IAGenWeb Project - Clayton co.

The Case of Capt. David A. Henkes

Former Clayton county school teacher
Punished - Found Guilty Traitorous Act - Court-Martialed


Compiled by S. Ferrall for Clayton co. IAGenWeb, April 2019


David Henkes, who is teaching school at Read, was a business caller Saturday.

~McGregor News, Wednesday, February 26, 1896
Elkader column

University of Wisconsin

From the Wisconsin State Journal:
"Word has been received in the city that David A. Henkes, ('01), a veteran of Co. G, First Wisconsin Volunteers, has been commissioned a second lieutenant in the regular army by President McKinley.

"Mr. Henkes was a student at the University when the Spanish war broke out and enlisted with Company G of the First regiment. While this regiment did not see actual service on the firing line, its ranks were sadly decimated by fever, and many of its members were bought home in hospital trains, victims of typhoid. Henkes was among the number, and for months he was ill from the effects of the camp life at Jacksonville.

"He returned to the University after being mustered out of service and was commissioned a first lieutenant in the 'Varsity battalion. When Captain John Baker opend his recruiting office here for enlistments for service in the Philippines in the fall of '99, Henkes again deserted his studies and enlisted.

"He was made first sergeant of Company G, of the Forty-sixth, and served throughout the trying Philippine campaign with this regiment. Three months ago the regiment was ordered to the United States to be mustered out of service, and two men from each company were ordered to report for examinations for the position of second lieutenant in the regular service.

"Henkes took these examinations in Manila and successfully passed the severe test required."

~Wisconsin Alumni Magazine, Vol. 2, July 1901, pgs 473-474

Lieut. David Henkes, son of Adam Henkes, living a few miles south of town, is enjoying a two week's furlough visiting parents and friends. Lieut. Henkes is one of Clayton County's most enterprising young men, who is rapidly pushing to the front. He has been in Uncle Sam's employ since the Spanish-American war, and has an excellent record. He is now stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

~Monona Leader, Thursday, August 9, 1906

The Case of Capt. David A. Henkes
German American Found Guilty of Disloyalty and Condemned to Military Prison for Twenty-five years

One of the saddest incidents in connection with the war is the story of Capt. David A. Henkes an army officer of German descent, who after being sent to France with the Sixteenth Infantry was returned to this county by order of General Pershing to be court martialed for disloyalty. He was found guilty and sentenced to twenty-five years in Fort Leavenworth. The main evidence used against him was a letter written to the War Department, declaring that as his sympathies for Germany did not fit him to act as a soldier in the fighting line, he desired to resign.

The letter was discussed in the War Department, but Captain Henkes was sent to France in the hope that his service there would work a change in his feelings. It was believed, according to the Secretary of War, that when Henkes at first wrote asking to be allowed to resign that he ight have an excited and confused view of the situation. It was thought that sending him to France would cause "his sense of propriety to reassert itself." Later, when General Pershing reported that there had been no change, Captain Henkes was sent back to the United States for trial.

Immediately the sensational press began to print stories that Captain Henkes had been in touch with German agents or with Bernstorff, but Secretary Baker waid he had no knowledge of any such facts.

Pictures of Captain Henkes show him to be a soldierly looking officer, apparently still under thirty-five, and with a resolute face.

Friends are hoping, the American states, that President Wilson may decide to reduce the sentence of twenty-five years at hard labor, imposed by a court martial on Governors Island.

Mrs. Henkes and her nine-year-old daughter, Frances, are to remain here for a few weeks at the home of a married sister. Then they will find a home close to the prison.

A friend of the former army officer said that soon after his return from France, Captain Henkes was given the alternative of accepting a discharge "for the good of the service" or of standing trial by court martial. He wrote to Washington to learn on what charges he would be tried.

This friend said the captain received no reply, but was ordered to Governors Island under arrest, but not in confinement. That was on December 15. Quarters in "Brick Row," where officers of the Twenty-second Infantry and their families reside, were assigned to Captain Henkes. He lived there with his wife and child until about three weeks ago. The, after a day and a half before a court martial, he was confined in a cell at Fort Jay.

From Fort Jay Captain Henkes telephoned directions to his wife about packing their household effects. According to a friend of the cashiered officer, he instructed his wife to preserve all papers relating to his court martial, but to burn business documents. A few minutes after this message a lieutenant and squad of men raided his home and gathered all papers.

