Description: Baron Von Steuben is historically significant because he changed how the American Army fought and revealed the enduring issue of gays in the military. Baron Von Steuben, being a Prussian military genius was sent by Franklin to the United States to help the Continental Army defeat the British during the American Revolutionary War. Baron Von Steuben, while at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-1778 put the Continental Army, under command of Gen George Washington, through drills and other military practices in order to teach them how to be a formidable fighting force. Additionally, Baron Von Steuben reveals the enduring issue of gays in the military. Franklin, through the vetting process of Von Steuben, learned of his homosexual affections- something that he was in the process of being criminally prosecuted for in the French courts. Franklin, in dire need to have someone of a high caliber of military expertise support Gen Washington, decided that Von Steuben’s military expertise was much more important and vouched for Von Steuben and sent him to Valley Forge to help the Army.
These actions show that the enduring issue of gays in the military have been around as long as the military has been and that various responses to the allowance or denial of gays in the military have been debated and discussed for over three hundred years.
Grade Level: 8th
You can find the lesson plan here!
Source: Berkeley History-Social Science Project