Saturday, August 20, 2011

Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730-1794), George Washington's Chief of Staff from Prussia

Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Steuben on horse

Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben

Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben

"Major General Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus, Baron von Steuben," oil on canvas, by the American artist Ralph Earl. 49 3/4 in. x 41 3/8 in. Yale University Art Gallery, gift of Mrs. Paul Moore in memory of her nephew Howard Melville Hanna, Jr., B.S. 1931. Courtesy of Yale University, New Haven, Conn

Picture of Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben statue at Valley Forge. Photographed by Olessi

Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand von Steuben (born Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben) was born in the fortress town of Magdeburg on September 17, 1730, a son of Royal Prussian Engineer, Lt. Baron Wilhelm von Steuben, and his wife, Elizabeth von Jagvodin. He entered the Prussian army in 1746 as lance-corporal. Major Friederich von Steuben became a general staff officer and aide-de-camp to Frederick the Great in 1761 during the Seven Years' War and was wounded in battle on the Russian front. After the demobilization of 1763, he secured the post of Grand Marshall in the court of the Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. In 1769 he was awarded the Order of Fidelity, an honorary knighthood, by the Margrave of Baden. French War Minister, Count de St. Germain, introduced him to American ambassador, Benjamin Franklin, who arranged his passage to the United States. Baron von Steuben offered his services "as a Volunteer" to the American Congress in December 1777 and is best remembered for organizing and training the Continental troops at Valley Forge. He was commissioned Inspector-General on May 5, 1778. He retired from military service in March 1784. Major-General Baron von Steuben died at Remsen, Oneida
There is no doubt in my mind that the Steuben House still graces the willowy banks of the Hackensack only because of a vague but very real association with its namesake: the legendary Prussian Drillmaster, Baron von Steuben. The image of him gruffly instructing a dispirited and tattered citizen-soldiery on the snowy wastes of Valley Forge has filtered through the imagination of many a schoolchild and become engraved in our national iconography. Regrettably Steuben’s association with this historic property can not be neatly encapsulated in modern "sound-bites". The matter has been hopelessly muddled both by wishful thinking and by dour skepticism. How many times have I heard that the Baron "never took possession of the property’ or even worse, that he "turned his nose up at it!" In fact, the Steuben House may have been Steuben’s best and perhaps only true reward for services rendered during our Revolutionary struggle.

The Bergen County Historical Society’s interest in the Baron’s estate at New Bridge was first expressed by William Alexander Linn who read a paper devoted to this topic at the Society’s annual dinner on Washington’s Birthday, 1904. Linn’s research is entirely honest and his text well worth reading today. Matters took a turn for the worse, however, in January of 1931, when Mrs. Frances A. Westervelt, dean of local historians and curator of the Bergen County Historical Society, publicly proclaimed that the "Steuben House Was Not Steuben’s." It was her solemn opinion that the old Zabriskie homestead at New-Bridge was not built until after Steuben’s death in 1794 and therefore had no association with him. She called a bill pending in the NJ legislature to provide $75,000 for the reconstruction and maintenance of the Steuben House "a ridiculous waste of money." One of Mrs. Westervelt’s claims was that the gambrel roof did not appear in Bergen County until the early nineteenth century. Fortunately, her opinions were contested and thoroughly refuted by Miss Saretta Demarest of Teaneck who "offered masses of historical documents for proof as well as citing various features in the construction of the building which, she said, leaves no doubt as to the date of its erection." Her refutation was printed in the Bergen Evening Record on Tuesday, March 31, 1931.

At least a part of our fascination with this ancient landmark arises from a natural curiosity we have about the Revolutionary hero for whom it is named. I mentioned earlier that most school children encounter the Baron von Steuben briefly in their "social science" textbooks. Now I can readily see how a young student, condemned to seemingly endless hours of practicing multiplication-tables and cursive script, would easily be impressed by the image of an unyielding drill-sergeant. But otherwise I think we tend to prefer heroes that charge up hills with a saber clenched in their teeth to even the most efficient Inspector-generals. In a sense, General Steuben is the "Father of the American Military." The training and organization he brought to the army contribute substantially however discreetly to the final victory. In kitchen terms, he was the yeast that made the bread rise!

But there is more to it than that. First of all, until the latter half of the present century, Americans were somewhat ambivalent to "standing armies" and "professional soldiers" which many regarded as hazardous to the health of a democratic taxpayer. Secondly, I don’t think that the idea of regimentation blends readily with the American creed of individuality.

Lastly and honestly, Baron von Steuben can be easily mistaken for the model of a Prussian militarist. Having fought two World Wars against Germany in this century, General Steuben’s reputation may have suffered from the same anxieties in the American imagination that turned sauerkraut into Liberty Cabbage. And however high-minded his approach to the Congress in 1778, we must accept the fact that General Steuben was a soldier of fortune. But we must also accept the fact that he contributed immeasurably to the victory of our Revolutionary arms.

Friedrich Wilhelm Rudolph Gerhard Augustin von Steuben was born in Magdeburg, a fortress-town on the Elbe River. The birth registry of the local German Reformed church records his birth on September 17, 1730, as the son of Lt. Baron Wilhelm Augustin von Steube, a Royal Prussian Engineer-Lieutenant and his wife, Elizabeth Maria Justina Dorothea von Jagvodin. In later life, Baron Steuben was heard to say that he was not a Prussian by birth, but that his family owned a small estate at Weilheim, on the borders of Baden and Wurtemburg. His home was therefore in the historic region known as Swabia, situated in southwest Germany on the borders of Switzerland and Austria, which also included the Prussian province of Hohenzollern. The family’s claim to nobility was concocted by Steuben’s grandfather, Augustin von Steuben, a country parson, who counterfeited a pedigree by conveniently using his surname to claim descent from an obscure branch of the ancient noble house of Steuben. This was done to further his own ecclesiastical prospects and to open careers in either the church or the military to his children. Such dishonest and designing behavior prefigured the modern art of padding a resume with faked academic credentials. Evidently it worked, since four sons of Augustin von Steuben and his wife, Countess Charlotte Dorothea von Effern, entered the Prussian army. Steuben’s father, Wilhelm Augustin von Steuben, was a member of the engineering corps at a time when not much attention was paid by Central European armies to this particular branch of the service.

The soldier-king Frederick William I lavished his attention upon the Prussian army, turning it into an effective instrument of war by incessant drilling. He selected Augustin Wilhelm von Steuben from his corps of engineers to assist Anna Leopoldovna, Empress and Czarina of Russia, in the War of the Polish Succession (1733-1735). Friedrich Baron von Steuben thus spent several years of his infancy in Poland, in the Crimea and at Kronstadt on the Gulf of Finland. With the death of Frederick Wilhelm I on May 31, 1740, his son Frederick II was crowned King of Prussia.

When Emperor Charles VI died on October 20, 1740, he was succeeded by his daughter Maria Theresa, Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Bohemia and Hungary. Despite promises to support her accession, Frederick marched 40,000 Prussian troops into the Austrian Duchy of Silesia on December 1, 1740, under the pretext of protecting its inhabitants and providing “for the tranquillity of that duchy, which is equally necessary to us.” He thus precipitated the major European powers into the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748). King Frederick entered the Silesian provincial capital of Breslau (now Wroclaw), situated on the River Oder, on January 3, 1741, to a friendly welcome from its inhabitants. An Imperial army of 16,000 Austrians, Croats, Serbs, Moravians and Bohemians, commanded by Field-Marshall Wilhelm Neipperg, marched in snowy weather and relieved the beseiged fortress at Neisse on April 5, 1741. Frederick, in hurried pursuit, caught up with his antagonists five days later near the village of Mollwitz, where well-trained Prussian infantry, using a three-ranked firing line for the first time, won the day. On August 10, 1741, Prussian soldiers occupied Breslau. By the Convention of Klein-Schnellendorfn, signed October 9, 1741, the defeated Hapsburgs conceded — for the time being, at least — the Prussian conquest of Silesia. On October 31, 1741, the Austrian garrison at Neisse surrendered to Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Dessau. Royal Prussian Engineer-Lieutenant Wilhelm Augustin von Steuben was cited for meritorious service during the bombardment and seige of Neisse. The Steuben family then took up residence in Breslau, where Frederick Wilhelm von Steuben was schooled by Jesuits. King Frederick led an allied army of Prussian, Saxon and French troops into Moravia the following spring. After turning back the Austrians at Chotusitz, Frederick achieved a negotiated peace in June 1742.

In August 1744, after a brief interlude of peace, Frederick invaded the Austrian crownland of Bohemia, tramping his army across neutral Saxony and laying siege to Prague, the second largest city in the Hapsburg;s domain, forcing its surrender on September 16, 1744. At fourteen years of age, Steuben accompanied his father on the campaign. Confronted by a strong opponent and facing winter inhostile country, Frederick withdrew across the Elbe River with the Austrians in determined pursuit. In harsh winter cold and deep snow, suffering heavy losses to exposure, the Prussians straggled back across the mountains into Silesia, from whence they had come.

Frederick rebuilt his army for an anticipated assault by the Austrians come spring. After a night march, the Prussian army fell upon and routed the Austro-Saxon army at Hohenfriedberg (now Dabromierz), on June 4, 1745, ending their hope of regaining Silesia. Despite the advantage of tactical surprise, the Austrian army was again defeated at the town of Soor in northeastern Bohemia on September 30, 1745. The Austro-Saxon armies attempted to recoup their losses with a winter campaign into the heart of Prussian Brandenburg, but Frederick forestalled their intentions with a pincer movement against Saxon outposts and supply depots. A Prussian force, commanded by Hereditary Prince Leopold I (“Old Dessauer”), soundly defeated the Saxons at the battle of Kesseldorf, on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Dresden, on December 15th. After the capitulation of her Saxon allies, Empress Maria Theresa was forced to accept the cession of Silesia to Prussia by the Treaty of Dresden on December 25, 1745. She prepared for future retaliation by securing an alliance with Czarina Elizabeth of Russia in 1746. Completing an alliance with Bavaria in June 1746, the Austrians turned their attention to the French, eventually reversing their earlier losses in northern Italy.

In seizing Silesia, King Frederick had upset the balance of power in central Europe, thrusting Prussia forward as a dangerous competitor with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Fully realizing that wars to sustain the balance of power in Europe would be wars of shifting alliances, King Frederick understood that he could be easily overwhelmed by the combination of powerful neighbors. Prussia’s survival would depend upon its military ability to settle the issue on one front, concentrating its resources against one opponent at a time and knocking them out of the fight quickly; this called for an offensive strategy. He therefore turned his attention to “building an integrated, front-loaded military system” capable of “winning immediate, decisive victories.” This required the development of operational speed and maneuver. To this end, Frederick experimented with the linear system of engagement, but improved upon the processional method of deployment, allowing the two battalions of a regiment to form a line of battle in less than fifteen minutes.

