight for the cause of liberty as his reason for coming to America. In the form of a resume, he explained his credentials and reiterated that he had done, in twenty two years, seven campaigns with the King of Prussia. He said he would reside in Boston to await their answer. He also wrote a letter to Washington, similar to his note to Congress, however it was thick with complements to “His Excellency,” saying besides the King of Prussia, Washington was the only commander he would consider serving under. He told Washington that he would wait in Boston for his orders.

Von Steuben and Washington at Valley Forge.

On January 14, 1778, after receiving word from Washington, he left for York, Pennsylvania, where Congress took residence after the British captured Philadelphia. Steuben entourage arrived at York on Feb. 5, 1778. He was dismayed by Congress: “all but a few of the men of superior minds had disappeared from it… and their party feuds seemed to forebode some impending calamity.”[51]   Steuben soon met with a three-man committee chaired by Dr. Witherspoon. He repeated that he had made no arrangements with the American delegation in France and that he offered his services as a volunteer with neither pay nor rank. He did not expect pay, but he most certainly expected to be rewarded with rank.   He told the committee that he had a yearly revenue of six hundred guineas from “places and posts of honor,” in Prussia.[52] He did request that he be compensated for his expenses and if America won her independence, he would be paid for the time he served in the war. Also, he asked that officers’ rank be given to those from Prussia who accompanied him from France. Steuben writes that Congress accepted his offer. They made him a Lieutenant General in Foreign Service and welcomed his offer as a volunteer. He was to “repair to General Washington’s quarters as soon as convenient.”[53]

He left for Valley Forge on February 19th and arrived at Washington’s headquarters on Feb. 23.

It was reported that Steuben made quite the entrance at Valley Forge arriving in a grandiose sleigh pulled by black Percheron draft horses. He wore a robe of silk trimmed with fur. Alongside him was his miniature greyhound, Azor. Behind rode his African servants, a French chef, and his teenage lovers, Carl Vogel, the handsome secretary Pierre-Etienne du Ponceau, and aide-de-camp Louis de Pontiere.[54]

Homosexual Activities in America

Baron von Steuben training soldiers at Valley Forge 1778.

Steuben never publicly denied being a homosexual. The closest he came was, after the war, to ask Washington to speak on behalf of his morals in a letter to Congress so he could get his pension. Washington gave Steuben a house while in Valley Forge which he shared with the three teenagers he brought from France along with two young American officers rumored to have relationships with men.

Washington at Valley Forge ignored the implications swirling around von Steuben’s homosexual relations, especially with young boys. Von Steuben proved his worth by instilling a measure of discipline that had been lacking in the Continental Army. That in itself was reason enough for Washington to turn a blind eye toward the Prussian drillmaster’s sexual activities. He did not, however turn a blind eye towards others thought to practice sodomy. The following charges were drafted at Valley Forge on March 14, 1778; von Steuben had arrived in camp three weeks previously.

“At a General Court Martial whereof Colonel Tupper was President (10th March, 1778) Lt. Enslin from Colonel Malcolm’s Regiment, tried for attempting to commit sodomy, with John Monhart a soldier; Secondly, for perjury in swearing to false accounts, found guilty of the charges exhibited against him, being breaches of 5th Article 18th Section of the Articles of War and do sentence him to be dismissed the service with infamy. His Excellency the Commander in Chief approves the sentence and with abhorrence and detestation of such infamous crimes orders Lt. Enslin to be drummed out of Camp tomorrow morning…”[55]   It seems to be clear that Washington had various levels of abhorrence and detestation for such infamous crimes based on an accused worth to the war effort.

As previous mentioned von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge elaborately clothed with two handsome youths and a young boy. Pierre-Etienne du Ponceau served as his linguist & secretary, Louis de Pontiere who acted as Steuben’s aide-de-camp, and his boy/servant, Carl Vogel. His close companionship with his youthful staff quickly raised suspicions as to the nature of his relationship, most especially with his boy/servant. Yet even as the rumors thickened, there was never any action taken to ascertain their validity. It may be considered the first application of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in the American military.

