German Rifle Company

Company K of the 1st Virginia Infantry, The Virginia Rifles

To the best of this web-author's knowledge, there was no unit in the Confederacy larger than a company that could be called a "German" organization, but there were a number of these. Within the First Virginia Infantry was Company K, also known as the Virginia Rifles.

The histories of the company and the regiment begin before the Civil War. The company of Richmond Germans was organized in 1850 by Captain Augustus Bodeker, and was known as the German Rifles. The was first attached to the 19th Regiment of militia. In 1851, the company was group with eight others and organized as the First Regiment of Virginia Volunteers. In 1856, the companies were assigned letter designations and the German Rifles became company K. At about the same time, the company name was changed to the Virginia Rifles, and they were under the command of Captain Alfred T. Lybrock.

In addition to social events, the militia regiment was a common site at Richmond parades, annual holidays, and the dedication of monuments. In 1851, the regiment acted as escorts for the visiting President Millard Fillmore, and in 1858 they were onhand for the re-interment of President Monroe's remains.

The company was mustered into active service of the state on April 26 1861, and was accepted into Confederate service on July 1, 1861.

Captains who commanded the company at various times during the war included Florence Miller and Frederick W. Hagemayer. Lieutenants included Frederick W.E. Lohmann, Herman Paul, William Pfaff, Henry Linkhauer and Claudius Baumann.

On June 30, 1861, Co. K had 75 men present for duty. In the following year, it participated in engagements at Blackburn's Ford on July 28, 1861, where it the company lost 2 men killed and 3 wounded, and at the first Battle of Manassas on July 21, 1861, where it lost 2 men to wounds.

The Conscription Law passed by the Confederate Congress in April of 1862 allowed for the drafting of men between the ages of 18 and 35 and forced those soldiers already in the service to extend their periods of enlistment to total of three years. However it also allowed for the discharge of nonresidents of the Confederate States. 44 men in Co. K were discharged under this provision because they were originally from Germany. The company was disbanded shortly after that loss.

Perhaps it is fair to mention that there were other German-born members of the 1st Virginia who were not members of Company K. Charles Theodore Loehr was born in Altena, Westphalia, served in Co. D, was wounded at Gettysburg, at Cold Harbor, and on the Howlett Line, and was captured at Five Forks. He was also the author of the regimental history, War History of the Old First Virginia Infantry Regiment. Charles Rudolph Maximillian Pohle was born in Delitzsch, Prussia, was a sergeant and served as the drum major for the acclaimed regimental band, from 1860-1862.

Wallace, Lee. 1st Virginia Infantry 3rd edition. (Lynchburg, Virgnia: H.E. Howard, Inc., 1985).
Loehr, Charles T. War History of the Old First Virginia Infantry Regiment Published by Request of the Old First Virginia Infantry Association. (Richmond: Wm Ellis Jones, 1884).