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    John R. Miller, Indiana 123rd Infantry, Archive of Letters. A group of twenty-seven war dated letters, dating from December 27, 1863 to July 2, 1865. John R. Miller enlisted as a private shortly after he turned 18, following in the footsteps of his father and uncle, who were both army colonels. He was mustered into Company F of the Indiana 123rd Infantry on December 11, 1863. The archive also includes several letters from Miller's father, Hiram Miller, who sought to provide his son with advice on army life and soldiering. There is an additional 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. Miller was mustered out on August 25, 1865, and ultimately moved to Kansas after the war. Most letters are four pages of a bifolium, measuring approximately 5" x 8".

    During the first few months of service, the 123rd Indiana saw action at Rocky Face Ridge, Resaca, and Lost Mountain. Just before the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Miller wrote to his father in anticipation of the coming battle. The letter dated on June 26, 1864 reads in part: "...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...As to our company loss has been light. We had one man wounded the other day by a shell. The boys are all well. Capt Cowfill is hated by the whole company, he is a scoundrel..."

    In November, Miller and the 123rd Indiana fought at the Battle of Franklin. Known by some as the "Pickett's Charge of the West", the Union Army won a decisive battle over the Confederates as they made their planned withdrawal towards Nashville. After the battle, Miller wrote to his father, dated December 4, 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 2 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 here 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 than here. We are laying in the trenches here expecting an attack at any moment. We have got to fight here and fight hard. I hope they will at any rate, for I would fight them here than any place else. We have got to fight them sometime, and I would just as liq [sic] do 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 on December 12, thankful he wasn't hurt: "...was very glad to hear that you was well and that you was neither wounded, killed, or captured in the Battle at Franklin. 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 have reason to believe that you have heretofore and still will be protected by an overseeing providence. May you always be worthy of the kind care and protection of that great and good Being who throws a protective shield around those that love him..."

    Miller also provides a detailed description of the Battle of Wyse Fork, a three-day battle from March 7-10, 1865. The battle saw Union forces under General Schofield push back the Confederate divisions under General Bragg. On March 14, 1865, he wrote 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..."

    As the war drew to a close, Miller wrote home of the great leadership of General Sherman and of the rebels' defeat. The letter dated May 15, 1865 reads in part: "...Our next move from Charlotte will be, I think, homeward. 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 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...".

    Other content includes correspondence between Miller and his father about a Butternut rebellion in Illinois in March 1864. As the 1864 election drew near, John received multiple reports from his father about troubles with "Butternuts" or Copperheads in Illinois. Miller wrote to his father on April 2, 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..." His father responded on April 10 regarding the Charleston Riot of March 28, 1864, which left nine dead and twelve wounded: "All quiet at Charleston, IL. 8 dead and 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 and their draft dodging in a letter on February 20, 1865, "...The Butternuts has had a sweet time of it. They are willing to take a niger or anything if they can only be left at home... They have been cursing the government and cursing the soldiers and doing all they could to [illegible] 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...miserable scoundrels..." As a fighting soldier, Miller was also disgusted with this group and wrote on August 22, 1864: "If we get home to vote, the Butternuts had better be 'scarce' all Co. 'F' wants is a chance to 'go for them'." And a month later, on September 29, 1864, he wrote: "I am glad to hear that the draft has been enforced, the Butternuts will now have an opportunity of showing their mettle."

    Miller's letters are descriptive and thoughtful, and we see a young man grow into a professional soldier in the course of two hard years of war. The letters from his father and others provide a well-rounded archive of a soldier's experience. A great addition to any historian or Civil War enthusiast's collection.

    Condition: Usual mail folds, with varying degrees of soiling, toning, foxing, and wear. Good with legible handwriting and full transcriptions. The transmittal covers have expected wear, soiling, and tear, with some paper loss.


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