[AMERICAN REVOLUTION]. STEUBEN, Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus, Baron von (1730-1794), General, Continental Army. Letter signed ("Steuben Maj: Genl") to Robert Smith, Richmond, [Virginia], 2 February 1781. 1 page, folio (12 7/8 x 8¼ in), browned, edges worn, irregular piece of bottom right corner missing (not affectting text), framed.
BARON VON STEUBEN'S TOBACCO, FOR THE VIRGINIA CAMPAIGN
Shortly before preparing his men to oppose British operations in Virginia, Steuben writes to a merchant in Philadelphia to secure a supply of snuff and tobacco: "As you have already obliged me on several occasions I will trouble you once more, and request you to send me as soon as possible, six bottles of best Manuba snuff & ten pounds of best smoking Tobacco. You will be pleased to deliver these Articles to Colo Pettit, & recommend him to transmit them to me with all possible dispatch."
In 1781, Steuben was sent with a command of 450 soldiers to oppose British operations below Richmond. His small force fought desperately to delay the advance of enemy forces under the traitor Benedict Arnold. Although the British managed to advance to the outskirts of Richmond, Steuben managed to successfully hold the city until the arrival of forces under the Marquis de Lafayette on 30 April, 1781.
The man who styled himself Friedrich William Augustus Henry Ferdinand, Baron Von Steuben (1730-1794), joined the American army in February 1777, at Valley Forge, carrying letters of recommendation from Franklin and Silas Deane, who had been told that he had served as aide-de-camp and quartermaster general to Frederick the Great. That he was a simple soldier of fortune, had held no rank higher than captain, and was not entitled to the "von," serves to render his critical contributions to the American cause all the more remarkable. He was, as Christopher Ward writes "one of God's best gifts to America in its struggle for liberty" (War of the Revolution, 2:551). Like Washington, von Steuben asked to serve as a volunteer, requesting only that necessary expenses be reimbursed. Von Steuben was named Inspector General in charge of training the army, for which he produced a clear, practical manual of drill regulations (written in French, translated by John Laurens and polished by Alexander Hamilton, published 1776), instituted a general drill program and instituted a rigorous training program for the tattered Continental army, instructing them in bayonet use, marching and maneuvers. That training had almost immediate results, vividly displayed at Monmouth, when the Continentals stood their ground in the face of repeated British bayonet charges. Steuben continued to render invaluable services to Washington's army, and assisted with the siege operations at Yorktown. After the war, Steuben was granted citizenship and a tract of land in upstate New York.
Steuben LSs are uncommon. According to American Book Prices Current, only five have been offered for sale in the last 25 years.