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Southern Heritage <br>News and Views: On the track of Heros von Borcke

Monday, November 16, 2009

On the track of Heros von Borcke

By Hubert Leroy

In 1885 or thereabouts, in the small Prussian village of Giesenbruegge (Pomerania), was a large country-house over which waved every day the Confederate Battleflag!Maybe it seems paradoxical but you must know that the landlord had served with the South during the American Civil War.

As a matter of fact, on May 26th, 1862 in the harbour of Charleston a big burly Prussian got ashore from the blockade runner Kate. His name was Johan Heros von Borcke, a cavalry officer who, like a number of contemporary Europeans, came to enlist in the Confederate military forces.

Von Borcke served in General J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry and, thanks to his ability, was promoted to the rank of chief of staff. The Prussian trooper took part in many actions, always impetuously leading the way with the Virginian squadrons. For all that, during the battle of Middleburg in June 1863, he was wounded; after a long convalescence, he was found unfit for combat. Ever since, he served in administrative posts more appropriate to his health. In December 1864, now a lieutenant colonel, he was entrusted by Jefferson Davis with a diplomatic mission in Europe. That is in London that he came to know of Lee’s surrender in April 1865.

The rest of his life was rich in various events, notably his participation in the war between Prussia and Austria, in 1866. All that will make an article in a next CHAB News.

September 2008

In the morning of September 3rd, a motor coach bringing from Berlin scions of the von Borcke and Stuart families, representatives of the SCV (Sons of Confederate Veterans) and of the UDC (United Daughters of the Confederacy), as well as two members of the CHAB, Heinrich Wirz and myself, stopped in a small village in Poland, over whose market-place waved a Confederate Battleflag.

We were in the old Giesenbruegge, now called Gizyn after the events and changes which happened since the end of World War II.

We had come in that remote place in order to be present at the ceremony of homage to Heros von Borcke whose grave had finally been found after long years of quest. As a matter of fact, during the Soviet advance, the von Borcke family’s manor had been partly destroyed, like its outbuildings and chapel. The tombs in the near-by graveyard had been sacked by soldiery searching for gold and jewels. Every inhabitant of this small village – first of all Jerzek Zigmund, the mayor – was waiting for us with impatience and curiosity, for our coming had been announced for several months yet. The chapel ruins in which lay the graves of von Borcke and his parents nowadays are in a wood which partly covers the ancient estate. So, it has been necessary to clear it and to cut an access way for the event.

Some people could smile at that unusual ceremony but it had the merit, friendship and peace being the keywords, of gathering together representatives of various nations: Poland, Germany, USA-CSA, Switzerland and Belgium. As for the inhabitants of that small village in the ends of the world, it was The event!

After the spirited speeches, Eckhard von Borcke, great-grandson of the Prussian trooper, and J.E.B. Stuart IV laid on the grave a Confederate Cross of Honour, as well as a bunch of flowers, and a triple salute of musketry by the re-enactment group Hampton Legion from Berlin was the climax of the ceremony.

During the whole event, under a dazzling sky, the village choral society and some local musicians were performing in homage to H. von Borcke and in honour of us privileged visitors; it was well appreciated.

We had a very hearty rural meal and then the whole audience was bidden to go into the feast room where we attended a musical interlude and some dances from the Polish folklore brilliantly performed by charming young ladies. The day was drawing to an end and it was in company of J.E.B. Stuart IV, an old friend, and his son J.E.B. Stuart V that, after an endless drive, I rejoined Berlin, extremely happy.

Early on the next morning, the Stuarts flied off to Virginia. As far as I am concerned, I went back to Belgium with my head full of precious remembrances of those few days spent with friends passionately fond of that Confederacy whose memory is far from vanishing. We must also thank our friend and member from Kentucky, Nancy Hitt, who was the mainspring of that memorable meeting.


The group in uniform are members of the SCV


Nancy Hitt, from the UDC Kentucky


From left to right: Eckhart von Borcke, Col. Jeb Stuart IV, Heinrich Wirz and Hubert Leroy


Grave of Heros von Bolcke at Giesenbruegge in Poland. It has been sacked by Russian soldery during WW II.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

castsusThank you for reclaiming a piece of Civil War history

4:55 PM  
Blogger Lane Kimmel said...

Very great story, and my absolute appreciation for the work and attitude that went into this venture. As an American of Prussian decent I also took a personal interest in the story. So much German history was destroyed and lost in the territory exchanges and Red Army sweep through Eastern Germany (now Poland) and to see even a tiny bit revived for the family's sake is so nice to see. Again, ty!

7:11 AM  

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