Appalled by the state of the Revolutionary army, Steuben began teaching soldiers military drills, tactics, and discipline based on Prussian techniques.
He wrote Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States (The Blue Book), which remained the army’s drill manual for decades. Steuben also addressed widespread administrative waste and graft, helping save desperately needed supplies and funds. In 1778, Congress, on the recommendation of George Washington‘s recommendation, commissioned Steuben as Inspector General with the rank of Major General.
Von Steuben served the remainder of the war as Washington’s chief of staff and one of his most trusted advisors; after the war he attended Washington’s inauguration in the city of New York in 1789.
Von Steuben spent summers in Oneida County on a 16,000-acre estate in the vicinity of Rome, NY, on land granted to him by the State of New York for his military service. He was later appointed a regent for what evolved into the University of the State of New York. Von Steuben is believed by some historians to have been openly homosexual by 18th century standards.
The plan for the Baron von Steuben estate in rural, northern Oneida County is a rare and important example of landscape planning in early American history.
Von Steuben died there on November 28, 1794. He was buried in a grove there at what became the Steuben Memorial State Historic Site, now in the town of Steuben.
The site includes the memorial tomb and reconstructed log cabin (1937) and several smaller elements, including a stone bearing a memorial plaque, a series of historic markers, and other landscape elements.
Generally, Von Steuben Day takes place in September in many cities throughout the United States during which participants march, dance, wear German costumes and play German music.
On Saturday October 7th at 2 pm Patrick Reynolds, Oneida County History Center Director of Public Programs, will discusses a plan for the estate of Baron von Steuben that was drawn by an almost-forgotten French architect in 1794 and is now held in the History Center collections in Utica.
The story involves hard work and suffering, villains, heroes, and heartbreak, not to mention Baron von Steuben and beavers. A spider web of connections to Whitesboro, Fort Schuyler, Rome, Remsen, and Boonville will be covered. The plan of the estate and several related artifacts will be on exhibit for one day only.
This event is free for History Center members, $5 suggested admission for non-members.
The Oneida County History Center is located at 1608 Genesee Street, in Utica. For more information call (315) 735-3642 or e-mail email@example.com
Illustrations, from above: Portrait of Baron von Steuben by Charles Willson Peale, 1780; Baron von Steuben Drilling Troops at Valley Forge, by E.A. Abbey (ca 1904) (Pennsylvania State Capitol); and Baron von Steuben Monumental Tomb, July 2010.