This is a consignment item. Today we are sharing a fascinating artifact group with you from Generalleutnant Walther Wilhelm von Gersdorff’s (1848-1929) estate. [The von Gersdorff family had a long history of service to Prussia and the German Empire].
Generalleutnant Walther von Gersdorff’s History
Von Gersdorff entered the Prussian Army as a cadet in 1860. He served with distinction during the 1866 Austro-Prussian War. Subsequently, he was awarded the Crown Order 4th Class with Swords. Next, he was attached to several Garde units as a leutnant during the 1870/71 Franco-Prussian War. He. This time he was awarded the 1870 Iron Cross on 19 February 1873. Following the war’s conclusion, von Gersdorff began his rise through the German Army. He was attached to several Garde units, including the 3. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß. His first regimental command came in 1895, when he became the oberst of Infanterie-Regiment Nr 52. Previously, he had been a Bataillon commander as both a major and an oberstleutnant. He was promoted to generalmajor in 1899, commanding the 16. Infanterie-Brigade. In his career’s final years, he received several other awards, and retired (in 1905) as a generalleutnant. (As was the German Army’s custom, an officer usually was advanced one rank upon his retirement for pensionary and social reasons). Von Gersdorff died in 1929.
Walther Wilhelm von Gersdorff’s Documents
The documents listed below are included in this group from Generalleutnant Walter Wilhelm von Gersdorff’s estate.
1) Promotion Patent to Premiere Lieutenant. This document was prepared at General Headquarters in Versailles (during the 1870/71 Franco-Prussian War). The document measures 8 11/16″ x 9 5/8.” A string binds the document. Also, a major tear measuring 6 1/4″ appears along a tear across the document’s folded middle section. The document is NOT signed by König Wilhelm I (he had not yet assumed Germany’s throne), as usually was done for a hauptmann’s rank or higher.
2) The 1870 Iron Cross 2nd Class Award Document. The document measures 9″ x 14.” (It has some minor bends at the corners, and has been folded in half, but remains in near-perfect condition). Von Gersdorff and his unit, the 3. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß, are named. The document is boldly signed in black ink by Kaiser Wilhelm I. The document is dated 19 February 1873. I cannot emphasize enough the sheer RARITY of these documents! It is an amazing part of this group.
3) Promotion Patent to Oberst and Infanterie-Regiment Nr 52’s Commanding Officer. The document measures 8 7/16″ x 14.” The document opens to reveal information written on three of its four pages. It represents his promotion from oberstleutnant to oberst. It also confirms von Gersdorff’s first regimental command. The document has been folded in half and has sustained some damage at its bottom (a small section appears to have been torn off). This damage, however, does NOT affect any of the pertinent information, which is clearly visible. The document is completed by Kaiser Wilhelm II’s large, bold, and distinctive signature. The House of Hohenzollern’s seal has been applied above his signature. [It is a very important document in von Gersdorff’s career.
4) Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Confirmation Letter (with Envelope) to Generalmajor von Gersdorff. This is an interesting document and envelope that von Gersdorff received from Kaiser Wilhelm II. The document measures 8 3/16″ x 10 ½.” It has been folded into quarters so that it will fit into an envelope measuring 5 1/4″ x 6.” The document is quite simple and entirely handwritten. It confirms von Gersdorff’s appointment as commander of the 16. Infanterie-Brigade. The document was prepared by one of the Kaiser’s clerks, then he signed it with quite a large signature. The Infanterie-Brigade was located in Magdeburg. [An Infanterie-Brigade generally consisted of two regular regiments paired with two Landwehr (Reserve) regiments].
Its envelope is equally as interesting. It is blue. Its exterior’s writing was done by the same clerk who prepared the document for the Kaiser’s signature. It is addressed to “Generalmajor von Gersdorff” in Magdeburg. It was delivered to him by registered mail. Its flap and reverse are secured with the House of Hohenzollern’s red wax seal. The two artifacts create an amazing set.
Photographs of von Gersdorff
As a part of the group, we have two photographs to share with you. They are from two different times of von Gersdorff’s life. Each depicts him with a different medal bar size and type.
1) CdV of Walther von Gersdorff. This CdV of von Gersdorff measures 2 ½” x 4.” It shows him at a Berlin photographic studio. I would guess the photo was taken between 1873 and 1883. It depicts von Gersdorff in the 3. Garde-Regiment zu Fuß’s uniform. Behind him we can see his Garde-Regiment pickelhaube. On his left breast is a five-place medal bar that includes his 1870 Iron Cross 2nd Class, and his Crown Order 4th Class with Swords. His sword and portopee are at his side.
2) Cabinet Photograph of Walther von Gersdorff. A cabinet photograph is a larger example of a CdV. This one measures 4 1/4″ x 6 ½,” and comes from a studio in Cottbus. Here, von Gersdorff is a bit older than the CdV above. He is no longer wearing a Garde-Regiment uniform. (We can tell this from the tunic’s neck). Although I cannot see his shoulder boards, the medal bar on his left breast not only displays a significant increase in its decorations, but reveals that the 1870 Iron Cross 2nd Class on the extreme left boasts the 25-Year Jubilee Oak Leaves! This dates the photograph from 1895 (at least), when von Gersdorff was an oberst AND regimental commander.
von Gersdorff Family Artifacts
Von Gersdorff Family Seal. This is a small seal that bears the von Gersdorff family’s Coat-of-Arms. The seal stands 2 1/4″ tall. The metal device on the bottom featuring the Coat-of-Arms measures ½” x 5/8.” Its handle appears to be made of ivory. As we look at the family’s Coat-of-Arms, we see it is topped by a “Freiherr’s” (Baron’s) Crown, which has seven points. [In the accompanying photographs, we have printed an example of the seal on paper. Because it is on paper, not wax, the recessed Coat-of-Arms’ details do NOT appear].
Generalleutnant Walther von Gersdorff’s Decorations
Crown Order 4th Class with Swords. He received the decoration following the 1866 Austro-Prussian War. The Prussian Crown Order decoration family was instituted by König Wilhelm I in 1861. The decoration’s obverse displays a (Hohenzollern) crown as its central theme. It is surrounded by blue enamel. Within the blue enamel is the gold enameled phrase “Gott mit Uns.” (It is important to note that the blue enamel shows substantial chipping). The decoration’s reverse displays the König Wilhelm (Rex) royal cypher. The blue field displays (in gold) the decoration’s authorization date, 18 October 1861. Once again the blue enamel has suffered substantial chipping.
The balance of the decoration is gilt. A pair of gilt swords extends through its center. As the ribbon was awarded with swords, the decoration has a black and white war ribbon (from the Iron Cross), which measures 7 ½” in length.
1870 Iron Cross 2nd Class. This is the 1870 Iron Cross 2nd Class owned by von Gersdorff. While the paint is nearly complete, some “bubbling” shows on the cross’s surface. It is very common in both 1813 and 1870 Iron Crosses due to their age. Its overall condition is quite good. A ribbon, measuring 5 ½” in length, comes with the cross.
This very diverse and important group from a man who participated in two of Germany’s wars (1864 & 1870), and went on to become a general officer. He was a nobleman and a member of a well-known German military family. We are very pleased to share it with you.