By the time that sixteen-year-old Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben enlisted as a lance-corporal in 1746, he had already witnessed his father’s several military campaigns. Schooled in mathematics and the practical sciences, Steuben no doubt endured the drudgery of peacetime service in planning and preparing fortifications. But war was not long in coming. A superficial truce was achieved by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, as the great competing European powers manuevered for diplomatic advantage over their adversaries. Wenzel Anton Fürst von Kaunitz, Austrian State-Chancellor and ambassador to the French court from 1750 to 1753, achieved the diplomatic coup of his age by negotiating the alliance of France and Austria, hereditary adversaries. Frederick was his own worst enemy; the Treaty of Westminster, concluded in January 1756, bound Prussia and England to mutual assistance and military cooperation in the event of invasion, but it propelled the French into Kaunitz’s embrace. France and Austria concluded a defensive alliance on May 1, 1756. Prussia was suddenly enveloped by powerful enemies, having only England (with the Continental interests of its Hanoverian king) as an ally.

Frederick the Great touched off the Seven Years’ War by his invasion of Saxony on August 29, 1756. Virtually unopposed, his troops marched into the captial of Dresden on September 9. Maintaining the initiative, Frederick took his army into Bohemia on September 30. At Lobositz, Austrian Field-Marshall Maximilian von Browne skillfully challenged the Prussians, inflicting severe losses before withdrawing from the field. The Austrians, however, were unable to rescue the Saxons in their Camp at Pirna and on October 14, 1756, the Saxon army surrendered.

On January 10, 1757, the Imperial Diet declared war on Prussia. King Frederick again seized the initiative and invaded Bohemia, this time in force. The Austrian army, now commanded by Archduke Charles, withdrew to the provincial capital of Prague. Battle was joined on June 6 by armies of nearly equal size; the Austrians, however, holding the advantage of a prepared defensive position. Frederick decided upon a flanking maneuver that stalled in heavy fighting. An opening, however, was found in the enemy’s line and Prussians poured through, throwing the Austrians into full retreat. The Austrians lost nearly 14,000 men killed, wounded or captured, but Frederick lost 11,740 killed or wounded. Steuben was twice wounded at the Battle of Prague. Frederick attempted to force the city’s capitulation by heavy bombardment. When the Prussians were beaten back at Kolin (now in the Czech Republic) on June 18, 1757, they abandoned the siege of Prague and withdrew into northern Bohemia.

Dark clouds were gathering on the eastern front as a Russian army marched towards East Prussia in May 1757. On August 30, Field-Marshal Hans von Lehwaldt surprised the numerically superior Russian column at Gross-Jägersdorf. Though defeated, the Prussians were able to stem the Russian advance and save the isolated Baltic province from being immediately overwhelmed.

To the northwest, William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, attempting to blunt a French advance into Hanover, was narrowly defeated on July 25 at Hastenbeck. The French seized Hamburg and Bremen, pinning the British expeditionary force against the North Sea. Cumberland capitulated on September 8. Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick arrived to confront the French with little more than a token force. Surprisingly, the over-extended French commander, Duc de Richelieu, sated by the plunder of Hanover, asked for an armistice until spring. In the first weeks of September, Frederick led his army to the west on an unprecedented forced march — covering 170 miles — only to learn of Cumberland’s surrender. Austrian Prince Joseph von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, commanding about 30,000 Imperial German troops on the upper Rhine, was reinforced by a French force of 24,000 men under Marshal Charles de Soubise. Together they advanced to meet the Prussians. Lieutenant-General Friedrich Wilhelm von Seydlitz, commanding the Prussian cavalry, opened the fray with a resounding charge that thundered down upon and routed advancing squadrons of Imperial horseman and infantry. French infantry now marched into a killing ground as Prussian infantry, artillery and cavalry, deployed in an obtuse angle, poured shot, canister and musket volleys into their ranks. Seydlitz’s cavalry broke the ranks of Franconian and French infantry, sending them pell-mell in retreat.

Steuben became aide-de-camp to the famous dare-devil General Johan von Mayr, organizing eight companies of elite light-infantry skirmishers in Silesia, known as Mayr Free Battalion. Under command of General von Lestwitz, First Lieutenant Frederich von Steuben and his regiment were at the vanguard of the Prussian army during the battle of Rossbach on November 5, 1757. Though outnumbered at least two-to-one, the Prussians forced the rout of French and Imperial troops and inflicted hravy casualties: five thousand killed or wounded and another five thousand captured; the Prussians lost about 550 killed or wounded.

While Fredericks met the enemy in the weastern theatre, the Austrians invaded Silesia and beseiged Prussian strongholds: the fortress at Swednitz surrended on November 13 and Breslau on November 25. King Frederick quickly led his army towards Breslau, encountering a superior enemy force at the village of Leuthen on December 4. The superbly trained Prussian infantry outmanuveured and soundly defeated their opponents, forcing them to abandon the province. The large Austrian garrison at Breslau surrendered on December 20.

The Russians overran East Prussia in January 1758. In May, Frederick attempted unsuccessfully to seize the Austrian fortress at Olmütz. At Zorndorf, on August 25, 1758, he surprised the Russian army. By ferocious assaults and the most desparate fighting, the Prussians overcame the invaders and forced their withdrawal. Frederick returned to Saxony. On October 14, 1758, a vastly superior Austrian army defeated the Prussians at Hochkirch.

The Russians invaded Brandenburg in July 1759. King Frederick tried to prevent their conjunction with the Austrians, confronting the invaders under a scorching sun at Kunersdorf, (now Kunowice, on the River Oder) on August 12, 1759. After a heavy and deadly effective artillery barrage, Prussian and Silesian infantry stormed a hilltop Russian position. But then they pushed forward on a narrow front against the strongest concentration of the combined Russian and Austrian army. In furious but futile assaults, the Prussians, short of ammunition, exhausted by the heat and severely depleted by casualties, broke and ran. Both sides suffered about 19,000 casualties. Steuben was again wounded at Kunersdorf. Although the Austrians captured Dresden, they and their Russians allies failed to take advantage of their victory. The Prussians spent a bitter winter on starvation rations.

Upon Mayr’s death, Steuben became adjutant to Lieutenant-General Johann von Hülsen, a division commander under the King’s brother, Prince Henry. Stalemate prevailed on every front in the spring and summer of 1760, but the Austrians captured a small screening force in Silesia and set out to reconquer the province, stronghold by stronghold, capturing Glatz, Liegnitz and Parchwitz. A Russian army, some 60,000 strong, marched toward Silesia to complete its conquest. Prince Henry now marched his army westward to join the battle for Silesia. Steuben was enaged in the battle of Liegnitz (in Silesia) on August 15, 1760, where Frederick’s troops, exhausted and outnumbered, defeated a poorly led Austrian army and was thus able to prevent the union of the Russian and Austrian armies. On October 9, 1760, a combined force of Russian and Austrian light cavalry and grenadiers captured Berlin and looted Frederick’s palace at Charlottenburg. Frederick responded by marching his army towards Saxony, engaging the enemy at Torgau on the Elbe River. A frontal assault by Prussian grenadiers withered under heavy artillery fire, though the second wave crested the Austrian positions before being repulsed. Lieutenant-General Johann von Hülsen rallied remants of the earlier assault troops succeeded in forcing the Austrian’s withdrawal. The final cost of the victory, however, was frightful: 17,000 Prussian soldiers were killed, wounded or missing.

The Russian and Austrian armies joined forces in August 1761, and Frederick led his army, now outnumbered better than two-to-one, onto good defensive ground near the fortress of Schweidnitz, where his engineers prepared field fortifications. Unable or unwilling to coordinate an assault upon the Prussian defenses, the allies departed on September 9. Shortly after Frederick marched his army towards winter quarters at Niesse, the Austrians captured Schweidntiz with its great horde of munitions and supplies.

In 1761, Lieutenant von Steuben was transferred to the general staff of General Knoblauch (Knobloch). As Knoblauch’s adjutant, his brigade formed part of Lieutenant-General Count Platen’s corps who, in 1761, When the Russians beseiged the Baltic port of Kolberg in September 1761, Frederick ordered Count Platen’s corps of 10,000 light infantry and cavalry to raid the Russian supply depot at Posen. They succeeded in destroying a Russian train of ammunition and provisions, routing 4,000 Russian troops and marching another 1,900 prisoners to Landsberg on the Warthe. Steuben’s father, by now a major of engineers at Küstrin, erected the bridge across the Warthe which enabled Count Palten to cross. Making a deep penetration into enemy territory, Platen’s corps was surrounded by a superior Russion force at Treptow, late in 1761, and surrendered. Steuben reportedly negotiated the articles of capitulation which allowed men in ranks to retain their equipment of rations and clothing and officers their swords. The port of Kolsberg capitulated on December 16, 1761, completing the Russian subjugation of East Pomerania. Captain Steuben was among fifty-eight Prussian officers taken as prisoners of war to St. Petersburg. Czar Peter III, who ascended the Russian throne upon the death of Frederick’s implacable foe, Czarina Elizabeth, on January 6, 1762, used Steuben as an envoy to King Frederick. The new Czar, an ardent admirer of Frederick the Great, immediately concluded an armistice with Prussia in July 1762, restoring all captured territory. Petter III was deposed on July 18, but the Russians were effectively out of the war.

Brigademajor Steuben returned to serve as staff captain and aide-de-camp to Frederick the Great and as military attaché with the Prussian embassy to the star-crossed Czar Peter III. Steuben was one of thirteen staff officers personally selected for special training in military science by King Frederick the Great (who was considered the greatest military genius of his age). Steuben was employed as deputy-quartermaster to his old regiment under Von Lestwitz. In this capacity, he personally served in the King’s retinue during the seige of Schweidnitz, twenty-eight miles southwest of Breslau in Silesia, whose surrender on October 9, 1762, proved a decisive Prussian victory. The Austrians suffered another defeat at Frieberg in Saxony on October 29, this time at the hands of Prince Henry. Peace negotiations opened on December 30, 1762. On February 15, 1763, the Treaty of Hubertsusburg ended the Seven Years’ War. Capatin Steuben was granted a canonry in Havelberg Cathedral, paying an annual stipend of 1,200 German florins.

With the Peace of Hubertsburg, Captain von Steuben was discharged from the staff of General Friedrich Wilhelm von Gaudy, commander of the regiment of Salmuth, in the general demobilization of 1763. His career apparently scuttled by the dislike of General Anhalt, Steuben later said that: "I have nothing to be ashamed of for my part in the war, though it may be that an inconsiderate step and perhaps an unreconcilable enemy destroyed the expectation of a better reward." Through noble patronage of Prince Henry and others, he found employment as chamberlain or Grand Marshall in the household bodyguard of the bankrupt Catholic prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen, a small princupality of southern Germany, lying northwest of the Danube River, on the borders of Baden and Würtemberg, paying a salary of 1,200 German florins. He also was commissioned a Colonel of the Swabian Circle, making him, in a sense, honorary commander of the local militia. Most portraits of Baron von Steuben show him proudly wearing "a splendid medal of gold and diamonds.?" This impressive ornament was a Star of the Order of Fidelity, the outward sign of an honorary knighthood conferred upon Hofmarschall von Steuben by William, Margrave of Baden-Durlach, in 1769.

