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.
October 9, 1864 Bermuda Hundred, Camp Near Point of Rocks [Virginia] #6
Dear Brother [his brother-in-law, Enoch Ellis, stationed with the 150th Pennsylvania in Washington],
According to promise I take the first opportunity of writing a few lines to you. Since we came here we have moved most every day since we left the boat. We lay almost in line of Petersburg and Richmond. We can see Richmond very plain in a clear day. There has been some desperate fighting within the last week between the Yanks and Jonnies in sight of our fortifications towards Richmond. Our boys took two lines of fortifications with about 5,000 prisoners. The Rebs, not being satisfied, made 3 charges in one day but was repulsed every time with heavy loss each time. On the 6th the Rebs made one charge after another but whipped every time with very heavy loss. Our boys mostly have seven shooters [capable of shooting seven shots without reloading] and the Rebs say the Yanks shoot all the time and never load. They can’t contrive what it means.
Our boys are now within four miles of Richmond. The [word] came in yesterday that the Rebs were evacuating Richmond and were going to Danville to concentrate there, but there are so many reports come every day that you cannot tell what is truth or what is not. The first night we stood picket we took in 7 Rebs into our lines. There were 5 that came in on my post. I tell you they were glad when they got into our lines. They were poorly clad and it rained all night and cold. They were very near froze.
Enoch, I shan’t write very much for it is very cold and my hands are numb. I have only received one letter since I left home, that was at Camp Reynolds. I presume you hear from home often. Do you know whether Silence or any of the children are sick? If they [are], let me know. Enoch, what course must a man pursue in order to get a vote, or will there be provisions made by our Township officers so we do not lose our votes? If you know anything about it let me know immediately. Enoch, send me by return letter one dollar worth of postage stamps. I tryed to get some at Washington but could not get them Perhaps they can be had now if you can send them and I will send you the dollar by return mail.
I have had very good health with the exception 4 or 5 days but am quite well now. We have to stand picket duty every other night. I like it middling well. The first day we were here we were marched to the breastworks to make a demonstration. We had scarcely started up before we received a shot from the Rebs, but as luck would have it, the ball did not explode but killed two men in Company F next to Company A. I tell you we skiddaled down very quick. The Rebs fortifications lay about one mile in front of our fortifications. At one place our pickets are within one rod of each other. But they are civil and say they will not shoot unless we do. We are not permitted to speak to them nor trade with them, but they will trade coffee for tobacco and exchange papers, also.
Enoch, answer this just as soon as you receive this. Give my respects to Ben [Ben Ellis, his other brother-in-law, also with the 150th Pennsylvania stationed in Washington] and all the boys in your tent, etc. No more. Excuse bad writing. I wrote this on my knee. Yours with respects.
Samuel K. Miller
Direct S. K. Miller, Company A, 211 Regt. P. V. care of Captain E. B. Lee
- Miller, Myron M. The Soul of a Soldier: The True Story of a Mounted Pioneer in the Civil War. Xlibris Corporation(2011), pp. 136-137 ↩