The French Army provides us with the first examples of IGs in Western culture. In 1668, an inspector general of infantry and an inspector general of cavalry were appointed, with the principal duties of reviewing the troops and reporting to the king. Louis XIV expanded the system to include geographical inspectors. They examined everything within their sphere of influence. Soon, military inspection became an essential aspect of all modern armies.
1775 - 1783
The U.S. Army Inspector General System was born during the Revolutionary War. The Continental Army, when formed in 1775, was a disorganized array of militia from different states, with no uniformity in organizations, procedures, drills, appearance, or equipment. The Continental Army's leadership was not comparable to the good, solid officer leadership of the British Army, and General Washington was not satisfied with the training and readiness of his diversified forces.
By the time of the American Revolution, the appointment of inspectors, at least in functional areas, was an established routine in European armies. The tactics of the day, volley fire and massed bayonet charges, required stern discipline and extensive drill and training. It followed that commanders needed a close look at the units and their readiness.
On 29 October 1777, General Washington met with 14 general officers and decided among other things that an Inspector General for the Army was desirable. The Inspector General would superintend the training of the entire Army in order to ensure troop proficiency and common tactics. He would be the commander's agent to ensure tactical efficiency of the troops, that of tactical competence. The duties envisioned were those of a "drill master general" or a "muster-master general."
At the same time, the Continental Congress recognized the need for an inspector general to provide it with information concerning a significant public investment. Therefore, the Congress understandably wanted an agent in the Army to help in accountability for the military investments. It also wanted assurances the military would remain subordinate to its authority.
This parallel IG requirement created tension between the military and the civilian authorities. General Washington's preference for an IG answerable only to the Army chain of command prevailed, and subsequently inspectors general were ordered to report to the Commander in Chief. However, the tension created by a dual requirement for information continues even today.
On 13 December 1777, Congress created the Inspector General of the Army. The Congressional resolution directed that the Inspector General would:
- - Review the troops
- - See that officers and soldiers are instructed in exercise maneuvers established by the Board of War
- - Ensure that discipline be strictly observed
- - Ensure that officers command properly and treat soldiers with justice
The first Inspector General of the Army was MG Thomas Conway. Conway, an Irish Soldier of fortune, resigned shortly after his appointment because he couldn't get along with anyone in the American Army, to include General Washington. The first effective U.S. Army Inspector General was Baron Frederick William Augustus von Steuben. Von Steuben was a former captain in the Prussian Army. He was recruited for the American Army in Paris by Benjamin Franklin in 1777. Franklin recognized that quality of von Steuben but was concerned that Congress wouldn't accept only a captain for such a position of responsibility. So Franklin "doctored" von Steuben's resume in order to present him as a former lieutenant general, a grade he knew would be acceptable to Congress.
Von Steuben was accepted as the Inspector General of the Army on a trial basis by General Washington. He reported to duty at Valley Forge in February 1778. He spoke no English but learned quickly and impressed everyone with his hard work to improve the training, drills, discipline, and organization of the Continental Army.
In May 1778, he was officially appointed Inspector General of the Army with the rank and pay of major general. Congress also appointed two ranks of inspectors general under the IG, providing us the first Inspector General organization.
Many of the Continental Army's regimental colonels resented bitterly the efforts of the inspector general, whose duties as outlined by Congress included "to report all abuses, neglect and deficiencies to the Commander in Chief." It was von Steuben's character, tact and genius that overcame a great deal of this resistance and as such, set the precedent for the manner and behavior for future IGs. MG von Steuben is recognized as the "Father of the Inspector General System," and significantly influenced our Army's ability to fight and win.
Baron von Steuben Memorial (NY State Park)
Baron Frederick William Augustus von Steuben