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.
November 7, 1864 Butlers Headquarters, Eight Miles in rear of Bermuda Hundred #12
This is Monday morning 7 o’clock. I just finished my breakfast. Presume you would like to know what I had. In the first place I had one pint of coffee and sugar enough to sweeten it, a piece of boiled pork, two middling sized potatoes boiled, one loaf of light bread, salt and pepper.
I suppose you had a good deal better breakfast. I hope you had. I also hope you have plenty to eat and drink and wear. If you have not, you cannot blame, for I left you money enough to work on and I am perfectly willing for you to use all you want. First in order I shall write you on the happenings and welfare of you and children. In your last letter dated October 26 and 27 I received last Saturday, you stated for me to say whether I was willing that you should give Mr. Manning one dollar for Steepins [?]. Yes, I say and one more dollar with it if you like. Give all your conscience will allow you to give, for I sincerely think there are but very few that give freely enough for that good and Holy cause—to have the Gospel preached. I feel just as I have above stated.
You also requested me to say or give my consent whether you should buy that stove from Manning. I am very willing that you should get it. I think it very cheap at 4 dollars. I am perfectly willing for you [to] use all the money you want to make you and the children comfortable. I am not afraid of you going beyond anything, only what you necessary wants. Use judgment and economy, that is all I want, and I know you have never done anything else since we were married. Therefore, you see, the money I left you lays at your command. As regards myself, I aim to expend whatever for clothing or victuals, only paper, ink and stamps, envelopes, etc. (Tobacco, of course).
We will probably not get any more pay for 4 months yet, then we expect six months wages and one third more bounty, which in all will amount to $129. I intend to send home one hundred dollars, the balance I intend to keep for spending money. I am running pretty short of money now, but will have what will last me some weeks. I have 4 dollars left. I do not buy much but what I am obliged to, etc. Everything is three times as high here as in the North or where you live. Writing paper is 25 cents a quire [24 or 25 sheets of paper], envelopes two cents a piece. At them rates it wears away a few dollars of money. What used up my money so fast, I had to buy me a pair of boots, a gum blanket, suspenders, portfolio, ink stand, ink pens, etc. If you think of it when you write to me the next letter, put in a few dollars and I will pay you good interest for it when I get home.
Shafnocker, the man that married Robert’s wife, is in our company. He is our cook. He requested me to state to you whether Bill Mier has got back from the West or not. I heard that Jasper Heagan has come back from Canada again.
Tomorrow is the day set for the great contest—who shall be the President. Old Abe or Little Mack. I hope and pray Mack may be defeated. Our regiment will pretty much all go for Lincoln. I am little afraid that Lincoln will be licked. By the time you receive this letter I presume we will know who is the man that has the finishing of this war. I hope to God it may come to a close in two months so we may all return to homes and families and live a Christian life the balance of our days on Earth.
Today it is raining but cold. Yesterday and Saturday night I stood picket on my post. We agreed amongst ourselves to stand 2 hours on and four off, so when I was off trick, I read my Testament. I opened my book in St. Matthew, the 27th Chapter and read.
You need not bother about them gloves. I can buy them here so that will save you the trouble, also save running the risk of them getting here. The letter I received from you on Saturday makes 6 I received from you. So there, you see, I have got all you wrote to me. I think I have written ten or eleven to you with one cent in each letter for Myron. In this letter I am going to send you a present which I made myself when I had not much to do. I made a finger ring out of a bone—a Virginia beef bone. I think it will just fit your third finger. It just fits my little finger.
The prospects at present are pretty good now for winter quarters here. If so, John Henry and myself want a box filled with nicknacks for winter, such as apple butter, baked or fryed apples, canned tomatoes, etc. We will write what we want. I must close for my sheet is filled. That paper you [sent] me never came. Send me a Star occasionally. Good day. Write soon. Be good girls and children. From your most affectionate husband,
- Miller, Myron M. The Soul of a Soldier: The True Story of a Mounted Pioneer in the Civil War. Xlibris Corporation(2011), pp. 146-148 ↩