Baron Von Steuben

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The Prussian Baron von Steuben, being a newcomer to the
Revolutionary cause in America, was in a position to see many of the deficiencies in military discipline and their causes. The reasons for his unique insight may have been due to the fact that he was distanced from the revolutionary ideals in America, and as a result, was able to better observe and understand them; and ultimately use them to shape his new and successful form of discipline in the Continental
Army. Most of the commanders of the Continental Army, from the commander in chief to the lower officers had subscribed to the traditional European method that relied on fear to achieve discipline. This method of fear was probably not essential, and had little if any effect in the early days of the war because the soldiers were mostly fighting for their own ideologies. To the soldiers, the commanders were of little importance. The soldiers were going to fight their own fight, and leave the battle when they felt it necessary. The soldier saw himself as a volunteer, a citizen fighting in a group of citizens, and as a result did not respond well to the traditional forms of discipline. The soldier knew it wasnÕt necessary for him to serve, and he knew that he would not be looked down upon for not serving or leaving the army by his fellow revolutionaries. He had the freedom to chose how he wished to serve the revolution, and military service was not an obligation. One aspect of the traditional European system that Baron von Steuben felt needed change was the relationship between the officers and the soldiers. Officers in the Continental Army felt it was necessary to distance themselves from the common soldiers, as an officer had an obligation as a gentleman as well. This division was along social lines, and by separation, the officers felt the common soldiers would show even greater respect. Royster describes this accurately by saying that the officers tried Òto make themselves haughty objects of the soldiersÕ awe.Ó (215)
Steuben did several things to put the officers and the soldiers on common ground. First, sergeants were no longer to do the training and drilling of soldiers. Officers were encouraged to train, drill, and march with their soldiers. They were also encouraged to eat with the common soldiers as well, whenever possible. The officers needed to show love of the soldiers to earn their respect, and in doing this the officers needed to set themselves as an example to the soldiers by overachieving, rather than distancing themselves and underachieving in the eyes of the soldier. Before Steuben arrived, the forms of drills, training, and discipline in the
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