Hoping to improve his station in life and relieve his many debts, Steuben explored various prospects for securing a lucrative government appointment or, failing that, a remunerative marriage. He journeyed to Paris seeking a French military commission and met with the new French War Minister, Count de St. Germain. The French government was then engaged (more or less discreetly) in supplying military assistance to American revolutionaries, but many supplies had been squandered in America by a lack of order and discipline among the ill-trained rebels. Sending French military advisors to America would have constituted an open breach of neutrality and St. Germain immediately recognized the potential value of a former Prussian staff-officer to his cause. Appropriately, he forwarded his visitor to the American ministers in France, Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane; here he also became acquainted with Peter S. Du Ponceau, only seventeen years of age, who spoke English fluently and who served as interpreter. Their negotiations, however, soon dead-ended: having no ideological predisposition toward republican uprisings, Steuben was initially disgusted by a congressional prohibition on ministerial guarantees of either high rank, financial rewards or even travel expenses to foreign adventurers. He departed Paris for Rastadt on July 25th. Most timely for the American cause, Steuben’s last hope for advantageous employment by another German principality proved unavailing, and the Baron returned to Paris and entered into the confidence of the American ministers. They neatly conspired to inflate his resume by conferring the rank of "Lieutenant-general" in the Prussian army upon him. The French minister loaned him money enough to outfit himself properly for his "rank" and to meet his travel expenses. Casting for his fortune, Baron von Steuben, Knight of the Order of Fidelity, boarded a French supply-ship under an assumed name and departed for the New World. Facing storms, mutiny and fire aboard his gunpowder-laden transport, the freshly minted ?Lieutenant-general,? his private secretary, Peter Du Ponceau, and three French adjutants, braved a two-month ocean voyage from Merseilles and gratefully disembarked at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on December 1, 1777. Their first communication ashore was news of Burgyne’s defeat at Saratoga.

Steuben proceeded to Boston to present his letters of introduction and recommendation to Congressman John Hancock. Here he met Samuel and John Adams. On January 9, 1778, General Washington replied to Steuben, asking him to proceed to York, Pennsylvania, where he might present his credentials to Congress and receive their decision upon his offer of service. His Boston host, John Hancock, outfitted him with a sleigh and horses for the arduous overland journey to Pennsylvania.

In February 1778,he was interviewed by a Congressional committee of five members, chaired by Dr. Witherspoon. In more private interviews with key politicians, however, Steuben believed that Congress employed him with the promise of ample indemnification in the event that his services proved instrumental to American victory. Congress favorably received the committee’s report and ordered Steuben to join the army at their winter cantonment.

Steuben’s Offer of Service to Congress
Portsmouth, December 6, 1777.

Honorable Gentlemen:
The honor of serving a respectable Nation, engaged in the noble enterprise of defending its rights and Liberty, is the only motive that brought me over to this Continent. I ask neither riches nor titles. I am come here from the remotest end of Germany at my own expense, and have given up an honorable and lucrative rank; I have made no condition with your Deputies in France, nor shall I make any with you. My only ambition is to serve you as a Volunteer, to deserve the confidence of your General in Chief, and to follow him in all his operations, as I have done during seven campaigns with the King of Prussia. Two and a twenty years past at such a school seem to give me a right of thinking myself in the number of experienced Officers; and if I am Possessor of some talents in the Art of War, they should be much dearer to me, if I could employ them in the service of a Republick, such as I hope soon to see America. I should willingly purchase at my whole Blood’s Experience the honor of seeing one Day my Name after those of the defenders of your Liberty. Your gracious acceptance will be sufficient for me, and I ask no other favour than to be received among your Officers. I dare hope you will agree to my Request, that you will be so good as to send me your Order to Boston, where I shall expect them and accordingly take convenient Measures.
I have the honor to be, with respect, honorable Gentlemen
Your most obedient and very humble servant

Congress Replies.
January 14, 1778

Whereas the Baron Steuben, a lieutenant general in foreign service, has, in a most disinterested and heroic manner, offered his services to these States in the quality of a volunteer.

Resolved, that the President present the thanks of Congress in behalf of these United States, to the Baron Steuben, for the zeal he has shown for the cause of America, and the disinterested tender he has been pleased to make of his military talents; and inform him, that Congress cheerfully accept of his service as a volunteer in the army of these states, and wish him to repair to General Washington’s quarters as soon as convenient.

On February 23, 1778, the tattered Continentals at Valley forge were treated to the wintry specter of a stocky fur-robed Prussian Baron seated in a sleigh, petting his Italian greyhound named Azor, while dragging a splendid entourage of Negro grooms and drivers, Boston servants, a French cook, French aides and a military secretary in his wake. Typically, the Baron had staged his grand entrance with borrowed sums.

Washington was painfully aware of the shortcomings of his make-shift army, but his recent prescription for an inspector-generalship had been rendered impalpable by political and military intrigues. Impressed by the Baron’s military credentials but sensitive to the xenophobic jealousies of his staff, Washington assigned his distinguished volunteer to the post of acting Inspector-General.

The professional Prussian trooper was supposedly appalled and nearly discouraged by the sight of naked troops bearing rusty muskets. He shuddered at the pervasive indifference to proper military conduct and simple sanitary precautions. Yet, the Prussian army had spent the frigid winter of 1759 under similar circumstances.

His arrival on the scene was truly a god-send: for it was then widely believed that the American army lacked the "order and subordination" necessary to counter the "superior discipline of Howe’s army." The victory at Saratoga, however, had brought an alliance with France, concluded February 6, 1778. On March 17, 1778, General Steuben set out to reform the army by personally training 100 soldiers as 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. Such awkward methods and the clumsy response of his pupils produced such frustration that Steuben invented legendary curses in a curious hybrid of languages!

Whatever the head winds, 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. In testimony to his accomplishments, Washington recommended Baron Steuben as Inspector-general with the rank of major-general on April 30th. He accordingly received his commission on May 5, 1778.

Baron Steuben established the company (actually a battalion) as the tactical unit. Battalions collected to form a thousand-man brigade; two brigades made a division. He also inaugurated a system of administration, establishing a Department of Inspection with two ranks of inspectors: brigade inspectors chosen by field-officers from their own ranks; and, above them, five sub-inspectors with the rank of lieutenant-colonel to superintend the exercise and discipline of the troops and to assist in the execution of field manuevers, especially in battle. Steuben insisted upon monthly inspections of all supplies and ammunition. His inspectors noted the number and condition of the men and the state of their arms and accoutrements, reporting any loss or damage in standardized returns. Thus Steuben instituted such routine paperwork as was necessary to pinpoint accountability for both men and materials. William North recalled one occasion when Baron Steuben, setting the example for his inspectors, spent seven hours with one brigade, composed of three regiments, investigating the excuses for every absebtee, examining with close attention the contents of every cartridge box and knapsack, and the condition of every musket. According to an inspection return of the army submitted to Richard Peters, of the War Department, so thoroughly had Steuben’s reforms corrected waste and misapplication of military supplies that "only three muskets were deficient, and those accounted for." Congress later noted that his reforms "in the department of inspector general, have been the principal cause of introducing and perfecting discipline in our army, and of establishing such a system of economy as produced an extraordinary reduction of expenses".

In training and organizing the Continental troops, Baron von Steuben tailored European military standards to fit his ill-clothed civilian-troopers. John Laurens, a son of the President of Congress then serving on Washington’s staff, recognized Steuben’s genius as "a man profound in the science of war" who was willing and able to adapt "established forms to stubborn circumstances." General von Steuben enhanced the potency of American firepower by simplifying the standard procedure for loading, aiming and shooting musketry. With clockwork precision, succeeding ranks of soldiers could issue a savage and recurrent venom of lead. Furthermore, the army was taught to march and maneuver punctually in orderly masses rather than in cumbersome single-file lines. This promoted the rapid deployment of troops in battle and the development of more effective and reflexive strategies. Since eighteenth century warfare was conducted much like a panoramic human chess-game, these organizational skills were indispensable in gaining the advantage over an opponent.

While at Valley Forge, General Steuben formed a life-long friendship with Captain Benjamin Walker. Born in England, Walker had been trained as an accountant. While a Captain in the Second New York Regiment, he stepped forward on the drill-ground and rescued the Baron in a moment of supreme frustration by offering his services as interpreter, being fluent in French and English. He thus became Steuben’s trusted aide-de-camp. Having an excellent command of French, Benjamin Walker conversed easily with his Prussian superior and managed his correspondence. He served for a time on Washington’s staff. After the war, he settled as a broker in New York City and regularly attended to the Baron’s affairs. He died on January 13, 1818.

Steuben recognized the enormity of his task in turning awkward recruits into steady soldiers and organizing the distribution of armaments and supplies. He resigned himself to a gradual success, building confidence and reforming attitudes as well as skills:

"We have not time to do all. The business is, to give to our troops a relish for their trade, to make them feel a confidence in their own skill. Your officers, following the miserable British sergeant system, would think themselves degraded by an attention to tyhe drill. But the time will come, when there will be a better mode of thinking. Then we will atend to turning out the toes."

The transformation of the Continental troops under Steuben’s supervision was immediately evident as they marched out of their winter cantonment in pursuit of General Howe’s army. Receiving word of the French alliance and the imminent arrival of a French fleet off the American coast, the British army vacuated Philadelphia and retreated across New Jersey toward New York. In the now famous confrontation with the British rear-guard at Monmouth Courthouse, General Charles Lee confused his attacking forces, precipitating a retreat. His report to Washington of the unaccountable confusion and retreat of the American troops under Lee’s command provoked a rude reply from General Lee, for which he later apologized. Steuben rallied the broken left flank of the American army, reformed it while under a cannonade and then marched it calmly back into combat. Colonel ALexander Hamilton spoke for many in the army when he said "he had never known nor conceived the value of military discipline until that day." When the main army marched northward from New Brunswick, while most brigadier-generals were occupied by the court-martial trial of General Lee, Washington temporarily appointed Steuben to conduct one wing of the army to the Hudson River. Recognizing jealousies from native officers, General Washington declined to support Baron Steuben’s request for transfer to the line, but upheld his supremacy as inspector-general to the Continental army against rivals.

Prescribing a rudimentary education in the martial arts of his time, Steuben composed a manual of military regulations (best known as the Blue Book) which soon became the "bible" of the United States Army. Steuben wrote this work in French and had it translated into English by his secretary, Pierre Etienne Duponceau, with the assistance of his loyal aide-de-camp, Captain Benjamin Walker. Alexander Hamilton edited the text while Captain Pierre Charles L’Enfant (who later achieved fame as architect of the National Capital) provided illustrations. Steuben’s "Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States" was endorsed by Congress on March 29, 1779 and was soon adopted as a training guide by most state militias. Steuben’s handbook also imposed a system of regular monthly inspections and instruction, orderly and sanitary encampments and specific job-descriptions. Amidst all of his formulae regulating military life in even its smallest habits, Steuben recognized that officers had to command and not simply demand the respect and obedience of their troops. The Blue Book’s "Instructions for the Captain" listed his military Beatitudes:

A Captain cannot be too careful of the company the state has committed to his charge. He must pay the greatest attention to the health of his men, their discipline, arms, accouterments, ammunition, clothes and necessaries. His first object should be, to gain the love of his men, by treating them with every possible kindness and humanity, inquiring into their complaints, and when well founded, seeing them redressed. He should know every man of his company by name and character. He should often visit those who are sick, speak tenderly to them, see that the public provision, whether of medicine or diet, is duly administered, and procure them besides such comforts and conveniences as are in his power. The attachment that arises from this kind of attention to the sick and wounded, is almost inconceivable; it will moreover be the means of preserving the lives of many valuable men.

