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Baron Von Steuben's Revolutionary War Drill…
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Baron Von Steuben's Revolutionary War Drill Manual: A Facsimile Reprint of… (1794)

by Frederick William Baron von Steuben

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I picked this one up after reading A Few Bloody Noses. Popular mythology, emphasized by Hollywood, has always held that the American Revolutionary War was won by a few dead-eye riflemen who hid behind trees and decimated the Redcoats with Kentucky flintlocks that had the accuracy of a match rifle and reloaded as fast as an Uzi. More cognizant history buffs realize that it was the Continental Army that actually did the work - trained and fighting with the same equipment and with the same linear tactics used by the British. Much of this training was accomplished through the efforts of Frederick William Baron von Steuben. Von Steuben eventually joined Lafayette and Kosciusko as an iconic foreign hero of American independence; in Chicago, where I grew up, Von Steuben Day was celebrated with almost as much enthusiasm as St. Patricks’s Day - except instead of dyeing the Chicago River green like the Irish community, the city’s German community would invade Cicero. (OK, I can get away with that because all my ancestors are German).


Von Steuben was an interesting character; he never got past the rank of captain in Prussian service, his baronial title is highly dubious, and he fled Europe to avoid creditors. Ironically, much of this turned out to be an advantage; you’re probably much better off with a captain than a general if you want to drill troops, and he couldn’t very well quit in the middle and go home to a debtor’s prison or worse when things got rough. Von Steuben’s method was to set up a model drill company and write a drill manual (in French). Again with some irony the drill company turned out to be extremely popular with the supposedly undisciplined colonials and its demonstration tours of military encampments were always well attended and imitated.


The manual itself is probably best used with some military miniatures, or at least paper counters, that you can push around to duplicate the maneuvers. The procedure for retreating a column through a narrow defile (where the whole column won’t fit at once and you need cover against pursuit) is particularly complicated. It also might be interesting to go through the loading and firing procedure for a flintlock musket - especially in your front yard; you’re probably unpopular with the neighbors anyway.


This is a photographic reprint of the original 1794 edition, which can make it a little difficult to read sometimes. As was common at the time, the typeface has a letter “s” that looks like an “f” except at the end of a word, this makes reading fome fentences challenging.


Worth three stars on general principles, and four if you’re a military history buff. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 4, 2017 |
This is Von Steuben's drill manual. It is focused on the battlefield movements the Continental line went through to fire, change formations and other requirements to achieve success on the battlefield.

This is more useful as an artifact than anything else. Not much of a read. It would be great with annotations. ( )
  ksmyth | Mar 7, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486249344, Paperback)

Facsimile of extremely rare 1794 edition of von Steuben's basic manual of military training and procedure — the official U.S. military guide until 1812. Invaluable reference for historians, military buffs details drill and field service regulations: formation of a company, marching, firings, inspection, much more. Publisher's Note. 8 black-and-white illustrations.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:50 -0400)

Facsimile of extremely rare 1794 edition of von Steuben's basic manual of military training and procedure - the official U.S. military guide until 1812. Invaluable reference for historians, military buffs details drill and field service regulations: formation of a company, marching, firings, inspection, much more. Publisher's Note. 8 black-and-white illustrations.… (more)

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