Thursday, 7 July 2011

California's gay history

The Guardian story about the prospect of mandatory gay/lesbian etc history in the schools is one of those straws in the wind that I'll leave to others, but it was this part which sparked my recollection:
During debate about the bill, supporters gave examples of historical figures they said would be featured, including Friedrich von Steuben, a military adviser to George Washington forced out of Prussia because he was gay, and the British mathematics genius Alan Turing.
Hmm, not sure they should be bragging too much about that guy, if they're looking for positive role models ...

... As if the ragged soldiers at Valley Forge did not have enough troubles, they were to be further plagued by the arrival, in February, of a mendacious Prussian braggart and soldier of fortune calling himself "Baron von Steuben." Actually, Captain Steuben was neither a baron nor, as he claimed, a Prussian general; but he managed quickly to be elevated to the post of inspector general of the Continental Army. Steuben set about to Prussianize the American army, and so now the hapless soldiery suffered the infliction of the whole structure of petty and meaningless routine designed to stamp out individuality and transform the free and responsible soldier into an automaton subject to the will of his rulers. Ever since he had embarked on the Philadelphia campaign, Washington had grown ever further away from the guerrilla tactics that had won him victory at Trenton (and had defeated Burgoyne). Washington had no desire to become a guerrilla chieftain; to his aristocratic temper the only path to glory was through open, frontal combat as practiced by the great states of Europe. Washington had tried this formula, and lost dismally at Brandywine and at Germantown, but this experience taught him no real lessons. He was delighted to have Steuben continue the process he himself had begun in the first year of war of imposing petty enslavement upon a body of free men. Until recently, historians have rhapsodized uncritically over the benefits of Steuben's training, of the enormous difference in the army's performance. But Washington's and his army's performance was equally undistinguished before and after Steuben; any differences were scarcely visible.

In the midst of this Prussianizing of the American army, Charles Lee was released in a prisoner exchange in early April. While Washington and Steuben were taking the army in an ever more European direction, Lee in captivity was moving the other way—pursuing his insights into a fullfledged and elaborated proposal for guerrilla warfare. He presented his plan to Congress, as a "Plan for the Formation of the American Army." Bitterly attacking Steuben's training of the army according to the "European Plan," Lee charged that fighting British regulars on their own terms was madness and courted crushing defeat: "If the Americans are servilely kept to the European Plan, they will . . . be laugh'd at as a bad army by their enemy, and defeated in every [encounter]. . . . [The idea] that a decisive action in fair ground may be risqued is talking nonsense." Instead, he declared that "a plan of defense, harassing and impeding canalone succeed," particularly if based on the rough terrain west of the Susquehannah River in Pennsylvania. He also urged the use of cavalry and of light infantry (in the manner of Dan Morgan), both forces highly mobile and eminently suitable for the guerrilla strategy.

This strategic plan was ignored both by Congress and by Washington, all eagerly attuned to the new fashion of Prussianizing and to the attractions of a "real" army. Lee made himself further disliked by expressing yearnings for a negotiated peace, with full autonomy for America within the British empire. During his year in captivity, it seems he had partially reverted to the position of the English Whigs. He did not realize that the United States was now totally committed to independence, and that peace terms that would have been satisfactory three years earlier would no longer do. Too much should not be made of this, however; General Sullivan, in his earlier term of captivity, had also been temporarily persuaded of similar views.

Murray N. Rothbard - Conceived in Liberty volume 4 pp 225-226


James Higham said...

I think it's not possible for a soldier to be free and doing as he wishes. Staying alive means all working and moving as a unit.

This is at odds with libertarianism but in a field situation, it can keep him alive.

Trooper Thompson said...


the American revolutionaries were successful when they used guerrilla tactics, and played to their advantages. When they tried to take on the British in old-fashioned European warfare style, they lost, and if the British hadn't been commanded in the most inept ways, they would have been much more severely punished.