A Confederate Hero & Pole is Honored In Poland

Editors note:
On behalf of website management I want to congratulate  website member Nancy Hitt, for yet another victory in her own personal battle to ensure no Confederate veteran grave remains unmarked. It doesn't matter if the noble Confederate veteran is buried in New York State, or in Gizyn Poland, once Nancy finds an unmarked grave, she will do everything possible to correct the injustice. I'm proud to call her friend and honored to count her among our ranks. I trust you will enjoy this story written by one of the most active and ardent defenders of the Southern cause.

Patrick Marquis

On the morning of Wednesday, September 3, 2008, a bus loaded with folks from Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and the States arrived in the small village of Gizyn, Poland. They were greeted with many unusual sights. There were girls adorned with flowers in their hair, uniformed Polish fire department members and German reenactors in Confederate uniforms gathered around their tents.

A pot of stew was being cooked over an unusual green metal stove by one of the local Polish volunteers. A dirt road had been cleared by village people past the tents and it led to a large brick chapel. Much of this effort had been arranged by the German Pastor Moeller in coordination with the Mayor of the town of Gizyn and another Polish man.

This day was historic for several reasons. It was a joyful day full of songs and dancing in a poor drab little village. It was a day in which barriers of long-standing were broken down, if only for a few short hours. This is a land which has seen hundreds of years of blood shed. This village is now in the hands of resettled Polish people, but it had been recognized for hundreds of years as Prussia, an important part of Germany.

It is hoped that this exciting day helped to salve somewhat the bitterness caused by the loss of German homesteads to its current occupants who were forcefully removed from their homes east of Prussia and deposited upon German land. This area still remains replete with distressed homes, fallow farmland and poor inhabitants, but for one day in 2008, hospitality and understanding prevailed in Gizyn.

How could I foresee the consequences of the research which I began in 2003 to locate the gravesite of CSA Col. Heros von Borcke? Little did I even understand the terrible situation that had befallen the von Borcke families who had resided in Prussia for generations. The von Borckes were descendants of a proud and noble ancestry. As World War II came to an end, they were driven like cattle out of their homes.

They have never been able to safely return to live upon their hereditary homeland.  In fact, many of their manors have been totally destroyed. Their lives were damaged in various ways, often they had lost family members during the War. They had to confront a cruel bigotry that had been nursed against all German nationals.

These strong-willed Germans have not allowed Russian prison camps, loss of parents and loss of homes to conquer them. Many members of the von Borcke families left their Fatherland and faced these hardships with courage. These descendants managed through hard work to overcome the many hurdles that had been placed in front of them.

A memorial was held in the morning at the chapel which had once held the grave stones and remains of CSA Col. Heros von Borcke and his parents. Heros had volunteered to fight to help us obtain our Southern Independence. He became a staff officer under the leadership of General Jeb Stuart. They became very close friends. Heros was present at the deathbed of General Stuart on May 11, 1864, although suffering himself from a serious throat wound received at the Battle of Middleburg on June 19, 1863.

On December 21, 1864, Heros von Borcke was promoted to Lt. Colonel and sent by Confederate President Jefferson Davis upon a mission to Europe. The War for Southern Independence ended while he was in London. Heros authored several books. He wrote about our War, the Brandy Station cavalry battle and his own autobiography.

He married his childhood sweetheart, Madgalene Honig and they had three sons.  His wife died in 1883. He visited Richmond, Virginia, in 1884, twenty years after he had left the States. He was received with much affection and a banquet was given in his honor. Heros presented his famous Damascus sword to the state of Virginia where it was later placed in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond.

Heros returned to Germany and married his wife’s younger sister, Tony Honig. They had a daughter they named Virginia and the Confederate flag flew from the manor at Giesenbruegge, renamed Gizyn. Heros died in Berlin on May 10, 1895, from blood poisoning probably due to the after-affects of his injury received at Middleburg.

Heros von Borcke has been mentioned in various military articles and Mary Chestnut wrote about him in her Diary of Dixie. Students of history knew about him, but he became a lost legend and it was not known where he was buried.  

Even the descendants of the von Borcke family were not sure where Heros was buried. These questions existed because of the destruction caused during several wars and the subsequent occupation of Prussia by Polish refugees. The name of the town had been changed and nothing obvious could be seen from the roadside of the village. Language was also a barrier to research.

Actually, the chapel of the von Borcke family was hidden in the forest which had grown up between the road through Gizyn and the chapel.  Much damage had occurred to the original three large gravestones and the chapel even had trees growing out of its antique roof. The graves had been looted and the forest had taken over naturally.

Pastor Moeller, the Mayor of Gizyn, and author Stefan Slivka were able to locate and document the site of the Heros von Borcke chapel which served as a mausoleum. This find and the subsequent 2005 article in the Gray and Blue magazine by Stefan Slivka were the leads I needed to begin the paperwork necessary to place a V.A. marker and Southern Cross of Honor at this embattled location.

The memorial ceremony served as part of the yearly reunion of von Borcke families who are members of the von Borcke Family Association.  In 2007, they began to organize this 2008 tour of their former estates and included the memorial service in their program.

The highlight of the ceremony was the presence of the two great-grandsons of these famous Confederate soldiers. Eckhard von Borcke and Jeb Stuart IV both met for the first time in Berlin just days before the ceremony. They each presented a speech in front of the von Borcke chapel. Colorful children sang Polish songs, a firefighter played the accordion and villagers held up our battle flag.

My talk described how I was able to locate and order the stone which was received in Germany by Pastor Moeller.  Eckhard von Borcke and Jeb Stuart IV uncovered the stone and cross of honor. There was a Texas color guard behind the speakers and Hamptons Legion of South Carolina fired three volleys. This was all preformed by Germans with three American volunteers.

Pastor Moeller concluded our ceremony with a prepared talk to the audience. Every speech was translated into Polish for the benefit of the Polish audience. A tasty stew and Polish beer was served on the grounds for visitors and reenactors.

The day ended with the local folks singing and dancing for us in their town hall. We sat at tables listening and watching the entertainment while drinking coffee and eating Polish home make deserts. The weather was lovely and the event was perfect!

If we really hope to save out Southern heritage, I firmly believe we must keep in contact with our European friends. We must keep strong the bond with those Confederates who live outside the States. These folks in foreign lands love our Southland because of the honor and courage shown by Confederates in battle. They believe in our Cause of Liberty just as much as we do.  

In order to understand the thinking of the European Confederates, one only has to read their astute letters to our critics. It was through my contact by e-mail to Raphael Waldburg of Madrid who is actually German that I was able to get in contact with the von Borcke family. This was an important turning point in my search.

Many Europeans know much more about our military history than we know about our own history. Even though many of these Europeans do not claim Confederate ancestors, they are “manning the barricades” today and are ready to give the bayonet to our enemies.

We must stand beside our European friends now more than ever for we must rally all of our troops to do battle with those who seek to destroy our way of life and our wonderful Southern heritage. Let us not forget that we received our glorious heritage because of the blood of more than 300,000 dead Southern men, women and children.

Once upon a time in 2008, Polish people waved Confederate battle flags and from a tall wooden pole in Poland our beloved flag waved in the breeze.

© Nancy Hitt quantrillsguerrillas.com This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">2008

"Permission should be requested and agreed to before using this copyrighted essay and or image." Enjoy this image of Col. Heros von Borcke 


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