August Hampe, a New Braunfels City Marshal who was killed in a gunfight on Seguin Avenue in 1883, is regarded as the only City of New Braunfels law enforcement officer to be killed in the line of duty.
August Hampe was born in 1845 and he migrated to Texas with his parents and brother in 1855, from Bruggen, in the Kingdom of Hannover.
In 1862, he served Texas by enlisting in the Wood’s Calvary Regiment where he fought until the end of the Civil War.
In 1877, he was elected as City Marshal for the City of New Braunfels, a position he held until his death in January of 1883.
When he was killed in the line of duty, Marshal Hampe was 38 years old.
He left behind a wife and 7 children, the youngest of which was only 2-months old.
The Story of Marshal August Hampe's Death in the Line of Duty
The following account of Marshal Hampe's death in the line of duty was compiled using a variety of sources including courtroom testimony and newspaper articles from the time.
A - Fritz Trappe's Hardware Store
B - Wenzel's Bar
C - Naegelin's Bakery
D - August Hampe's Home
E - Post Office (1883)
F - Fred Homann's Bros. Saddle Shop
G - Meyer's Barber Shop
H - New Braunfels City Jail (1883)
I - New Braunfels Courthouse (1883)
On Monday January 22nd, 1883, a cotton farmer by the name of Napoleon Pitts came to New Braunfels to sell his crop and, after conducting some business at Fritz Trappe’s Hardware Store (A), he went to Wenzel’s bar (B) to have a beer. After a few beers, he ended up in an argument with another customer and that altercation spilled out onto Seguin Avenue. Marshal Hampe intervened and placed Pitts under arrest in front of Naegelin’s Bakery (C), just off the downtown Main Plaza. He was charged with “cursing and swearing,” and the Justice of the Peace later set bail for Pitts at $30. After paying the bail and being released from jail later that day, Pitts vowed to return and seek revenge against the Marshal that arrested him.
Several days later, on Friday, January 26th, 1883, Pitts returned to New Braunfels with the intention of confronting Marshal Hampe about his arrest. At about 9am, Pitts first went to Hampe's home on East San Antonio Street (D), in the area that currently sits across the street from Prince Solms Inn. Not finding him at home, Pitts then walked to the Main Plaza and then South on Seguin Ave. to the Post Office (E), which, at the time, was located near the intersection of Seguin Avenue and what was then called Church Street but is now known as Coll Street. That’s where Pitts found Hampe standing outside of the Post Office chatting with a citizen.
Pitts confronted the Marshal about his recent arrest and, after some brief shouting, Pitts punched the Marshal in the face. Marshal Hampe fell to the ground and Pitts began kicking and stomping on him while he was on the ground. Hampe was now bleeding and bruised and two nearby citizens tried to pull Pitts away from the Marshal. But Pitts was too strong, and he continued to pummel the Marshal with kicks and punches.
Marshal Hampe then drew his pistol and, with nearby citizens yelling for him to shoot Pitts (and after having taken a serious beating), Hampe finally fired his pistol, striking the attacker. But Pitts was undeterred and drew his own pistol from his pocket and fired at Hampe, who had scrambled behind a large tree just outside of the Post Office. Pitts chased the Marshal and the two exchanged gunfire as the fight moved out into the middle of Seguin Avenue.
Wounded twice from gunfire and still suffering from the beating, witnesses to the incident say Marshal Hampe was on his hands and knees and crying out in agony when Pitts came after him again. Hampe fired another shot and attempted to escape from the attack towards Church (Coll) Street, but Pitts aimed his revolver and fired his third shot into the Marshal’s back. Still trying to get away, the Marshal staggered into Fred Homann’s Bros. Saddle Shop (F) on the corner of Seguin and Church (Coll) St. Pitts was still following him and was ready to take another shot, but the store owner had closed and locked the door once the Marshal was inside, preventing Pitts from entering the building. Still angry, Pitts remained outside of the saddle shop for a few minutes before walking north, past Meyer’s Barber Shop (G) and towards the Main Plaza where he was then arrested by the Sheriff.
Back in the saddle shop, Hampe’s condition was so bad that he could not be moved and the Marshal died there the next day, having suffered three gunshot wounds. Dr. J.P. Lehde noted one superficial bullet wound, another bullet that passed through the Marshal’s left forearm near the wrist, and the fatal wound entered his back, passed through his kidney, left lung, and entered his chest.
Pitts was incarcerated in the city jail (H), which, at the time, was on the Main Plaza in the area where the Black Whale Pub now stands. That night, a crowd of approximately 40 outraged New Braunfels citizens armed with guns and axes broke down the door of the jail, with the intention of lynching Pitts. But a lone jailer with a pistol in each hand fended off the crowd, who eventually gave up and went away.
The trial of Napolean Pitts was held on February 12, 1883 in the Courthouse in New Braunfels (I), with Justice of the Peace Charles Alves presiding. After extensive testimony from eyewitnesses to the shootout, Pitts was convicted of the murder of Marshal Hampe and was sentenced to life in prison. On June 14th, 1883 he was sent to the Huntsville Prison and less than a year later, on March 27, 1884, he died from “Consumption and Dropsy.”
Above: Marshal August Hampe's gravestone at Comal Cemetery decorated with flowers and flags. The pistol shown is the one he used to return fire when he was attacked.
City Marshal August Hampe was laid to rest at the Comal Cemetery, where his gravestone can be found today.
The funeral procession for the fallen law enforcement officer was the largest anyone in New Braunfels had ever seen, according to eyewitness accounts from the time.
The processions began with the church choir followed by the horse-drawn hearse wagon.
The Mayor and Town Council then followed on foot along with the Singing Society and their flags.
All local Lodges and their supporting associations, along with a large number of citizens also followed on foot, in wagons, and on horses.
At the grave, it is estimated that between 2,500 to 3,000 people gathered to hear Pastor Mulder give the Marshal's funeral oration.
Marshal August Hampe's story, unfortunately, was somehow lost to history for many, many years until 2018 when his untimely death in the line of duty was rediscovered by current NBPD officers. As more was learned about Marshal Hampe's story, it became clear that action need to be taken to help memorialize his role in New Braunfels’ history.
In May of 2019, a contingent of NBPD’s Honor Guard was on hand in Washington D.C. at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial for a candlelight vigil held to honor the brave men and women who, over the decades, have lost their lives in the line of duty. A total of 371 new names of fallen police officers were added to the memorial in 2019, and one of those names was August Hampe.
NBPD was honored to be part of that ceremony as his name was added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Lost to history no longer, NBPD will always remember!