Osterhaus, Peter J.

Born: 1823-01-04 Germany

Died: 1917-01-02 Germany

Peter J. Osterhaus, merchant and Civil War major-general, was born in Koblenz, Germany where he was educated and apprenticed to a business at age seventeen. He enlisted for compulsory service in the Prussian Army in 1843 and upon completion of his service in early 1845 he left Prussia to settle in Mannheim, in the Duchy of Baden. Osterhaus fled to the United States following his participation in the German revolution of 1848-1849 and settled first in Belleville, Illinois, where he opened a dry goods store in 1850. Two years later, he moved to nearby Lebanon where he again operated a dry goods store and served as postmaster, 1854 to 1857. Osterhaus became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1854. By 1856, he had sold his store and was building a distillery but lost the distillery as a result of the Panic of 1857. Late in 1860, he re-settled in St. Louis, where in anticipation of the outbreak of the Civil War he assisted with the military training of German Americans with Unionist sympathies. When hostilities commenced, he enlisted in April 1861 in a Missouri volunteer infantry regiment and was quickly elected major of the unit. After mustering out in August 1861, he reenlisted in the Twelfth Missouri Volunteer Infantry in December and served throughout the war, achieving the rank of brigadier-general in 1862 and of major-general of volunteers in 1864. Osterhaus served first under the Army of the Southwest, then subsequently served at the siege of Vicksburg and the capture of Jackson in the spring of 1863, in the Chattanooga campaign late in 1863, and in Union operations in Atlanta in the summer of 1864. After the fall of Atlanta, he participated in the march to the sea, and then served toward the end of the war in the Gulf Coast, where he was involved in arranging the final Confederate surrender at New Orleans in May 1865. In politics, Osterhaus was initially a Democrat, but by the 1856 election supported Republican presidential candidate John C. Fremont. He married Matilda Born about 1847 and following her death married her sister, Amalia Born, in 1864. Both marriages produced children.

Steven E. Woodworth, “Osterhaus, Peter Joseph,” American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 16:810-11; Mary Bobbitt Townsend, Yankee Warhorse: A Biography of Major General Peter Osterhaus (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2010), esp. 1-29; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), Belleville, St. Clair County, IL, 450; Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-1971, NARA Microfilm Publication, M841, 145 rolls, Records of the Post Office Department, RG 28, 1855-1865, 20A:121, National Archives Building, Washington, DC; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), St. Clair County, IL, 639; Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1903), 1:761; Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1887), 12:275, 336, 14:Part 1:40, 42, 162; Belleville News-Democrat (IL), 5 January 1917, 1:1, 4-5.