to Mr. White.
Washington, July 30, 1881.
Sir: During the darkest period of the Revolutionary War a German soldier of character and distinction tendered his sword in aid of American independence. Frederick William Augustus, Baron Steuben, joined Washington at Valley Forge, in the memorable and disastrous winter of 1778. He attested the sincerity of his attachment to the patriot cause by espousing it when its fortunes were adverse, its prospects gloomy, and its hopes, but for the intense zeal of the people, well nigh crushed.
The Baron Steuben was received by Washington with the most cordial welcome, and immediately placed on duty as inspector-general of the army. A detailed history of his military career in America would form an epitome of the revolutionary struggle. He had served in the Seven Years’ War on the staff of the great Frederick, and had acquired in the campaigns of that master of military science the skill and the experience so much needed by the untrained soldiers of the Continental army. The drill and discipline and effective organization which, under the commanding patronage of Washington, were at once imparted to the American army by the zeal and diligence of Steuben transformed the volunteers and raw levies into veterans, who successfully met the British regulars in all the campaigns of that prolonged struggle.
The final surrender of the British army under Lord Cornwallis occurred at Yorktown, Va., on the 19th day of October, 1781. Baron Steuben bore a most conspicuous part in the arduous campaign which ended so auspiciously for the Continental army, and it fell to his lot to receive the first official notification of the proposed capitulation, and to bear it to the illustrious commander-in-chief.
The centennial of that great event in American history is to be celebrated with appropriate observances and ceremonies on the approaching anniversary. I am directed by the President to tender, through [Page 478] you, an invitation to the representatives of Baron Steuben’s family in Germany to attend the celebration as guests of the Government of the United States. You will communicate the invitation through the imperial minister of foreign affairs, and will express to him the very earnest desire of this government that it shall be accepted.
Those who come as the representatives of Baron Steuben’s family will be assured in our day of peace and prosperity of as warm a welcome as was given to their illustrious kinsman in the dark days of adversity and war. They will be the honored guests of fifty millions of Americans, a vast number of whom have German blood in their veins and constitute one of the most worthy and valuable elements that make up the strength of the Republic. Intensely devoted, with patriotic fidelity to America, they yet retain and cherish and transmit the most affectionate memory of fatherland. To these the visit of Baron Steuben’s relatives will have something of the revival of family ties, while to all Americans, of whatever origin, the presence of German, guests will afford fitting opportunity of testifying their respect for that great country within whose imperial limits are included so much of human grandeur and human progress.
I am, sir, &c.,