Title: Karl Heinrich Anschütz papers Creator: Anschütz, Karl Heinrich, 1840-1863? Inclusive dates: 1852-1896 Bulk dates: 1862-1863 Extent: 18 items Abstract:
The Anschütz papers consists of family papers and letters written by Karl Heinrich Anschütz, a German-American, during his service with the 15th Michigan Infantry. The letters are in a mixture of English and German.
Language: The material is in English and German Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave. The University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190 Phone: 734-764-2347 Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Karl Anschütz was born in Zella-Mehlis, Thüringen, Germany, on August 24, 1840, and in 1852 emigrated to the United States with his parents, Georg and Elizabeth (Barthelmes), his brothers Anton (b. 1845), Reinhold (b. 1847), Johannes (b. 1849), and Eduard (b. 1851), and sister Christiane (b. 1838). During the ocean crossing, Georg was stricken with blindness, and never again regained his sight. The older Anschütz boys were therefore put into the position of having to support the family, which they apparently did quite well. The family ran a prosperous farm near Saginaw, Michigan, but in 1865, they moved to East Tawas, Michigan, where members of the family still reside.
On November 8, 1861, Karl Anschütz enlisted for three years' duty in Company C of the 15th Michigan Infantry at Detroit, mustering in to the federal service on December 24th. The regiment prepared for active duty at Fort Wayne, and after a languorous winter, they were thrust suddenly into the thick of the conflict, joining Grant's Army of the West shortly before the Battle of Shiloh late in March, 1862. During the battle, Anschütz reported, the regiment was unduly exposed to fire due to poor generalship, sustaining 97 casualties as a result, including 33 deaths. Taking no time to heal their wounds, the regiment pursued the Confederate army to Corinth, Mississippi, where they remained for several months. The 15th Michigan saw continual action at Corinth, taking part in the siege and capture of the city in May, and its defense against Earl Van Dorn's all-out assault on October 3-4. Throughout the year the regiment spent in northern Mississippi, they were also regularly harassed by the very effective Confederate guerrilla cavalry, and they responded with equal violence and success against the citizenry that supported (and comprised) the guerrillas.
From at least the late spring of 1862, Anschütz was detailed as brigade cook, running the bake house and cooking for General John M. Oliver and the occasional illustrious visitor, including Generals Grant, Halleck, and Buell. Anschütz was well liked by the general and his staff, and was apparently an impressive cook who displayed an equal talent for impressing food and supplies from locals. He appreciated his comparatively soft position in the army, and was glad to be able to ride a horse, to have as much as he wanted to eat and not to have to carry a weapon. Yet his patriotism and willingness to accept personal sacrifice for the union cannot be questioned. Anschütz came to detest the southern people for waging their war of disunion, and he was of the strong opinion that they did not deserve mercy as a result. His gleeful stories of appropriating supplies from the homes of southerners and of seeing the women reduced to a state of helplessness are rooted in a hard edged, but deeply moral view of the conflict.
During the winter of 1862, the 15th Michigan were ordered to Grand Junction, Tennessee, to guard the railroad center against Confederate guerrillas. In the Spring, it appears that Anschütz fell seriously ill and was hospitalized for some time. His regiment, meanwhile, joined in the Vicksburg Campaign, and Anschütz was on his way to rejoin them in the trenches on the back side of Vicksburg in late June when he was last heard from. He was listed as having deserted from Grand Junction on May 20th, 1863, but on balance, it appears more likely that this report was mistaken, perhaps intentionally so. A dispute with Major Morris of his regiment may have resulted in Anschütz's legitimate medical leave being reported as desertion, with his untimely death preventing the error from being corrected.
The heart of the Anschütz papers consists of fourteen letters written by Karl Heinrich Anschütz during his enlistment in the 15th Michigan Infantry. Thirteen of these were written in an old-script German containing an interesting mixture of English phrases. The letters seem at times to skate effortlessly back and forth between the languages, almost obliviously. The single letter written in English suggests that Anschütz was highly proficient in both languages.
The Anschütz Papers provide excellent insight into the mind and attitudes of a German American soldier during the Civil War and, perhaps of equal importance, into his activities as a cook. Anschütz holds no punches in his writing, describing incidents of merciless plunder of civilians, defending his actions as the necessary by-product of a soldier's mentality while in hostile territory. The brutality of guerrilla warfare erupts in several letters, and the frustrations of federal troops at dealing with their elusive foe played out in the torching of Chiwalla, Mississippi, in revenge for an attack on federal troops by men who had taken the oath of allegiance, and in the destruction of the property of a man who had supplied information on Union positions to the Confederate army.
The best letter in the collection may be the excellent account of the Battle of Corinth, during which Anschütz served at the side of his general (probably General John M. Oliver), carrying provisions and two canteens, one filled with water, the other with whiskey. Anschütz and his kitchen were on the receiving end of a heavy artillery barrage during the battle, suffering considerably before the assault was driven back. Yet almost all of the letters in the collection are as good as this one, providing excellent descriptions of brushes with guerrillas, cooking, and camp life, and delineating the many sides of Anschütz's personality. Although Anschütz had a stern side, his sense of humor, his rough-edged but easy going attitude, and his appreciation of cooking and an easy berth in the military make him highly likeable and intriguing man.
The collection includes a small number of family documents, including a record of the births of Karl Anschütz's parents and siblings prepared to document German citizenship upon immigration to the U.S., George Anschütz's certificate of naturalization and a codicil to his will, and a homestead certificate for a parcel of land near Saginaw, Michigan. An 1890s reprint of a photograph of an unidentified Civil War soldier was included with the collection, as well. The photograph, signed on the back by Martha Anschütz, appears to be of an enlisted man with hat insignias indicating membership in Co. F, 3rd [Michigan?] Artillery.