Captain William North, with whom von Steuben had an intimate relationship.

While in route to Valley Forge, Steuben’s entourage spent an evening in Lancaster, PA. During a ball presented in Steuben’s honor, he met a young officer, William North.[56] North wrote upon their first meeting; “those who yet remember his graceful entry and manner in a ball-room, the novel splendor of his star and its accompanying ornaments, can easily conceive the feeling of his countrymen…. [to] thank God that they had no reason to be ashamed of him.” This began a lifelong infatuation that North would have for the Prussian Captain. He would soon join Washington’s forces and live under Steuben’s roof as a rumored lover. A year later, in 1779, then Captain North, after having resided with Steuben since Valley Forge, would become Steuben’s aide-de-camp. Historian William E. Benemann, in his text “Male-Male Intimacy in Early America,” writes that North was romantically involved with Steuben along with another male companion, Captain Benjamin Walker.[57] Both young men would be ‘adopted’ by Steuben and become live – in companions. However, Benemann says, based on the limited historical record, there is no direct statement confirming the nature of the relationships between Steuben and the young officers living with him.

In a 1929 advertisement for sale of Benjamin North’s collection of written correspondence, including Steuben’s sword willed to North, there were several letters composed by Steuben addressed to North.   Their contents strongly indicate a more than friendship relationship: September 18, 1788, Steuben writes to North addressing him as ‘Bill’: “Yesterday my dear Bill, it was a year, when you did cut your name and mine, in a big tree at Steube [difficult to read but appears to be Steuben’s name]… I celebrated the day in dining with our friend Walker where we wished health and happiness to our friend in the woods…”[58]

Historian John Palmer writes of an interesting event that took place at Valley Forge; “The Baron hosted a party exclusively for their lower-ranking friends. He insisted, though, that ‘none should be admitted that had on a whole pair of breeches.’[59] Was this making light of the shortages that affected junior officers as they did the enlisted men? Or could there have been another alternative motive?

Baron von Steuben

When the war ended, Steuben sought the help of former officers to act as his agent in land purchases. Captain William North, his live-in companion and the future treasurer, Alexander Hamilton, assisted him. Though Hamilton’s escapades and affairs with the other sex are well documented, there is an interesting relationship between himself and another young officer, John Laurens. Their close correspondence hinted that he might have been bi-sexual. An interesting statue of Hamilton and Laurens in Lafayette Park shows Laurens embracing Hamilton. Historian Jonathan Katz contends that the primary source in support of this personal relationship can be found in a series of intimate letters that were written shortly after Laurens left Washington’s staff to return home to South Carolina. In April of 1779, Hamilton writes: “…my dear Laurens, if it were in my power, by actions rather than words, to convince you that I love you… I hardly knew the value you had taught my heart to set upon you… you should not have taken advantage of my sensibility, to steal into my affections without my consent… I have gratified my feelings, by lengthening out the only kind of intercourse now in my power with my friend. Adieu.” John Laurens served under Steuben prior to the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. Alexander Hamilton kept close ties to Steuben throughout his years in America. One can speculate the understanding and contentment all these men had in discussing and perhaps expressing their feelings towards the sexes.

Charles Adams, the son of John and Abigail Adams, second president and first lady of the United States proved to be a difficult child and later adult. For many years, Abigail considered Charles “not at peace within himself.” His biggest problem was alcoholism but, as revealed in letters among the various members of the family, the Adamses had other concerns. By 1790, those concerns were in the forefront of daily gossip. Ferling writes in his biography, John Adams: A Life, “There are references to Charles alleged proclivity for consorting with men whom his parents regarded as unsavory.” One of the men the Adamses referred to was von Steuben who, as Ferling writes, many at the time considered homosexual. Charles had become infatuated with and adored von Steuben. John and Abagail’s family letters clearly showed that they were concerned with the close relationship between their son and the Prussian General.

Some historians assert that Steuben’s lifelong companion, Benjamin Walker flirted with Steuben throughout their long relationship, taking advantage of the general’s advances in financial and political favors, but never bedded him. However Walker was his live-in companion for most of Steuben’s tenure in America. Again, history has left no trail and as such, it is left to speculation.

