Friedrich Wilhem von Steuben: A Dark Secret of Washington’s Army

The history of American Revolution is empty without mentions of the two European generals who assisted George Washington. Gilbert du Motier was one of the generals and he brought with him many invaluable things to the new American nation. These things were not only regarding warfare but about the general philosophy to guide the nation forward.


Portrait of Friedrich Wilhem von Steuben

The second notable European general in George Washington’s army was Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. He was a Prussian born military officer. He had prior served in the capacity of Major General for the continental army. He was designated as Chief of Staff in Washington’s army. When Steuben joined the army, American revolutionaries were in shambles. They had inadequate training, structure or discipline. Most of the soldiers were shopkeepers or farmers.  Steuben developed one of the first military manuals. He set up a training camp to train the revolutionaries as per European standards of warfare. He took a bunch of rag tags and converted them into a fighting force. After American freedom he made various other notable contributions.


Military Manual written by Friedrich Wilhem von Steuben

Steuben had a shady past previous to arriving in America. After his days in the continental army Steuben searched for a job. He travelled through various European countries to present himself as a capable military leader. There were various negative rumours surrounding Steuben. Many felt he was a homosexual and had sexual relations with several young boys. After leaving the continental army he had incurred a lot of debts and tried to improve his resume by using the title “baron” which was based on his father’s false lineage claims. In 1777 Steuben met Benjamin Franklin in Paris. Franklin prepared for Steuben’s journey to America. He reached Portsmouth in New Hampshire on September 26, 1777. He had a bunch of young boy servants with him.


Friedrich Wilhem von Steuben turned a group of rag tags into soldiers

Did his homosexual inclinations go unnoticed? No, it was not. But in regards to his contributions to the revolutionaries all his frailties were neglected. Homosexuality was not a cause of hatred back in those days as it is now.


After the war Steuben settled down in America and got a citizenship. He was given a pension $2,500 a year for the rest of his life.


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One thought on “Friedrich Wilhem von Steuben: A Dark Secret of Washington’s Army

  1. Came upon your post in search of other info on von Steuben. Major problem with this:

    “Homosexuality was not a cause of hatred back in those days as it is now.”

    He fled Europe in part due to accusations homosexuality and potential legal consequences stemming from those accusations. Washington had strict punishments for men under his command found to have engaged in homosexual behavior. The behavior was as hated then, if not more so, than now. But, you post a willful falsehood in saying homosexuality is a cause of hatred today, if by that you mean that those who oppose the behavior hate those who engage in it. This lie must stop. Have some integrity and honesty.

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