Saturday, May 10, 2014

Baron von Steuben, Valley Forge and my ancestor John Koen of Pasquotank, NC

Patriot Profiles- John Koen

My favorite magazine came today!

American Spirit is published by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  In each issue there are wonderfully written articles covering such subjects as American history, historic preservation, patriotism, genealogy and education.   And this month there is an article that pertains to one of my patriots, John Koen of Pasquotank, NC.

Walter, Jeff “Building a Better Army; Baron von Steuben’s military expertise helped turn the tide of the Revolution.” American Spirit. May/June 2014: Pages 44-46

The three page article gives background on the military veteran of the Seven Years War in Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben and how he received specialized training from King Frederick II’s personal class on warfare and leadership.  It tells of how this veteran Baron von Steuben went from a privileged elite officer of Prussia to a soldier of fortune enlisting as a volunteer in the Continental Army.   Steuben arrived near the end of that brutal winter of 1778 that had taken its toll on Washington’s Army at Valley Forge, PA.

My patriot John Koen had enlisted under Col Abraham Shepherd’s 10th NC regiment July 1777 and was at Valley Forge that entire winter.  The article goes on to say by the end of February 2,500 had died of starvation, disease or exposure and how the survivors though they had spirit and potential they were severely lacking in discipline and military training.  As temporary inspector general it was von Stueben’s job to get them ready for battle.  He was an “in your face” kind of man that these soldiers were not used to but listened to and respected none the less.   First however the camp had to be cleaned up with actual latrines and placing the kitchen on the opposite end of camp for sanitation purposes.   Drilling began with just a few of the men then as those mastered the military tactics they in turn each trained a small group until the skills spread to the entire Continental Army.    I can only image the hope and excitement my ancestor, John Koen along with the rest of the army felt as the proudly paraded May 6, 1778 to celebrate France’s alliance with America and demonstrated their newly honed military skills they had just mastered  over the last few months. 

My ancestor went on to fight in many battles after this including Monmouth, White Plains, and Charleston where he was taken prisoner.  He was then exchanged July 1782 and was marched to Richmond where he was discharged and went home.  I look forward to reading about these battles and more as I learn not only about their experiences but get a better understanding of what made them who they were and in turn a glimpse into whom I am as well.

Being a genealogist and keeper of the family history I enjoy reading about events that I know my ancestors were involved in.  It really makes history come alive.  Do you have an ancestor that was camped at Valley Forge?  I would love to hear your story.  Just click the word comments below and leave me a message.

No comments:

Post a Comment