Accomplishments during the war

Scholars of American History agree that Baron von Steuben’s impact on the American Army was huge. He brought order where there was little if any and developed a consistency in drill and management that universal throughout all the regiments. Until Steuben’s arrival, American officers had accepted the British practice of letting sergeants drill the men. It was thought ungentlemanly for an officer to take up such a task. Von Steuben immediately set a precedent by working directly with the troops. The baron’s willingness to work with the men, as well as use of profanity in several different languages, made him popular among the rank and file.

Arriving Valley Forge and witnessing the condition of the troops and order of drill, he commented that there wasn’t an army in Europe which could survive under such circumstances. Only by a true commitment to the spirit of liberty was the American Army able to subsist as a fighting unit.   His first line of business was to write a detailed series of drills for the army.

In the first two years of the war, each colony and even regiments had used different drills and maneuvers, patterned after various European methods. Steuben created one standard method, coordinating the entire Continental Army. Each evening he wrote drills that were translated into English. John Laurens and Alexander Hamilton (both aids in Washington’s staff) copied them into military manuals. The Baron used Washington’s guard and men from each colony (aprox. 120 men) as his ‘guinea pig’ and model company to demonstrate each new drill or lesson. He tried to fit the drill to the men he was teaching in the quickest possible time, making them simple and to the point. Steuben was successful in developing uniform maneuvers and discipline to the army in a very quick and orderly fashion.

Battle of Monmouth. The fruits of von Steuben’s instruction; the Continental Army stood toe to toe with British Regulars.

Steuben continued to teach the drills and maneuvers as spring led into early summer. On May 6, 1778, the army showed off their newly acquired skills by parading after news of the French alliance. That same day, Steuben was promoted to Inspector General with the rank of Major General. After the British evacuated Philadelphia and crossed New Jersey towards New York City, Washington’s army pursued them. The American army caught up to the English at Monmouth Courthouse on June 28, 1778. They battled the British to a draw as the American troops held their own in the field and fought the English to a standstill.   All gave credit to the newly learned discipline and maneuvers the Prussian General had taught them.

In the winter of 1778-1779, Steuben resided in Philadelphia and wrote his book of regulations. Lt. Colonel Francois de Fleury, a French volunteer serving with the Americans assisted in the original French text. Steuben’s live-in companions, Duponceau and Captain Benjamin Walker translated it into English. The same person who drew the plans for the future Washington D C, Capt. Pierre Charles L’Enfant[60], illustrated the text general, drilling troops according to established European military precepts. Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States became a fundamental guide for the Continental Army and remained active through 70 editions through the War of 1812.

Steuben rejoined the army and served through the remainder of the war. He was instructor and supply officer for Greene’s southern army, though only lasting in that role for a short time. Between 1780 and 1781, he was senior military officer in charge of troop and supply mobilization in Virginia until he was replaced by Marquis de Lafayette. He continued to serve as inspector general from 1781 – 1783. He was present at Yorktown and commanded one of the three divisions in the Continental Army. He remained with Washington and helped demobilize the army, resigning on March 24, 1784. Congress accepted his resignation on April 15th.

Washington’s last letter written on December 23, 1783, just hours before he turned in his commission with the Army was to Steuben thanking him for his valuable service. “My dear Baron: Altho’ I have taken frequent opportunities, both in public and private, of acknowledging your great zeal, attention and abilities in performing the duties of your office; yet I wish to make use of this last moment of my public life, to signify [sic] in the strongest terms my entire approbation of your conduct, and to express my sense of the obligations the public is under to you, for your faithful and meritorious services… This is the last letter I shall ever write while I continue in the service of my country; the hour of my resignation is fixed at 12 this day, after which I shall become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomack, where I shall be glad to embrace you, and to testify the great esteem and consideration…”[61]

