February 1, 2024

The Revolutionary War Hero Who Was Openly Gay

In an era before gay marriage and open pride, military men fell in love, formed powerful friendships and had same-sex relationships. Yet, because of social and official discrimination, many of their stories went untold. But one of America's most renowned military heroes, the revolutionary war hero who was openly gay, is finally getting his due.

Baron Friedrich von Steuben's Prussian upbringing and training prepared him for the military. He quickly rose to prominence in the military, becoming Frederick the Great's personal aide. His success, however, was marred by rumors that he was gay. Despite his high rank and success, he was dismissed from the Prussian military in 1763, allegedly for having "improper familiarity with males."

George Washington knew of von Steuben's talents and recommended him for a position at Valley Forge. Though Franklin played up his qualifications, it is likely that the Americans were aware of the baron's homosexuality at the time of his dismissal from the Prussian military.

While at Valley Forge, von Steuben worked to raise the morale of the American troops by socialising with them and hosting potluck dinners in his quarters. It is unlikely, however, that any of the soldiers who wrote firsthand accounts of these gatherings would have documented them had they descended into an orgy or anything else inappropriate.

Josh Trujillo and Levi Hastings's graphic novel tells the story of a largely forgotten figure in American history who was an early pioneer of modern gay rights and equality. The result is a funny, poignant, and informative story that highlights the need to pay more attention to queer histories in our national narrative.


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