It was the battle at Yorktown in 1781 that was Washington’s last roll of the dice to determine America’s future. Victory at Yorktown would be the battle that could finally assure America’s independence or doom the revolution to failure.
But without French support, Washington openly stated that the war would have been lost. Not so well known is that a German officer from Bavaria, Johann Kalb, helped attain this French support.
Kalb had served in the Army of the Upper Rhine which was allied with France and won the French Order of Military Merit in 1763, which elevated him to the nobility with the title of Baron. Five years later Baron de Kalb traveled to America on a covert mission for the Foreign Minister of France to determine the level of discontent among colonists. He was to analyze the situation and report back on whether the Americans should receive French support. During the trip, he gained a respect for the colonists and their spirit of independence. It was DeKalb’s report that convinced the King to assist George Washington and the American cause.
Along with the French naval forces, French and Germans soldiers were participants in the ground battle at Yorktown. In fact, Germans played significant roles in all three armies, making up roughly one third of all forces involved. More than 2,500 German soldiers served at Yorktown with the British, but a larger number of 5,500 served the Americans…. 2500 fought with the French, and more than 3,000 German-Americans served in Washington’s army. And of course, Prussian-German Baron von Steuben served as Washington’s Chief of Staff. The Baron also led the reorganization of the U.S. Army earlier during the War and this also helped make the victory at Yorktown possible.
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