February 1, 1865 Headquarters 9th Army Corps [Virginia] #26
Dearest companion, Don’t show this. Keep to yourself.
I received your letter the 26th also the hat and gloves and stamps. I thank you to the bottom of my heart for your kindness and trouble which I am constantly putting you to. I do not know whether I can every repay you again. I hope in the end to spend my days with you, a true Christian and a loving husband and a Christian father. That is my full determination. I pray whenever I have an opportunity to my God to spare my life and spare me to return home again with my dearest.
I am very well at present and sincerely hope and pray that you all enjoy good health. There is a strong talk of a peace settlement. May God grant it may be so. Vice President Stephans [sic, Stephens] Hunter and Campbell1 are at Washington to see whether there is a hope for peace.2 They came across the picket line opposite Petersburgh and was escorted by General Parks [sic, John Parke, the Ninth Corps commander] in a four-horse carriage to Meade’s station where they took the cars for City Point, thence by water to Washington.3 If they do come to any terms of peace, the war will end in a couple months. Then, in all probability, us new troops will be home by the first of May. You can tell the people if they doubt this news, tell them it is so, for there was one of our boys saw the man come to Meade’s station. Troops are all anxious to hear of peace once more. (I say amen to it!)
Silence, I am making candles last night to bed time and today. I have made three dozen and have tallow enough left to make 6 or 8 more. We borrowed moles from a Reb family that lives within our lines, and the tallow we can get all we want by going for it where they kill beef cattle off—from the guts. The government never pretends to save the tallow. The guts are all buried. So I will have candles enough to read and write all I want. You said that you dare not write your feelings for fear of making me feel sad. I do love to have you write your feelings for I feel that the Lord is on my side. I know He is. I am not inclined to break his commandments. I do know that I love to read my Testament better than I ever did. Oh, how I wish this war might close and let me go home. I am not discontented or homesick, but I want some one to kneel down with me and pray for me, and ask for forgiveness.
Your letters I have burnt them all but for eight. If we stay in camp I shall save them until spring, then I will burn them. There is no one sees them for I keep them locked up in my portfolio but when I read them over two or three times I burn them. I had a letter from Hiram a few days ago. He did not write anything that was interesting to me—only said that you and your Mother was there on a visit. He talks of putting up his house next summer and getting it enclosed and then have me finish it for him. I have not answered his letter yet. I have answered Almira Mayo’s letter. I gave them some sly rubs, too. I have just finished my dinner. We had fryed beef and pork and hard tack.
We have not had much to do now, only chop wood and burn it. Our sergeant has gone home on a furlough. So we have good times now, only lay around. I only hope we may remain our time out. Myron, I suppose you have fine times playing with your sled. I suppose you still have your cart not broken yet. Silence, have you your stove set up in the room yet? How much money is there in Ewing’s stove? I want to have about five hundred dollars in money when I get home. I want to finish my house and dig a cellar, and buy some hardware at Pittsburgh when I come and some groceries, too. I [have] not much more to write. Only I hope we may both be good Christians in our old days. Pray for me. I expect to hear from you again soon. Give my love to all that inquire about me. Write soon as you can. Did old Ben like to trust me? Does he ever inquire about me? I still remain your best friend on Earth. Keep in good spirits for a few months more.
From yours very respectfully.
Samuel K. Miller
This Sunday [probably Sunday, January 29, 1865] 12 degrees and very windy and cold from the Northwest and we had to work all day making roads which went very much against my will, but what are we to do when we are ordered to work. I don’t think we will have to answer for it in the day of Judgment. I hope you have spent the Sabbath Day differently. This letter starts for you in the morning.
You would think if you were here this evening it was snowing to see the white sand fly in the air. I never saw it blow much harder in my life. It makes our shanty flutter, but we can keep it warm. Write soon if you please. My love to all that may want to hear. I answered Mol Mayo’s letter but I shan’t write to them again.4,5
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Alexander Stephens was Vice President of the Confederacy, Robert M. T. Hunter was a Confederate senator, and John A. Campbell was the Confederacy’s Assistant Secretary of War. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: These Confederate peace commissioners ultimately met Abraham Lincoln at the Hampton Roads peace conference on February 3, 1865, but nothing came of it, ruining the hopes of many soldiers on both sides for peace. It was obvious the Confederacy was in its death throes. The only question at this point was when the end would come. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Meade’s Station was a stop on the U. S. Military Railroad line which ran from Grant’s supply hub at City Point. By this stage of the Siege of Petersburg, the Union soldiers were all well fed by this transportation system. Miller was mistaken in that the Confederate peace commissioners never made it to Washington, D. C. ↩
- Miller, Myron M. The Soul of a Soldier: The True Story of a Mounted Pioneer in the Civil War. Xlibris Corporation(2011), pp. 176-178 ↩
- 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. ↩