William Kossak journals  1863-1865
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Collection Scope and Content Note

William Kossak's two journals cover only a portion of his Civil War service as an engineer in the command of William Tecumseh Sherman, but they include important information on two campaigns during which the engineers -- and Kossak in particular -- made key contributions.

Journal, June 16, 1863-May 3, 1864

During the Vicksburg Campaign, Kossak was responsible for various projects in Vicksburg and the surrounding countryside in Mississippi. His primary concern was with lines of defence, although he reported progress on the Vicksburg city hospital and on officers' headquarters. He was also involved in rationing whiskey and other liquor to the troops. Kossak's journal often takes on the mantle of a diary when he embellished cut-and-dried progress reports with his personal observations and opinions on subjects ranging from contrabands and countersigns to desertion (see esp. Feb 14, 1864), the weather, prices, pontoon-trains, and Generals Grant, McPherson, and others. In the margin, he kept an account book of sorts, showing cash spent.

Of special interest are lists of private citizens in Vicksburg evicted to make way for military defence works, and a note on March 18, 1864 that states tersely: "16th anniversary of the Revolution in Prussia (Berlin). God Bless the Dead!" Laid in the volume is a map showing fortifications in the city.

Journal, June 16, 1864-May 30, 1865

This second volume of Kossak's journal concerns the Atlanta Campaign and its aftermath, a period during which Kossak was chief engineer of the 17th Army Corps. Stylistically, the reports in this volume echo those of the first. Kossak wrote from James B. McPherson's headquarters until that General's death before Atlanta in July, 1864, after which he was assigned to Sherman's headquarters.

Kossak provides an engineer's perspective on several of the major battles of the Atlanta Campaign, particularly of the Battle of Atlanta itself, and he includes several excellent lists of supplies distributed to troops. Pencil-sketch maps of the area around Ackworth, Ga., appear on pages 3, 5, and 7, and of Kenesaw Mountain on pp. 119-123. At the back of this journal is a section entitled: "Alphabetical list of Pontoncers, Ponton Train, Dept. of the Tennessee."

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