Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
William Kossak Journals, 1863-1865

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Manuscripts Division Staff

Summary Information
Title: William Kossak journals
Creator: Kossak, William
Inclusive dates: 1863-1865
Extent: 2 volumes
Willia Kossak served on the staffs of Generals Grant and Sherman during the Civil War, rising to the position of Chief Engineer of the 17th Army Corps during Sherman's campaigns in Georgia. His journals cover the Vicksburg and Atlanta Campaigns with Sherman, including progress reports, accounts, and personal observations and opinions. The first journal also contains lists of private citizens in Vicksburg evicted to make way for military defense works, and a map showing fortifications in the city. The second volume includes lists of supplies for troops, pencils sketches of the area around Ackworth, Ga., and Nenesaw Mountain, and a section titled "Alphabetical list of Pontoncers, Ponton Train, Dept. of the Tennessee."
Language: The material is in English.
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:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1976. M-1730.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open to research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

William Kossak Journals, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Kossak, William

Rank : Captain

Regiment : United States. Army--Engineer Corps

Service : 1861 August 19-1866 July 10

A Prussian by birth, and apparently a refugee of 1848, William Kossak leapt immediately into service in the Civil War with a commission as Lieutenant in the 5th Missouri Infantry on May 20, 1861. By August of that year, he had earned a promotion to Captain and Additional Aide-de-Camp in the volunteer Engineers, working on the staffs of the great generals of the western theatre, including Grant and Sherman.

Kossak remained extremely active throughout the war, and his record amounts to a virtual roll of the great campaigns in the west. He served at Forts Donelson and Henry, Shiloh, Corinth, Vicksburg, the Atlanta Campaign, and the March to the Sea. For much of this time, Kossak reported closely to General Sherman, earning personal commendations form both Sherman and Grant. He rose to his highest position, when he became Chief engineer of the 17th Army Corps during Sherman's campaigns in Georgia.

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."

Subject Terms

    • United States. Army--Corps of Engineers.
    • German American soldiers.
    • Atlanta Campaign, 1864.
    • Vicksburg (Miss.) --History --Siege, 1863.
    • Fortification--United States--History--19th century.
    • United States. Army--Supplies and stores.
    • Grant, Ulysses S. (Ulysses Simpson), 1822-1885.
    • McPherson, James Birdseye, 1828-1864.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--African Americans.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Acworth (Ga.)--Maps.
    • Vicksburg (Miss.)--Maps.
    • Kennesaw Mountain (Ga.)--Maps.
    Genre Terms:
    • Diaries.
    • Manuscript maps.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    William Kossak journals [series]
    Volume   1  
     June 16, 1863-May 3, 1864
    Volume   2  
     June 16, 1864-May 30, 1865