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 23, 1864 Bermuda Hundred [Virginia] #9
I cannot help writing to you when an opportunity affords itself. We just came in from dress parade. We [have] just as much to do on the Sabbath day as on week days. This evening we go out on picket duty and remain there 24 hours, then we are relieved by others. It requires 600 men to guard the line which is perhaps 3 miles in length. It is easy duty. We stand 2 hours on and 2 hours off, and day time 1 hour on and 4 off, etc. So goes the duties of war.
Silence, I am very well. I believe I never was heartier in my [life]. The boys all say I am getting as fat as a pig. I believe I never told you who my tent mates are. I will tell you. Selkirk Wade, I.S. Kean from Germans Corners—a first rate pious man, and James Turner from Meadville and Robert Swartout from Meadville and John Henry and myself. F. Hutchins is very sick. He is not expected to live. Our Lieutenant Bates was down to see him yesterday and he is bad.
If my health continues good I shall be a happy man and I thank my God every day. I hope He may spare my life to return home again to spend the balance of my days with my little family. Silence, I sent you a newspaper a few days ago called the American Messenger. I think you will like it. I also sent one to Mrs. Mayo. I done it merely to affect her feelings toward you and myself. May God bless her soul abundantly. I wish you would send me the Star [The Morning Star] or Tribune [New York Tribune] once in a while. It only costs two cents postage.
I got a letter from Enoch a few days ago. He stated that Ben was home sick. I wrote to Enoch to send me one dollar’s worth of postage stamps, which he did. You spoke about how I liked woolen shirts. I like them very well. We have very good clothes, and warm. We drew our overcoats last week and gum blankets [a black rubber coated canvas, issued to each soldier]. They are nice on cool nights on pickets. We also get plenty to eat. Silence, when we pitch our winter quarters I want you to send me some apple butter and butter with Henry’s folks. Butter is 80 cents per pound, sweet potatoes are 10 cents per pound, canned peaches $1.00 per can, onions 15 cents per pound, cheese 50 cents per pound and everything in proportion. We draw potatoes, beets, turnips, codfish, mackeral, fresh beef, salt beef and salt pork, coffee, sugar, bread and crackers, etc.
I think likely we will draw our pay by the first of next month
There is big excitement among the soldiers—the coming election. Old Abe is, I think, our president for four years more. The opinion is all through the army that this terrible Rebellion will close by spring or sooner. I suppose you have heard that Sheridan had one of the greatest victories a few days ago since the war commenced. He captured 47 cannons, all there ambulances, trains, and baggage train—with many prisoners—and killing and wounding, which we have not heard of yet.
Our batteries with 40 guns opened and fired 100 shots into the Rebel’s fortifications perhaps a mile distant, killing five men in one tent and how many more we did not learn, so said a Rebel deserter which came into our lines that night, but the Rebs never replied one shot. They were, I presume, afraid. Silence, I will tell you all about [this] when I come home.
We have as pretty weather here as you ever saw in your life. The roads are dry and dusty as in midsummer, the sun shines clear and warm, but the nights are rather chilly. There has only been one or two frosts yet. The oak leaves are green as ever. Oh, what a desolate country! You cannot see a house, only now and then an old wood colored thing, but across the James River you can see probably ten or a dozen, where our army has not been, but I think the day is not far distant when there will not be the mark of a house.
The army on our left are on the move for Richmond, which will eventually tell what or whether we fight much more or not.
That certificate that I sent you will not do. Take our marriage certificate and go to Dr. Derickson at Meadville. Tell him you want a certificate. And [if] he does not believe you—that you are not my wife, just hand him that Book, etc.
My sheet is about filled. I am sleepy, so I will close hoping sincerely you and little ones are well, and try to do the best you can. Give my love to Mother and boys and Kez and tell the boys to write if they please. Don’t work too hard and take care of yourself. I send Myron a cent. I would like to see the little fellows. Do not write any discouraging news, etc. Keep in good spirits and I will do the same. Write often, don’t wait on me. From your very affectionate husband.
Direct as usual. I can read your writing, every word.
Samuel K. Miller1
- Miller, Myron M. The Soul of a Soldier: The True Story of a Mounted Pioneer in the Civil War. Xlibris Corporation(2011), pp. 141-143 ↩