Our Children Will See Sgt. Joseph G. Miller, Civil War February 7, 1840- February 12, 1863

Our children will see. The words from the speech from the movie, The Patriot: “Mark my words. This war will not be fought on the frontier or on some distant battlefield, but amongst us – among our homes. Our children will learn of it with their own eyes. And the innocent will die.” Spoken about a different war, a different cause and yet they resonate with me today. How I have been blessed never to have heard the whine of a bomb, shattered windows, any death or destruction.

In the Old Cemetery at Oxford Village Cemetery beside his niece Luella B. Miller who died May 12, 1869, daughter of David Perry Miller, Joseph’s brother..

May 6th, 1862, under command of Brigadier General Williams, Joseph Miller’s regiment was ordered to prepare immediately four days of rations, and be ready to march at an hours notice. They took cooking utensils, axes and spades and four rounds of cartridges in the their boxes. They boarded the transports during the night of the 8th. The next day they were thirty five miles from New Orleans where they disembarked and entered a cypress swamp. Joe described the march as most fatiguing and disagreeable. There were from six to twenty inches of water with the same amount of mud. The swamp was filled with alligators and large snakes and something he called cypress knees; a woody outgrowth of the root system of the bald cypress, situated above water level, making the march more of a wade, jump and swim. Their mission was started that night at 8PM when they gained the rail road and commenced tearing up the track, burning the bridge and trestle work. His Company D was sent another thirteen miles from this point to burn another bridge over the Manchae Pass. They were successful but not without a skirmish with the enemy guarding it, and on the way up killing two and wounding two other rebels, who attempted to force their way through them on a hand car.

On the 10th they followed the rail road track ten miles back towards New Orleans, and destroyed more trestle work. The next six days were filled with disembarking, marching, re-embarking, bivouacking, and by the 18th were between Warrenton and Vicksburg, in sight of the rebel works.

His brother, Josiah C. Miller, my great grandfather, joined up with him and on the 26th the whole Wisconsin regiment started for Baton Rouge. That afternoon they were shelled upon. A rebel battery from a bluff above them poured a storm of balls, grape and canister at them, killing one and wounding several; after running out of range, Joe, with his company D, along with C, I and K started at double quick for the rebels, who were retreating towards their camp. Just at dark, skirmishers found the enemy and a fight followed; the rebels were driven away with a loss of four killed and several wounded. De Kay, of General William’s staff, on the advance received a mortal wound and a fellow soldier of Joe’s from company D, a slight wound.

The unit continued down river,reaching there, the 29th. At once they were assigned active duty and took part in an expedition up the Mississippi River against Vicksburg. They saw the “Rebel Ram Arkansas” on the river. And heard their shelling. Baton Rouge the state’s capital was under the Union’s control. The Feds would like nothing better to recapture their capital.

From the 29th of May to June 16th, the entire regiment remained at Baton Rouge. On the 16th, they joined General William’s second expedition to Vicksburg.

This was the last time Josiah saw his twin brother, Joseph. Joe became sick and did not join that June 16th expedition in 1862. Joseph was given a surgeon’s discharge and was at St. Louis, Missouri, I’m assuming on his way home when he died there, Feb 12, 1863. His remains were transported home and he was buried in the Oxford Village Cemetery near where his mother, Elizabeth Blair Miller, had been buried 10 years earlier, grave unreadable. His niece, daughter of his brother, David Perry Miller and wife Amanda, named Luella B. Miller is located next to Joseph’s grave. Her marker is difficult to read but has a lovely upright tombstone with a rose carved on top; the death date May 12, 1869.

The U.S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles of 1861-1865 give this resume:

Name: Joseph G Miller

Enlistment Date: 22 April, 1861 description: blue eyes, dark hair, 5’10”

Muster Place Wisconsin, Company D, 4th Cavalry, enlisted

Muster out Date: Nov 4, 1862 discharge disability

Side of War: Union

Burial Place Oxford, Marquette County, Wisconsin

info from Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers: War of the Rebellion: Research by R. Ross Houston and Wikipedia info on the 4th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment

Joseph Miller joined the 4th Wisconsin one day before his twin brother, Josiah. Joseph was in Company D and Josiah in Company I, then he was transferred to Company A. They served in the Union Army during the American Civil War, primarily in the Western Theater. As infantry they made many miles marching. It wasn’t until 1863 it became a mounted cavalry called the 4th Wisconsin Volunteer Cavalry Regiment.

The two twins were volunteers, formed at Camp Utley in Racine, Wisconsin and mustered into Federal service on July 2, 1861. Assigned to garrison duty in Maryland to guard the railroad near Baltimore, until February 1862 they were transferred to Newport News, Virginia on the Steamer “Constitution” for Ship Island, Mississippi and become part of the Army of the Gulf and sent to New Orleans, Louisiana and saw its capture.

Joseph and Josiah Miller mustered in with 1058 men and later recruited an additional 994 men for a total of 2502. The regiment lost 9 officers and 158 enlisted men killed in action or mortally wounds, plus another 2 officers and 113 enlisted men who died of disease. Joseph is not just a statistic to me on a piece of paper. Joseph is my great-granduncle, one of 282 fatalities. Imagine if he had died in vain and the south had won the Civil War and slavery would still be part of the American fabric. When my mom started telling stories of her ancestors fighting during the Civil War one question sticks in my mind. “What side did they fight on?” Her answer: “On the right side.”

The news reports on this January 2021 day are using the words civil war again. A bullet proof vest is now an recoverable expense for Congress. Oh that your children will not learn of it with their own eyes and if they do that they are on the side of right.

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