After the War

Baron von Steuben’s Monument at Valley Forge

Congress was reluctant to pay off its war debts, especially to foreign ‘volunteers’. Many soldiers who fought for years without pay were given promissory notes of payment. After delaying payment of these notes, many soldiers were exploited by wealthy agents when they exchanged the notes for pennies on the dollar, only later to watch Hamilton convince Congress to pay out the entire value of the notes. Von Steuben wrote to North constantly complaining about Congress’ lack of promised payment. This letter was penned on Sept. 10, 1788 “…Nothing is yet decided in my affairs. I confess I have very little hope. My rights are still warmly opposed… instead of justice they offer generosity…”[62] He only received less than five percent of the reward money he anticipated. [63]

Steuben at times could be cold and aloof, which was problematic when diplomacy was needed with an important member of Congress. He also had a tendency to live and spend extravagantly, especially on his uniforms, which were often emblazoned with epaulettes and medals of his own design.

Baron von Steuben’s residence in New Jersey, Jan Zabriskie House

Steuben was discouraged in his hopes of returning to a profitable station in Europe. He informed the New Jersey Legislature that he was “anxiously desirous to become a citizen of the State of New Jersey.” In recognition of his “many and signal services to the United States of America,” state legislators responded on Dec. 23, 1783, by presenting him with the use of the confiscated estate of Tory Jan Zabriskie at New Bridge, provided that the Baron would “hold, occupy, and enjoy the said estate in person, and not by tenant.”[64] This resolution only vested Steuben with life rights and not outright title to the property. Steuben was living on his farm in Manhattan at the time.   Kapp writes that Steuben, when informed of the presentation, contacted Zabriskie who was residing in New York City. He told him he would not accept the gift. This was not the case.

The house and property was uninhabitable at the end of the war. It had been used as a headquarters, fort, camp, outposts, and two skirmishes had been fought there. It would take a great deal of money to bring the residence to a point where one could move in. Steuben began to pour money into the estate in the hope that he would ultimately take title to the mansion and grounds. Captain Walker, Steuben’s former companion, acted, along with Alexander Hamilton, as his agent to acquire the title. He successfully purchased the estate on April 1, 1785 for £1,500. Between 1783 and 1785, Steuben withdrew $26,000 from the national treasury, some of which he used to purchase the Zabriskie mansion.

Baron von Steuben Memorial at LaFayette Square, Washington DC. Sculpture by Albert Jaegers. Note the interesting Spartan feather with younger soldier.

Steuben’s improvident lifestyle and poor management of personal finances outstripped his income and the number of his creditors daily increased.[65] By 1787, Steuben faced bankruptcy. He placed all his affairs under Benjamin Walker. In 1788, he moved into rooms in the house of Walker who was now married to Polly. In May of that same year, he set out for his vast estate in the Mohawk country. To pay down debt and obtain much needed capitol, Steuben wrote to his friends Walker and Hamilton giving them authority to sell the former Zabriskie estate including mansion and forty nine acres. On the 12th of December of that year, John Zabriskie Jr., son of the loyalist who lost the estate, purchased it for £1,200.

In 1790, Congress allowed him an annual pension of $2,400. He was also granted a large estate in upper New York, sixteen thousand acres located in Oneida County in the newly named township of Steuben. He built a home constructed of logs and persuaded Colonels North, Popham, Walker, and others of his former aides to settle in the township. Together they founded the village of Steubenville. Here he spent his summer months and resided in New York City during the winter. While in the city, he resided at No. 216 Broadway and worshipped in the German Lutheran Church on Nassau Street.[66]

Baron von Steuben’s first grave site

Steuben’s luck and finances continued to worsen until November 28, 1794, he died in poverty while residing in a crude log house erected in the midst of an untamed wilderness. His loyal and lifelong companion, Benjamin Walker, buried him on the family farm without ceremony in a plain pine coffin wrapped in his military cloak.[67] His property was left to Colonel North.[68]

Walker had lived with Steuben through the remainder of his life. Von Steuben, who neither married nor denied any of the allegations of homosexuality, left his estate to North and Walker. There wasn’t much else to claim, as the baron was in debt at the time of his death, according to both Kapp and Lockhart. His last will and testament has been described as a love letter to Walker and has been purported to describe their “extraordinarily intense emotional relationship,”

Baron von Steuben’s second grave site.

