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Gen. Friedrich von Steuben – America’s Gay Revolutionary War Hero

Today in America, statehouses controlled by the New Right continues to erase LGBTQ people and their history by legalizing LGBTQ censorship in classrooms and public libraries.  They are fueled by Christian Nationalists ideology and “extremist hate groups,” like Moms for Liberty who are ramping up their political pressure campaigns to erase the lives and stories of LGBTQ Americans being taught under the guise of parental rights.

They’d all  benefit from going back to school and learning about our nation’s full history themselves.  Like the simple fact that, if it wasn’t for an openly gay man, Gen. Friedrich von Steuben, in all likelihood the Revolutionary War would have been lost; there would be no America; and they’d have no liberty at all.

Related post: “In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776/Incongruous, July 4, 2022”

(Portrait of Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, by Charles Willson Peale)

Sadly, most of us probably never heard of Gen. Friedrich von Steuben in history class, and if we did, it’s a safe bet we weren’t told he was an openly gay man.  It’s no surprise that a significant piece of LGBTQ American history dating back to the Revolutionary War has been “swept into the closet.”  What is surprising is Gen. von Steuben was so pivotal and vital, that without him, there probably would not be a Story of America at all.

In 1778, openly gay, Prussian military expert, Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben joined George Washington’s Revolutionary Army without pay.  Stepping in at Valley Forge, von Steuben turned the ragtag, colonial patriots into the Continental Army trained with discipline to fight in battle and win.

Von Steuben is credited with instilling the military essentials of drills, tactics, and discipline which he later drafted in a drill manual.  Not speaking English, it was written in French and translated by aide-de-camp, Alexander Hamilton and Nathanael Greene into Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States.  Commonly referred to as the Blue Book, it served as the standard drill manual for the US military for nearly a century.

During the final years of the Revolutionary War, Von Steuben served as George Washington’s Chief of Staff.  Washington rewarded von Steuben for his service with a house at Valley Forge.  He shared his home with two men, including Gen. Benjamin Walker who lived with him through the end of his life.  Von Steuben’s Will has been characterized as a love letter to Walker in which he described their “extraordinarily intense emotional relationship.”

Even though they tried to keep it from us, we’ve always known LGBTQ people are an integral part of the American Story.  But, we can take pride in knowing our proper place in its history is next to George Washington, Father of our Country, who did not care that his right-hand man was homosexual.

Related post: “What, to the LGBTQ, Is the 4th of July?”

Baron Von Steuben was laid to rest in the “Sacred Grove” in Remsen, NY, in 1804.  Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt established the site as a memorial state park in 1931 and is today a National Historic Park.

 

For a more in-depth profile of Baron von Steuben and his role in American history please read

“The Gay Man Who Saved The American Revolution” 
“LGBT History Month: Baron von Steuben”

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