Officers at Governors Island said some of these papers indicated the captain had been in communication with Ambasador Bernstorff and had contributed money to German propaganda funds. This was denied by a friend of the captain, who said the former officer had given $10 or $15 to the German Red Cross long before the United States entered the war. He received an acknowledgment of this contribution from the German Embassy.

Captain Henkes had sufficient money to keep his wife and child from want. Most of this money was invested in oil and mining stocks, but he also owned some German third and fourth loan 5 percent bonds; Hungarian and Austrian war bonds. Besides, he had some war bonds of Japan.

Captain Henkes did not fight in the Spanish-American War. He contracted typhoid fever and never left the cantonments in Florida. In the Philippine insurrection, however, he went into action several times. Henkes was a member of General Pershing's punitive expedition into Mexico.

~Issues and Events-American Liberal Review; A Weekly Magazine; Volume 8; New York, 1918; pg 148-149
Note: the exact publication date of this issue is unknown; likely late February or early March 1918.

Starts for Prison - Ex-Army Officer, Stripped of Insignia, Centre of Curious Throng in Railroad Station
Guarded by Enlisted Men

David A. Henkes Taken from Castle Williams for Journey to Fort Leavenworth

A dejected man, wearing what had once been the uniform of the regular army of the United States, his khaki blouse, minus the eagle-crested army buttons, held together with safety pins, and the two silver bars, the insignia of the rank of Captain, ripped from his shoulders, arrived at the Pennsylvania Station, under guard of two veteran Sergeants of the 22d United States Infantry, at 2:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon. The man was David A. Henkes, who went to France a Captain in the 16th United States Infantry and who was sent back by General Pershing to be court-martialed for disloyalty.

Henkes faces a term of twenty-five years in the military penitentiary at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., which he will immediately begin to serve on his arrival at the Kansas prison tomorrow.

Henkes, who for nearly two months had been held a prisoner in Castle Williams, the ancient army prison on Governors Island, left the island a man without a country. Officers and enlisted men looked with scorn upon him as he was marched along the long, winding walk that leads from the castle to the island ferry. His departure from the prison was timed so that he had but a minute or two to wait after reaching the ferry slip.

He was marched on the boat, and flanked on either side by his guards, made the trip across the bay on the after deck of the ferryboat. Officers on the upper deck did not even glance in his direction. Enlisted men and civilians discussed him in under-tones.

It was 3 o'clock when the Sergeants arrived at the Pennsylvania Station with their prisoner. They marched him into the great concourse, and found that the train which they were to take would not leave for more than two hours. It was impossible for them to conceal the identity of their prisoner, who still wore the cloth part of his uniform. A crowd gathered about Henkes. They had all read the newspapers yesterday morning, and they knew that the man in the blouse held together with safety pins was Henkes.

"Is that Captain Henkes?" a woman asked one of the Sergeants.
"Yes, that's who it is," the Sergeant answered with an emphasis on the "that".

The crowd increased in a few minutes to several hundred and the soldiers appealed to one of the station officials for assistance.

"Is there some place we can take him and keep him until its time for the train to go?" one of the guards asked.

A small room in the office part of the station was found and to this room Henkes was taken. He was given a chair in the corner of the room. There for more than two hours he sat waiting the word from his guards that the time to leave was at hand. The crowd knew that the ex-officer was in the room, and they waited patiently for the time when he would reappear.

Shortly after 5 o'clock word was sent to the sergeant that the train was made up and they rushed their prisoner through the crowd and to the train. Ten minutes later Henkes was on his way to Fort Leavenworth.

The statement printed in The Army and Navy Register of Washington two weeks ago, to the effect that a Chaplain of regulars has been sent back by General Pershing charged with an offense similar to that of which Henkes was convicted, was a matter that officers on Governors Island refused to discuss yesterday.

The letters and other documents seizeed in the home of Henkes, several weeks ago by the Secret Service, have not been made public by the military authorities, and it is probable that they never will be. These papers are said to show that the convicted man was an active friend of Germany in this country, and that in the early part of the war he subscribed to one of the German war loans, paying his subscription in installments.

