Five Foreigners Who Created America
How often do we hear “We give money to foreigners all the time. What do they ever do for us?” It is true, that America is a very giving country and that we try to help those in need, but other countries have helped us, as well, along the way. It is ignorant for us to forget those contributions to America. People risked their lives, reputations and talents to help make America become a country, and without them, we probably would still be under English rule. This Independence Day, while we are celebrating with picnics and fireworks, let us not forget the American colonist who bled for our freedom and these five foreigners that gave us the opportunity to say we live in the United States. Here are five foreigners who created America.
Possibly the most famous on this list was the Frenchman, Marquis de Lafayette. He fought as a Major-General in the Revolution and was wounded at the Battle of Brandywine. He was instrumental in blocking British troops at the Battle of Yorktown and was an indispensable commander to General George Washington. In addition to his help on the battlefield, Lafayette used his diplomatic powers in France to help finance America in their war efforts and lend military support. Lafayette also spent a great deal of his own personal fortune in the creation of the American states. For his help, there are many parks, cities, and streets in the United States named after him. When he died, dirt from the Battle of Bunker Hill was sprinkled over his grave.
This Prussian-born (German) officer was another one of our Major-Generals during the Revolutionary War. He is the person responsible for turning our army of militiamen into a fighting force. He taught them military drills, tactics, and fighting discipline. He introduced the American soldier to camp sanitation (which was still being used during World War 2), and most importantly, how to fight with a bayonet. Before von Steuben, most American soldiers used their bayonets to cook on. Some of the things that von Steuben wrote were used as our military handbook. Baron von Steuben was prized by George Washington for the contributions that he brought to the American army. In fact, Washington made him his chief of staff because he trusted his military advice. Today, we remember von Steuben by the city of Steubenville, Ohio, some counties in New York, and through different ships in our navy. Interestingly enough, up until recently, Baron von Steuben wouldn’t have been allowed in the United States military - he was openly gay!
Thaddeus Koscluszko came to the United States from his native Poland (now Lithuania) where he had been a military officer and an engineer. He came to the colonies at the time of the Revolutionary war and volunteered to fight. A friendship with Thomas Jefferson led to his appointment of being a colonel in the Army of Engineers and he soon was responsible for fortifying the city of Philadelphia. His skills as an engineer helped him to become America’s number one military engineer by the end of the war. His work helped to win the Battle of Saratoga and to fortify West Point. It was his plans that Benedict Arnold tried to pass off to the British. Koscluszko was given money and land near present-day Columbus, Ohio, but yearned to return to his native Poland. While leaving the United States, he wrote a will out bequeathing his estate to Thomas Jefferson with money and the agreement to free his slaves and have them educated (along with Jefferson’s slaves). Koscluszko died in 1817. Thomas Jefferson ignored the request and none of the money was used to help educate freed slaves.
A Spanish statesmen, known as the Count of Floridablanca (White Flowers) was a hesitant participant in the War of Independence. Spain had lost territories and shipping routes to the British after they sided with France in the French and Indian War just a few years prior. Redondo, as Spanish Secretary of State, was still influential in getting the Spanish to fight the British from Florida and Louisiana. They also used their ships to attack supply and troop trips from entering the colonies to support the Redcoats. This help bought enough time for our troops in South Carolina and other southern colonies to defeat the British and drive them north.
Britain would seem an unlikely source of aid during the Revolutionary War, but we did have some in the name of Parliamentary member, Charles James Fox. He was a member of Britain’s Whig Party and was an opponent of King George III. He came out in Parliament proclaiming that the Colonists were justified and that King George was a tyrant. It’s amazing that he wasn’t tried and hung for treason, but he was a popular and flamboyant politician. He went as far as to dress in colonial colors when attending Parliament and corresponding with Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Fox gathered dissent in Great Britain for the war against the Colonies and in the end lost his political standing - but not without hurting the British need to control America.