David Friedrich von Wachenfelt: The Old Colonel

David Friedrich von Wachenfelt (née Wachenhusen) was knighted by the Swedish king, but never set foot in Sweden.

Although Charles XII knighted him in 1688, it was his four sons who were introduced at the House of Nobles in Stockholm in 1723 as Nr. 1743.  

Nevertheless, our family as we know it begins with David Fredrich.

Pastor Karl Wachenhusen

David’s father, Karl Wachenhusen, was a Lutheran pastor in the tiny town of Northeim in Hannover.

Karl was born in 1600, the first year of a century fraught with religious tension that erupted into the Thirty Years War between Catholics and Protestants in Central Europe.

The date is note-worthy since the general had been made Duke of Mecklenburg the same year. Wallenstein was at the peak of his power at this time; he would have a very tragic end, but that is another story

Karl was born in Northeim in Hannover, and the little village of Wachenhusen, situated on the outskirts of Northeim, most likely provided his last name. Wachenhusen was an unassuming hamlet that had neither church nor castle.

David Friedrich was the anomaly. He quit school and joined a cavalry regiment instead.

Gunilla von Wachenfelt

He studied theology – there is no record of his parentage or how he was able to obtain such an education. There was a need for Protestant clergy in Mecklenburg-Schwerin. It was general Albrecht von Wallenstein, Commander-in-Chief to the Holy Roman Emperor who ordered Karl installed as pastor in Granzin, near Lübz in September 1628.

Our North German ancestor was an interesting man and a good role model. Interesting in that he broke the chain of family tradition, brief as it was, and established his own. He was practical, valiant, and responsible. When I read about him and try to piece the puzzle of his life together, I am struck by how much my father was influenced by him so many generations later.

Karl Wachenhusen married Sophia Hoppe. From 1637 to 1641 they lived with their four children, first in Schwerin and later in Holstein. Karl died in Granzin 1669, leaving Sophia a widow.

Early life of David Friedrich von Wachenfelt

David was the second son of pastor Karl Wachenhusen.

Karl wanted all of his three sons to become theologians. The eldest son, Karl Theodor obtained his degree in theology in 1656. His third son, Heinrich, was made pastor in Granzin in 1642. Katharina, the only daughter, married Daniel Koch of Plau, in 1664.

David Friedrich was the anomaly. He quit school and joined a cavalry regiment instead

When David dropped out of school in 1656, he joined a Swedish cavalry regiment in Mecklenburg; the same year he was promoted to corporal. He fought in the three-day Battle of Warszaw. The following year he was appointed quartermaster at the Swedish Jämtland regiment where he served under major general Planting until 1662.

Soldier of fortune

He resigned to become a soldier of fortune. Next thing we learn about him, he is with major general Garnier’s regiment in the Imperial Army in Hungary as regimental quartermaster of the horse. The Imperial Army fought successfully against the Turks.

In 1672 we find him in the service of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, having just been promoted to Cavalry Lieutenant. His career is speeding up: in 1673 he is appointed Cavalry Captain at the regiment of Duke Fredrik of Mecklenburg.

Two years later, in 1675, he is serving under the Swedish general Carl Gustaf Wrangel in Wismar. (Wismar was a Swedish possession at the time.)  Having rejoined the Swedes, he set up and was posted with a cavalry company in Wismar. For the duration of the siege of Wismar, they showed great courage. During a sally, David’s left leg was shot off by a cannonball.

End of his military career

The Danes won the battle of Wismar in 1674. In 1677 David apparently served under Danish flag and was appointed a Danish Lieutenant Colonel. This may have happened after his amputation. According to the few records we have, he appears to have stayed in Hamburg in 1678.

Maybe he needed to go away and recuperate and adjust himself to his new circumstances. Surely losing his one leg put an end to his active military career. In 1679, David seems to have found his bearings and accepted retirement at age 45.

Then he returned to Swedish service. It seems that his activities were geared towards retirement. It was clearly important for him to get his private life in order: settle down to family life and live as well as possible now that his military career was over.

Retirement and family life

David was a well-to-do man in 1679 when he purchased Klein-Bresen near Lübz. He was courting the daughter of the mayor of Güstrow, Barbara Maria Kistmacher, at the time. Her father, Joachim Kistmacher, was a doctor of law. Barbara’s mother was Catharina, née Steffens.

Mayor Kistmacher and his wife made an impressive wedding feast for the couple at Güstrow on June 26, 1679. During the next decade, Barbara gave birth to five children, three of them sons. All the children were born at Güstrow.

David Friedrich von Wachenfelt is knighted

He was knighted by the Swedish king, Charles XI, on June 18, 1788, but the family was not introduced in Sweden until 35 years later. Barbara passed away “before 1691”, say the records dispassionately. The “date” must coincide with his third marriage to Anna Hedwig von Bülow. David’s oldest son, Joachim, was 11 when his mother died. Joachim’s youngest brother was four.

It is disturbing to see how off-handed the genealogists often are about the distaff side. At some point, David was married to a lady called Agneta Langnickel. There is no mention made of when or where. No word about her date of birth nor when she died. There is a note about “a daughter”, no name, no dates. However, said daughter’s husband, a Prussian captain by the name August Otto Eversen, is mentioned!

Hedwig von Bülow, his third wife

Hedwig was the daughter of a lease-holder at Klein-Stieten in Mecklenburg, Paul Andreas von Bülow and his wife, Dorotea von Sperling. Information about this marriage is sparse, to say the least. Three children were born, Elsa Dorotea, Margareta, who died in infancy, and Paul Fredrik.

David was not quite 70 years old when he died in his new house in Wismar. He had sold the country property in 1698. Obviously, he was planning to move his family to Sweden.

Only one of his older sons had married (again no name) and had a daughter in Wismar. There is no mention of her name, which one of the brothers was her husband or what became of her and her daughter.

With the old colonel gone, there was nothing to tie the family to Wismar any more, and the siege of 1675 had shown that the naval fortress was a risky place to live.

David Friedrich lived a very eventful life and improved his status both socially and financially. When he passed on he knew that he had provided for his large family as best as he could. He also made sure that the adventures could continue, should they so wish.

The von Wachenfelt family crest

The family crest chosen by David Friedrich von Wachenfelt and his sons is a crane holding a stone in one claw, a symbol of watchfulness. In the upper field are three golden cannon balls, reminders of David Friedrich’s heroic defense of Wismar in 1656.

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