Hidden Gems

Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States

By Baron De Steuben, late Major General and Inspector General of the Army of the Unites States

Printed by Albany, Backus & Whiting, 1807, an improved edition, illustrated by new and accurate copper plate engravings.

What Makes this Book Unique?

 

  • It turned the Revolutionary Army from one “lacking everything but spirit” (von Steuben) into an organized military force
  • It is also known as The Blue Book
  • Defined regimental roles and responsibilities
  • Was formally used by the United States Army until 1812
  • Had an enduring value to the modern United States Army which still uses aspects of his training today

The story of our book begins with von Steuben’s arrival at Valley Forge in February 1778. He greatly impressed General Washington, who appointed him temporary Inspector General. The United States Congress appointed him Inspector General on May 6 1778 – the same day on which news of the alliance with France was celebrated.  Find out more about him on the Valley Forge National Park website and at Mount Vernon in Virginia.

The book was written in 1778/79, originally in French and was translated into English.  On March 29, 1779 Congress ordered the Regulations to be “observed by all Troops of the United States, and that all general and other Officers cause the same to be executed with all possible exactness, By Order, John Jay, President”.

 

von Steuben’s work set the standards for:

  • A standard method of drilling
  • Keeping maneuvers simple and easy to learn
  • How to use bayonets
  • Sanitation and camp layout
  • Record keeping and inspections

He began with ‘train the trainers’ Revolutionary style – von Steuben formed a model company of 120 men from different regiments.  They were originally an honor guard for General Washington, but in fact they were a way for von Steuben to demonstrate his methods and their effectiveness.

Military formation map from von Steuben’s book

German map of an American encampment, circa 1780.  From the American Independence Museum’s Collection

List of soldier’s supplies, circa 1812.  From the Gookin Family Papers, American Independence Museum

Still Valued Today

Many of von Steuben’s writings are used in the manuals used by the United States military today.  These include the FM 3-21.5 Drill and Ceremony.  This drill is primarily used by a commander to move their unit from one place to another in an quick and orderly manner, changing of the guard, and conduct for visiting dignitaries.  It also includes methods for instructing drill, teaching techniques, and instructions for those giving commands.

Baron von Steuben’s writings also led to the creation of a version of The Blue Book for Noncommissioned Officers in 1904.  Noncommissioned Officers are military people who have not earned commission, or high rankings within the military.  This Officer Guide, keeping close to what von Steuben had laid out during the Revolution, provides information on military history, professional development, and roles and responsibilities of Noncommissioned Officers.  The last updated Officer Guide was published in 2002.

Want to Learn More?

Our volume is on display, but is extremely fragile.  You can look at the entirety of the first edition online by clicking this link to the Library of Congress.

Duckster’s is a great website for children, containing information on the Revolutionary War.  Visit their website by clicking here.

Civil War Trust has a video presentation about the Battle at Valley Forge, which goes into the struggles, reorganization, and training that occurred on the Patriot side.  This video be watched here.