In the manual [Baron von] Steuben wrote for [George Washington’s] American army, the most remarkable theme was love: love of the soldier for his fellow soldier, love of the officer for his men, love of country and love of his nation’s ideals. Steuben obviously intuited that a people’s army, a force of citizen-soldiers fighting for freedom from oppression, would be motivated most powerfully not by fear but, as he put it, by “love and confidence”—love of their cause, confidence in their officers and in themselves. “The genius of this nation,” Steuben explained in a letter to a Prussian officer, “is not in the least to be compared with that of the Prussians, Austrians, or French. You say to your soldier, ‘Do this,’ and he does it; but I am obliged to say, ‘This is the reason why you ought to do that,’ and then he does it.”
— Passage from James R. Gaines’s recent Smithsonian article “Washington & Lafayette,” brought to my attention by Major Derrick Hernandez of the 82nd Airborne [Ann Marlowe, writing in the current issue of World Affairs Journal]
Dear General Von Steuben,
Amazing, isn’t it, that Chicago has a high-school named after you? The German community here wanted to recognize the great work you did all those years ago helping out the father of our country. Anyway, as soon as I read that quote I realized I would have to pass it on to Victor Davis Hanson (VDH) who wrote a whole book on the subject of the success of citizen-soldiers in the West who have always been able to beat foes (often outnumbered or with better formal training) because they fought for ideals that they believed in (i.e. Western culture and values inculcated a better soldier). I can’t recommend the book highly enough, if you do any reading in Purgatory/Heaven — VDH is an American treasure and this was the book that I first read and got acquainted with his genius. Enjoy!