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.