As per Steuben’s wishes he was buried in an unmarked grave. His remains were relocated to a five acre wooded area when a road was proposed that would cut through his gravesite. Colonel Benjamin Walker donated fifty acres that included the burial site to the Welsh Baptist Society which agreed to maintain what has been called the Sacred Grove. In 1824, a limestone marker was placed over the grave by the citizens of Oneida County. When the stone wore away, a permanent memorial was placed over the grave in 1872 by the German-American Societies and newspapers with the aid of New York State.

Shades of Liberty is the exciting new action-packed series that chronicles African Americans who fought in the American Revolutionary War. Click above for a preview and link to Amazon Books and follow the adventures of Josiah, Book 1 of the Shades of Liberty Series. Josiah is a runaway slave and patriot soldier in Washington’s army. He faces death and discrimination from both a deadly enemy and soldiers in his own army. Josiah and fellow black patriots fight for America’s freedom, believing in a new nation that claims all men are created equal. They hope, they suffer, and many die striving for their rightful share of that promise – a promise disguised in many shades of liberty.


American Art Association Auction. Important Collection of Baron Von Steuben Relics… also The Private Papers of the North Family… Relating to theAmerican Revolution. 1929: Plandome Press, NY, NY.

Benemann, William. Male-Male Intimancy in Early America. 2006: Harrington Park Press, Binghamton, NY.

Bernard, Raymond. Great Secret Count St. Germain. 1993: Health Research Books, Pomeroy, WA.

Bielakowski, Alexander M. Ethnic and Racial Minorities in the US Military. 2013: ABC-CLIO,LLC, Santa Barbara, CA.

Clark, Christopher.  Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947. 2007: Penguin Books, United Kingdom.

Doyle, Joseph B. Frederick William von Steuben and the American Revolution. 1913: The H. Cook Co., Steubenville, Ohio.

Ercole, Lucienne. Gay Court Life in the Eighteenth Century. 1932: Harper, Harrington Park Press, Binghamton, NY.

Ferling, John. John Adams: A Life. 1992: Oxford University Press, New York, NY.

Fitzpatrick, John C. The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 27.,1938: United States Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.

Flynt, Larry & David Eisenbach. One Nation Under Sex. 2011: Palgrave Macmillan, New York, NY

Kapp, Friedrich. The Life of Frederick William von Steuben, Second edition. 1859: Mason Brothers, New York, NY.

Karels, Carol. The Revolutionary War in Bergen County: TheTimes that Tried Men’s Souls. 2007: The History Press, London, UK.

Lockhart, Paul: The Drillmaster of Valley Forge. 2008: Harper-Collins, New York, NY

Lyons, Renee Critcher. Foreign-Born American Patriots. 2013: McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, North Carolina.

MacDonough, Giles. Frederick the Great: A Life in Deed and Letters. MacDonough, Giles. 2013: St. Martin Press, New York, NY.

Noteboom, Cees. Roads to Berlin. 2013: Quercus Publishing Pic, London, UK.

Palmer, John MacAuley. General Von Steuben. 1937: Yale University Press, Hartford, Conn.

Schlegel, Carl Wilhelm. Schlegel’s German-American Families in the United States, Vol. I. 1916:

American Historical Society, New York, NY.

Segal, Mark. Baron von Steuben, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Franklin to Washington. 2013: Gay News, Philadelphia, PA

Sparks, Jared. The Library of American Biography, Vol. IX.   Harper & Bros. Publishers, 1834: New York, New York.

Szabo, Franz A.J. The Seven Years War in Europe: 1753 – 1763. 2013: Routledge, New York, NY.

Von Steuben, Fredrick. Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States. 1786: Printed by Eleazer Oswald, Philadelphia, PA.

