The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging



Military History Journal
Vol 3 No 4 - December 1975

BARON RICHARD VON STUTTERHEIM

Information submitted by Mr J.H. French and edited by H.W. Kinsey

Mr Jack N. French, of Stutterheim, has done some research on the town and area, in the course of which he has found some interesting information on Baron Richard von Stutterheim after whom the town of Stutterheim, founded in 1857, was named. The town lies picturesquely at the foot of the Amatola Mountains on the Kubusie River in the Eastern Province.
Baron Richard Carl Gustav Ludwig Wilhelm Julius von Stutterheim was born in Helmstadt in 1809 according to the church register there. Helmstadt is now quite a famous border crossing point between West and East Germany. Baron von Stutterheim, in the course of an eventful life, became a Major-General in the British Army in command of the Anglo-German or British German Legion which was recruited to serve in the Crimean War. However, the war ended before the Legion was required and it was sent out to British Kaffraria in South Africa and settled in the Border Area in 1857.
Mr French, who is vice-Chairman of the Kaffrarian Historical Society, has ascertained from Dr F. Schnell's 'Men Must Work' that numerically Stutterheim received the biggest contingent of members of the British-German Legion of any settlement. This detachment left Fort Murray near King William's Town on 2lst March, 1857, and comprised a total of 407 persons (12 officers, three cadets, 38 NCOs, 269 men, 53 women and 32 children). Very few of the Legionnaires actually settled in Stutterheim as many left to fight in the Indian Mutiny. Later a number of German peasant settlers arrived, and their descendants are still to be found in the town and area.
Several of the streets in a new part of the town are named after the vessels that brought out these later settlers.
Through the courtesy of Herr Eckart von Stutterheim of Munich the Kaffrarian Museum of King William's Town received a copy of:-
'Die Herren und Freiherren von Stutterheim/Alt Stutterheim Von Eckart von Stutterheim Leibensbilder von Kurt Von Stutterheim' 1965. Verlag Degener & Co., Inhaber Gerard Gessner Neustadt an der Aisch.

This book is a history of the Stutterheim family and there appears below a translation of a chapter on the Baron Richard von Stutterheim from the publication. The translation was made by Mrs I. Parker of King William's Town, and we are indebted to her for this translation and to Herr Eckart von Stutterheim for permission to reproduce the chapter referred to.

I encountered two children of the British Major-General Richard von Stutterheim when I was still a young man, one a retired Lieutenant-Colonel of the same name and his sister Alice, a Princess in Steterburg (Brunswick). Naturally I was very interested in this great-uncle who served under the British, but each question I asked of those relatives of mine was skilfully evaded, or resulted in a painful silence. It was quite evident that this father had not left any love behind in the hearts of his children.

Questions in a wider family circle led to some information. This great-uncle was in his way a genius, but he was not endowed with a sound character, a combination which could lead either up or down; the typical French type of genius. Around all this there was an air of strangeness, perhaps the main reason why people hesitated to speak about him. Was there a curse over him? We live in the 20th century and do not believe in such things any more. And yet, this mystery has inspired a writer by the name of Julius Grosse, who wrote a novel which appeared in July, 1891, in the monthly 'Nord und Suid', edited by Paul Lindau. The writer confesses in a footnote that the work was enriched by his own poetic imagination, but is adamant that he did not have to invent the character of the hero, as this was truly historic. The footnote speaks the truth - nobody else but Richard von Stutterheim is the hero of the novel entitled 'The Ghost'.

It is said that this ghost appeared on all the crossroads of its hero's life, standing in a menacing attitude and directing him to take the wrong way. This ghost was that of a comrade whom the young officer had shot in a duel. It is true that Richard von Stutterheim, Lieutenant in a Hussar Regiment in Dusseldorf, did shoot his fellow combatant, and it is true that this deed forced his life into new channels. Instead of climbing the military ladder by diligence at home, he fled to England and joined the British - Aid Legion which fought at the time of the Spanish Civil War on the side of the Cristinists against the Carlists. Richard von Stutterheim, whom Moltke once called 'a very obedient and well trained officer', wrote down his war experiences in a book, 'War Campaigns in Spain during the years 1835-38', published in 1847. Soldier and daredevil, he fought near St Sebastian, Ametzagana, Oriamendi, Yrun, Andosin and wherever one could fight, receiving as many medals and honours as were available and soon reached the rank of Captain in the cavalry. This adventure, certainly one after his own heart, lasted for three years. Then he returned to Germany at the beginning of 1839 to continue his interrupted career - now under the flag of Brunswick. His life seemed to be smooth now - the contemporaries of duel victims did not shed many tears over their death, and a war adventure in a foreign country was more like a feather in his cap than otherwise.

