Thursday, March 12, 2009

Things They Don't Teach in Ohio History Classes

My father is originally from the Ohio River Valley, not too far from Wheeling (WV) on the Ohio side of the River, and some of his family has never left that area. When visiting, we often had to pass through Steubenville, Ohio (the birthplace of Dean Martin of all people, and the city doesn't fail to announce this with signs; strangely, there are no signs boasting Steubenville's status as also being "home to Wu-Tang Clan affiliates 4th Disciple, Beretta 9, and ShoGun Assason"). As you go through Steubenville, along the river, you see the remains/recreation of Fort Steuben, which was built in 1786 as a major outpost for surveying the Northwest Territory, and which was named after Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a Prussian officer who came to the rebellious American colonies in 1777 and trained the Americans in warfare. Steuben was central to the war efforts, as his training left the ill-equipped American colonists much less ill-equipped. Steuben even ended up writing the Revolutionary War Drill Manual, which was the major training guide for the military until the War of 1812, thereby occupying a fairly important piece of American history. All of this is common knowledge to anybody who has to spend more than 10 minutes in Steubenville.

However, what I never knew until watching the final few seconds of the interview with Nathaniel Frank on the Daily Show last night, was that Steuben very well may have been gay (this also appears in American National Biography Online, but you need university access to log in). Yes - in spite of the don't ask/don't tell policy being in place, and the anti-gay policies of the military for decades, the author of America's first military training manual, which would be essential to early military training in America, the man without whose training the colonists very well may have never beaten the British, was gay, a fact that, as Stewart alludes at the end of the above interview, renders current policy even more surreal.