Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery

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Thomas Hoyer Monstery (born: Thomas Hoyer Munster) (April 21, 1821 - December 31, 1901) was a Danish-American fencing and boxing instructor, duelist and mercenary who fought in a number of Central and South American conflicts during the mid-19th century.

Early life[edit]

Monstery was born in Baltimore . His father, Ole Michael Munster, had been an officer of the Danish Army but had been dismissed from service for having fought a duel; he was later pardoned, but banished from Denmark to serve as the Commandant of the Danish settlement of St. Croix, where he died twelve years later as the result of a lung injury sustained during the duel. Thomas' mother, Bergitha Christina Munster, was the daughter of Meta Anckarström, cousin to Jacob Johan Anckarström who had, in the year 1792, assassinated King Gustav III of Sweden.

At the age of twelve, in 1836, Thomas was enlisted as a cadet in the Danish navy, serving on the gunship Bellona and traveling to many foreign ports including Brazil, Russia, England and Portugal. After serving for three years he was injured during a fireworks accident on board ship and temporarily blinded; this injury caused him to lose his cadetship. Upon regaining his eyesight he enrolled at the Military College at Copenhagen and then at the Central Institute of Physical Culture in Stockholm, excelling in swimming, fencing and other aspects of physical culture training.

Training in fencing and boxing[edit]

Coming into his inheritance at the age of eighteen, Monstery decided to pursue the specialized study of close combat, traveling to England where he studied boxing with William Thompson, better known by his professional name of Bendigo, and then to Hamburg, Germany where he continued his boxing training with an instructor named Liedersdorff. He continued to travel throughout Europe seeking instruction in various forms of fencing, including knife fighting in Spain and Italy.

Military career[edit]

In 1845 Monstery accepted a commission as a fencing instructor to the Russian Army, but was forced to retire due to injury and moved to Copenhagen where he killed a man in a sword duel. Fleeing Denmark to avoid being arrested, he moved to Baltimore and then unsuccessfully attempted to gain a commission in the US Army as a bayonet and sabre fencing instructor. Enlisting in the US Navy he joined the crew of the gunboat Vixen and thus took part in General Scott's landing at Veracruz during the Mexican-American War.

Returning to Baltimore in 1850, Monstery became a cigar-maker and successfully pursued this trade in several cities, eventually opening a fencing and boxing school as well. At this time he met and married a Cuban-American woman named Carmen Xiques. While based in Baltimore, Monstery had several confrontations with a street gang known as the Plug Uglies.

Moving to South America, he continued to work as a fencing instructor, teaching bayonet fencing to the Cuban Army until he caught Yellow Fever and lost that position. Upon recovering his health he took part in a revolution in Nicaragua and then continued to fight and/or to teach fencing to soldiers in various local conflicts, amassing a considerable fortune. In San Salvador he was given the nickname by which he became known throughout South America, El Rubio Bravo ("the Brave Blonde"). During this period of his life he was reported to have fought numerous duels with sword, knife and pistol.

By 1859 he was based in Mexico, and in traveling from Chiapas to Mexico City he reported having been robbed of almost his entire fortune, estimated at $50,000. In the Autumn of 1860 he traveled to the West Indies to meet with his wife and they both re-located to California, settling in San Francisco where Monstery returned to the cigar business, continued his work as a fencing, boxing and swimming instructor and helped to found the Pioneer Athletic Club (later, the Olympic Club).

Later life[edit]

Between 1865 and 1868 Monstery traveled throughout South America, challenging various local fencing masters to prize fights, before settling in New York City where he maintained his various business interests and also continued to fight in challenge contests. During the early 1880s he moved to Chicago and opened a succession of fencing and boxing academies, training a number of prominent actors in the techniques of stage fencing. He also wrote or co-wrote a successful series of dime novel stories during this period.

In his later years he developed cataracts, and had to retire from fencing. Thomas Hoyer Monstery died in Chicago, at the age of seventy-seven. He was survived by his wife and by eight children.

References[edit]

  • Whittaker, Captain Frederick: The Sword Prince: the Romantic Life of Colonel Monstery, American Champion-at-Arms (Beadle and Adams, New York, 1882)
  • US Passport number 6746, dated Jun 24, 1889, issued Cook Co, IL has birth date as Apr 21, 1821
  • US Passport application dated Dec 5, 1867 lists birth as Apr 21, 1824 and list as a natural born citizen.
  • US Passport application dated Apr 26, 1856, lists his age as 32 and also has reference to Naturalization documents being enclosed. Hence, his Baltimore birth is in question.