In April of 1779, while the army was encamped at Middlebrook, General Steuben acquired a new aide-de-camp, Captain William North (1752-1836). He was a volunteer in 1775, under General Benedict Arnold, in the expedition from Kennebec into Canada. He later commanded a company in Colonel Jackson’s regiment, fought in the battle of Monmouth, and then became an aide-de-camp, life-long friend and advisor to Baron Steuben. After the war, North succeeded Steuben as Inspector-general. He later served as a New York legislator, Speaker of the New York Assembly and as United States Senator from New York under the new Federal Constitution.

Steuben’s desire for a field command was resisted by Washington who knew of the resentment of his officers toward the high placement of foreign soldiers of fortune. While the Continentals spent their bitter winter at Morristown, Major-general von Steuben acted as Washington’s representative to Congress in a review of military policies affecting the recruitment, organization and administration of a national army. He was finally given command of Continental troops and New Jersey militiamen in the field when 6000 British and Hessian soldiers under the command of General Wilhelm von Knyphausen threatened military stores at Morristown in June of 1780. But the stubborn valor of the New Jersey Brigade assisted by their armed countrymen slowed the enemy’s advance. Costly skirmishes at Connecticut Farms, the Rahway Bridge, Springfield and Elizabethtown forced a British withdrawal to Staten Island. Fearing that British operations in New Jersey were a diversion, Washington ordered General Steuben to immediately inspect, reform and strengthen his strategic post at West Point. In the waning embers of the summer of 1780, Steuben made a division commander as Washington advanced his army into Bergen County. During this campaign, Steuben supervised the construction of a blockhouse at Sneden’s Landing and sat on the court-martial of Benedict Arnold’s unfortunate agent, Major John Andre.

On October 23, 1780, General Steuben was sent to Virginia by Washington to assist General Greene in building a credible Southern army. In a state of emergency, he received virtual control of the State troops in Virginia but was undone by the poor showing and unreliability of the local militias that composed the main body of his command. Having rescued military stores under his protection at Point of Forks from British raiders, he was widely criticized for a tactical retreat in the face of superior enemy forces. The vexed Inspector-general cursed his unreliable self-defense forces and state officials in Virginia saying that this was a place where "every farmer is a general, but where nobody wishes to be a soldier." He concluded his war service as a division commander in the siege-trenches surrounding the British at Yorktown where the final victory was earned. It was he who ordered the American flag to be flown above the surrendered British works at Yorktown on October 19, 1781.

Serving as a soldier of fortune, Baron von Steuben hoped to be honorably recompensed for his invaluable services. The sorry state of his personal finances became evident when he had to sell his favorite horse and a set of silver tableware in order to entertain the Allied commanders after their success at Yorktown. Washington made the impoverished Baron a small loan and Steuben departed northward on horseback, his purse nearly empty.

As negotiations in Europe dragged on toward a final settlement of the war, Steuben was occupied by military matters anticipating the withdrawal of British troops. Accepting Washington’s recommendation, Congress sent its Inspector-general on a futile mission to receive possession of British posts on the Canadian frontier in July of 1783. During these long months of watchful waiting, Baron Steuben laid plans for his return to Europe; but the French ministry greeted his requests for compensation and for the award of a high military post with polite indifference. American independence was formally recognized by the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783. The British army evacuated Manhattan in November. General Baron von Steuben attended Washington’s farewell party at Fraunces Tavern on December 4, 1783, and then accompanied the Commander on his journey to Philadelphia for the final settlement of his accounts with Congress. Shortly thereafter, Steuben leased a farmstead on Manhattan known as the "Louvre" which occupied the ground now taken by New York Hospital-Cornell University.

General Washington’s Farewell Token of Sincere Friendship

Annapolis, December 23, 1783
My Dear Baron: Although I have taken frequent opportunities, both in public and private, of acknowledging your zeal, attention and abilities in performing the duties of your office, yet I wish to make use of this last moment of my public life to signify in the strongest terms my entire approbation of your conduct, and to express my sense of the obligations the public is under to you for your faithful and meritorious service.
I beg you will be convinced, my dear Sir, that I should rejoice if it could ever be in my power to serve you more essentially than by expressions of regard and affection. But in the meantime I am persuaded you will not be displeased with this farewell token of my sincere friendship and esteem for you.
This is the last letter I shall ever write while I continue in the service of my country. The hour of my resignation is fixed at twelve this day, after which I shall become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, where I shall be glad to embrace you, and testify the great esteem and consideration, with which I am, my dear Baron, your most obedient and affectionate servant.
George Washington

Discouraged in his hopes of returning to a profitable station in Europe, Major-general von Steuben informed the NJ legislature that he was "anxiously desirous to become a citizen of the State of New Jersey." In recognition of his "many and signal services to the United States of America," state legislators responded on December 23, 1783, by presenting him with the use and emoluments of the confiscated estate of Jan Zabriskie at New-Bridge, provided that the Baron would "hold, occupy and enjoy the said estate in person, and not by tenant." Accordingly, Governor Philemon Dickinson informed the Baron of this legislative gift and related his knowledge of the estate based upon recent inquiries: "there are on the premises an exceeding good House, an excellent barn, together with many useful outbuildings, all of which I am told, want some repairs...there is ..a Grist-mill; a good Orchard, some meadow Ground, & plenty of Wood. The distance from N York by land 15 miles, but you may keep a boat & go from your own door to N York by water — Oysters, Fish & wild fowl in abundance — Possession will be given to you in the Spring, when you will take a view of the premises."

The Governor regretted that the legislature had only vested Steuben with life-rights and not outright title to the property, saying: "This not, my dear Baron, equal either to my wishes & your mind, but tis the best I could probably obtain — You’ll observe by the Act, that you are to possess it, but not tenant it out, I am ashamed of this clause but it could not be avoided — This may easily be obviated, by keeping a bed & Servants there & visiting the premises now & then — but I flatter myself, from the representation which has been made to me, that it will be your permanent residence; its vicinity to N York, must render it agreeable to you."

Under these terms, it is likely that the Prussian Inspector-general contemplate taking up residence at New-Bridge. His biographer, Friedrich Kapp (writing in 1859) says only that "Steuben, when informed that Zabriskie, in consequence of that confiscation, was left without means, did not accept the gift, and interposed in behalf of Zabriskie." Unfortunately, the documented facts do not square with this kindly interpretation. For on January 24, 1784, a claim for compensation from the British government was filed by John J. Zabriskie, "now a refugee in the City of New York" for his former homestead at New-Bridge which "is now possessed under this Confiscation Law." He described his estate as: "One large Mansion House, seventy feet long and forty feet wide, containing twelve rooms built with stone, with Outhouses consisting of a bake House, Smoke House, Coach House, and two large Barns, and a Garden, situated at a place called New Bridge (value 850 Pounds); also One large gristmill containing two pair of stones adjoining said Mansion House (1200 Pounds); Forty Acres of Land adjoining said Mansion House consisting of Meadow Land and two orchards."

Zabriskie’s 1784-account clearly describes the well-known sandstone mansion which yet stands at this location. Whatever the conflicting sentiments of the Revolutionary general and dispossessed Loyalist may have been, one fact was equally evident to both: The Zabriskie mansion was not some sleepy country-estate that needed only the fires stoked and the slip-covers lifted to make it cozy. It had served repeatedly as a fort, military headquarters, an intelligence-gathering post, an encampment-ground and the scene of numerous skirmishes. Undoubtedly the abuses of war had rendered the dwelling-house uninhabitable, stripped of its furnishings. The old and impecunious Saxon soldier was hardly able to restore its former grandeur. Besides, the legislature had not given him title to the property, but only a right to life-tenancy. It would hardly have been worthwhile for him to invest any large sum in the renovation of a property which he did not own.

To comprehend Baron Steuben’s predicament we must appreciate that the conduct of the war had left the national Confederation virtually bankrupt. Unable to directly levy taxes, it depended upon the voluntary support of the States to meet its obligations. Its paper currency was considered as plentiful and as worthless as "oak leaves." As early as July 4, 1779, General von Steuben had written to a friend in Hohenzollern that Congress had promised him "estates in the best parts of Jersey and Pennsylvania." The various States were better able to compensate Revolutionary veterans by awards of confiscated Loyalist estates or of vast tracts of unsurveyed lands in the unsettled interior of the country. During the war, Virginia granted 15,000 acres in the present State of Ohio to General Steuben and Pennsylvania granted him 2000 acres lying west of the Allegheny mountains. While the Baron thus became a considerable landowner, he was in effect "land-poor" as these properties lay in an inaccessible and unsettled wilderness.

During the spring of 1784, General Steuben took temporary lodgings in Philadelphia where he performed his final duties as Inspector-general. On March 24, 1784, Steuben submitted his resignation to Congress. According to his biographers, a Congressional audit made in the winter of 1781-82 showed that Major-general Baron von Steuben was owed $8,500 for services rendered; he received only $1,700 and a 6-per cent Treasury certificate for $6,800. Steuben was later unsuccessful in selling this treasury note for 10 cents on the dollar. Congress accepted his resignation on April 15, 1784, and decided to present him with a gold hilted sword.

Congress Accepts Steuben’s Resignation
“Resolved, that the thanks of the United States, in Congress assembled, be given to Baron Steuben for the great zeal and abilities he has discovered in the discharge of his office; that a gold-hilted sword be presented to him as a mark of the high sense Congress entertain of his character and services, and that the superintendent of finance take order for procuring the same.”

Congress then moved to present the Baron with $10,000. The motion was defeated but the Inspector-general was most generously allowed him to draw from arrears in pay and expenses that were owed him. Steuben expended part of this income on the renovation of the "Louvre" which he occupied in May of 1784 and further sums were apparently invested in the purchase and rehabilitation of his New-Bridge estate as is evidenced by his own correspondence. We can only explain this behavior by suggesting that Steuben still contemplated his removal to the Dutch-speaking environs of Hackensack. He rented the house in Jones’s Woods - in the vicinity of present-day Fifty-seventh Street - from "ready-money Provost, who built it and named it "the Louvre."

Before investing in his estate at New-Bridge, General Steuben first intended to acquire title to the property in fee simple. On December 24, 1784, the New Jersey legislature responded to his overtures by passing a supplement to its previous act (which had awarded use of the Zabriskie estate to General Steuben) by authorizing the agent for forfeited estates to sell the property to the highest bidder and deposit the money in the State treasury. Interest upon the sum was to be paid to the Baron during his lifetime. Accordingly, the Zabriskie estate at New-Bridge was sold on April 1, 1785, but its purchaser was none other than the Baron himself acting through his agent, Captain Benjamin Walker. The purchase price was £1,500. The General’s personal interest and familiarity with his Jersey estate was outlined in a letter addressed from New York to Governor Livingston on November 13, 1785:

Sir, — Having become the purchaser of that part of the estate of John Zabriskie, lying at the New-Bridge, near Hackensack, and the term of payment being arrived, an order from the commissioners of the continental treasury on the treasury of New Jersey lies ready for the agent whenever he shall please to call for it.

