INDEPENDENCE DAY

Born On The 4th Of July: 12 American LGBT War Heroes

Baron Frederick von Steuben

Though Prussian by birth, Von Steuben trained George Washington’s Colonial Army and was invaluable in helping them defeat the better equipped and trained British troops. The Baron arrived in the Colonies in September 1777, with his young aide de camp, Louis de Pontière, and his prized Italian greyhound, Azor. Soon after, he began teaching the essentials of military drills, tactics, disciplines, sanitation (previously soldiers just relieved themselves wherever they felt like) and use of the bayonet.

Steuben also developed a model company of 120 men, who in turn trained others. As part of his technique, the Baron would don full military dress and upbraid the troops in French and German. (He eventually recruited a captain to curse at them in English.) The Baron, one of the great heroes of the Revolutionary War, had long been considered “eccentric” and perhaps even “flamboyant,” but it was Randy Shilts who outed him in Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military, a seminal history published the year Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was instituted.