Civil War Lot -- ''The first time I ever shot at a man I was so excited...I trembled like a leaf, but...I can draw a 'bead' on a rebel now as cooly as would on a squirrel and be glad to see him fall''

Interesting lot of 27 Civil War letters by John R. Miller of the 123rd Indiana Infantry, Co. F, who enlisted in the war shortly after he turned 18, in the tradition of his father and uncle, both Army Colonels. The lot also includes several letters from Miller's father, Hiram Miller, who provides sound advice on soldiering, and also details of riots by Illinois Butternuts. Lot also includes a letter from Miller's uncle, Colonel Richard N. Hudson of the 133rd Indiana Infantry, a letter from Captain Henry Cowgill of the 123rd Indiana, and several post-war letters from John Miller who would move to Kansas after the war.

Miller writes a series of thoughtful letters, no doubt trying to impress his military father, and we see a young man grow into a professional soldier in the course of two hard years. After one of his first fights, at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Miller writes to his father on 26 June 1864, ''...We had some fighting to do lately. Last Friday week the 17th we attacked the rebel lines and drive them about 3 mile. Since then the army has advanced several miles. On the evening of the twenty 2nd the rebels charged our lines but they went back faster than they came up. The next day eight hundred rebels were buried just in front of our lines. In two charges the rebs have made lately, on the 20th and 22nd, the rebs lost about 5 or 6 thousand men. It is reported that Ewell has joined Johnston. If he has, he is just the man that will fight this rebel army in front of us to death, for he would mass his forces and try to break our line. This is what we want, we could kill that faster that way than any other. We are now lying behind breast works, within 8 hundred yards of the rebel works. Skirmishing is going on just in front of us all the time. The balls from the rebel skirmishers whistle over us occasionaly but don't scare any body...We had one man wounded the other day by a shell...John Miller''.

After the Battle of Franklin, Miller writes to his father on 4 December 1864, in part, ''...We had a pretty hard time for a few days. We were at Columbia about 8 or 10 days. At the time the rebels advanced that place. Our regiment was laying in Duck River guarding the fords. Six companies under Col. McQuiston were at Williamsport and 4 companies 'B' 'C' and G and our company under Col. Walter were at Gordon's ferry 4 miles farther down the regt...When our armies fell back to Franklin, we were cut off from it. The army evacuated Columbia in the morning and we did not receive notice of it until 12 o'clock that night, we immediately started. We marched till day light when we halted for breakfast...we marched all day and in the evening found we were cut off from our army and in the rear of Hood's army. / We marched around the rear of the rebels, passing within two miles of their camp fires and stopped past his flank. All this time they were fighting hard at Franklin, had they not have been we could not possibly have escaped...it was reported and believed that we were captured. I suppose you read at home that we were. That day I had more expectations of being in some southern prison by this time. / We are laying in the trenches here expecting an attack at any moment. We have got to fight here and fight hard. We have got to fight them sometime and I would just as big to it now as any other time, and rather do it here than any where else...You need not look for me home this winter, as I have not the least idea of being able to get a furlough, as long as the fight continues...''

His father wrote him a few days later, thankful he wasn't hurt: ''...was very glad to hear that you was well and that you was neither wounded, killed, or captured...Son, you can form no idea how anxious I am to learn who was wounded, killed or captured after a battle fought by the army of which you are a member. I look over the list of casualties with fear and troubling, not but what I have an abiding faith that you will never be killed or wounded by a rebel. I believe that God looks with peculiar favour upon the brave soldiers that are fighting to defend and perpetuate the institution of this God favoured country, and that the brave devotion that our soldiers exhibit in defense of our country will cover a multitude of sins, but will not save the soul...''

On his 20th birthday, 27 February 1865, Miller is philosophical, reflecting on how much he's changed since joining the army, ''...I have been in 8 or 10 fights and expect to be in some more. I have had many fair shots at the rebels but never hit one that I know of. The first time I ever shot at a man I was so excited at the thought that I trembled like a leaf, but I got used to that kind of business, and I can draw a 'bead' on a rebel now as cooly as would on a squirrel and be glad to see him fall. / It is curious how careless of life war will render any man. Before I came into the army, it would have shocked me to see a man cut with a knife, or knocked down with a club. Now I can see any number of men killed and never give them a thought or glance...John Miller / Co, 'G' 123rd Ind. Vols...P.S. I forgot to tell you, I am 20 years old to day.''

