1863: Cyrus A. Miller to Henry Miller

Headstone of Corp. Cyrus A. Miller (1839-1931)—the last surviving Civil War veteran from Winnebago, IL, when he died in 1931

This letter was written by Corp. Cyrus A. Miller (1839-1931) of Co. C, 74th Illinois Infantry. Cyrus enlisted on 4 September 1862 and served until 29 May 1865 when he was discharged on account of wounds received in battle. Cyrus participated wit the 74th Illinois in the battles at Stone River, Missionary Ridge, Resaca, and at Adairsville where a rifle ball shattered the bone of his left arm between the elbow and shoulder on 17 May 1864. He was removed from the field but received little attention until he arrived at the hospital in Chattanooga, traveling the distance on a freight car from Resaca. The arm was not amputated but the wound did not fully heal for ten years.

Cyrus was the son of Amos Miller (1811-1888) and Elizabeth Tygert (1818-1880) who purchased 200 acres of farmland in Winnebago, Winnebago county, Illinois, in March 1855. Cyrus’ father was a gold-seeker in California from 1852 to 1854 before returning to his family in Vernon, Oneida county, New York, the year before relocating them to Illinois.

In September 1872, Cyrus married Ida Diantha Hobart (1849-1927), the daughter of Baptist preacher Charles Hobart and Pathena Sabin of Westford, Vermont. Ida came to Illinois in 1868 as a teacher of music but in 1869 came to Winnebago as instructor in the grade school. She taught for three years before marrying Cyrus Miller.

Cyrus wrote the letter to his brother Henry (b. 1840). See also companion letter—1863: Joseph Henry Miller to Henry Miller.


Camp of the 74th Regt. Ill. Vols.
Murfreesboro [Tennessee]
May 28, 1863

Dear Brother,

Thinking of home & you so I thought that a few moments spent in writing would not come amiss & this is the only way that I have at present to communicate. Do you hear anything from Grandpa’s folks? I write them a letter occasionally but do not get any answer though it seems but a poor substitute. But it will do. Little did I think when we left that we should be separated so long—if our lives were spared—but the one always present has kept us in health and hope has watched over us & kept us from going astray. But many are the temptations that I have to endure & pass through but I pray to God that He will keep & shield me from all harm & preserve my life so that we shall be able to meet once more on earth. But if He sees fit to call us from earth that we may be ready for the trial. Oh what a blessed thing it will be if we live so that when we are called from earth to give an account of things done while here on earth and find nothing wanting & where we shall meet to part no more & where there is no wars or rumors of wars.

Well Henry, no doubt you have seen Josiah’s letter long before this reaches you. I wrote in that we were on outpost picket duty where we remained eight days & today we were relieved by the Second Brigade that belongs to our Division, so we came back to camp & found the thinks just as we left them. We were out five miles from camp. The quartermaster used to send us out bread every day so you see we used to have plenty of rations & they were good for soldier’s fare. Try it for a little time & see how you would like to live on bread, meat & coffee & now & then beans—& excepting the beans every day if I mistake not, it will not go quite as well as to have ma cook it. It will learn us a good lesson not to find fault with the cooks at home & that is so.

While we were out there, we had to stand picket twice. We were in sight if the reb’s vedettes & they were about two miles off, I should judge. While we were out there, there was quite a number of flags-of-truce come in & Bragg sent Rosecrans a dispatch & what the contents was, I do not know but it is reported that all the non-combatants should leave the town—that he was going to attack the place in thirty-six hours. We say, let him come & he will find his match, if I judge not. Our folks sent quite a number of families through the lines.

One man & his family—he was a sesech Doc & was dressed in the reb’s uniform, grey coat with a star on his shoulders ¹ —and while they were passing, of course we had to go out to the road & give them one passing look. And some of the she rebs would turn up their nose at us and some would say that they were going to Dixie. They had all of their household goods & they had two carriages—one two-horse and one-horse & one lumber wagon [with] three good wheels & one wheel [with] no ___ies or tire.  It run on the spokes, bob to bob, & the horses looked like scarecrows. But Old Rosie [Rosecrans] furnished them teams to take their goods & little ones out of our lines & there they dumped them. He did not allow them to take any darkeys with them and there was quite a number of women came over to our lines from the rebs & we would send the ambulances after them and teams to haul their goods.

The women said that old traitor [Clement] Vallandigham was not very well received. They call him an old Union man & they do not think much of him, so you see he hain’t as popular as he thought he would be & that is the way with all the Copperheads of the North if they were only there. It makes us grind our teeth when we see them sending such men through the lines. Only give us a chance & we will settle their copper in their heads. We hope that they will draft a few copperheads and send them to this regiment & we will learn them a lesson that they never have learned yet & one that they would not soon forget. But [we] hope the time is not far distant when we can meet them on their own soil at home.

We have a report here that Grant has captured Vicksburg with 18,000 prisoners & one hundred cannon.

Henry is a going to write some & send it in this envelope. He said that he wrote to you last & has not received no answer as yet from you. Write. You do not know how much good it does us to get a letter from home. — Cyrus Miller

Alby sends his best respects. All the boys are well.

¹ The “secesh doc” wearing a star on his shoulders may have been Gen. Benjamin Ward Avent (1812-1878) who was Bragg’s principal surgeon. Gen. Avent was left in charge of the hospitals treating wounded Confederate soldiers in Murfreesboro following the bloody battle of Stones River in January 1863.


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