Henkes's wife, who is an Austrian, is said to have bade him good-bye on the island yesterday morning. It was to Mrs. Henkes that the prisoner telephoned to destroy his papers when he was returned here by General Pershing. Her failure to do so before the Secret Service agents arrived is said to have placed in the possession of the Government such interesting information of a pro-German nature.

~The New York Times, February 26, 1918

Clayton County Man is Punished - Captain David Henkes Found Guilty Traitorous Act - Court-Martialed

Scores of Clayton county people familiar with the name of David Henkes read with amazement the Washington dispatch printed a few days ago which told of the court-martial and subsequent sentencing of Captain David Henkes to Fort Leavenworth, Kas., for a term of twenty-five years imprisonment. Henkes had been accused of traitorous conduct and was found guilty of having violated his oath of fedality to the service.

David Henkes was thoroughly well known in the vicinity of Farmersburg, Ia., where he once taught school. His parents resided near there and his father is today living near Monona, Clayton county. He was not unpopular among a wide circle of acquaintances during his sojourn in Clayton county.

He left in 1898 to join the army and has since seen service in the Philippines and with Pershing in Mexico. He is thirty-eight years of age.

David Henkes comes of German parentage and to that alone can be attributed the conviction that led him to resign from the army. He first tendered his resignation while in this country, and then after it had been ignored and he had been ordered to France with his company, he again insisted in two letters to the war department His summary recall to face a court-martial followed.

~Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, February 27, 1918

Army Captain Given 25 Years

The following item appeared in the Chicago papers Monday, and concerns a Clayton County boy, who was born and raised near Farmersburg, he has been in army service for over twenty years, and it is with a feeling of deep regret that his career should come to such an ending. Sympathy is to be extended to his relatives here who are and have been as loyal as any citizens in this county, and will doubtless feel the disaster most keenly:

Capt. David A. Henkes, Sixteenthi infantry, U.S.A., has been sentenced to dismissal from the service and confinement at hard labor for twenty-five years by a general court martial held at Governor's island.

Henkes, who is of German descent, endeavored to resign his commission, saying he did not care to fight against relatives and friends.

Capt. Henkes who was stationed at San Antonio, Tex., last May wrote to the secretary of war, urging him to accept the resignation which he had already submitted.

Further service as a commissioned officer must sooner or later take me to Europe, and there bring me in conflict with my relatives and friends although for the time beingy legal enemies.

Capt. Henkes wrote "My father came from Germany. My mother was born here shortly after the arrival of her parents. We have many relatives and friends there." "I cannot force myself to the conviction that I am capable of making war on my kindred on their soil in a manner that would become my duty and station. I earnestly request that I may not be required to undergo this ordeal. I seriously doubt my ability to withstand it, and would avoid in the interest of my country, family and friends, what at least appears the probably consequencees."

Capt. Henkes soon after was ordered to France and from his quarters there, June 29, 1917, wrote to the adjutant general in Washington, calling attention to the fact that he had resigned.

Again on Oct. 10, while still on duty in France, Capt. Henkes wrote another letter to the adjutant general. He was then ordered to this county and summoned before a general court-martial at Governor's island, where he was formally charged with violation of the ninety fifth article of war. This charge recited that "having taken an oath of office in which, among other tigs, he swore to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic and that he would bear true faith and allegiance to the same, had written the letters concerning his resignation.

The United States disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., in the finding of guilty, was designated as the place of imprisonment, and it was declared that Capt. David A. Henkes, Sixteenth infantry, ceases to be an officer of the army from Feb. 23, 1918.

~Monona Leader, February 28, 1918

The Captain David Henkes who was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for refusal to bear arms against Germany, is a former Farmersburg man. He is 32 years old and has relatives in this community.

~Iowa Volksblatt, Friday, March 1, 1918 (Postville, Allamakee county, IA)

Serial number: 455
Name: David Albert Henkes
Permanent Home Address: Leavenworth, Ks
Age: 42
DOB: 10/27/1875
Race: White
U.S. Citizen: Native born
Present Occupation: Enlisted in Army
Employer's Name: U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.
Nearest Relative: Mrs. Amelia Henkes, Leavenworth, Ks
Description of Registrant: Tall, Medium build, Gray eyes, Gray hair
Date: September 12, 1918

~FamilySearch.org; Duplicate World War I Selective Service Draft Registration cards, 1917-1918;
Item 1 (includes Prisoners)

Will Serve Full Sentence

Leavenworth, Kan., Nov. 17 - Commutation of sentence for David A. Henkes, former army captain has been revoked, it has become known at the disciplinary baracks of Fort Leavenworth, where he is serving a 25-year term. An order issued in August cut 20 years from the sentence. No reason was given for revocation of the commutation.

