One of the more enduring and more intriguing puzzles associated with the Battle of White Sulphur Springs is finding information regarding Capt. Paul von Koenig, who was killed in action on the first day of the battle, August 26, 1863. Koenig was killed while leading a flank attack of elements of the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry on the afternoon of the first day. In 1914, Col. James M. Schoonmaker of the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry arranged for a monument to be placed on the spot where Koenig was killed and buried. Although the monument has been moved (and I don’t know whether Koenig’s body was, although I assume it was) because the field where it was originally placed is now a strip shopping center, it is still there on the battlefield to this day.
Why Koenig was there at all is the mystery I am trying to unravel. I have been unable to dig up much about him at all. Here’s what I know: Paul von Koenig was a German baron who came to the United States at the beginning of the war with a brother. He was commissioned as a captain in the 68th New York Infantry, a largely German unit that ended up as part of the 11th Corps of the Army of the Potomac. At the time that he was commissioned in 1861, von Koenig was 25 years old. And that’s 100% of what I know about this man.
I have learned that his is an ancient and ennobled German family; there is presently an incumbent Baron von Koenig in Germany, whom I have tried unsuccessfully to contact. The regimental history of the 14th Pennsylvania suggests that one of his brothers attended the dedication of the monument to him on the battlefield, and that the brother was a lieutenant general in the German army in the days immediately prior to the outbreak of World War I, but I have been unable to verify that or learn the brother’s name if it is, indeed, true.
What I have yet to unravel is the mystery of the question why von Koenig was serving with W. W. Averell’s cavalry brigade in the first place, since he was an infantry officer. Further, the bulk of Averell’s brigade was made up of West Virginia cavalrymen, with one regiment of Pennsylvanians–the 14th Pennsylvania Cavalry–and NO New Yorkers at all. Averell evidently trusted the young baron, because he spoke highly of him and evidently used him for important tasks during the time the two served together.
I will have von Koenig’ service records in a week or so, and can only hope that there might be some indication in them as to why von Koenig was serving with Averell. Often, pension files can be the source of really valuable information, but given that von Koenig was a German baron, I don’t expect there to be a pension file in his case.
So, I want to invite you, my readers, to see if any of you have ever heard of Capt. Paul, Baron von Koenig, and, if you have, if you have any information as to how he came to serve with William Woods Averell’s Fourth Separate Brigade in August 1863. Thanks–I hope someone knows something about this forgotten officer.
These are the stories/mysteries that keep me coming back to continue doing this sort of work, and solving them is always the most rewarding part of what I do.
UPDATE, MAY 11, 2010: Well, the mystery of why he was there has been solved. I just got von Koenig’s service records from the National Archives, and those service records provided the answer.
In September 1862, von Koenig was assigned to serve as the ordnance officer to Maj. Gen. Carl Schurz’s Third Division, 11th Corps. In March 1863, just after the formation of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps, von Koenig was assigned to serve as an aide-de-camp on the staff of Brig. Gen. William W. Averell, then commanding the Army of the Potomac’s Second Cavalry Division. When Averell was relieved of command in May 1863 and sent west to take command of the Fourth Independent Brigade (the command he led at White Sulphur Springs), he took von Koenig with him.
That is the answer to the question as to why von Koenig was there. It was a really interesting puzzle to unravel. The next mystery, which I really doubt that I will be able to solve, is why von Koenig joined the staff of Averell in March 1863.Scridb filter