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Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben

By David Streater, Ph.D.

Burke CountyDavid Streater Burke County foundation forward charters of freedom


This is an American history educational moment of those who made a difference during the Revolutionary War era and how they served our Country.

On September 17, 1730, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben was born in Magdeburg, Prussia.  Raised in Russia during his childhood, Wilhelm was tutored by his father, a military engineer.  From ages 10 to 17, Jesuits formally educated him in Breslau, Germany, until he joined the Prussian army as a lance corporal.  By 1756, Friedrich was an infantry officer in the Seven Years’ War, then appointed to the general staff and assigned to Frederick the Great’s headquarters.  Ultimately, in April 1763, the War ended, and von Steuben was honorably discharged with the rank of captain.

Until 1777, von Steuben floundered as he looked for continued military service.  Ben Franklin, being in Europe, approached Wilhelm about teaching discipline and order to the struggling Continental Army.  Franklin knew that strict regulation was needed for the patriots to stand any chance against the seasoned British army.  Thus, with financial assistance from France, von Steuben sailed to America.  Not able to speak English, George Washington assigned Alexander Hamilton and John Laurens to assist von Steuben in training the soldiers.

Within a month, von Steuben had the troops organized into units, such as squads, platoons, and companies, and how to march and perform close-order military drills.  Wilhelm required personal hygiene, orderly living conditions, and physically demanding combat maneuvers.  He introduced rigorous discipline and a methodical routine to transform recruits and battered soldiers into battlefield-ready warriors.  Von Steuben originated the Bootcamp disciplined environment for the Continental Army that continues in today’s armed forces.

This meticulous practice led von Steuben to write the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States (a/k/a The Blue Book) that continues in modern military indoctrination training.  He also earned the Father of the Inspector General title based on his ingenuity and adaptable abilities.  Due to von Steuben’s accomplishments, he was assigned to assist Nathanial Greene in southern battles and promoted to division commander in time for the Battle of Yorktown, which was the Revolutionary War’s last siege.

In March 1784, Friedrich became a United States citizen and was honorably discharged from the military with the rank of major general.  It is noted that von Steuben and George Washington were the “only two men whose services were indispensable” in winning the Revolutionary War.

Being an American military hero, Friedrich died at 64 in 1794 on his Mohawk Valley, New York farm.  To this day, the United States is indebted to von Steuben for launching America’s professional military and leading us to liberty and freedom.

Please visit your Charters of Freedom setting in most western North Carolina counties.  A Charters of Freedom setting consists of the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  They are on permanent display analogous to the Charters of Freedom in the National Archives, Washington, DC.  Please visit our website ( to learn more about our existing settings.

All teachers are encouraged to contact Dr. Streater for information and complementary student education materials to enhance experiential field trips to a Charter of Freedom settings.  Everyone is welcome and urged to obtain a personalized engraved legacy paver for placement at their local Charters of Freedom setting.  Please contact Dr. Streater ( for engraved legacy paver information and complementary educational materials.


Dr. David Streater is the director of education for Foundation Forward.  He is a retired college instructor and administrator, and a retired probation and parole officer/administrator.  David is a criminologist who has an acute history interest, served in the Navy, and is a resident of Burke County, NC.

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