~Fairfield Daily Journal, November 17, 1919

Await Order For Henkes' Release

Although the officials at the Disciplinary Barracks are expecting an order from Judge John C. Pollock, federal judge for Kansas, and another from the war department, regarding the release of David A. Henkes, "slacker captain" who is serving twenty-five years because he was opposed to fighting as a United States soldier against Germany, at 3 o'clock this afternoon the order had not been received.

The statement this morning that since filing the habeas corpus proceedings, Henkes had been transferred from the chicken ranch on the vocational farm to that work as janitor around the offices in the military prison and that among his other duties he had been assigned to cleaning spittoons, is without foundation, according to officials of the prison. That section of the article seemed to imply that the officials were persecuting Henkes for filing the writ of habeas corpus.

Since he was received at the prison Henkes has been a model prisoner, has violated none of the rules and by his good conduct has earned a white star that entitles him to work without a sentry. At the present time he is employed at the stockade. While he has not been persecuted nor humiliated in any way, neither has he been shown any special favors other than his good conduct earned.

Judge Pollock, in ordering his release from the prison, said that the fact that the court marial was composed of retired army officers and that the records did not show that they had been recalled to active service was grounds for a reversal of the sentence and so ordered and also ordered that Henkes be restored to his former rank as captain.

The government will probably appeal from the decision of Judge Pollock, contending that the civil courts have no jurisdiction in court-martial cases and that before Henkes can be freed and his restoration to the service become effective, an act of congress is necessary.

~Leavenworth Post, Leavenworth, Kansas; December 3, 1919

David Henkes Escapes Punishment
for His German Sympathies on a Technicality

David A. Henkes, a former captain in the United States arrmy, was released from the Disciplinary Barracks late yesterday afternoon on an order from Judge John C. Pollock, of the United States district court.

His release on the technicality (ie: court-martial by retired rather than active-duty officers) does not remove the stain of his guilt, however, nor does it restore him to his former rank in the army.

It is said that he will remain in Leavenworth for some time, as he refused transportation back to New York where he was convicted.

~Leavenworth Post, Leavenworth, Kansas; December 4, 1919


Transcription note: these 2 articles repeated much that was reported in earlier papers, those portions were left out.

Henkes Case Again in Federal Court
Comes up Monday on Appeal of General McRae

The question as to whether the federal courts have the right to review the sentences of courts-martial passed during the World War, will be argued before the circuit court of appeals at St. Louis Monday. The question is raised in the appeal of Major General J.H. McRae, former commandant of the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth from the ruling of Judge John C. Pollock setting aside the 25-year sentence imposed by a court-martial of Captain Davis A. Henkes. Should the court sustain Judge Pollock, several hundred cases of persons sentenced to the disciplinary barracks during the war will be open for review by the United States courts.

Captain Henkes served a portion of the 25-year sentence in the disciplinary barracks and his release was secured. His sentence was reduced to five years by Secretary of War Baker and he is now living at Sixth and Seneca, it is said. The court-marital was not properly constituted, according to the ruling of the court. He has been at liberty since last summer.

~Leavenworth Post, Leavenworth, Kansas; Sunday, December 5, 1920

Henkes Case Taken Under Advisement
No Decision in Appeal Is Expected for Some Time

Lee Bond returned from St. Louis this morning after arguing the case of Captain David A. Henkes before the United States circuit court of appeals there Tuesday and Wednesday. No decision will be given for some time. L.S. Harvey, assistant United States attorney of Kansas and Colonel W.A Graham of the judge advocate department of the army made arguments for the government.

~Leavenworth Post, Leavenworth, Kansas; Thursday, January 13, 1921

Transcription note: this article repeated much that was reported in earlier papers, those portions were left out of this transcription.

