March 27, 1865 Headquarters 9th Army Corps [Virginia] #34
Most Affectionate Companion,
I expected to get a letter from you Saturday. Last night Sunday I looked for one and tonight I certainly thought I would get one but was disappointed, so I thought I would write a few lines to let you know that I am well and hearty.
I must also let you know of the great battle fought Saturday morning [March 25, 1865]. It commenced half past four o’clock and lasted until 8—fought 3 ½ [hours]. The Rebs massed there troops the night before unbeknown to us. Their forces numbering about thirty thousand and came through our picket line and cut our in front of our Breastworks and forts and entered Fort Stedman and took all prisoners that were in the fort. Then into the camp and took a great many prisoners before they were awake. Then the Ball opened! By that time the Rebs had captured two of our forts and turned the cannon and commenced shelling us. Those that were engaged in it said they never saw harder fighting. It was hard telling which would come out victorious but at last the Rebs began to waver and in the meantime all the new regiments that have laid all winter in reserve, which will number 6 thousand, made a charge upon the Rebs, which made them skiddadle. We retook our forts and twenty-seven hundred prisoners and killed about three thousand, that is, killed and wounded.1
I heard the fight. You could scarcely hear yourself talk for so much firing—both cannon and musketry. The battle was only 1 ½ miles from where we lay. Our regiment [211th Pennsylvania] was in the fight. Their loss was slight. One man in my company was wounded in the hand. The Rebs calculated to break our lines and destroy our railroad and take City Point, but they failed in doing it. I saw all the prisoners. They were the hardest looking men I ever saw. There were dirty, ragged and a great many without shoes. Oh, such men I never—they are far dirtier looking than the railroad puddies.
It took our troops and the Rebs all day to bury their dead. A great many fell into our hands. Also a great many wounded, which we had to take care of. I saw four flour barrels full of legs and arms taken off by our doctors. Our loss was 5 hundred killed and wounded. It was an awful sight to see those limbs. They were most all Rebel legs and arms. There was a fight on our extreme left the same day. We captured two lines of works and took nine hundred prisoners.2
General Sheridan and his entire cavalry force is encamped in the woods in our rear, perhaps one fourth of a mile. Such blowing of bugles you never heard. It makes me feel heart sick. He intends going to form a junction with Sherman. Then you will hear of the greatest battles fought yet, or they will surrender. Charley Carothers thinks it cannot last longer than the middle of May. They are all well and expect us out there this coming fall to make them a visit, or at least they said Mother did not think she would make them a visit until we went along. I would like to go very well myself and see them, but it may be late in the fall when my time is out. I cannot tell when our regiment will be discharged. I think more than likely we will be set free about the first of September. If so, we will have plenty time to go there and make John and Charley a nice visit. Charley talks some of going to Iowa this summer to look him up [a] farm and if he likes the country, he will move there next spring.
Let me know how the draft went. I shan’t write any more. I may receive a letter from you in a few days, then I shall write again. I hope you are all well and doing the best you can. Write soon. My prayers for your safety I hope are heard. I expect to hear from you soon. Good night.
From your best earthly friend,
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Miller is talking about the Battle of Fort Stedman, fought on March 25, 1865. The battle occurred on the Ninth Corps front, near Miller’s position with the Ninth Corps pioneers. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Miller is discussing the wide-scale skirmish line fighting which occurred all along the lines of the Army of the Potomac on March 25, 1865. Once Ulysses S. Grant learned Lee’s major attack had failed, he had Meade test the rest of the Confederate lines to see if they had been weakened. Two named skirmishes, the Action at the Watkins House and the Action at Fort Fisher, were fought on this day. Skirmish lines were advanced in many places, and the ground gained was used in the successful attacks at the Third Battle of Petersburg on April 2, 1865, one week later. ↩
- Miller, Myron M. The Soul of a Soldier: The True Story of a Mounted Pioneer in the Civil War. Xlibris Corporation(2011), pp. 192-194 ↩
- 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. ↩