December 28, 1864 Army of the Potomac [Virginia] #20
I received your letter mailed 10th last Sunday. Also received one from Brother Jesse. They were all well. I was very sorry to hear that Myron was sick again. You did not state in your letter what was the matter with him. I hope he may get along without giving you much trouble. I am very anxious to hear how he is getting along. I hope you and all are well, enjoying the hollowdays with abundance of good things. As my part I done very well considering where we are. We do not expect such things as folks do to home, but for all of that, I am content for the present. I hope in the future to enjoy myself better than ever heretofore if the Lord spares my life, which I feel within myself that he will.
Silence, I am not with my regiment any more. A week ago this morning, which is Wednesday, I was detailed by General Parks [sic, Parke]1 of the Ninth Army Corps of the Potomac to the Mounted Pioneer Corps. I will explain to you as well as I can what we have to do. In the first place we have horses to ride wherever we go if not more than one mile. There are 25 men in the company. Whenever there is a bridge to build or repair, we have to do it, also go with the provision train, help them through, fix bridges, etc. We carry no guns or arms of any kind for we will not be placed in any danger of the enemy.2
The work is middling hard, but what signifies work if a man is in safety. This is a permanent detail for one year or more. I am well pleased with my position. The reason they detailed me was they wanted men that were steady and did not get drunk, etc. We just finished our cabin—are into it. This evening is the first night.
I would have answered your letter before but had no chance for the other tents were so crowded that I could not write. I wrote two to you not more than ten days ago. I shall write to you often now, for when our days’ work is done we have no more to do until the next day. We never get up until 7 o’clock. We also have a man to do our cooking. All we do is to go to the cook shanty and get our plates and tin cups, get our grub and then go to our tents, eat and carry our dishes back and they are all washed and kept there until the next meal. We get soft bread every day, roast beef, sometimes fried pork, also baked beans. I have eaten my molasses and one can of apple butter. My butter, what I kept, is done, but I have four pounds loaned that I shall get back again in a few days.
The beauty of belonging to this Pioneer Corps is you have no luggage to carry. It is all hauled by our wagons that are in the corps. I was chosen as an axman. Some carry picks, some spades, etc.
Jesse writes that he has bought another farm on the road between Mercer and Georgetown. He also gets the Post Office. I have not heard from any of the rest of the friends. I cannot get my likeness here. We will go to City Point perhaps in a few days. If there is a possible chance to have it taken I will do so. I have not very much money at present but have some coming to me for the boots I sold. We also get pay 8th of next month, which will be $97 dollars. I shall send home $90 of it by Express. We all think of coming home by the first of May. The war is playing out. You would think so if you were here and see the Jonnies coming in every morning. Sherman has whipped them all out in Georgia. They all say there is no use to fight any more with the North. They also have sent peace men to Washington for peace. I hope and pray it may close tomorrow.
Silence, I will not write much this time, but will write in a few days. Try and do the best you can with the children, but I am really sorry to hear that Myron has had such a sick time this winter. Does the doctor think he is dangerous? Try and be content in your lonesome hours and trials. May God protect you and babies is my constant prayer for you—may we be unspeakably happy to be permitted to be together to enjoy ourselves again in each other society. May God guard you tonight from all harm. I hope you are well. I am well. Does Mother come to see you much? I want her to visit you every day. I shall write home more in the morning. Direct in plain writing.
S. K. Miller
Headquarters 9th Army Corps
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Major General John G. Parke had taken over the Ninth Corps in August 1864 after Ambrose Burnside’s disaster at the Crater in late July 1864. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: When I first read Myron Miller’s book on his ancestor Samuel, I will admit to having been puzzled as to exactly what this mounted Pioneer Corps was. I still am puzzled. I’ve not yet been able to find other references to this force in my reading about the Siege of Petersburg. If you know either what this force was and/or references to it please use the Contact form above. ↩
- Miller, Myron M. The Soul of a Soldier: The True Story of a Mounted Pioneer in the Civil War. Xlibris Corporation(2011), pp. 163-165 ↩
- 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. ↩