Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Heros von Borcke (1835–1895)

Heros von Borcke, in Germany after the American Civil War.
Johann August Heinrich Heros von Borcke is known as the "giant in gray." Born to an aristocratic German family, his childhood was spent in Berlin and Halle before receiving a Prussian military education. Von Borcke was commissioned an ensign in 1853 and admitted to the Cuiraisser Regiment of Guards as a cadet. He was then posted as second lieutenant to the Second Brandenburg Regiment of Dragoons, in 1860. After obtaining a leave from the Prussian Army, he embarked upon the adventure of his life; sailing for Bermuda, intent on joining the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.
Speaking almost no English, von Borcke managed to secure letters of introduction to Confederate authorities, and slipped into South Carolina's Charleston Harbor via a blockade runner on May 24, 1862. He next traveled to Richmond where he met with Confederate Secretary of War George Randolph who presented him with a letter of introduction to Major General J.E.B. Stuart.
A deep friendship developed immediately between the two men and von Borcke was made a captain in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States and later promoted to the rank of major. Von Borcke could be entertaining and told wonderful stories with his thick accent. His horses were as big as his extra long sword, a beast of a blade forged in Solingen of Damascus steel. He rode with Stuart, who affectionately called him "Von," during the Northern Virginia and the Maryland campaigns, acquiring a reputation for bravery. He served with Stuart in the Battle of Middleburg on June 19, 1863, where he suffered a severe wound. The examining doctor somberly declared the wound, which pierced the lung, mortal -- but von Borcke woke up the next morning determined to live and he did. Placed on limited duty for the remainder of the year, he resumed his position on Stuart's staff in the spring of 1864. Heros was present at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, where J.E.B. Stuart was mortally wounded and von Borcke sat at Stuart's deathbed, holding his hand, and promised to see after Stuart's widow and children. Von Borcke was promoted to lieutenant colonel in December of 1864, was voted the official thanks of the Confederate Congress, and sent on a diplomatic mission to England by President Jefferson Davis.
While in London, he wrote articles for the pro-Confederate Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine. The articles were later collected and published in book form as Memoirs of the Confederate War for IndependenceWhen the Confederacy collapsed in 1865, von Borcke returned to his native Prussia and resumed his military career. He fought in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War, receiving the coveted Order of the Red Eagle for his gallantry, but his old wounds continued to plague him, so he retired from the Prussian Army as Captain in 1867.
Von Borcke had three sons with his first wife, Magdalene Honig. When Magdalene passed away in 1883, he married her sister and they had a daughter named Karoline Virginia -- named in honor of his adopted, and beloved, southern state back in America.
Even after the war, von Borcke's maintained a deep affection, and respect, for the Confederacy. So much so, that unsuspecting visitors to East Prussia are often surprised to see the Confederate flag flying (next to the Prussian flag) from the battlements of von Borcke's ancestral estate in Geisenbrugge, Pomerania. In 1884, he returned to the United States for a reunion with many former friends and comrades, and presented his famous Damascus sword to them. The sword was later given to the State of Virginia.
Von Borcke is an aristocrat of some means, with a bent for adventure, meaning he could be encountered nearly anywhere in the solar system -- wherever the German flag is flown. However, his poor health (the result of his Civil War wound) make Mars' dry climate and lower gravity an attractive option. His sympathy for the Confederate cause means that he may also be encountered wherever a Confederate expatriate community exists.
Army (Veteran NPC)
Lieutenant-Colonel Heros von Borcke
Fisticuffs: 4, Throwing: 2, Close Combat: 4 (sword)
Stealth: 2, Marksmanship: 2 (pistol)
Wilderness Travel: 3
Observation: 1
Eloquence: 5
Riding: 5 (horse), Leadership: 2, Language: 1 (English)
Motives: Adventuresome, Arrogant, Eccentric
Apperance: With curly blond hair, laughing eyes and an engaging personality von Borcke has an imposing presence. By Nineteenth Century standards, he is larger than life, standing six feet four inches in height and weighing in at well over two hundred forty pounds. His stature, personality and social status make him popular among his peers. However, he can also be a bit vain and difficult to get along with at times, especially for his servants. Although he recovered from the wounds suffered in 1863, neither von Borcke's physical strength, nor his endurance, fully recovered (having been Str: 6, End: 4 as a young man).

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  1. Von Boercke personifies one fact of Steampunk gaming, you don't have to look any further than a history book to find really amazing characters.

    1. Yes, there are so many to choose from! I am just finishing up reading Matthew Goodman's Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World, it is a very interesting story, so a Nellie Bly bio should be forthcoming!


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