[1] Kapp, pg. 641. Friedrich Kapp wrote the first comprehensive account of von Steuben’s life. The exact wording: “Steuben was never married. It seems, however, that he met with a disappointment in early life. While preparing to remove to his farm,[after the conclusion of the war] the accidental fall of a portrait of a most beautiful young woman, from his cabinet, which was picked up by his companion [most likely North] and shown to him, with the request to be told from whom it was taken, produced a most obvious emotion of strong tenderness, and the pathetic exclamation, ‘O, she was a matchless woman.’ He never afterwards alluded to the subject.”

[2] Kapp, Intro pg. V

[3] Doyle, pg. viii

[4] Kapp, pg. 38

[5] Sparks, pg. 7

[6] Kapp, pg. 44.

[7] Ibid, pg. 44

[8] Lockhart, pg. 4.

[9] Ibid, pg. 5.

[10] Ibid, pg. 48

[11] According to Prince Henry, Frederick the Great’s youngest brother, who was an accompliched general, never having lost a battle, the Prussian disaster was the fault of Frederick the Great who ignored all his general’s advice, and lead the army to a devastating defeat.

[12] Prince Henry, Frederick Henry Louis (1726-1802). He entered the military, upon his brother Fredrick the Great’s ascension to the throne at age 14 as a colonel of the 35th Regiment. He rose as general to command Prussian forces during the Seven Year’s War in which he never lost a battle. His relationship with his brother monarch was strained at times because of Henry’s criticism of Fredrick’s military knowledge.

[13] Golkowka convent near Gostyn Poland.

[14] Treptow – a Prussian town on the Mecklenburg-Strelitz border, about 25 miles from the Prussian border city of Demmin. There was an important Prussian supply depot there which the Russians were determined to seize. Szabo, pg. 362.

[15] Elizaveta Petrovna (1709-1762 known as Elizabeth) was the Empress of Russia from 1741 until her death. She led Russia through the War of Austrian Succession (1740-1748) and the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). She was one of the most popular Russian monarchs due to her strong opposition to Prussian policies – directly adverse to her replacement Peter who, Prussian born, favored Prussian policies which in turn cost him his life. Rare among monarchs, especially Russian emperors, Elisabeth did not execute a single person during her rein.

[16] Peter III held the throne of Russia for only six months. He had been born in northern Germany and was the grandson of two emperors, Peter the Great of Russia and Charles XII of Sweden. At age 14, he was brought to Russia by his aunt, Empress Elizabeth of Russia and groomed to become the next heir of Russia. Upon Elizatheth’s death in Jan, 1762, Peter ascended the throne. Because of his close ties to Prussia and enacting a war against Denmark, he was very unpopular. An arranged marriage to Frederica Auguste, a princess from Anhalt-Zerbst in Saxony (who took the name Catherine), resulted in a disastrous marriage. They had two children, however Catherine claimed they never had a child together. Both had many lovers. While emperor, he enacted many laws that today would be considered democratic.

It is recorded that his wife, Catherine conspired with her lover to remove Peter from the throne because she was afraid he would divorce her. During his wife coup was arrested and take to Ropsha where he was assassinated or forced to commit suicide on July 17, 1762. The throne went to his wife, Catherine II, later known as Catherine the Great, perhaps in competition to the Prussian monarch of the time, Frederick the Great.

[17] Kapp, pg. 59

[18] Ibid.

[19] Fredrick the Great’s sexual tendencies and relationship with Voltaire has been the subject of debate. Evidence of flirtatious letters and Fredrick’s infatuation with the great philosopher suggest the two may have been lovers at one point. Historian Christopher Clark writes, “[Fredrick] may well have abstained from sexual acts with anyone of either sex [he married not by his own free will and soon divorced upon ascending the throne-never having children] after his accession to the throne, and possibly even before. But if he did not do it, he certainly talked about it; the conversation of the inner court circle around him was peppered with homoerotic behavior.”

[20] King Fredrick the II (1712-1786) “the Great” ruled Prussia from 1741 – 1786. He would have been 50 when introduced to Steuben.

[21] The Treaty of Hubertsburg, along with the Treaty of Paris which was signed five days earlier on Feb. 10, 1763, ended the

Seven Years War. The peace of Hubertsburg was between Prussia, Austria, & Saxony.

