1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Steuben, Frederick William Augustus Henry Ferdinand, Baron von

1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 25
Steuben, Frederick William Augustus Henry Ferdinand, Baron von

STEUBEN, FREDERICK WILLIAM AUGUSTUS HENRY FERDINAND, Baron von (1730–1794), German soldier, was born at Magdeburg, Prussia, on the 15th of November 1730, the son of William Augustine Steuben (1699–1783), also a soldier. At fourteen he served as a volunteer in a campaign of the Austrian Succession War. He became a lieutenant in 1753, fought in the Seven Years' War, was made adjutant-general of the free corps in 1754 but re-entered the regular army in 1761, and became an aide to Frederick the Great in 1762. Leaving the army after the war, he was made canon of the cathedral of Havelberg, and subsequently was grand-marshal to the prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. In 1777 his friend, the count St Germain, then the French minister of war, persuaded him to go to the assistance of the American colonists, who needed discipline and instruction in military tactics. Steuben arrived at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on the 1st of December 1777, and offered his services to Congress as a volunteer. In March 1778 he began drilling the inexperienced soldiers at Valley Forge; and by May, when he was made inspector-general, with the rank of major-general, he had established a thorough system of discipline and economy. Results of his work were shown in the next campaign, particularly at Monmouth, where he rallied the disordered, retreating troops of General Charles Lee. His Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States (1779) was of great value to the army. He was a member of the court-martial which tried Major John André in 1780, and after General Horatio Gates's defeat at Camden was placed in command of the district of Virginia, with special instructions “to collect, organize, discipline and expedite the recruits for the Southern army.” In April 1781 he was superseded in command of Virginia by La Fayette and later took part in the siege of Yorktown. Retiring from the service after the war, he passed the last years of his life at Steubenville, New York, where he died on the 28th of November 1794. New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey gave him grants of land for his services, and Congress passed a vote of thanks and gave him a gold-hilted sword in 1784 and later granted him a pension of $2400.

See Frederick Kapp, The Life of Frederick William von Steuben (New York, 1859); and George W. Greene, The German Element in the War of American Independence (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1876).