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Civil War Officer's Private Purchase Sack Coat Identified as Lt. Col. Peter Osterhaus, 12th Missouri Volunteers

Dark wool body double-breasted 4-button coat with notched lapels. Buttons do not have any maker's marks.  Buttons have an "I" on the shield of the eagle's breast.  Major's oak leaves with prongs that stick through the shoulder and folded it over.  Dark olive lining with wide quilted patterns in chest and shoulders.  Inside breast piped pockets on each side. Sleeves are lined in white.  Small center vent.  Non-serviceable cuffs. Elbows measure 9" in width.  

Peter Osterhaus (1823-1917) remains a relatively unknown Civil War officer whose excellent service is the Western theater has been largely ignored by historians. Having fled his native Prussian in the wake of the failed 1849 Revolt, Osterhaus settled in Bellville, Illinois and achieved a measure of business success while becoming a naturalized American citizen and dabbling in Republican politics. Having relocated in 1860 to nearby St. Louis with its large German immigrant population Osterhaus was soon embroiled in the lead-up to the Civil War, doing his part by secretly training medical students to be militiamen in order to protect the vital Federal arsenal there.

Shortly after Ft. Sumter, he enlisted as a 37 year-old private in the 2nd Missouri Volunteer Infantry and was quickly elected captain and then major within a few weeks. Employing his former Prussian military experience, Osterhaus excelled in training the enthusiastic but raw “Dutch” recruits and being bilingual made him even more valuable to his commanding officers, since most of his fellow soldiers spoke primarily German. After Major Osterhaus’ commendable performance in command of an infantry battalion at Wilson's Creek in August 1861, General Fremont appointed him colonel of the 12th Missouri which he successfully recruited and trained. Still a newly appointed regimental colonel, Osterhaus soon was acting as a temporary brigade commander under Fremont. Three months later at the battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862, Colonel Osterhaus commanded a division where his conspicuous conduct on the field earned him a brigadier’s star on June 9, 1862. Up until then his rapid if fortuitous advancement in the burgeoning volunteer army had been virtually unparalleled as the Union girded for a lengthy conflict.

From that point until nearly the end of the war, Osterhaus commanded at the division level, honing his skills along the way. He was particularly innovative, becoming noted for his skill in placing artillery and its rapid employment with skirmishers. Thereafter, General Osterhaus made significant contributions in several of the major campaigns in the western theater including Vicksburg, Chattanooga, and Atlanta.

Promoted to Major General in July 1864, Osterhaus was elevated to the command of the 15th Corps, Army of the Tennessee, under O.O. Howard. Following the fall of Atlanta, the corps accompanied Sherman during the chase after John Bell Hood and later the March to the Sea. Once Savannah had fallen, Osterhaus was reassigned as Chief of Staff to General E.R. S. Canby, a commander with no battle experience higher that regimental level, and contributed his own hard-won expertise to the successful capture of the forts at Mobile Bay, the last major campaign of the war. Osterhaus oversaw the surrender of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Army under E. Kirby Smith and signed the final surrender documents as proxy for General Canby.

Immediately after the war, Osterhaus spent six months in the grueling assignment of military governor of the District of Mississippi during Presidential Reconstruction. He was finally discharged from volunteer service in January 1866 and returned briefly to St. Louis. He then was appointed United States Consul to Lyon, France, a post he held for the next eleven years which included the Franco-Prussian War.

In 1877, Osterhaus returned to New York City where for several years he engaged in manufacturing and exporting hardware. Afterwards, he removed to Manheim, Germany remaining in the hardware business and later becoming U.S. Vice-Consul at Manheim. He retired around 1905 and lived another dozen years, dying in Koblenz, Germany on January 2, 1917 just before his son, Rear Admiral Hugo Osterhaus, Commander-in-Chief of the Atlantic Fleet in 1912, was called out of retirement to assist in the war effort against his father’s native land. Shortly before his death, the enigmatic Peter Osterhaus was appointed Major General, U.S. Army, becoming the last survivor of the Civil War to hold that rank.  Consignor relates that this informal sack coat was found in the attic of his former home.

Provenance:H. Deeks to Consignor 2003

Condition:Excellent overall condition with no mothing.  There is small signs of wear on cloth.

Estimate: $6,000 - $9,000
Price Realized Including Buyer's Premium
$4,113
05/01/2014

 

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