[22] Kapp, pg. 61

[23] Count Saint-Germain, the Philosopher and artist, not to be confused with Frenchman Count Saint-Germain, the French Secretary of War.

[24] Prince Josef Friedrich Wilhelm (1717-1798) ruled Hohenzollern-Hechingen from 1750 until his death. His first wife died after only three months of marriage. He had six children by his second wife, Countess Maria Theresia of Wasdburg-Zell, but only one daughter lived past childhood. She died before the Prince. Since he had no heirs, the crown passed to his nephew Hermann. He traveled extensively with von Steuben at his side.

[25] Bielakowski, pg.667, Hohenzollern-Hechingen was a tiny country located in southwestern Prussia between the larger duchies of Baden and Wurtemburg. The Prince’s country was continually in debt prompting him to seek money from outside. It is what took him to Paris accompanied by Steuben that ultimately led to Steuben’s meeting with Franklin.

[26] Kapp, pg. 61.

[27] Claude Louis, Comte de Saint-Germain (1707-1778, not to be confused with the Philosopher and artist of the same name). He had trained to be a Jesuit Priest, but was given a commission as sub-lieutenant by the French King Louis XV. He left France (rumors because of a duel) and offered his services in Hungary and Bavaria. He later served under Frederick the Great. While in the Netherlands, he was made a field-marshal of the French army. Because of court politics, he resigned his commission in 1760. In 1762, he accepted an appointment as field-marshal from Frederick V of Denmark and began organizing the Dutch army. In 1766, he returned to France and devoted himself to religion and farming. He eventually served France once more in the French ministry of war. Saint-Germain was appointed minister of war by Louis XVI on Oct. 25, 1775. His efforts introduced Prussian discipline in the French army. This brought on opposition and he resigned on September 1777, shortly after he was instrumental in convincing von Steuben to immigrate to America. He accepted a pension from the King and died in his apartment on January 15, 1778.

[28] Steuben MS, vol. viii. Kapp, pg. 65.

[29]Prince Henry’s favorite actor was a second rate Frenchman, Monsieur Blainville. It was rumored that he was not only his favorite actor, but that the Prince fancied him for sexual reasons. History only records a rumor that Blainville committed suicide when the clique of courtiers conspired to make his lofty patron to end their relationship. Nooteboom, Chapter: Rheinsberg.

[30] MacDoough, pg. 106.

[31] Ercole, pg. 413.

[32] Flynt, pg. 15-16.

[33]He was a colonel of the 53rd Regiment which he commanded from 1781-1784.

[34] Knapp, pg. 68.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Count de Aranda, Spanish ambassador in France.

[37] Alexandre Marie Eleonor of Saint-Mauris, Count of Montbarrey, then Prince of Montbarrey. Montbarrey was appointed as director or war and deputy of the court of Saint-Germain, then Secretary of State for War. After Germain resigned in 1778, Montbarrey was appointed in his stead as Secretary of State for War, a post he held until 1780 when he was forced to resign after a scandal on the use of military funds.

[38] Silas Deane (1737-1789) – Connecticut resident. He attended Yale University and studied law. In 1774, he was appointed to the First Continental Congress. He served Connecticut in the Second Congress, but was dismissed by his colony over a disagreement with state legislatures. In May of 1776, he became a secret agent for the American Government in Paris and was later joined by Benjamin Franklin as American Ambassadors to France. Whereas Franklin was very flamboyant and popular among the French, Deane was more reserved and formal. He remained in France after the war as Ambassador. He spent the last years of his life in this capacity. Finally, after years separated from his family, he boarded ship in 1789 to return home, but tragically died aboard ship.

[39] Ibid, pg. 69.

