— September 17, 1730 - November 28, 1794 —
Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand Baron von Steuben was born September 17, 1730 in Magdeburg, Prussia (Germany) to a military family. Reared in the rigorous military school of Frederick the Great, von Steuben served with distinction in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) and as an Aide-de-Camp to the Prussian King.
In the fledgling US, after the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress sought foreign assistance in the struggle against the British. In 1777, Benjamin Franklin met von Steuben, who then came to America that December, offering his service without rank or pay, to aid the Revolution. In January 1778, the Continental Congress accepted von Steuben's service as a volunteer in the Continental Army and ordered him to report to General Washington's quarters at Valley Forge as soon as possible.
Even in the face of desperate conditions, including frost, disease, inadequate shelter and lack of supplies, von Steuben gave military training and discipline to the citizen soldiers fighting for American independence. In May 1778, Congress approved General Washington's recommendation to appoint von Steuben as Inspector General of the Continental Army.
On June 28, 1778, at the Battle of Monmouth, the benefits of von Steuben's training were evidenced by the American troops opposing the British Army. The heroic American performance, a turn in the tide of the war, is attributed in large part to the work of von Steuben. Colonel Alexander Hamilton, an eyewitness, declared that von Steuben's system of drilling, reviews and inspection imbued the officers and soldiers with the confidence that, from now on, they were on equal ground with the armies of the enemy.
Von Steuben was instrumental in further American victories, including the defeat of the British at Yorktown in 1781, where the Baron received the overture of capitulation from the British General Cornwallis. During 1778-1779, von Steuben prepared a complete set of regulations for Continental troops, the "Blue Book", which became the United States Army training manual. In 1783, von Steuben became an American citizen. In 1784, von Steuben was discharged from the military with honor and turned his energies to preparing for the defense of New York harbor and designing the plans for a military academy that were later realized at West Point. In 1786, the State of New York, wishing to express its gratitude for his service, granted him 16,000 acres north of the Mohawk River. Von Steuben died on November 28, 1794, and was laid to rest in a hero's grave in Remsen, New York, where we read the following inscription:
"Indispensable to the Achievement of American Independence"
Erected 2004 by the Steuben Society of America and the Friends of Monmouth Battlefield in grateful recognition of his valiant service to America in her struggle for liberty.