Steuben, Wilhelm

Steuben, Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin (1730-1794) Prussian General: Born in the Prussian fortress in which his father was an officer of engineers, Steuben joined the Prussian Army at the age of 17, serving as an infantry officer, a corps staff officer, and an aide to Frederick the Great. In 1764, he left the military for political reasons and became chamberlain of a petty German court. He went to Paris and, in 1777, offered his services to Benjamin Franklin, who sent him to America. Steuben had inflated his credentials, however, and his journey to America was perhaps the only thing that would have saved him from debt and obscurity. In 1778, Congress accepted him as a volunteer without rank in the Continental Army, and sent him to Valley Forge. Four months later, he attained the rank of major general, and trained troops with a new system of drill that consisted of European practices modified to American needs. The next year, Congress authorized the publication of Steuben's Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, known as the "Blue Book." Although Steuben helped the patriot cause in many ways, his major contribution was increasing the professionalism of the army. After retiring in 1784, he settled in New York.