Before I take the deeds for this place, I have to request the favor of your Excellency to represent to the legislature, that the only lot of wood belonging to the place was withheld by the agent at the sale on a doubt of its being included in the law because it is at the distance of three quarters of a mile from the house, and therefore could not, he supposed, be considered as “lying at the New-Bridge,” though on enquiry I find it was an appendage to the estate, and indeed is the only part of it on which there is a stick of wood; and it was bequeathed to J. Zabriskie by his father along with the house and mill; the lot consists of about 13 acres, it was left unsold with the house and mill, though every other part of J. Zabriskie’s estate was sold some years since, and being now unpossessed, great part of the wood is cut off, and the destruction daily increases. If the legislature meant to included it in the law, I must request that directions may be given to the agent to include it in the deed. If otherwise, as it is essential to the other part of the estate, I have to request that I may be permitted to purchase it at such valuation as may be thought just.

Your Excellency will, I flatter myself, excuse the liberty I take in requesting you to represent this matter to the legislature, and to obtain their decision on it so soon as the business before them will permit.
I have the honor to be, with great respect, sir, your Excellency’s most obed’t humble servant,
His Excellency, Governor Livingston.

Between 1783 and 1785, General Steuben withdrew $26,000 from the national treasury including the sum that he used to purchase the former Zabriskie homestead at public vendue. He apparently spent considerable money to renovate both his leased farmhouse on Manhattan as well as his prized Jersey estate. But his improvident lifestyle and poor management of personal finances outstripped his income and daily increased the number of his creditors. On February 28, 1786, a further act was passed by the NJ legislature which provided that, if payments on the property were not met by the following March (1787), then the Baron should have the use and benefit of the estate even though he resided in another state. Thus it wasn’t until 1789 — three years after the initial presentation of the property to Steuben — that the legislature abandoned its stipulation that he occupy or personally use the property in order to receive its profits. With this encouragement, Steuben apparently leased at least the mansion and mill back to Jan Zabriskie and so enjoyed the rental fees. There is evidence to suggest that Captain Walker (as Steuben’s business agent) and perhaps the Baron himself, occupied rooms in the house while managing the domestic renovation and commercial renaissance of this valuable site. Arndt Von Steuben claimed that Steuben spent winters in New York, but retired to his country home in summer. Receipts from New-Bridge Landing have survived issued under the style of the partnership of Walker & Zabriskie. There is also at least one letter (circa 1788) addressed by Senator William North to Benjamin Walker at Hackensack. On July 4th, 1786, Jan Zabriskie hosted General Steuben and his entourage at New Bridge. Unawares, the Baron paid for his own entertainment as Mr. Zabriskie’s servants charged refreshments obtained from the New Bridge Inn to the General’s account. But by 1786, Steuben’s sights turned northward to a grant of 16,000 acres in Oneida County, New York, which he received from the legislature of that state on June 27, 1786.

By 1787, Steuben’s finances were at low ebb. Bankrupt, he placed his affairs under the administration of Ben Walker. In 1788, he moved into rooms in the house of his friends, Benjamin and Polly Walker, on King Street. In May 1788, he set out for his vast estate in the Mohawk country. To pay off his debts and to gain some much needed capital, Baron Steuben wrote to Captain Walker on May 23, 1788, giving him full authority to sell his Jersey estate at New-Bridge. At about this time, his close friend and advisor William North confided: "The Jersey Estate must be sold and the proceeds sacredly appropriated to paying his debts and with the remainder he must live a recluse till the new Government [then forming under the Constitution] decides his affairs..."

Accordingly, on September 5, 1788, the New Jersey legislature repealed its previous acts and invested Baron von Steuben with full title to the former Zabriskie estate. Recognizing his predicament and hoping to save himself from further financial embarrassment, Steuben wrote to North in October of 1788, saying: "The jersey Estate must and is to be sold. Walker is my administrator, all debts are to be paid out of it." On November 6, 1788, Steuben again wrote to William North at his new home in Duanesburg, noting that "My jersey Estate is Advertised but not yet Sold, from this Walker Shall immediately pay to you the money, you so generously lend me and all my debts in New-York will be payed. I support my present poverty with more heroism than I Expected. All Clubs and parties are renounced, I seldom leave the House."

Steuben advertised his Jersey estate for sale in the New Jersey Journal on December 3, 1788, describing it as being "...long-noted as the best stand for trade in the state of New Jersey. Large well-built stone house, thoroughly rebuilt lately, a gristmill with two run of stone; excellent new kiln for drying grain for export built lately; other outbuildings, and 40 acres of land, one-half of which is excellent meadow. Situated on the bank of the river by which produce can be conveyed to New York in a few hours, and sloops of 40 tons burthern may load and discharge along side of the mill."

This remarkable statement shows that General Steuben and his agent, Benjamin Walker, made a considerable investment in his New-Bridge estate, reviving and modernizing its commercial operations and rehabilitating the mansion-house. The very day after this advertisement appeared, Jan Zabriskie (1767-1793), the son and namesake of the Loyalist who had lost the property, purchased the old family homestead. Steuben happily reported in a letter dated December 12th: "My Jersey Estate is sold for twelve honored Pounds N. Y. Monney [about $3,000]. Walker and Hammilton are my Administrators."

Steuben had hoped that the proceeds from the sale would more than satisfy his creditors and thus stave off the threatened forced sale of his Oneida tract. His hopes for a fresh start in the Mohawk valley were frustrated by the inaccessibility of the vast undeveloped estate and his perennial lack of capital and credit. Contrary to his original expectations, the New York grant was isolated from the Mohawk River by several perilous waterfalls on one of its tributaries and transport of products of the land by water was virtually impossible. On June 4, 1790, Congress finally granted him an annual pension of $2,500 but declined to award him an additional $10,000 bonus. Thus, we can say that the proceeds from the sale of his property at New-Bridge were the most valuable compensation for his war service to the Nation. In 1794, the Baron von Steuben died in poverty while resident in a crude log-house erected in the midst of an untamed wilderness. He was buried without ceremony in a plain pine coffin, wrapped in his military cloak and attended by his old aide-de-camp, Ben Walker.

John W. Mulligan to Benjamin Walker

Steuben, 29 November 1794
I am at length sufficiently composed to begin, o my dear Sir, a sad tale. On Tuesday morning last our friend, my father was struck with a palsy which deprived his left side of motion. The evening before we parted at eleven; he was well, perfectly well, at 4 o’clock. I was alarmed with the cry that he was dying, and when I entered his chamber he was in extreme agony and appeared to have suffered long. I sent for immediate assistance and dispatched White for Major North. He was sensible and could speak, reached violently, asked for an emetic which I gave him, it operated well. I then put him to bed from which I had taken him by his desire. He continued to speak at intervals till about six and from thence was speechless. He remained apparently sensible during the greater part of Tuesday, notwithstanding he was often in convulsions. That night he was pretty quiet though the fits sometimes returned. He did not show any sign of sense afterwards. every measure which the situation afforded was pursued to relieve him until the arrival of the doctor on Thursday. He administered medicines which gave some relief, but it was not long. The stroke was too violent and yesterday at 1/2 past 12 o’clock, oh, my good God, my parent died.

There was no stone to mark his grave. He named his dear friends and long-suffering advisors, Ben Walker and William North, as his heirs. Years later, when local townsmen were about to lay out a road virtually atop his resting-place, Ben Walker had his remains removed to a safe distance and then placed a simple marker in his honor.

By the estimates of his contemporaries (both friend and foe), Major-general Frederick Baron von Steuben was a pleasant and able soldier, obliging and efficient in the performance of his duties. He achieved success by proving loyal, inventive and steadfast in the most discouraging circumstances. In so doing, he inspired remarkable confidence and devotion among his friends and comrades. An unreformed spendthrift, he was notoriously careless in the management of his personal finances and in the choice and entertainment of casual acquaintances. While justly memorialized for the economies and efficiency he effected as Inspector-general of the army; in the conduct of his private life, he proved a poor judge of business opportunities and was much given to grand and worthless speculations. Ambitious in pursuit of fame and fortune, he was known to possess a warm temper. If tempestuous at times, he was also quick to apologize for any mistake in judgment which his anger occasioned. Ever sociable, he loved his beef and sauerkraut but hated to dine alone. He was admired as a fine dresser, an accomplished horseman and dancer. And so we return his icon to the wall — dusted but undiminished.

In February 1929, the American Art Galleries auctioned a collection of Steuben relics inherited by the family of William North, including his Revolutionary War correspondence, his sword and dress uniform.

By : Kevin W. Wright

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dragutin Gavrilović (1882-1945), Defender of Belgrade

Dragutin Gavrilović as a Major in Serbian Army

World War I monument erected by German general August von Meckenzen dedicated to the Serbian defenders of Belgrade

Dragutin Gavrilović was a notable Serbian and, later, Yugoslav military officer.

Gavrilović was born in Čačak, Serbia, in 1882. After his graduation from the military academy in Belgrade in 1901, he took part in every war the Serbian army fought until World War II.

He is remembered in Serbian history books for his dramatic order to his troops issued on October 7, 1915, the first day of the defense of Belgrade against the Austro-Hungarian and German attack during the First World War. Holding the rank of major, Gavrilović at the time commanded the 2nd battalion of the 10th Cadre Regiment, which, along with a detachment of Belgrade gendarmerie and a group of about 340 volunteers from Syrmia, was defending positions at the very confluence of Sava and Danube, beneath the Kalemegdan Fortress. In the early morning, Austro-Hungarian troops attacked across the rivers after a heavy two-day artillery barrage, but the Serbians in a series of counterattacks trapped the invaders against the Danube in this sector with heavy casualties on both sides. The Serbian position grew worse every minute because of an incessant flow of Austro-Hungarian reinforcements and a vast superiority in artillery, which the Serbs countered by employing close-quarter tactics. Preparing his already decimated troops for a decisive attack, Major Gavrilović addressed them with these words:

Soldiers, exactly at three o'clock, the enemy is to be crushed by your fierce charge, destroyed by your grenades and bayonets. The honor of Belgrade, our capital, must not be stained. Soldiers! Heroes! The supreme command has erased our regiment from its records. Our regiment has been sacrificed for the honor of Belgrade and the Fatherland. Therefore, you no longer need worry about your lives: they no longer exist. So, forward to glory! For King and Country! Long live the King, Long live Belgrade!

The desperate charge that followed, in which Gavrilović was badly wounded, failed to destroy the Austro-Hungarian bridgehead. But the charge and similar acts of bravery and self-sacrifice by Serbian troops and by the inhabitants of Belgrade during the battle earned deep respect from the invaders, who suffered around 10,000 casualties in the course of capturing the city.

Gavrilović was awarded the Serbian war medal, Karadjordje's star, the French Croix de guerre, and many other medals.

In the Second World War, then a colonel in the Yugoslav Royal Army, Gavrilović was captured by the Axis during their invasion of Yugoslavia. He survived the war in a prison camp, later returning to Yugoslavia. Dragutin Gavrilović died in 1945, in Belgrade.

