WASHINGTON, George. Autograph letter signed (G:o Washington") as Commander-in-Chief, to Colonel Theodorick Bland (1742-1790), Head Quarters [Newburgh, N.Y.], 9 July 1782. 1½ pages, folio (11 7/8 x 7 1/8 in.), a few light stains, piece at top corner torn away and patched with loss of several letters in three words, tiny chip to one edge.
WASHINGTON'S PERSONAL PLEA TO A VIRGINIA CONGRESSMAN ON BEHALF OF BARON VON STEUBEN
Washington, writing to Bland, a veteran now serving as a Virginia delegate to the Continental Congress, emphatically endorses a recent application for half-pay (to which all officers were nominally entitled) on behalf of Baron Von Steuben, inspector general of the Continental Army.
"This letter will be presented to you by Majr. Genl. Baron de Steuben, who finding himself in a disagreeable situation has made a representation to Congress, expecting, that that Honble Body will relieve him from present distress, and place him - especially with respect to half pay - upon a more permanent footing than it appears to be with him at present, having (being a Foreigner) no state to resort to as other Officers have. The Baron's representation is such, and must speak for itself; I have only to add that the United States are exceedingly indebted to him for the advantages which they have de[rived] from his Zeal, a[bilities] & experience - and that I should be happy to see him satisfied as far as it can be done consistent with public justice which is all I am persuaded he aims at. With great esteem & regard & with best Compliments to Mrs. Bland if with you..."
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 shone 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, but by 1782, with the collapse of continental currency, Von Steuben's financial situation had become perilous, and he was forced to petition Congress for relief. After the war, Steuben was granted citizenship and a tract of land in upstate New York. The same day as this letter, Washington had written to Steuben in a private letter, praising his contributions to the cause (see Writings, ed. J.C. Fitzpatrick, 24:412-413).
Not in Writings, ed. J.C. Fitzpatrick.