Miller writes two letters regarding the Battle of Wyse Fork, giving a detailed description of the battle that lasted several days. On 14 March 1865, he writes to his father, ''...We were in two engagements last week, the first was last Wednesday. Our advance was attacked and driven back by the rebels, who took a large number of prisoners. Our division which was in camp on the Po, about 5 miles farther back, we were moved up hastily in time to check the advance of the rebels. / Our company, as usual, was thrown out at the skirmishers with the companies of the 129th Ind on our right and companies of the 130th Ind on our left, and moved through the woods to uncover the rebs with a line of battle supporting us. We struck the rebel skirmishers who were advancing at the same time, and charging with a yell drove them through the thick pine woods, until coming to a narrow opening, we found ourselves within less than 300 yards of two lines of battle. The line of battle opened a heavy fire on us, but tho' the right and left wings gave way at first, we held our ground without giving an inch all evening till night when we were relieved. / I had that day just 50 fair shots at a distance of less than 300 yards and if I didn't hurt anybody, why, there is no virtue in powder, and lead, and Springfield rifles, that's all. On the 10th (Friday) the rebels made a desperate attack on our position but met with a bad defeat, our regt and the 129th Ind passed out of the works and turned the rebel right, taking a large number of prisoners. The loss of the Rebels was very severe, our own loss was very slight...The rebels largely out numbered us, but since then we have been reinforced and are ready to advance. I do not think the 'Johnnies' will make much of a stand this side of Goldsboro. / In the action of the 8th, we had two men wounded. John Goddard in the leg, flesh wound, and Bob Brannock in the neck by a piece of shell, slight. I, as usual, came out alright tho' I had several pretty close cuts. I have been in 14 knock downs, and come out unhurt...John R. Miller''. On 30 March he writes to his father again about the battle, ''...the battle of Wise's Cross Roads near Kinston...the fighting was done almost entirely by our division. We held the extreme left of the lines & it was upon our position that the rebels made their most desperate assaults. It was Hoke's division that our Brigade attacked in the flank and routed...John R. Miller''.

Other content includes correspondence between Miller and his father about a Butternut rebellion in Illinois in March 1864. Miller writes to his father on 2 April 1964, ''...We have heard of the trouble with the butternuts in Illinois. There is to be an Indiana regt. sent from here to Illinois and Col. McQuiston has been trying to have our regt. sent there. I would like to have a chance with the butternuts, but I am afraid that if we should go there we would have to stay there a good while...John R. Miller / Company 'F', 123rd regt. Ind. Vols...'' His father responded on 10 April regarding the Charleston Riot on 28 March 1864, which left 9 dead and 12 wounded: ''...All quiet at Charleston, IL. 8 dead more lingering. The butternuts commenced the fight, my neighbor, John Jenkins, lost a son in the fight, his youngest son, a good union boy...'' Hiram again vented to his son about the Butternuts in a letter on 29 February 1865, ''...[The Butternuts] have been cursing the government and cursing the soldiers and doing all they could to [?] the government and favour the rebels and a good number of them guilty of treason, and would have overthrown the government if they could have mustered strength enough. But when they found out that Uncle Sam was a little too strong for them and was compelled and to submit to the authority of the government and take their chances at the draft wheel...miserable scoundrels...''

Some other letters from John Miller include thoughts on his generals, and troop movements. He describes the advance on Atlanta in his letter dated 28 May 1864, ''...We are now within about 35 miles of Atlanta. Our division is on the extreme left. It is reported that our right is between the rebels and Atlanta thus cutting them off from their communications. We are driving them eastward. Our division has done a great marching part of the time on the right then on the left. We were first under fire at Buzzard Roost and have been along the whole line through Snake Creek Gap and Resaca...I think the destruction of the rebel army inevitable. There has been very heavy cannonading and musketry firing about two or three to the right of our position all morning but ceased about an hour ago. I suppose the rebs retreated as usual...Wheeler made a cavalry raid in our rear a few days ago and captured some of our waggons. Newt Moss who was with the train was captured, Newt Matkin is well and Billy. We have had hard times but it agrees with my constitutions. I am as stout as a mule...John Miller''.

In his letter dated 15 May 1865 he writes of General Sherman and the rebels' defeat, ''...The humiliation of the rebels is complete. Occasionally we will find a defiant one, but there are 'few and far between.' The North Carolinians are glad enough to have quiet and order restored once more. They think they are able to take care of themselves now without any further trouble. If Holden is elected gov., as I have no doubt he will be, they will have a man who has from the outset, been firm and unswerving in his devotion to the Union and one who will have neither sympathy or mercy for the rebels. I notice that fanatical journals of the North such as the Tribune Gazette Commercial, and others are down on Sherman like a 'thousand of brick', a month ago they were lauding him to the skies. I wish such papers were burnt, but nothing can ever shake the hold that Sherman has it upon the hearts of his army. We who have followed him and known him for so long, know what he is and we believe his error was of the head and not of the heart, an honester man never lived, bribe Sherman! There is not enough gold in the world to buy one iota of his principles and Sherman's name, spite of efforts of fanatics, will go down in posterity as a great and good and honest man...John R. Miller''.

An interesting group of letters from a dedicated son and soldier, with moving responses from his father, guiding his son through the war. Most letters run 4pp. on 5'' x 8'' stationery, with original transmittal envelopes. Very good condition with legible handwriting and full transcriptions.

Price: $18,000
Qty
Civil War Lot -- ''The first time I ever shot at a man I was so excited...I trembled like a leaf, but...I can draw a 'bead' on a rebel now as cooly as would on a squirrel and be glad to see him fall''
Civil War Lot -- ''The first time I ever shot at a man I was so excited...I trembled like a leaf, but...I can draw a 'bead' on a rebel now as cooly as would on a squirrel and be glad to see him fall''
Click above for larger image.