[40] Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799). Beaumarchais was a colorful character with many adventures. Considered a great genius of literature and pamphlets, he made a fortune from his influence with the French court having at first become a watchmaker to the King and later became popular with the French masses through his pamphlets and plays. His greatest works were The Marriage of Figaro & The Barber of Seville, made further popular through operas composed by Mozart and Rossini. He became a great supporter of the American Revolution. His various visits to England led him to take a deep interest in the struggle between the American colonies and England. By his unwearied exertions, he succeeded in inducing the French government to assistance in money and arms to the Americans. As an agent of the French and Spanish governments, he carried on an enormous traffic with America. Under the name of Rodrigue Hortalez et Cie, he employed a fleet of forty vessels to provide help for the American insurgents. Though his pamphlets and plays aided the French Revolutionary cause, his great wealth made him suspect forcing him to flee to England and Holland. When he returned to France in 1779, he died suddenly and suspiciously.

[41] The Continental Congress had grown tired of foreign mercenaries coming to America and then demanding a high rank and pay. Promoting these men over qualified American officers caused discontent in the ranks.

[42] Kapp, pg. 71.

[43] Francis Bowen (1811-1890) Graduate of Harvard, he was appointed history professor at Harvard in 1850, but due to political reasons by the overseers, his appointment was rejected. Two years later, with the advent of a new president, he was appointed full professorship at Harvard until 1889. Besides his biography on Von Steuben in 1838, he wrote a text on the life of General Benjamin Lincoln in 1847.

[44] William Louis of Baden-Durlach (1732-1788). He was titled the Prince of Baden. In 1753 he became the governor of the province of Gelderland based in Arnhem. In 1766 he was appointed by the Netherlands States-Gemnerla to Lt. General. After 1769 he was active in industry, founding a dye plant that a year later was converted into a brewery that produced brandy. It became the Seldeneck brewery that existed until 1921.

[45] Kapp, pg. 72.

[46] Windy City Times

[47] Pot-de-vin means ‘bribe’ or ‘hush money’.

[48] Pierre-Etienne du Ponceau (1760 – 1844) changed his name to Peter Stephen Duponceau after having lived in America for several years. He served as Steuben’s translator and secretary throughout the Revolutionary War, rumored to be Steuben’s young lover. Duponceau stayed in America after the war, residing in Philadelphia.

[49] Kapp, pg. 76.

[50] Ibid, pg. 94.

[51] Ibid, pps 100-101.

[52] Here he refers to his estate in southern Prussia to which his nephew controlled. Also a post he held while serving Frederick which he still drew a small portion.

[53] Kapp, pg. 104

[54] According to Kapp, Louis du Pontiere would later leave Steuben’s side and join the horse corps of Pulaski. Other texts assert that he remained as aid to Steuben until April of 1784.

[55] General Orders for March 14, 1778. Fitzpatrick, Vol. XI, pp. 83-84.

[56] William North (1755-1836) His father, John North, commanded Fort Frederick & Fort St. George in Maine during the French and Indian War. He entered the Continental army in 1775 and accompanied Benedict Arnold in the expedition to Canada suffering through the winter and disastrous attempt to capture Quebec. He later became captain in Henry Jackson’s 16th Massachusetts and participated in the Battle of Monmouth. He became aide-de-camp to Steuben in 1779 which began a long and closely intimate relationship until Steuben’s death.

[57] Captain Benjamin Walker (1753-1818) served in the Revolutionary War and later served as a U. S. Representative from New York. He was born in London, England and immigrated to America.

[58] Private Papers of the North family, pg. 23.

[59] Palmer, pg. 149.

[60] Pierre Charles L’Enfant (1754-1825) was born in Paris, France and immigrated to America. He was an architect and civil engineer best known for designing and laying out the streets of Washington, DC. Interestingly, L’Enfant stormed off the job leaving a free African American, Benjamin Banneker, to reproduce the blueprints from memory. He left France, with the encouragement of American supporter Pierre Beaumarchais, to enlist with the American Army during the Rev. War. Though active throughout his life in America designing cities and many structures, leaving behind a rich legacy, he died in poverty. His total worth value at death amounted to $45.

[61] Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington, Vol. 27, pg. 283.

[62] North Papers, pg. 24.

[63] Flynt, pg. 16.

[64] Karels, pg. 62-63.

[65] Ibid, pg. 63

[66] Schlegel, pg. 3

[67] Karels, pg. 64.

[68] Schlegel, pg. 4.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *