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.
September 26, 1864 Camp of the 211 Pa.V. [Virginia] #4
Only friend on earth,
I take the earliest opportunity to write again. I wrote you last at Washington and now we are camped in Virginia, about two miles in the rear of Bermuda Hundred, or in other words, two miles from the James River, where [Benjamin F.] Butler made the Rebels skiddadel last May.1 Butler’s whole force lays in sight of our camp. We all saw the old general last Saturday evening [September 24, 1864] passing by. He is a good-looking man and a brave man, I think from his appearance.
We left Camp Reynolds last Saturday evening a week ago [September 17, 1864] and arrived this place Thursday evening dusk [September 22, 1864]. We lay on the ground the first night. Next day we all went to work and built pens 6 by 12 feet, about three feet high, out of poles, then covered it with our tent cloths which makes it very comfortable. We cannot tell how long we may remain here. We can hear cannons fire all day and all night. We are just 10 miles from Petersburg and 20 miles from Richmond.
The Rebels keep up constant fire at the canal where Grant is cutting.2 On Saturday morning there were 100 guns fired in honor of the great victory that Sheridan gained.3 The Newhire [?] reports a loss to the Rebels—5 thousand and five hundred killed, wounded and prisoners. The general opinion is amongst old soldiers and citizens that Rebeldom cannot last long.
I was up to the Soldier Home to Enoch [Enoch Ellis, his brother-in-law, who was in Company K of the 150th Pennsylvania, which served as bodyguards for President Lincoln] and Mart Wright [Martin Wright, Samuel’s nephew, daughter of Keziah Ellis Wright]. I never saw Mart look any better in my life. He looks like a man and keeps himself clean and trim. Enoch said that the time they were called out, Mart was the best soldier they had in the [regiment]. They have a fine place to stay and good times. I also was up to the President House but he was not out of his bed. I saw all the boys, etc.
When I wrote you last I sent you ten dollars. Let me know whether you received it or not. When my letters run through directly, I shall [send] 15 [dollars] more. Write all particulars and how you get along. I wrote to Jacob a few weeks ago. I gave it to him pretty hard. Let me know what the folks think about me volunteering. Hiram told me that Mayo thought I done right, but Eliza thought it awful. Let me know all about the draft, who was drafted.
I only received one letter since I left home, but am perfectly satisfied with one. I suppose there are more on the road for me. Write whenever you feel like doing so. I am middling well. I took a bad cold and it has made me very sore through the small of my back. I do not think that I can stand much backing, but I will do the best I can and that is all that anyone can do. Let me know whether Mother and Kez [Keziah, Silence’s sister] has come home yet. Give my respects to Abner and Tilt [Cyrus Stilton Ellis, Silence’s brother] and the boys to Doctor White’s folks. Have you made your dress yet that I bought at Meadville? Pay my debts as they call on you. Write soon all particulars. Kiss the little boys for me. I hope you are well and enjoying yourself first rate. Get along as well as you can and take care of the property the best you can and may we all be home by next spring.
When you write Direct Samuel K. Miller, Company A, 211 Regiment, Pa.V. care of Capt. E. B. Lee. [ Lee was killed on April 2, 1865 at the advance on Petersburg].
Washington, D.C. 4
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Miller is referring to the May 1864 Bermuda Hundred Campaign. His understanding seems to be a bit off. Butler’s tepid attacks combined with Beauregard’s skill and some luck drove Butler back onto Bermuda Hundred, where he remained as if “in a bottle tightly corked,” according to U. S. Grant. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Miller is referring to Butler’s Dutch Gap canal project to bypass a formidable Rebel battery on the James River. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Phil Sheridan won victories over Jubal Early’s Valley Army in the Shenandoah Valley at Third Winchester on September 19 and Fisher’s Hill on September 22. I’m not sure if the salute was for Third Winchester, Fisher’s Hill, or both. It’s probably listed in the Official Records if someone is so inclined to check. ↩
- Miller, Myron M. The Soul of a Soldier: The True Story of a Mounted Pioneer in the Civil War. Xlibris Corporation(2011), pp. 133-134 ↩