Term Paper: Baron Von Steuben

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9. Who Served Here? Baron Von Steuben. [Online] Available at http://www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/served/steuben.html. Accessed 23 March 2004

10. Who Served Here? Baron Von Steuben. [Online] Available at http://www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/served/steuben.html. Accessed 23 March 2004

Baron Von Steuben was thus able to influence the Continental Army with his rare insight into the problems that were being faced by the military forces in America at that time. The Commanders, in fact, who were used to relying, primarily, on fear to enforce discipline among the soldiers, now discovered that this, in fact, was a totally unnecessary and ineffective method to discipline the troops. With the new strictures developed by Baron Von Steuben, they now found it easy to command over a force of soldiers who, in actuality, had no sort of idea of what or whom they were fighting for; the Commanders did not impress them. They fought because they had some personal reason for doing so and they would leave as and when they wanted to. They saw themselves as private citizens fighting a private battle, and as a result, would not be disciplined by a set of commanders who meant nothing to them. 11

They also felt that there was, in fact, no need to fight and the world would not look down upon them if they did not fight for the nation; it was a purely voluntary gesture on the part of the soldier to offer to fight for the Revolution. This attitude was completely turned around by the new regulations brought about by Baron Von Steuben. These rules bridged the wide gap between the soldiers and the commanding officers, for one. The officers felt that they were not only officers, but also gentlemen; they would not mix socially with the common soldiers. They felt that a distance was to be maintained in order to enforce appropriate discipline and maybe even awe in the soldiers. Baron Von Steuben, when confronted with these concepts, knew that he had to bring both the commanders and the soldiers onto ca common level ground first. For this, he insisted that the officers would have to play a major part in the training of soldiers, and not rely solely on sergeants to do the job. 12

11. Baron Von Steuben. [Online] Available at http://www.*****/History/150.htm. Accessed 23 March 2004

12. Baron Von Steuben. [Online] Available at http://www.*****/History/150.htm. Accessed 23 March 2004

They were also made to take part in drills, marches, and other such training with the soldiers. The commanders were even encouraged to eat with the soldiers so that there would not be social distancing between the two. The respect of the soldier, Baron Von Steuben felt, would be gained not by the officer distancing himself from the soldier, but from being close to him in all respects. The gap would be bridged if the officers were to set an example for the soldier by over-achieving in any field, and not by maintaining a distance and under-achieving and thus earning the disrespect and disregard of the soldier. The standard of the drills and disciplining system were also noticed by Baron Von Steuben, as being below the general standard. There was, actually, no set standard for the conduct of training or drills. Each officer would do it at his own discretion, as he knew how to. 13

This was not the method of training that had been experienced by Baron Von Steuben in the Prussian Army. He now set about setting a particular standard that would have to be followed by the officers when undertaking the training of their various battalions and regiments. This set up a universal standard of operation that was followed by the American army in the years to come. Now the simplified drills and other training methods were to be repeated again and again numerous times until the soldier became quite proficient at it. When this training method was enforced by the officers with the brand new standard of behavior and conduct whereby they demonstrated a lot of mutual respect and love in their various dealings with their men, the soldiers began to feel and demonstrate a sense of pride and achievement in being a part of the fight in the Revolution and they shared this sense with their comrades in what was now the Continental Army. 14

13. Baron Von Steuben. [Online] Available at http://www.*****/History/150.htm. Accessed 23 March 2004

14. Baron Von Steuben. [Online] Available at http://www.*****/History/150.htm. Accessed 23 March 2004

Baron Von Steuben also knew in intimate detail the thinking process of a soldier in any army. A soldier, if ordered to undertake any sort of mission, would immediately want to know 'why' it had to be done. The commanding officers would not deem to answer this important question and this would leave the soldier in doubt as to the necessity or importance of the order. If the soldier received a proper answer to his question, he would undoubtedly follow the order without qualms. This, Baron Von Steuben insisted, would make for better discipline and looking up to authority. When the officers of the Continental Army adopted this method of answering any question that the soldier would ask of them, the improvement in discipline was dramatic. The simplicity of the method held its own appeal to the officers, and the soldiers reacted as predicted by Baron Von Steuben, with a lot of pride and professionalism. 15

Why did the methods of training and discipline initiated by Baron Von Steuben achieve such success? The main reason was the fact that these methods were eventually focused on the soldier and not the officer. The soldier was made to feel a sense of justifiable pride in his work as a soldier and not feel like a mere volunteer with no other job options. He was now able to identify himself as a soldier fighting for his nation under the guidance of senior officers who would not only encourage but also discipline them whenever or wherever necessary. The soldiers' innate sense of pride and virtue would have come to naught in the difficult times ahead when they had to fight many a war in severe weather conditions in the camps of Valley Forge and Morristown. However, the method of discipline and training conceived by Baron Von Steuben served to not only rid the soldier of his indiscipline but also inculcated such pride in his work that he would volunteer his very life for the cause of any war that his country would fight in the future. 16

15. Baron Von Steuben. [Online] Available at http://www.*****/History/150.htm. Accessed 23 March 2004

16. Baron Von Steuben. [Online] Available at http://www.*****/History/150.htm. Accessed 23 March 2004

The agreement between Steuben and the Congress was that the military personnel would offer his services and did not require any payment or official rank for his voluntary services; but only his expenses should be met. He also stated that America did not win its independence the Congress would not owe him anything, but if he proved successful, then he was to get complete appreciation and reward in return for his services. (The Revolutionary War General von Steuben (1730-1794)). It was during the severe winter of 1778 that Baron Von Steuben had arrived at Valley Forge and the task that he had set out to accomplish had been done in a satisfactory manner and he was now a close ally of the President of America, George Washington. An army historian of the 20th century states that the services of two men of America in military terms were an important factor in achieving American independence and they were that of George Washington, who was the commander and Baron Von Steuben, his staff officer. 17

Steuben was recognized for his strict enforcement of discipline among the soldiers and also as an example for his own teachings. He would, in fact, be up at daybreak, and be alert and efficient throughout the day in the carrying out of his training. He was, indeed, indefatigable, and he expected, therefore, that his men would also be the same. Despite being unfamiliar with the English language, he managed to communicate with great success al his training methods to all those under him. 18

17. Schmitz, Joseph. The enduring Legacy of Inspector General-Von Steuben [Online] The Journal of Public Inquiry Fall/Winter, 2002 Available at http://www.dodig.osd.mil/IGInformation/TheEnduringLegacyofIGvonSteuben.pdf. Accessed 23 March 2004

18. Baron Von Steuben, Arrival at Valley Forge. [Online] Available at http://www.publicbookshelf.com/public_html/The_Great_Republic_By_the_Master_Historia. Accessed 23 March 2004

Steuben did of course, lost his temper on more than one occasion, and at those times would use any of the three languages that he used but a smattering of, to curse at the soldiers. He would even, sometimes, call upon his aide-de-camp, Major Camper, who would translate the necessary words into the required language to enable him to curse! He was, in spite of these curses, a favorite among his men, who loved him for his kind and generous heart and giving ways. Baron Von Steuben's success lay in the fact that he was able… [END OF PREVIEW]

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