Von Steuben

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The story of General George Washington is quite an amazing one. He was, hands down, the most important figure in the revolution and independence of this country. He stuck it out when things were bleak. In fact, there was a period of time when Washington was the Head General of a group of states which didn’t even have an army and wasn’t even, officially, a country. When his army appeared, it was made up of men from various state militias who could barely march and had no clue about what they should do on a battlefield. The first few attempts to fight found these raw recruits very often running for their lives.

But there’s a guy you may have never heard of that turned it around. In the winter of 1778 General Baron Von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge. He was appalled at what passed for an army that slouched around in the snow. With Washington’s permission, he selected 100 men whom he made into a model company He habitually began instructions before dawn, drilling his select troops twice daily. The sight of an officer of rank and title performing the routine of a drill-sergeant was curiously regarded by his shabby audience and his antics soon became the best show in town. Unable to speak English, Steuben wielded a musket and pantomimed the manual of arms. He soon memorized basic commands in English and barked them phonetically to his trainees. It was frustrating for him and his troops but Steuben’s progress in establishing a uniform system of maneuvers and discipline proved nothing short of miraculous. Once trained, members of Steuben’s select Guard in turn schooled other troops in basic military procedures. In a sense, they became graduates of the first American military academy. In a few short weeks, his drills were being practiced by large units of the army.

And the result was that Washington’s troops began to stand their ground and, by the end of the war, were considered to be the equal of their British counterparts. What made the difference? Discipline. It’s the path to growth.

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