Steuben Monument, Lafayette Square




Like words, phrases and songs, statues and monuments have their own history, and LaFayette Square's famous statues of European-born heroes of the American Revolution are no exception. At the four corners of the square stand statues of the Marquis de LaFayette (southwest corner, dedicated in 1891), the Comte de Rochambeau (southeast corner, a gift from France in 1902), General Thaddeus Kosciusko (northeast corner, 1910), and, later the same year, Baron Steuben (northwest corner, dedicated December 7, 1910). As might be imagined, the placement of these statues and the elaborate festivities at their dedications right across from the White House reflected the cultural and political rivalries of countries and ethnic groups within the United States in the pre-World War I era.

At the center of LaFayette Square (often referred to as Jackson Square in the past) is the heroic equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson by the American Clark Mills, cast from bronze cannon captured by Jackson in the War of 1812, and dedicated in 1853. There are two copies of the famous statue, one in the French Quarter in New Orleans (1856) and the other in Nashville, Tennessee (1880).

With statues of two French heroes of the revolution on the Square, German-Americans pressed for a monument to call their own--and Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730-1794) was the obvious subject. Baron Steuben was, after all, the most famous German-American of the American Revolution and known as the "drillmaster" who pulled together Washington's rag-tag army and enabled its success against the British. The dimensions of Steuben's symbolic and festive importance to the German-speaking community in Washington were described by Bradford Miller in 2001. The dedication--with the participation of President Taft, the German Ambassador, and many prominent German-American organizations--was the last national festive occasion for German-American friendship in the nation's capital before the catastrophe of World War I. The sculpture is the work of the German-born American sculptor Albert Jaegers (1868-1925).

Little-known is the fact that a replica of the statue of Baron Steuben was created at the same time as the original and presented by the Congress of the United States to Kaiser Wilhelm II and the German Nation in 1911.

Today, visitors to LaFayette Square notice the vigils more than they do the statuary. Vigils for peace and nuclear disarmament have been held on the sidewalk across from the White House continually for over twenty years. This is another DC neighborhood that serves as a crossroads for playing out local, national, and international issues.

A number of relics related to Baron Steuben are held in the library and museum of The Society of the Cincinnati at Anderson House, 2118 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. Along with George Washington, LaFayette, and others, Baron Steuben was a founding member of this military hereditary society whose membership is limited to the descendents of Continental Army officers in the American Revolution.


Steuben Biography

About Albert Jaegers, sculptor

About the replica sent to Germany