An international encounter of passing weirdness.
Major von Borcke's Gap Year(s)
Editor's Note: A brief word about Johann August Heinrich Heros von Borcke (23 July 1835 – 10 May 1895). He was born in the Fortress Ehrenbreitstein. His last name was Heros von Borcke. He was one of those Prussians: the kind that had a lot in common with Franz Werfel's Polish colonel, who had 'one of the finest minds of the Twelfth Century'. In other words, he was a German-speaking Klingon, albeit a good-natured one.
When the US Civil War broke out, Heros von Borcke, being bored, got the king's permission to go and fight for the Confederacy1. Why not? They couldn't have a war and not invite him, it wouldn't be polite. Besides, he could bring his expertise back home and use it for the greater glory of Sontar-….er, Prussia. Sure enough, when Heros von Borcke got home in 1866, it was just in time to go and fight the Austrians.
Battle was glorious, obviously, but it exacted a toll. Heros von Borcke, known as the 'Giant in Grey', or 'that Prussian with the big sword', was now running around with a bullet in him that he picked up near Gettysburg. So he retired to boss the peasants around. He proudly flew the Confederate flag over his battlements in what is now Poland. Stop and imagine that. . . I'm trying hard to look away from misplaced Dixie Land.
Heros von Borcke had a wonderful time in Virginia, and encountered many strange beasts. Here is a suitably annotated excerpt.
Fishing and Shooting2
We3 occupied ourselves now chiefly with fishing and shooting, as had the red Indians of these woods and streams4 two hundred years ago. The Chickahominy5 afforded us abundance of perch and cat-fish6, which were welcome additions to the supplies of our mess-table; but taking the fish was attended with many discomforts and difficulties. From the peculiar formation of the river-banks, high and densely skirted with trees, we were forced to wade about in the shallow stream, where we were vigorously attacked by the most voracious horse-leeches, which
fastened themselves on our exposed legs in such numbers as to make it necessary to go ashore every five minutes to shake them off. The small hare of Virginia darted about in every direction in the fields and thickets; but shooting the grey squirrel, which was quite new to me, afforded me the best sport; and from the great agility of the animal, it was by no means so easy a matter as one might suppose. The foliage of the hickory, in which the grey squirrel has his favourite abode, is very dense, and the active little creature knows so well how to run along the opposite side of the limb from the gentleman with the gun7, that one must be as much on the alert as his game to fire exactly at the moment when it is in sight and unprotected. The grey squirrel is smaller than the red or fox squirrel, and as it subsists principally on chestnuts and hickory-nuts, its meat is very delicate8 . I had some repugnance to eating them at first, as disagreeably suggestive, in their appearance, of rats9; but I soon learned to appreciate the game, and it became one of my most highly valued dishes.
Editor's Endnote: There is more – much more – in this amazing book. You want to read about the night the rattlesnake got into his tent, and he was forced 'to draw my keen Damascus blade [actually, it was from Solingen] and sever the reptile in twain'?
Enjoy all the martial hilarity of Memoirs of the Confederate War for Independence courtesy of archive.org.