A street stretching along the Danube riverbank in the Dorćol area of Belgrade (where Gavrilović and his men fought) bears the name Major Gavrilović's riverbank in his memory. There are also streets bearing his name in the cities of Niš, Čačak, Valjevo, and Užice.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

August von Mackensen (1849-1945), One Of Most Successful Commanders in World War I

August von Mackensen in color

August von Mackensen and Krafft von Dellmensingen in the Serbian campaign (1915)

August von Mackensen in Hussar uniform

Funeral of former Kaiser Wilhelm II at Doorn (Netherland) in 1941. From left to right: Wilhelm Canaris, Arthur Seyß-Inquart, Friedrich Christiansen (half visible), Curt Haase, August von Mackensen, and Hermann Densch

August von Mackensen's family at his 80th birthday in 1929

Hussar until the last day, such could be the epitaph of the Fieldmarschall General Anton Ludwig August von Mackensen, born on December 6th, 1849, eldest of sons of Louis Mackensen, manager of domains, and his wife Marie Louise born Rink, daughter of a forest-guard. Louis descended from André born in 1628, of where Hans and Henri Louis born in 1788 in the kingdom of Hanover, deceased at the age of 94 years elected captain of a Hanovrian Cavalry volunteer group during wars of the Independence. He used to ride until the age of 90 , had two sons, of which the eldest Karl, farmer owner was ennobled in 1888, and the cadet Louis remained commoner. This one is the father of the future General fieldmarshal. He starts like agronomist and intendant of the family's important von Alken domain. Then, having achieved some savings, he acquired in 1887 the noble property of Geglenfeld in the Prussian district of Schlochau. It was the coronation of the career of a hard worker.

The marshal told how he grew between the Elbe and Leipzig region where memories of the liberation war and battles of the autumn 1813 were still very living in the inhabitants memory, and especially of war veterans, as his grandfather himself an old surviving hussar of the crossing of the Berezina to which he had participated in a Prussian regiment of the Grande armée. Finally, the father of the young boy was one of the first subscribers of the "Gazette of the Cross", most royalist of the Prussian newspapers, bearing the picture of the iron cross with the motto 'with God for the king and the homeland'.

Yet, when he will expose his youthful vocation to become an officer, and Hussar officer, his father marks his astonishment and his formal reserves. He knows the caste prejudices that should overcome his son, he knows how expensive is the service for a young officer and cannot wonder to sustain him appropriately to the service.

While waiting, the young man pursues good secondary studies, then of agricultural management. It, it was the hard reality. As when to the autumn 1869, he is admitted a a one-year volunteer to the 2nd Leib-Husaren Rgt. (Life Hussars, so-called Hussars of the Death), he writes to his parents: " I am to my joy so in my black dolman, under the death head which are until now my only joys here, that it seems to me that I didn't feel a transformation. All pleases me, and I do my service gladly and with taste. .….. I am not soldier by constraint, but by taste ".
He begins to achieve the ideal which will be his own, all his life, but, young poor man, while he serves with goodwill, he doesn't benefit the privilege of his condition to take his meals with officers (he was not yet officer). Without the war, it had probably been harmful to his acknowledment in the corps of officers of the regiment.

But the war broke out. The 2nd Hussar, receives July 16, 1870, the order of mobilization; nine days after, July 24, it is completed, ready to march in campaign and intended to form with the 14th Hussar Regiment (2nd Hessian) the l0th brigade of Cavalry intended to enter with the 8th and 9th in the 4th division of Cavalry unders the command of the Prince Albert of Prussia, attached to the III army ordered by the prince heir of Prussia, later emperor Frederic III.
In the evening of July 25, the regiment begins its entrainment to Posen. The journey, at the shouts of "to Paris", "to Eugènie" and songs of the Wacht am Rhein (the guard to the Rhine) takes place without incidents. The Hussars disembark at Landau on the morning of 28th, are quartered in the neighbourhood, and the following day one reads them, the proclamation, written the 23th at the new Palace in Potsdam, by Crown-princess Victoria their colonel, daughter of the queen of England and wife of the Chief of this III army.

"A daring enemy jealous our happiness and our glory threaten the German borders. To the call of his majesty the king, all the people get up against the hereditary enemy of our country. The touched heart but full of happy insurance, I take my leave of my brave regiment that comes with my most faithful wishes. I know it, it will make its duty still and in all places to add new laurels to its old glory. Forward therefore with God for our king and the German homeland."

The first squadron is sent to outposts on the French border. Mackensen counts at the 4th squadron, the captain Ludendorff (the uncle of the general quater-master of 14/18). August 4th, the division is united, reviewed for the first time by his chief and marches on toward Oberotterbach with the 2nd Hussar to the vanguard, without taking part to the battle of Wissembourg given some kilometers away.

August 5th, Mackensen is going to receive the baptism of fire. To take again the contact lost the day before with French, the regiment in saddle since 4 hours, clears outposts of the infantry toward 5 hours to search for the enemy's position. Mackensen is toward noon chief of forefront of the vanguard that enters in Woerth at the foot of the heights which towers above the Sauer river cutting the small city in two parts. The bridge was broken, the withdrawn timbers, used to a barricade, the river with steep banks in the impassable dams, shutters of houses closed; a barricade blocked the main street, all was silent; the main beams of the bridge were still in place, and the young volunteer decided to put foot-to-earth with a hussar, and to enter in the city while passing on beams. Hardly he had put foot-to-earth that he saw a zouave appearing on the barricade. He went up again on horseback under the bullets fired from the barricade and the sudden oppened windows. A horse is fatally hit. A hussar slightly injured, another one dismounted, driven by two comrades, and the patrol assembles under cover at the first crossing. Four cannon-shots fired from the Elsashausen heights confirm the important strength presence. The aim of the reconnaissance was reached. The following day August 5th, the regiment was not involved and the division lost contact with the retreating army of Mac Mahon. This small skirmish highlighted the young daring and happy patrol chief..

The division won't have the opportunity to start anything else but patrols in chase to the French army that led to the surrender of Sedan. 110 000 men have been killed, injured either caught. Napoléon III in his great cart harnessed in post carriage, escorted by the black hussars and then by cuirassiers, crosses the winner's bivouacs, on the way to Kassel where he is going to be interned in the castle once occupied by his uncle Jérôme, ephemeral king of Westphalia, and where, terrible test, he finds to welcome him a full-lenght portrait of his mother Queen Hortense.

Without disabling, the German army marches on to Paris without meeting resistance. The Guard, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th French army corps are shut up in Metz. The 5th, 7th and 12th put down weapons at Sedan. The corps of Vinoy hurries to go into Paris. It remains in province armies formed more or less of march-regiments drawn of depots, of mobile regiments, badly clothed, badly equipped, more or less armed and that have no more one month of service, under a majority of officers and non-commissioned officers, as inexperienced as them. These armies try to continue the struggle.

The division of prince Albert of Prussia went down to Orleans, to the vicinities of Tours. On October 5, Mackensen promoted Vize-Wachtmeister (sergeant major in the cavalry) has the opportunity to distinguish himself during an engagement where, under the fire, he stood close to his captain. An order arrives to send a patrol on the enemy's rears to recognize its strength. The captain orders: 'Volunteers for a perilous patrol, come out'. Mackensen immediately advances, follow-up by 16 hussars, and he chooses four of them. His officers come to shake his hands, and he confides to one of them the mission to warn his mother if he doesn't come back. Describing a large bow of circle around the hostile flank, he passes on its rears and can observe all its formations and their strength. Gone back without losses, he came to report to his General major that already knew him for the similar missions, then to the chief of the headquarter and to the Prince general of the Division. This one invites the young non-commissioned officer to his table, made ampler knowledge, recommands him briskly to persuade his father to let it in the army, and proposes him to the king for the second class iron cross.

Mackensen takes part to the fight of Artenay and to the battle of Orleans on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th December. The 3rd he is promoted second lieutenant; he surprised a convoy, taking 87 men and restocking carts. Then, he passes as orderly officer to the orders in the headquarters of the division from where he can initiate him to the conduct of a great unit of cavalry.

Demobilized in spite of himself, to obey his father, the young lieutenant enters at the end of 1871, to the agronomic institute depending on the Halle university. Outside of this specialty, he follows lessons of Gustav] Droysen on the military history and benefit an initiation to methods of the superior teaching denied to officers coming from the Cadets schools or from the secondary teaching. He doesn't resign himself and writes to his mother: " It is only the passion and the conviction that the military state is my vocation, which pushes me, my dear mom, to this ultimate and decisive tentative ". Mother and sons end up getting the father's consent for his return to the army.

Mackensen is named, May 13, 1873, second lieutenant to the 2th Leib-Husar with seniority of December 3, 1870. He had to be content with a very small paternal pension. This was not the frivolous and fashionable side of the military life that attracted him, but the theory and the practice of the profession to which he gives himself body and soul, in peace as in war.
Noticed during the imperial manœuvers of 1875, by the chief of headquarters the Vth army corps. This one does him to participate in a journey of staff officers, approves his solution to a tactical theme and his writing of the history of the 2th Hussars during the German French war.
This work chosen by Moltke to be published was also appreciated by the colonel since general Pierson, that chooses an excerpt from it for his methods of present war at the end of the XIXth century. Mackensen makes him also well judged by the headquarters of his brigade, and July 9, 1876 he becomes first lieutenant. He is initiated by an officer of headquarters of the lst army corps to the service of the general headquarters, to solutions of themes proposed since 1858 by Moltke to the officers of this H.Q., and to his circulated and printed later Ktitiks. Also, without passing by the Kriegs Academy, Mackensen is named trainee to the Great General Staff. He is appointed to the section in charge of studying armies and the operations of the Russian, Nordic, Balkan and Far-East theaters of operations.

Here too, as he deserves the esteem of Moltke who promises to confirm him to the first vacancy, and keep Mackensen until February 1884, when he is appointed to the staff of the VIIthy corps to Mûnster. To his great regret, he only spent one year, his time of command of a squadron of the 9th dragons in Metz. Commissioned major in October 15 1888, he goes to the regimental staff of the 4th division to Bromberg under three generals of whom the last, von Albedy, close familiar of the emperor is very influential to him.

In a military society as the Prussian world, controlled by hierarchies of birth, rank and function more than by those of money (the son of the banker Bleichröder was rejected by the corps of officers of the guard's regiment against the known will of the emperor), Mackensen in spite of his modest origins distinguished himself advantageously by his brilliant career and by his marriage, November 21st 1879, with the daughter of a high magistrate, first president of the province of Prussia, Miss Dorothée von Horn, sister of the lieutenant von Horn, fallen during the campaign of France and regimental friend of the future marshal.

This brilliant alliance completed to grade socially the young officer. Being descended from the laborious and austere provincial middle class, in which agronomists are close to liberal professions, Mackensen joins to a solid basic education, solid moral qualities. He takes easy uses and manners of the 'Stablers', the officers of the Great General staff who appear at the Court, bind naturally with the high administration where het chose his wife, and form between them in the military world a caste in the caste. Great chief wives who give the tone, preserve the tradition of austere elegance of the 'chic de Potsdam'. A lot of these ladies know how to conciliate their often modest purse with their duties of society women and mistresses of house, putting the hands to the dough as they are shown us in the novel 'The Baron of Heidestam', by the caricaturists of the Simplicissimus or the Fliegende-Blätters, or by Mrs. Ludendorff, daughter of a rich Jewish tradesman in her memoirs.

The Mackensen household had three sons and two girls (see note 1). Two of the boys chose the army. Eberhard remained there, but Georges passed in the diplomacy and Manfred in the civil service. The eldest daughter died and the last been born in 1897, dedicated herself to charity. Their mother died at Dantzig December 4, 1905, and the general married in second wedding Léonie, daughter of count von der Osten, belonging to the first nobility.

