George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Steuben, January 1784

From Steuben

[January 1784]

My dear General

The letter of december 23d which I have had the honor of receiving from Your Excellency is the most honorable testimony which my serving could have received.1 My first wish was to approve myself to Your Excellency & in having obtained it my happiness is complete.

The Confidence Your Excellency was pleased to place in my integrity & ability Gained me that of the Army & of the United States—Your approbation will secure it.

A Stranger to the language & customs of the Country, I had nothing to offer in my favor but a little experience & great good will to serve the United States, If my endeavours have succeeded I owe it to Your Excellencys protection, & it is a sufficient reward for me to know that I have been usefull in Your Excellencys Operations—which always tended to the good of Your country.

After having studied the principles of the military art under Frederick, & put them into practice under Washington, after having deposited my sword under the same trophies of Victory with Yours, & finally after having received this last public testimony of Your esteem, there remains nothing for me to desire.

Accept my sincere thanks, My dear General for the Unequivocal proofs of Your friendship which I have received since I had first the honor to receive Your orders; & believe that I join my prayers to those of America for the preservation of Your life, & for the increase of Your felicity, with every sentiment of respect, I have the honor to be Your Excellencys Obdient

Copy, NHi: Steuben Papers.

Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin, Baron von Steuben (1730–1794), a professional soldier trained in the Prussian army of Frederick the Great, arrived as a volunteer in America on 1 Dec. 1777. Five months later GW asked Congress to make Steuben inspector general of the Continental army with the rank of major general, which was done. Steuben did not receive his final discharge from the army until 24 Mar. 1784. He settled in New York City.

1GW wrote to Steuben on 23 Dec. 1783: “... I wish to make use of this last moment of my public life, to signifie in the strongest terms my entire approbation of your conduct, and to express my sense of the obligations the public is under to you, for your faithful and meritorious Services” (DLC:GW).

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