Richard von Stutterheim's father-in-law was a high ranking forester and Marie von Lauingen was a Brunswick woman, through whom he became related to the cream of society. Everything was in his favour for his future in Brunswick. Some evil ghost came between him and the Duke who accused him of entertaining democratic ideas and after a heated argument with his superior, Stutterheim insisted on resigning, so closing a chapter hardly begun. But fate was still inclined in his favour. As Stutterheim had fought in the Brunswick contingent against Denmark, it was quite natural for him to enter into the services of Schleswig-Holstein, as this country continued its war against Denmark all alone, in the year 1850. He progressed quickly and as Major and Battalion-commander he excelled himself by outstanding bravery in the unfortunate battle of Idstedt. Towards the end of the war we find him as Chief-of-Staff. But in the book 'Gen. Lt von Willisen und seine Zeit', his unsuitability for this job is mentioned, and though he is the right man on the battlefield, he lacks neatness, conscientiousness, prudence and diligence. The Schleswig-Holstein Army was disbanded after the unfortunate war and von Stutterheim was taken over as Major into the Holstein Dragoon Regiment. This time his short stay was not his fault but once more, thanks to Danish politics, his career came to an end.

And then one day we find the man who was lacking neatness, conscientiousness, prudence and diligence in the rather quaint position as secretary of the Mexican Embassy in Berlin. A short duration was predicted. The break from civil life took place when he heard of England's intention to form a German Foreign Legion to fight in the Crimean War. Without hesitation he worked out an acceptable plan to recruit for the English Government and we find him suddenly in London. Not in a grey and dusty office, armed with a pencil sitting amongst files, but in the best hotel in town, where he threw parties and issued invitations to God and the world as if he had half a million in his pocket already. The magnificent lord, who was really a poor devil, presented the bill to the Minister, Lord Russell who is said to have exclaimed, 'Either this is an insolent pirate or the man we need.' Fortunately for Richard, Lord Russell decided for the latter and consequently he was commissioned to recruit 10 000 men. For this purpose he erected a camp on the then English island of Heligoland and he did not have to wait for success.

It was a rather strange business. He aimed to recruit men at 10 per head, as in the times of the Landsknechte (medieval German mercenaries). Stutterheim did not lose out on this and certainly not with regard to the equipment, which could just as well have been the work of a modern supplier of such. For instance, after the dissollution of the Holstein army, he purchaseol a pack for 1 2/3 groschen per piece, to sell them to the English for 20. Well! that was the Englishmen's business. It was however in Germany that the trade in 'slaves and human beings' aroused anger, as seen from an indignant paper, 'The German Foreign Legion in England. From the German point of view we despise Baron von Stutterheim. The thinking ones amongst us must equate him with the procurers and slave-traders, for the business of a knacker or latrine cleaner is preferable to his work.' And still in the year 1925 in the 'Deutschen Allgemeinen Zeitung' of February 19th, Otto von Gottberg calls him an unscrupulous German, who one must admit however, was a born leader and organiser and a man of incredible courage and crazy frivolity. The emigrants themselves did not seem to have suffered from injured national pride. In their homeland they led a troublesome life, and were poor labourers paid by the day. They often sighed under the hard work until late at night without any rest on Sunday. Not a single one turned his back on his homeland for want of adventure. It was neediness that drove them out. It was a triumph for Stutterheim to present an efficient army to Queen Victoria. Immediately after the parade he had the audacity to invite the Queen to lunch; in spite of certain hesitations the invitation was accepted. The Holstein Major was promoted to the rank of Chief of the British German Legion and at this moment peace was declared and the foreign Legion was superfluous. Von Stutterheim was not the man to be sent home - nor did he allow his men to go. An alternative was soon found. Instead of to Russia the way led to the Cape or more specifically to British Kaffraria, where untamed Natives turned life for the White settlers into hell. Therefore a plan was hatched to settle German soldiers, to-day as farmers, to-morrow as soldiers, as needed. With this command in his pocket he led his men out (not fearing adventure) to the black continent.

If there was one task made to measure for a man of his nature, then it was that of a pioneer in foreign parts, not according to the pattern of pious pilgrims but rather to that of the 'conquistadores'. So he started to work with his men and new settlements were in the making, their names like Heidelberg, Braunschweig, etc., pointing to their origin. The main village, however, was named after the Royal British Major-General himself in his own honour.

