Baron Johann DeKalbJohan Kalb, the man for whom DeKalb county in Alabama was named, was born in Bavaria, Germany in 1721. He joined the French Army in 1743 and became a brigadier general in 1761. After contracting to join the American Army, he sailed from France on April 20, 1777, with the Marquis de Lafayette. The Continental Congress appointed him a major general and he served under General George Washington at Brandywine, Germantown, Valley forge and Monmouth. In America he was known as Baron de Kalb or DeKalb.
In april, 1780, DeKalb was ordered to Charleston where he relinquished command to General Horatio Gates on July 25, but remained with the army. Gates ignored DeKalb’s professionally sound advice and made poor decisions which led to the annihilation of the army in the Camden Campaign, where DeKalb was mortally wounded. The famous Revolutionary hero died on August 19, 1780 at Camden, South Carolina. In 1825 Lafayette laid the cornerstone of the DeKalb monument at Camden.
Legacy: DeKalb was greatly revered by his contemporaries. Numerous towns and counties in the U.S. are named DeKalb after him, in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New York, Tennessee and Texas. Streets include the DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn, New York City, Merrick, New York, DeKalb Pike (U.S. Route 202 in Pennsylvania) in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and others. In Brooklyn NY, the Knights of Columbus established the Baron DeKalb Council #1073 in 1906 named in his honor. His portrait was painted posthumously by Charles Willson Peale. In 1886, a monument to Baron de Kalb was erected on the grounds of the Maryland state house to honor his contributions to the American Revolution. An American elementary school run by the U.S. Department of Defense in Nuremberg, Germany was named for him; it closed in the 1990s.