The marshal's father bought in Prussia the domain of Geglenfeld close to Hamerstein and died May 11, 1890. His wife then aged of 64, took the direction of the domain and preserved it until her death, May 7, 1916. Mother and son maintained until the end a loving and straight forward correspondence, marked of the best feelings. This one wrote:

"During the campaign of 1870/71, I had felt protected by my mother's prayers as by a breastplate', and as after having received the field-marshal's baton, he could be going to kiss his mother, she welcomed him by these simple words: 'Mein liebes Kind ' (my dear child), and him to comment: 'These three words represent for me, as they were pronounced, the sanction of all my life. They drove me to the highest top of my destiny and my happiness…………... My dear child! Is a Feldmarschall, born out of the royal families, ever been greeted and named thus?"

February 21, 1891, the young major is called to the job of first aide de camp of the chief of the general Staff of the army, Count Schlieffen who has just followed Count von Waldersee. During two years and half, Mackensen is associated to activities of this untiring worker, to the time when, during headquarters journeys, of Kriegspiels, of successive mobilization plans, he matured the drafts of what will be the Schlieffen's plan. The Germans think it would have given them the victory in 1914, if it had been properly applied. This lasting and appreciated collaboration supposes at the aide de camp qualities and uncommon high capacity of work to fit to the exceptional activity a chief' quite exceptional that he venerates and admires. One said fluently in Germany that the function of the Chief of the Great General Staff was most the burdenned responsibilities of Europe, and the future showed that it was well thus. The decision of Schlieffen to enter in Belgium was taken out of the chancellor's opinion, say Bulow and Bethmann Holweg, but probably with the assent of the emperor who could not be unaware of it. This decision dragged the entrance in war of England, without procuring the victory to the army of the Kaiser.

To the maneuvers of 1891, the first aide de camp had the opportunity to make in front of the emperor an appreciated talk on the battle of Langensalza, against the Hanoverian army, on June 27, 1866.

June 17, 1893, after 24 years of service and at 45 years of age, the lst Leib-Husar Rgt is entrusted to Mackensen and becomes commander of the regiment of which the emperor is Colonel owner, elite corps to traditions and prestigious recruitment that the young Kommandeur, happy to recover the uniform of his youth drives one-handed vigorous to a high degree of instruction and efficiency. January 27, 1894 he is promoted lieutenant-colonel. September 12, 1895, he is named aide-de-camp of the chief of the regiment ) - and March 22 1897 colonel.

In the beginning of 1898, kaiser Wilhelm II calls him close to him as Dienstuender Flüegel Adjutant (aide de camp on duty) and he leaves with regret the regiment, the Barrack built under his eyes, the mess of officers decorated, under his direction, of paintings and memories that made it a real Museum. In short he leaves his life of chief of corps at Dantzig, for the personal service of the ruler and the life of court in Berlin. The following year he receives the hereditary nobility with coat of arms and the motto that he chooses himself "Memini initiie" (remember of your beginnings). Contrary to Frédéric II, anxious to separate settings 'everything that standed the commonalty' except in the artillery and husars, emperors to the XIX and the XX century ennobles. their servants of humble origin, most distinguished.

Under the general von Plessen, general adjutant and. practically chief of the military cabinet of the ruler, Mackensen initiates to his new responsibilities, and to take to the highest level a view exceptional of the military situation, politics, economic and cultural of Germany, as of his outside relations. He informs himself to the best sources of the military state and the situation of the great powers.

He will keep the emperor a recognition and an unfailing fidelity to the future disaster, to exercise his personal action to reinforce the army, and especially to promote the Prussian military mind and the German patriotism.

In the same way the Marshal testifies his deep attachment to the empress for her qualities (?????) as for the kindliness that she testified to him and his family. By the exceptional atmosphere of three and half years of close service to the ruler, the marshal finished a formation which prepares him for the highest charges and responsibilities. In September 1901, Mackensen takes a command, the one of the brigade of the Leib Husars that unites the lst and 2nd Rgts, and comes back to Dantzig. Two years later, he is named, still to Dantzig, to the head of the 36th division, and at the same time General-adjutant of the emperor. January 27, 1908, he is promoted general of the cavalry - generals of army corps are differentiated by their arm of origin- and May 27 placed 'à la suite' (in French on rank-lists) of lst Hussars, that allows him to wear its uniform and then preserve all his life with the distinctive of various ranks of General and Marshal.

Still to Dantzig, he takes the command of his army corps, the XVIIth that, with the one of Koenigsberg and those of the French border, pass for one of the better of the army. One could intend on the new chief of corps to maintain the tradition.

The emperor is going to give him a particular mark of confidence.

The chancellor von Bulow said that Wilhelm II had a sub-lieutenant's political maturity and to this account his son, the Kronprinz, would have had the one of a cadet. In Berlin, he multiplied sentimental and showy political pranks. Exceeded of these pranks his father decided to move him away the capital and named him to the head of the 1rst Leib-Husar garrisoned to Langfür close to Dantzig, under the iron rule of Mackensen.

September 15, 1911, in a great parade under arms, the emperor and the commander of the army corps attended the presentation of the new colonel, all three in the uniform of the regiment. As leaving Mackensen the emperor tells him: 'I fear that he (the Kronprinz) still prepares us quite a lot of surprises '. He was good prophet. Seven years day for day before the flight in Holland of Guillaume II, from the stall of the court in the public tribunes of the Reichtag, the young colonel showed his support too conspicuously to a speaker of the conservative opposition, criticizing the politics of the chancellor Bethmann Hollweg and beyond, Wilhelm II in the affairs of Morocco. This exceeded the competence of the commander of the XVIIth army corps, and the matter has been settled between the father, the son and the chancellor.

The new colonel didn't linger to show his spite and to criticize irreverently his father gave the measure of the height of his innovative views while not quite the regulation wearing the chinscales of his Kolback, to the English fashion between the lower lip and the chin instead of to putting it under the chin. Finally, on horseback, instead placing his legs according to the regulation, he spread them straight without bending the knee to the manner of certain jumping jockeys. It annoyed the emperor and made chat away in the unconscious of the near cataclysms Europ.

What is more, as the Kronprinz was well assisted, that his direct chiefs to the brigade and the division were heedful, that in good Hohenzollern he was all the same a soldier, and that Mackensen looked out for squalls: his regiment proud of his chiefs didn't slacken of its hard activities.

After two years of command the prince went back to Berlin, affected to the General Staff of the army, to become in 1914, with an excellent chief of headquarters, commander of the 5th army,.
For a long time, Europe supported less and less the German preponderance. Admiral Fisher suggested king Edward VII to destroy the German fleet at anchor to Kiel, without previous war declaration, as Nelson annihilated the Danish fleet in Copenhagen.

King Edward VII had calmed these ardors, but, for a long time, he led the politics of resistance to the German hegemony that leads to the diplomatic situation of Europe in July 1914.

To the great maneuvers of September 1908, a very great chief well-known for his character, his originality, his knowledge and his demands, historian, theoretician and appreciated instructor, reorganizer of the Turkish army, the field-marshal von der Goltz, awarded by the Sultan of the title of Pacha, is going to judge the commander of the XVIIth army corps: '…….. Mackensen drove it well. He has very great, quick and very beautiful qualities, a wide memory of localities, a clear look and of good eyes, so that I think that he will be capable of important actions as armycommander ….. '.

The general astonishes his subordinates by his detailed knowledge of the territory of his command, including west Prussia and a part of the Pomerania, and not only of localities, but of people, thanks to an excel memory of places and people, what greatly contributes to his popularity. Still slender and vigorous, every day he rides up on horseback hours to inspect troops, to judge manœuvers, in hunting. It is of the time when one said in England 'hunting, three times per week is the best practice for a chief of cavalry '.

The German method to early select futures great chiefs made them arrive early to the high commands that they could exercise enough long-times with the activity of the prime of life, to liven up the training, to deeply mark their great units, well to know their commissioned and non commissioned officers, to prepare the delicate and pitiless elimination of blemishes and especially the worn-out, lazy or mediocre people. Necessary purifications in an army where the seniority remains the rule for the great number. Reforms them, release or withdrawal from duty are frequent and dreaded.

Mackensen is to heading the XVIIth corps since six years and half at the outbreak of the war of 1914. He leads two divisions formed of eight infantry regiments, one battalion of riffles (Jägers), 3 regiments of hussars, the 4th Rgt of mounted riffles (Jäger zu Pferde), 2 brigades of field artillery, the heavy artillery of the army corps reinforced of pioneers and the 17th detachment of field aircrafts. This corps belongs to the VIIIth army of the General von Pritwitz und Gaffron, which concentrates in east Prussia.

Since August 7 Mackensen establishes his Deutsch-Eylau then to Darkehnem. The commander of the army came the morning of the 19 to converse with him. The Russian army of Rennenkampf coming from the northeast having arrived within goodof reach, the commander of the army ordered the offensive. The 20 in end of the afternoon, the German under general von François, and the right under general von Below had beaten the enemy; but to the center, Mackensen after having driven back the Russian head elements had knocked himself to a resistance that he cannot overcome.

The day well begun changes of sign in the afternoon. The attack led thoroughly without a sufficient preparation of artillery came up against an entrenched enemy and fail under the murderous riffle fire and the Russian artillery. The infantry loses 200 officers and 8900 men out of fights and 1000 prisoners. Two batteries daringly advanced very forward and overdraft to sustain infantrymen are annihilated and the artillery loses 13 officers and 150 men. The headquarters itself with its park of cars and horses of its escort are taken under the fire of the Russian artillery. The general's composure who rides to the step of his gray horse another height brings back calmness but the infantry lost more of the third of its strengths killed and some injured. Russian gathered a thousand of prisoners, but are content with pursuing by the fire of their artillery the retreating Prussians. To in the evening of this rough day Mackensen addresses to troops this order of the day:

"The strong and enthusiast will to win drove the XVIIth army body to an ardent fight. The heroic assault of the troops and especially the infantry of the army corps is itself stopped in front of the greatly walled position of the Russians. However each soldier who went to fire, can carry away of the battlefield this feeling to have made his duty until the end. I will give account of it to his Majesty the emperor and King. I also thank you since today all officers and men of troop for the proofs they gave of the Prussian offensive mind; the numerous friends dead in hero for the king and the homeland will survive among us as models of the Prussian military mind. Whatever the future can bring us; for his Majesty the emperor and king. : Hurra !"

This failure, the news arrived to the H.Q. of the army, of the movements of the Samsonow Russian army that passes from South to the North borders behind the Germans facing the North and against the army of the Niemen of General Rennenkampf, make the commander of the VIIIth army fear to be taken in claws by the more important strengths than foreseen. To rescue France, the great duke Nicolas had accelerated to the maximum the mobilization, the concentration and the entry into operation of the Russian armies.

Under these impressions general von Pritwitz warns the imperial H.Q. of his decision to bring back the army behind the Vistule, the left toward Dantzig.

