Valley Forge FAQs

Baron von Steuben?

Q.I heard rumors in college that Von Steuben was not a baron but a enlisted man that deserted and fled to the colonies. There was no Von Steuben baroney.
SGT Thomas j. Preston, Natick, MA

A.There are a couple of things with the name of Baron von Steuben that you could consider different:

  1. The "von" was added to the family name in 1708 by Steubens grandfather — Augustin Steube (a minister with the German Reformed Church).
  2. Steuben was baptised with the name "Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben" which he changed to "Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand"
  3. The title of Baron (Freiherr) was given to him in 1764 after becoming chamberlain (Hofsmarschall) at the petty court of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. [He had been in service in the military but was dismissed in 1763 for unknown reasons with the rank of Captain.]
Steuben came to the colonies via French aid. His credentials were "beefed up," so to speak after meeting Benjamin Franklin in France. He had royal connections in his homeland and had been part of the General Staff during the Seven Years War — serving even diplomatically in Russia at times. His military experience was very significant — the outcome of which could be seen via the Continental Army after Valley Forge!

SAS, Courtesy The Valley Forge Historical Society

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