Shortly before the Second World War, I visited Stutterheim myself, a friendly village lending its name to a district in the Eastern Cape. Of course nothing was left of the 'castle' great uncle had built there for himself, but the trees he had planted had grown into a respectable wood, the shadow of which made Stutterheim, together with cool waters, a sort of holiday resort, to which the inland farmers and their families resort during the hottest time of the year. Naturally the original German population is not any longer German, though as my companion remarked meaningfully '. . .you would probably find cousins of both sexes here'. The little town has not forgotten its founder. When the centenary was celebrated in 1957 a historic pageant revived the old days, and Baron von Stutterheim, in an ancestral uniform was not missing. This little bit of immortality has remained for him.

Why did he not remain in Africa? Why did he, who was already a British General, not ask to be taken over into the English colonial service? There was so much for him to do in all corners of the globe. No difficulty for him to associate with Maharajahs, Sultans, Emirs and Black royalty. All his comrades liked him, he was no spoil-sport, and liked by his men, though they had great respect for him, but he could be taken for a ride. He never feared the enemy. Everything was in favour of Africa, India and the North-West Frontier, Middle and South America. Europe was the only place where he did not fit in and he made the grave mistake, perhaps the biggest in his life, of leaving South Africa, having barely completed his job of colonising the district. Perhaps the British General felt a German once more, he, who had once been so enthusiastic about the ideals for a greater Germany of the forties, which led to the quarrel with his duke and his resignation. Having returned to Germany, he first lived at Braunschweig, then bought, as he could now afford it, an estate in Silesia.

Again there was another foundation on which to build a new life, and again he ruined it all. For 'Baumgarten' (the name of the farm near Ohlau) was soon filled with high life, hunts, balls, dinners and the General's most dangerous vice, gambling, each following in merry succession. Champagne and money flowed in streams, the latter in wrong directiomns, and only four years were needed to ruin the beautiful farm, and he had, being far from rich, to resettle in Braunschweig. Before that he had already worked, without any desired result, for the Duke of Augustenburg, and now it looked as if his colourful and turbulent life was trickling to an end in the narrowness of a little town.

Again an opportunity knocked. Stutterheim, who had left the Prussian Service as a Lieutenant, was made an offer to rejoin as a General. His answer to this was so arrogant - the family position demanded a corps instead of a division - that Prussia refused. This was his last and unpardonable mistake. Not only did the bankrupt gentleman-farmer forfeit his chance of civil rehabilitation, but he forfeited the possibility of playing a part in the war of 1870/71, which would have well suited a man of his calibre in all probability. If ever the 'ghost' motioned him into the wrong direction, then he achieved it in this hour of saying 'No' to the Prussian Government, and the great adventurer had played his last card.

Fate was tired of presenting him with opportunities. It clenched its hand into a fist and it came down where it hurt him most: his twenty-year-old daughter Gretchen. We have observed what his other children thought of him, there being no love between them. He was a bad father, ill treating his children, yet pouring out all his love over his beautiful Gretchen. She was taken from him in 1869 by consumption and he never recovered from the shock. The way downhill was steep and rapid. Though only 56 he could bring no order into his tangled affairs, only gambling. With his last gold coins in his pocket he drove to Wiesbaden, then possessing a famous casino, in 1871. He gambled and lost, not only gold, but his will to live. A short drive to Biebrich near Wiesbaden, where he shot and threw himself into the Rhine. Friends saw to a decent funeral.

In this lamentable way a life of great possibility ended. Caused by a ghost? Schiller has a more comprehensible explanation: character is fate or, according to modern psychology, the propelling power to self destruction which, in this case, was so closely interwoven with a tremendous will to live. These two are sufficient to explain the unusual curve of life which made this colourful man who was, in turn, Prussian, Spanish, Brunswick, Holstein and English officer. Not a very pleasant character but one of the most interesting in the family history.

NOTE ON BARON RICHARD VON STUTTERHEIM'S 'CASTLE'

Major-General Richard Charles von Stutterheim, the leader of the Anglo-German Legion which was settled in the Border Area in 1857 after the Crimean War, was reputed to have constructed 'a large mansion, which was never finished owing to his return to Germany on urgent, private business, after only eight months in this country'.(1)
'Dr Wangemann, Director of the Berlin Missionary Society, visited the village of Stutterheim in 1867, and in a book described being shown a heap of rubble, the alleged remains of Baron von Stutterheim's "turreted castle", first destroyed by a cyclone and later ransacked by thieves.'(1)
Another reference states, 'Baron von Stutterheim, a general in the British Army, had been given charge of the Stutterheim contingent and a considerable sum of money for his share in recruiting the British Foreign Legion. He started building an ambitious castle on his ground, at a point between Mr Bousfield's house and that of Mr J. James. His great friend and neighbour was Dr Adolf Danckwerts and, between them, they built the Old Mill. Dr Danckwerts's house, at that time the most substantial in the place, is now occupied by Mrs Rogers.(2)
A number of enquiries failed to localize properly the exact site of the Baron's house, some of those questioned alleging it to be at the Old Mill on the Cumakala River. This, however, did not fit with the description of the 'turreted castle'. The mill is situated at the junction of the Cumakala and another small stream on the very southern boundary of the land assigned to the Baron, as indicated on the 1903 Compilation Plan of Stutterheim (a copy of which is now in the Kaffrarian Museum). It is unlikely that the Baron built this as a residence, as the Old Mill building and the house, much renovated, still stand. Neither fits the description of a large mansion. The house, occupied by Mrs Rogers, just below the railway, on the old road to King William's Town, does appear to lie in the northern sector of the land assigned to Dr Adolf Danckwerts, so this claim may be well founded.