Arrived to the Kaiser's H.Q. the news of this failure, of arsons by Russian in his dear ost Prussia where he hunted so gladly in the great domains and which is the cradle of the flower of his officers, roused the emperor. Sharing the optimism born of the happy fights of the battle of the borders, of the English failure to Mons and the precipitate retreat of the French armies of the left, the high command took a measure to the decisive consequences on the outcome of the war. In spite of the last advice of Schlieffen: ' reinforce the right wing '. Two army corps were withdrawn of right armies to be sent in ost Prussia, with Hindenburg flanked of Ludendorff to replace von Pritwitz and his chief of Staff. General Groener wrote about the responsibility of this decision: ' La recherche de la paternité est interdite ' (in French in the text), what clearly designates the emperor, evidently responsible with von Moltke, it was necessary to take shelter from all critiques. Hindenburg, and Ludendorff and reinforcements arrive the 23 afternoon. After the relief of their predecessors, 22 August afternoon, colonel Hoffmann had prepared the maneuver that approved the new chiefs and that ends in first by the victory of Tannenberg, of the Mazurese Lake then, ending up in the destruction of the Sanzonow army and the retreat of the Rennenkampf army.

An extraordinary imprudence of Russian facilitated the task of the German command. General Hoffmann wrote:

"Samzonow launched an order of pursuit to his army. The Russian radio-telegraphic station transmitted the order not encoded and we intercepted it. It was the first of an innumerable set of orders that was transmitted from the Russian side with an incredible lightness.... This lightness much facilitated us in the conducting of the operations in the East. In much of opportunities it is thanks to it alone that we could have acted."

When Russian encoded and even changed keys, they were deciphered quickly by two specialists ' who showed genius '. It was the beginnings of this war of numbers where the machine take place of man….. At the H.Q. of VII army, one waited impatiently for messages and their translation. When they made them waiting Ludendorff didn't hide his impatience.

In spite of enormous losses, Russians recover and the entrenched war also gets settled on oriental front, while the Austrian are hit toughly. To clear them, the German command constitutes a IX entrusted to Mackensen who first pushes toward Warsaw but that is in fact created on the Wartha at the end of October. To the middle of November, the offensive of the IX army on Lodz turns to a confused scrum which stops the weariness of both adversaries. .
The next year the IX army plays a decisive role in the Russian defeat on the front of Galicie, the recovery of Przmysl and Lemberg, the general withdrawal of the czar's armies and the ominous disgrace of the great duke Nicolas. After the capture of Lemberg, June 22, 1915, Mackensen receives to his H.Q. these lines of Wilhelm II: " to testify my imperial gratitude and of my higher recognition for you and the troops placed under your command, I name you Generalfeldmarschall. That God, master of battles continues to lead you on the path of the victory '. And so much on the Bug than the capture of the entrenched Russian camp of Brestlitowsk, August 26, victory will be faithful to the new Marshal. September 16 Mackensen is informed to take the command of the Austro-German army group where entered 9 German divisions in charge, in link with the Bulgarians, to conquer Serbia, which desperately defended itself since 1914, at the price of great and expensive victories.

To assist him in this important command spreading from the Adriatic to the Black Sea, the Feldmarschall receives a chief headquarters of high value, the general-major von Seeckt, future creator of the new German army after 1918.

Having chosen the camp of the Triplice, Ferdinand of Bulgaria joined in the beginning of October his strengths to those of the central empires to attack Serbia. October 7 Serbia is attacked on his East borders by the Bulgarians and to the North by the Austro-Germans of Mackensen. Allied troops retreat off the Dardanelles cannot help the Serbians armies crushed by the superior strengths and of which only 110 000 men will embark to Saint-Jean-of-Medua for Corfu where they will be reorganized to resume the struggle by the side of the Allies in 1916.

Mackensen is associated to projects of attack of the entrenched Camp of Salonika and political actions in direction of the king of Greece, brother-in-law of the Kaiser and German field-marshal. While the army of Orient reinforces itself, Bulgarians take the fortress of Rupel and capture the IVth army Greek corps sent in captivity in Germany. Allies take Florina, enter to Monastir and reach Albania where settles an Italian army corps.

August 27, Romania declared war on Austria. A German army and an Austrian army concentrate in Transylvania; the composite army of Mackensen enters in action on the Danube and in the Dobrudja, the 1st September. September 19 the two armies of Transylvania took the offensive. Rumanians badly assisted by Russians for various blameless and shameful reasons give up Bucharest and withdraw into the line of mountains of the Sereth to Glatz and on the Danube, where the stabilized front in January 1917. Mackensen exercises on the country a real proconsulate, meet the king of Bulgaria, the Turkish sultan and his war minister EnverPacha to whom he gives von Seekt himself as mentor, who will let of his new chief a cruel portrait.

The Russian Revolution ruining the army, Romania left to his only strengths and in spite of the victory of Maresesti that saves honor was obliged to peace of Bucharest signed on May 7, 1918.

Mackensen joins to the command of the south army group become the occupation army of Romania, the military government of the country, of which he tries to exploit the resources to the central empires profit..

September 29, 1918, following victories of the east allied armies, Bulgaria capitulates, Turkey signs an armistice to Moudros, October 30. Germany collapses in its turn. November 9 kaiser Wilhelm II takes refuge in Holland. November 11 the armistice of Rethondes comes into effect. It foresees the liberation of Romania and the German strength return back their homeland.

But Hungary in full revolution stopped the German transports. Negotiations started since November 5 with the Rumanian government change of tone. The 10 to the news of the flight of the Kaiser the Rumanians show their joy descend in streets singing the Marseillaise. The situation is critical. Gone in the night of November 11 the marshal is gone to Hermannstadt by the Saxons of Transylvania where he receives official confirmation of the armistice and his mission to bring back the army to Germany.

As he lingers, because he wants to avoid to his men to put down arms, and that count Karolyi chief of the Hungarian government is an unmanageable interlocutor, the marshal is at the castle of Forth again, 30 kilometers to the north of Budapest to the East of the Danube, when the Moroccan spahis surround the buildings and make it prisoner December 31, 1918, with his staff reduced to 13 officers, about hundred non-commissioned officers and soldiers, and 40 horses, small troop who is going to be quickly reduced ……….

September 11, 1919, the marshal arrives in Salonika in a house where one had once lodged the dethroned sultan Abdul Hamid. He stays there until November 26, leaves for Germany by railroad and arrive December 2 to Kassel where he is demobilized. December 6, 1919, he celezbrates in his family his 70th birthday, and to this opportunity receives a laudatory letter of the emperor.

Since his return he then devotes himself fiercely to the revenge, by his flaming speech to the squadron that gives back him honors, by a continuous action.

He works ardently to the raising of the German strength in the setting imposed by the allies but in the traditions and disciplines of the old army, of which he thinks and says that it was proudest of all times. At the bottom of his heart , he believes it was unbeaten by the arms: ' In Felde unbessiegt ' (unbeaten in the fields). For him as for many others, Hitler is the man who reconciled the German people and its army. He probably held for symbolic the handshake of the old marshal Hindenburg to the Bohemian corporal to the day of the German army in Potsdam, evoking the one, in 1806, of the colonel Gneisenau and the brewer Netelbeck on ramparts of Kolberg.

Mackensen actively participated to the patriotic ceremonies and soldieries of the young army of the new regime, forged by his former chief of staff von Seeckt.

According to circumstances and to the complicated ceremonial fixed by Wilhelm II, he appears dressed of his various black or feldgrau uniforms, of black Hussar or Feld Marschall with the parade or service kolback, the cap, the spiked helmet or the steel helmet. His slim silhouette, his vivacity still vigorous became very popular.

Hitler encourages the representative activities of the old soldier, where he cannot lack to see the guaranty of one of the highest moral authorities of the military world. He multiplies courtesies: grant of a domain, and above all of the rank of chief of the 5th Cavalry Rgt. to Stolp, heir of the traditions of the brigade of the I and II black Hussars, he had ordered in the past. He came there in the full dress of General 'à la suite' of the 1st Leib Husaren, and thus realizes in his person to the head of the corps to which he bound since his entrance to the service 66 years earlier, the union of the old imperial army and the Reischwehr.

As he had attended the ascension of Prussia, he attends the III Reich's one, the occupation of the Rhineland, of Austria, of the Bohemia, the victories of Poland and France, then the death of Wilhelm II, the exile of Doorn of which he was the aide-de-camp and the faithful soldier.

The marshal was anxious to attend the funeral ceremony of the emperor, May 5, 1941. They will be three black Hussars colonels to follow the mortal remains of the one who wore so proudly its uniform. The princess Victoria-Louise in mourning veil, and the Kronprinz and Mackensen in the campaign dress of the regiment.

This one bears the cross of the order "Pour Le Mérite", and next to the highest orders, the iron cross received in France in 1870.

A company of honour of each of the three arms army, air force and marine presented the arms. The old man raised his Feldmarschall's baton solemnly for a last salute to the name of the old faithful army in spite of all. Then, this man of 92 years put knees in earth, and refusing all help, stood up while leaning on his saber.

Soldier he had risen to the rhythm of the young empire in the burst of the Kaiserzeit, of the united and excited homeland by the victory. General, he had known the elation of the triumph of Tannenberg due to the excellent practice, to the high moral and to the conduct of troops that he had trained and led. His victories on the Russian front, Serbia, Romania, followed by a prestigious proconsulate on the defeated nation, had badly prepared him to the defeat, to the flight of the emperor, to the terrifying crisis following the war.

Again, he lived an apotheosis of which his supreme chief had before dying, measured fragility.

And then he feels the tragic tour of operations to the East, where his eldest son leads an armored corps, the disgrace of his other son, the ambassador mocked by the king of Italy who overthrowed the Duce and changes of camp, the Nazi army ebb, from the Volga to the Vistule, to the Oder, in Berlin and lastly the defeat of Germany whose all armies are disarmed and prisoners, the whole territory occupied. Himself to 95 years, is carried away by the debacle in the stream of refugees.

Nothing is saved him, he must drain the cup to the dregs of bitterness, to pay for this apocalypse that writes itself down between the prophecy of Clausewitz: ' there are not any limits to the advent of the violence' ; that we see to achieve.

To the desperate confession of Marshal von Blomberg 'My soldier's career ends by a complete and definitive bankruptcy…………. At hours of grace, I believe to guess that the degenerate nationalism of the last decades, be going to disappear in the sludge and fire. …………. A new humanism is coming on our world, in the middle of cruel pains. We browsed the road that from humanism, leads to the bestiality while passing by the nationalism ".

All this is well and truly, but so much the humanity won't have found his balance in a common ideal, let's not forget that more one moves away the last war, more one comes closer to the next.

colonel Bernard DRUENE (1979)

Hans Georg von Mackensen, been born in Berlin in 1883, entered in the diplomatic career after World War I. Chargé d'Affaires in Albania in 1929, Plenipotentiary Minister to Budapest where his father had friends, well tought of Hitler, he receives, in 1937, the charge of state secretary to the Foreign Affairs. In April 1938, to the beautiful days of the Nazi-Fascist rapprochement, he becomes Ambassador in Rome and takes part to the negotiations of the Steel Pact. He remained in function after the fall of Mussolini. Relieved of his office, he retired and died in Switzerland in 1947.

The General Eberhard von Mackensen led in Russia, in 1941, the 13th and 14th Armored Divisions and armored elements of the Kleist army. Involved in Italy in January 1944, he did not succeed in chasing hunting allies away of the bridgehead of Anzio then was forced to retire and to evacuate Roma and lastly to give up his command June 6, 1944.

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