January 26, 1865 Headquarters 9th Army Corps [Virginia] #25
This is Thursday morning [January 26, 1864] about 3 o’clock. The shanty got cold. I thought I would get up and put on a fire. I sat a while and warmed my shins and toasted two slices of bread and ate them with honey on them. My honey is about done, which is the last I have that you sent me. I have received two letters from you this week, one last evening and one Tuesday morning. Which I was very glad to hear from you. So you see, I was glad twice in one week.
I cannot sleep more than six or seven hours. I get so sore and tired that I must rise and put on a fire. The weather now is cold and clear, but no snow, but will only last a few days. Although the days are pleasant and warm, the nights are frosty, which is the reason our shanties get cold. The walls are tight and warm, but our roof is nothing but tent cloths or heavy drilling [heavy, thick mud often used for drilling holes into the earth]. They turn rain Bully but are cold. That is the way the soldiers’ houses are all built throughout the army. The earth all along our lines are dotted with just such houses and inhabited with Uncle Sam’s boys, also in places for two miles back in the rear of the lines.
We lay very near two miles in the rear of the front, but we can see the Reb shells explode and hear the pickets firing. I just wish you could be here and see the position the Army of the Potomac lays in. You would think the soldiers had hard times and would get sick and tired living 3 years in the army, but they all like it. For my part I like it middling well, if it was not for being deprived of society and comforts of life at home. But I pray the expiration of my year will find me sharing the comforts and society with my wife and children.
Myron, I want to say a word to you. Will you not send Pap your little likeness, that small one without the case, the next letter Mother writes to me? All the rest of the married men in the Pioneer Corps have their little boys and girls pictures to show. I want yours to show also. I know that you are as pretty as any I have seen, yet you must not forget to send it. I will bring it home again. I have a nice picture that I am going to send to you. I received the letter where you stated what ailed Myron, also about how [many] bushels of potatoes you had, etc.
Do you want to know how many Jonnies came to our lines since the first of this month? I will tell you, so you can tell the Copperheads. There were five hundred and seventy, amongst them were two women from the city of Petersburgh. One of them was dressed in black silk, the other black calico, so you see, she must be a rich man’s wife. The Rebs are about starved out. They only get quarter rations, so they say, that deserts to our lines. I stated in my letter to you to keep Mary if she will stay. Make yourself and children comfortable.
I am not going to tell you as Ben told Mary to swing and cut a great splash. You know I want—cut according to your cloth, etc. I know too you will do it without my telling you. Them oysters you ate of mine, I tell you they were good. I would have been afraid to sleep with you that night for I know they had a bad affect on you. I am heartily glad you was down. I hope [you] enjoyed yourself, also. It was for a good cause.
How does Dow [Lorenzo Dow Ellis, Silence’s brother] and his wife flourish these times, and Mag, and Mary, Ben’s wife? Tell him to write to me, and I will write him the longest letter he ever read. Don’t forget to tell him. I suppose you have sent me that hat I wrote for. I have not much more to write. I am very well and hope you and the family are also. Write when you can. I will do so also. I am still making shingles right by my shanty. I hardly ever go out with the boys to the woods or on the road to work. Our sergeant is going home this week on furlough. Then we will have good times. I have a fine spirited horse, and [he is] a nice rider. He can jump a ditch or log just like a rabbit. So I must close for this time. Silence, good morning. I think I shall lay down and snooze a while longer. The fire is good and warm. Now, from your husband.
- Miller, Myron M. The Soul of a Soldier: The True Story of a Mounted Pioneer in the Civil War. Xlibris Corporation(2011), pp. 174-176 ↩
- 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. ↩