Peter Joseph Osterhaus

Peter Joseph Osterhaus, certainly the most distinguished of the foreign-born officers who served the Union, was born in Coblenz, Germany (then Prussia) on January 4, 1823. Ninety-four years later, on January 2, 1917, just three months before the United States declared war on Germany and while Osterhaus was the recipient of a pension as a brigadier general in the United States Army, he died in nearby Duisburg. In the intervening years he had a notable and romantic career. After receiving a military education he became embroiled in the revolutions which swept Europe in 1848 and the following year was forced to flee to the United States. He settled first in Belleville, Illinois, where he was employed as a clerk. Later he removed to Lebanon, Illinois, and then to St. Louis, Missouri, whose large German population not only made him welcome but provided a springboard for his later military career. Osterhaus entered the Civil War April 27, 1861, as a major of a Missouri battalion mustered into Federal service. He fought at Wilson's Creek in August with this battalion and in December was made colonel of the 12 th Missouri (Union) Infantry. His next important encounter was at the battle of Elkhorn Tavern, or Pea Ridge, Arkansas, where he commanded a division of Curtis' forces. In June, 1862, he was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers, and during the Vicksburg campaign under U. S. Grant and W. T. Sherman he directed a division and was wounded at Big Black River. At Chattanooga, Osterhaus served under Joseph Hooker and on the day of the assault upon Missionary Ridge performed magnificently as his command drove Braxton Bragg's men from the southern end of the ridge. In the subsequent Atlanta campaign he was made a major general on July 23, 1864, despite Sherman's opposition, the latter alleging Osterhaus' absence from the army seeking rank. He went through Georgia with Sherman and in the campaign of the Carolinas commanded for a time Logan's XV Corps. After the Civil War Osterhaus alternated his residence between France, where he served as United States consul in Lyons, and St. Louis, where he engaged in the wholesale hardware business. In his later years he again served in the United States consular service in Germany, and by act of Congress on March 17, 1905, he was placed on the retired list of the army as a brigadier general. He was buried in Coblenz.  He was buried in the Koblenz Jewish Cemetery, Germany, but the grave no longer exists.

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Reference: Generals in Blue. Lives of the Union Commanders by Ezra J. Warner. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge.