Thursday, January 10, 2008
Secret Life of von Steuben
Having listened to the ongoing debate over homosexuals serving in the military, I felt that this would be an appropriate topic to post.
History teaches us that Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben was a Prussian soldier who came to America and inspired massive improvements to the Continental Army at Valley Forge. What is often forgotten, however, is why von Steuben came to America in the first place. If you dive into his military history, one can easily foresee a bright future for von Steuben in the Prussian Army. So why help the Americans?
What is "conveniently" left out of the history books is the fact that von Steuben left the Prussian Army because of accusations that he was a homosexual and that he regularly had sexual relationships with young boys. As a result of the allegations, von Steuben decided to find work as a soldier elsewhere. Thanks to the help of Benjamin Franklin (who greatly embellished von Steuben's credentials) von Steuben was given the responsibility of training the Continental Army while at Valley Forge.
Von Steuben was accompanied to Valley Forge by his "handsome" 17-year-old secretary, which added fuel to the speculation that he was indeed a homosexual and a boy lover. A few of the men in the Continental Army were even leery of von Steuben, feeling that he had homosexual leanings. Needless to say, this made things difficult for von Steuben, especially in the sexually intolerant 18th century.
Despite a huge language barrier and the homosexual allegations (which most historical consensus agrees is probably true), von Steuben was effectively able to instill a high level of discipline into the Continental Army, which greatly improved their performance on the battle field.