January 24, 1865 Headquarters Army of the Potomac [Virginia] #24
I received your letter this morning, dated 15th. Our mail was detained on the River two days on account of a very heavy fog. I was very glad to hear that you were all well and trying to get along as well as you are, etc. As regards to my health it is very good at the present. I also received a letter from Almira and Mary Mayo [Samuel’s nieces, daughters of his sister Elizabeth Miller Mayo. Almira was 17 years old and Mary 22 years old at that time] this morning. They let on in their letter to be wonderfully concerned about me, how I get along and how I spent the Hollowdays and how much George Donaghy [Elizabeth’s son-in law, husband of another daughter Emaline] was offered for their property—five thousand dollars, and did also tell that they had bought a farm, etc.—and I was going to turn their whole attention to making cheese. That Mrs. Mayo was very sick or had been, and that she sent her love to me. I never, never was so surprised in my life when I got the letter! I knew they would come to milk after a while, but old Loring [Mayo] never said yes or nay.
I have some of a notion to answer the letter. They also wanted my likeness, but that they cannot have—to finger about. I intend to have about 4 photographs taken just as soon as we get our pay. That may be perhaps not until the first of March coming. I can have my face taken at our headquarters. I want you to write in your next letter how I should have it taken, whether with a musket or without. I am just out of money and I owe Enoch 50 cents for postage stamps. I have about seven or eight dollars but cannot get it until they get their pay also. I don’t know but I must dun you for a couple dollars. That will be all that I want for the time. I do hate to send for money, but I must have paper and ink and stamps and tobacco or I must quit writing letters. You wanted to know whether I could have the privilege of going to Washington. I think hardly unless the war should come to a close between now and the 4th of March.
Silence, if you can get Mary Davis to stay with you next summer, keep her, for you cannot get a girl that will suit you any better. I think she can earn pretty near her board—and if she can’t it is worth more than her board for company. Have her stay if she will. Tell her I said so. I hope you enjoyed yourself at the Oyster supper at Adamsville and I suppose you paid for it, too. Be careful that you do not eat too many for they have a bad effect.
Oh, how I would like to be home to take a sleigh ride! The day you wrote this letter you sent me, I was down to my regiment [the 211th Pennsylvania], and a prettier day I have never saw. Last Sunday [January 22, 1865] was a beautiful day. The sun shown all day, warm and pleasant. You wanted to know how I spend my Sundays or at least the Sunday of the 15th. I spent it in reading my Book—that I keep for my Guide. I love to read it more and more every day. I would like to know what mouse that was that brought you that corn, but I will bet that you did not get it for nothing. I am getting a memorial of our company. It is a very nice picture with all the names of our company. It will cost $1.50. Myron, I will send it to you. I want you to take good care of it, and keep it clean and when I come home I will frame it. I will get it in a week or ten days, then I will send it by mail.
This Wednesday morning [January 25, 1865] about 4 o’clock I got tired sleeping and laying so I thought that I would spend an hour or so in writing to one that I love dearly. While I am writing the gun boats are throwing their deadly shots at each other down on the James River. Night before last the Rebs made an attack upon us down on the James at the Dutch Canal where we lay last fall, but the Rebs were badly whipped. We sunk two rams [Confederate ships reinforced with iron bows in order to pierce the wooden hulls of Union ships, thereby rendering them inoperative] for them and blew up one and disabled two. The Rebs have made the second attack and what the result will be this time we know not.1
Silence, the war is coming to a close fast, so writes Enoch. I had a letter from him a few days ago. Keep in good cheer. We shall soon see each other again, if not until the expiration of my year, that is fast wasting away. Fret not about me. I will take care of myself, also of my Soul. I pray that God will see me safe home again to my beloved little family. I hope you will enjoy yourself sleigh riding, for we have no sleigh riding here. But nicer weather you never saw. This morning the ground is frozen hard but clear. May God be ever with you and family. I hope you are all well. I am well and I don’t have to work very hard. Write often and I will the same. I expect to hear from you. Send my love to Mother, etc.
Let me know when you write again how many dishes of oysters you ate. Write all the particulars and about the draft and what our township is going to do for the call. Tell Meg that now is her chance to send her man to war, then perhaps she can get a remnant for a dress.
From your dearest, kind husband. Write soon. Good morning.
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Samuel is writing about the Battle of Trent’s Reach on the James River, fought on January 23-25, 1865. Many powerful monitors and other ironclads had been sent on the Second Fort Fisher Expedition, so the Confederate James River Squadron planned an all or nothing attack in an attempt to destroy Grant’s supplies at City Point and perhaps break up the siege. Despite incompetence on the part of the Federal commander on the James River, who turned tail and ran with his monitor Onondaga, the Confederate effort ended in failure. ↩
- Miller, Myron M. The Soul of a Soldier: The True Story of a Mounted Pioneer in the Civil War. Xlibris Corporation(2011), pp. 172-174 ↩
- Editor’s Note: Samuel K. Miller of the 211th Pennsylvania wrote 46 letters home during his time in the Union army, almost all of it spent at the Siege of Petersburg in the Ninth Corps. Miller’s great-grandson Myron M. Miller recently edited these letters in his book The Soul of a Soldier: The True Story of a Mounted Pioneer in the Civil War. Check out the review here. Mr. Miller was kind and generous enough to offer the Siege of Petersburg Online the use of these letters for the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Siege of Petersburg. A selection of Samuel’s letters will appear here at the Siege of Petersburg Online 150 years after the date they were written. These letters are the private property of Myron Miller and are used here with his express written consent. All rights reserved. ↩
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