The cyclone, which destroyed the Baron's castle, can be dated at 1860 from a further reference which describes the first hotel in Stutterheim as having been destroyed by the same catastrophe at that date.(2)


Castle built at Stutterheim by Baron Richard von Stutterheim.
Traced from a photostat of an original sketch and kindly provided by Herr Eckart von Stutterheim, Munich, West Germany.

The receipt of a photostat of an original sketch of the Baron's 'castle' from Herr Eckart von Stutterheim of Munich, the family historian, naturally prompted further enquiries. The sketch showed a typically Germanic style turreted building, flying an ensign on the central flagpole, which ensign Herr Eckart von Stutterheim could not identify. A theory is advanced that this could be either an old British regimental ensign which the Baron was entitled to fly as a Major General of the British Army, or else the actual 'colours' of the British-Germaim Legion. Often these old regimental colours consisted of a red, blue, green or gold ensign with the Union Jack in the corner and the battle honours inscribed below. In the photo-copy of the sketch, the 'Jack' in the top corner shows only a diagonal cross (the cross of St Andrew?), and I am unable to trace from a long list of flags of present and defunct German states(3) any flag with a diagonal cross. The evidence of this being a British military colour is thus accentuated.

A chance conversation with Mr Ralph Bostock, an old Stutterheim resident, revealed that he remembered playing in the ruins of the old 'castle' as a boy. This was near the old weir on the Cumakala river, below the present site of Stuttkor, where he and an old friend, Mr Donald Ogilvie, used to swim as boys. The whole area is now considerably altered, owing to the construction of the Stuttkor woodworking factory, but Mr Bostock was still able to pinpoint the site of the old house ruins, where old rose-trees were still blooming among the rubble in his youth. I was lucky enough to encounter Mr Ogilvie who happened to be on a visit to the town, and he also viewed the site and confirmed it, as near as he could remember. Fromm Mr Ogilvie's age which he mentioned, they could have been swimming in the dam above the weir around 1907 to 1910, when the ruins could have been between forty and fifty years old.

The site is at the south east corner of the main Stuttkor Timber Industries (Pty) Ltol., and the only visible portion is a five-metre wide flat area, just outside the works fence, in front of which are the relics of an old hedge. Mr Swart, Manager of Stuttkomr, confirmed that when buildings were erected on that area, some old rubble and stones existed but were covered up in levelling operations, so the house-site is now buried under some 1 to 1 metres of cover. This was confirmed by an employee of the Company, whom I encountered on a second visit. No signs of old brick could be found although some old stone was lying around, and there was no local outcrop of rock near at hand.

On the 1903 Stutterheim Compilation Plan, the situation of the Baron's house would be approximately at the south east corner of plot 1A assigned to F.H. Bousfield on 29th July 1893. It should be noted that these plots granted to Bousfield were not registered until 1893, and appear to have been carved out of the land originally granted to the Baron in 1860. In is also interesting that, although the Baron appear's to have started his residence quite early, soon after his arrival in Stutterheim, the land was not actually granted until October 1860, but there may have been some long delay in the actual registration. Apart from the large grant of land given to Baron von Stutterheim, no other grant of land, in or around the town, is dated prior to 1862 according to the list of original grants, which was attached to the 1903 map. The date when the Baron disposed of his lands could possibly be traced through the local Deeds Office.
Land was not granted to Dr Danckwerts until 1863, so the building of the old Mill could hardly have been a joint effort of Baron von Stutterheim and the Doctor, if the Baron had already left the country on his return to Germany 'after only eight months in the country'. The Old Mill passed into the hands of the Muller family who operated it for many years, and Mr Bostock can remember its working at the beginning of the century.

References

(1) 'A History of Stutterheim' by S.A. Buchholtz in the Stutterheim Centenary booklet.
(2) 'Stutterheim in the Last 100 Years' - an article in the Stutterheim and Border News - 14th June 1956.
(3) Chambers's Encyclopaedia, 1950 - Vol 5 'Flags' page 706. Sec 4 (a)

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