Reverse Decision Giving Freedom to Army Officer

Leavenworth, Kan., May 14 - A telegram received from St. Paul, Minn., today states that the United States circuit court of appeals had reversed the decision of Federal Judge John C. Pollock ordering the release of David A. Henkes from the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenorth. Henkes' attorney announced that an appeal will be taken to the United States supreme court.

Henkes, a native of Germany, did not want to fight against the Germans, because he had relatives there, and he attempted to resign as a captain in the regular army when America entered the world war. A court martial sentenced him to twenty-five years' imprisonment, which was afterwards commuted to five years. Judge Pollock held that retired officers illegally made up the court martial, and that Henkes was twice placed in jeopardy, and ordered his release. Henkes is now living in Leavenworth.

~Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO; Sunday, May 15, 1921

Supreme Court of the United States, Monday, March 27, 1922

No. 811 David A. Henkes, petitioner vs J.H. McRae, commandant of the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth; petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States circuit court of appeals for the Eighth circuit, denied.

~Washington Post, March 28, 1922 (Daily Court Record)

Transcription note: Definition of "Writ of Certiorari": Parties who are not satisfied with the decision of a lower court must petition the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case. The primary means to petition the court for review is to ask it to grant a writ of certiorari. This is a request that the Supreme Court order a lower court to send up the record of the case for review. If the Justices decide to accept a case (grant a petition for certiorari), the case is placed on the docket.
source: uscourts.gov; Supreme Court Procedures

1925 Kansas State census

Seneca st., Leavenworth, Kansas
Henkes, David A., head, age 49, occupation: none
Henkes, Amelia, wife, age 40, born Austria, immigrated to U.S. 1889
Henkes, Frances, daughter, age 16, born Alaska


Henkes, David A.

Private, Co. G 1st Wis Inf.
Private, Co. G 46th U.S. Vol Inf
2nd Lt 28th U.S. Inf
1st Lt 22nd U.S. Inf
Capt 16th U.S. Inf & 46th U.S. Vol Inf.

Filed for Invalid pension June 14, 1926; Application #1544032 Certificate #A.8.7.29
State from which filed - Kansas

~FamilySearch.org, United States General Index, Pension Files, 1861-1934

1930 U.S. Census

Leavenworth city, Leavenworth co., KS
Seneca St.
Henkes, David A.; head, age 54, married at age 31; born Iowa, father born Germany, mother born Ohio; occupation: real estate; veteran Sp war
Amelia L., wife, age 45, married at age 22, born Austria, parents born Austria
Frances C., daughter, age 21, single, born Alaska, father born Iowa, mother born Austria; occupation: teacher public school

Veterans National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Leavenworth, KS

David Henkes was admitted to the Veterans at National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Leavenworth, KS on April 28, 1932

Disabilities when admitted to the Home: Tabes Dorsalis
Rate Pension: $50.00

Military History:
Enlisted Co. G, 1st Wis Inf. 6/17/1898; dischg 10/27/1898
Enlisted Co. G, 46th Vol Inf. 10/02/1899; dischg 05/31/1901

Domestic History:
Born: Iowa
Age 56
Height: 5'10"
Complexion: Rud
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Dark
Can read & write: Yes
Religion: Prot.
Occupation: Real estate
Marital status: Married, wife: Mrs. Amelia Henkes, 602 Seneca St., Leavenworth, Ks

~FamilySearch.org, Register of Veterans at National Home for Disabled Volunteer
Soldiers, Western Branch, Leavenworth, Kansas, 1885-1934

Note: Tabes dorsalis is a complication of untreated syphilis that involves muscle weakness and abnormal sensations. It is a form of neurosyphilis, which is a complication of late stage syphilis infection. (source: Medlineplus.gov; Medical Encyclopedia)

Note that his service after 1901 is not included in his military history for the home.

Farley Henkes went to Leavenworth, Kan., Wednesday, to attend the funeral of his uncle, Dave Henkes.

~Clayton County Register, Wednesday, August 17th 1938 (Farmersburg column)

David Albert Henkes October 27, 1875- August 8, 1938
Son of Adam H. Henkes and Christina Yearous.
Buried at Mount Muncie cemetery, Lansing, Leavenworth county, Kansas.
He shares a gravestone with his wife Amelia (Langer) Henkes 12/23/1884 - 02/12/1963.
They had one daughter, Frances (Henkes) Bodde.


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