Welcome to the Peter Joseph Osterhaus website, dedicated to preserving the German immigrant's remarkable story of service to his adopted country. In spite of his solid contributions to the Union successes in the West throughout the Civil War, Maj. Gen. Osterhaus remains virtually unknown to most people studying the war today. On this site you will learn some of the fascinating details of his long life in both of his countries.
For instance, you may not know that:
- Osterhaus commanded the rebel forces at Mannheim, Baden, in the Revolution of 1848-9, fleeing under charges of treason when the revolt collapsed.
- Osterhaus joined the Union Army Volunteers as a private, progressing to brigadier general in just a year.
- He was considered the best of only three German-born and raised Union full major generals appointed during the war (the other two were Franz Sigel and Carl Schurz).
- He took part in the first and last actions of the war in the Western Theater, signing Kirby Smith's surrender document.
- He was the only ethnic division commander serving under Grant during the Vicksburg campaign; Grant used him as his pathfinder and point man.
- Osterhaus led one of Sherman's four corps on the March to the Sea.
- He was military governor of Mississippi during the early days of Reconstruction.
- Osterhaus was one of the last living Union major generals, dying in Germany just before the United States entered World War I.
Please check out the Biographical Sketch for more details. Here is a video interview with Reason.tv introducing Osterhaus:
Some other items of interest:
For those interested in specific battles, I have included transcriptions of two little-known battle reports written by Osterhaus but not included in the Official Records: for Wilson's Creek and Port Gibson, with modern photos of the sites. If you express an interest, I will add later descriptions and photos of his other battles, listed in Osterhaus's Engagements.
If you are wondering whether a relative served with Osterhaus, you may find the answer in the list of Appointments and Commands. If you have letters in your attic mentioning Osterhaus, I would love to hear about them.
If you think you might be a descendant of Osterhaus, check out the Descendants page.
Please enjoy the site. I would be delighted to hear from you with suggestions, additions or comments and meet you at a book signing, conference, and other public events.