25 April 2010 by Published in: Research and Writing 9 comments

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.

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Comments

  1. Sun 25th Apr 2010 at 9:16 pm

    It’s odd that he does not show up in the Soldiers & Sailors System. One O.R. entry refers to him as a member of “Schurz’s staff.” There’s also a peculiar entry in “The History of Hampshire County, West Virginia,” by Maxwell and Swisher, p. 216:

    “It is said he [Koenig] was killed by his own men in revenge for his having struck several of them during the march from Moorefield. It is also said that those who killed him did not know Averell by sight and supposed that Koenig was Averell.”

    Either way, sounds like there were some rough customers in the ranks.

    You can find that text here, but it takes a minute to upload the full pdf: http://tinyurl.com/259bwdo

    David

  2. Sun 25th Apr 2010 at 9:18 pm

    Thanks, David. I’ve seen that speculation about him having been killed by his own men, but there is absolutely no evidence to support that contention that I can find.

    It’s an interesting puzzle to try to unwind.

    Eric

  3. Stefan Papp, Jr.
    Mon 26th Apr 2010 at 4:08 am

    Eric:

    General der Kavallerie (general of cavalry) Götz Friedrich Wilhelm Freiherr von König. Born Braunschweig 23 February 1847. Died Charlottenburg (Berlin) 27 April 1934. (He was the father of renowned painter Leo Freiherr von König.)

    In 1914 he was commander of the 3rd Landwehr Division in the 8th Army with the rank of lieutenant general.

    If General von König was related to Paul, I don’t know.

    There are references to von König (Paul & Robert) in “The wild life of the Army: Civil War letters of James A. Garfield”, p. 150…

    Stefan

  4. Stefan Papp, Jr.
    Mon 26th Apr 2010 at 4:24 am

    P. S. A portrait of the general:

    http://www.portrait.kaar.at/Erster%20Weltkrieg%20Teil%202/image10.html.

  5. Chris Van Blargan
    Thu 29th Apr 2010 at 3:28 am

    Eric,

    Here are picture of General Goetz Friedrich Wilhelm Ulrich, Freiherr von Koenig:

    http://www.austro-hungarian-army.co.uk/bruch/germans.htm

    http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?p=591569&highlight=h%FClsen

    He was awarded the Blue Max in 1915:

    http://www.hotlinecy.com/KCPix/BlueMaxRecipients.pdf

    It looks like there is a biography in this source:

    http://home.foni.net/~adelsforschung/sold04.htm

    He was also the author of a cavalry tactics book:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Winke-f%C3%BCr-taktische-Ausbildung-Kavallerie-Offiziere/dp/B0014TR7A2

    Chris

  6. Chris Van Blargan
    Thu 29th Apr 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Eric,

    Not sure if you saw the New York Adjutant General records for the 68th NY:

    http://dmna.state.ny.us/historic/reghist/civil/rosters/Infantry/68th_Infantry_CW_Roster.pdf

    Interestingly, it mentions that Paul von Koenig served in the English army. There are a couple of other Koenig’s listed, but as the name translates to “King,” would need more to establish a relationship.

    Another source you may wish to check out is Friedrich Otto Barron von Fritch’s collected letters entitled “A Gallant Captain of the Civil War: Being the Extraordinary Adventures of Friedrich Otto Baron von Fritch” published in 1902. He was in the 68th, and while I am not familiar with the text, it appears to have been cited frequently in “Chancellorsville and the Germans.”

    Chris

  7. Fri 24th Sep 2010 at 9:51 am

    General,
    my son Florian, working at the UN in N.Y., found your inquiry concerning Paul von König and sent me the link. Well, I am a grandnephew of Paul. His youngest brother, the already forementioned General of the Cavalry Götz Frhr.v.König, was my grandfather. My father was the painter Leo von König. He died with 73 years in 1944 in which year I was born as a postumus. This may dissolve your supposition that I should be right over 100 years old, speaking about my granduncle.
    There are reminiscences of the eldest of my granduncles Friedrich Wilhelm Frhr.v.König, (1830-1910) . Alas, they do not stand up the serious inquiries of a historian but give some nice anecdotes about the family. He mentions Paul, one of the 4 younger brothers he had and speaks about his death at Sulfur Springs at the top of “cavalry regiment”, when leading an attack against parts of the Southern Army. He was, as I read, “gone through by for bullets”. It seems that he, who was before officer on a great vessel of the America-Line, followed his elder brother – which was either Moritz or Wilhelm or Robert – who served in the “General Stuff of the Northern Army”. This brother served before in the Austrian Army anf was gravely wounded in the battle of Solferino (where the “Red Cross” was founded by H.Dunant). I guess this brother felt somewhat responsiblefor him and may have had the necessary connections to bring him to a suitable post.
    This may not yet answer your inquiry why Paul joined the stuff of Averell but it could be a useful hint. As I read from other anecdotes of Paul, he must have been a kind of an adventurer, brave and always looking for new experiences. He was engaged with the daughter of the Secretary of Treasure, Hay, which he learnt to know, when in Washington. His death came before the marriage.
    If you are interested to know more about Paul in special or the v. König family in general, please let me know.
    By the way, I dont know even the birthday and -place of Paul. The official register of the German nobility, the so-called “Gotha” does only mention “Paul, died 1863″, whereas all the dates about his brethren are available.
    I hope Icould help you.
    Sincerely yours,
    Dominik von König

    Dr. Dominik Frhr. von König
    Huglfingerstr.4
    D- 82398 Polling
    (that is a village in Bavaria, where a lot of famous American painters, the so-called Duveneck-Boys – Frank Duveneck from Cincinnatti/Ohio – and others worked for a while, when studieing at the Academy in Munich. But this is again another story!)

  8. mark tennant
    Mon 05th Nov 2012 at 11:30 pm

    I doubt that Baron von Koenig’s remains are still buried on Dry Creek battlefield. More likely he is buried at Staunton, Va national cemetery, probaly one of the unknowns. After the Civil War most Union soldiers were reinterred at National Cemeteries. Two soldiers from the 8th WV Mtd. Inf. are identified and buried at Staunton: Capt. William Gardner- Co. E, grave #304 and 1st Lt. John Morehead, Co. I, grave # 313.

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