Josiah rolled over in his grave. Within the Capitol of the United States of America, rioters marched, waving a large Confederate flag, a symbol with the white supremacist movement and originally created when 11 states seceded from the union following the election of Abraham Lincoln. Another group of people climbed up the scaffolding to the second floor where an American flag was hung. One tore down the Stars and Stripes, threw it to the ground, inciting cheers and applause and attempted to replace it with a Trump flag. The Trump flag has a blue stripe through it which divides the nation into “us and them” and seditionists chanted, “one nation under Trump.”
Josiah had learned the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892, “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Josiah had marched and been transported over 1000 miles from Racine, Wisconsin to New Orleans, Mississippi during the first years of the Civil War. His regiment would become cavalry and he’d ride even further. He’d fought very hard for liberty and justice for all. Josiah Converse Miller was born February 7, 1840 at Cambridge, Pennsylvania, to Wendell Valentine Miller, (The Christmas Babe Blog) and Elizabeth Blair. At the age of seven, Josiah and his 10 siblings and parents moved west to Oxford, Marquette County, Wisconsin, what today would be called a pioneer family. So, Josiah had already trekked over 800 miles as a lad, to a new beginning. Elizabeth’s sisters, Esther Ormsby and Mary Ann Brown lived close by. There were lots of cousins. As more settlers came, the town was plotted or laid out into a more orderly plan of streets and avenues to which his father, Wendell signed his name. The village boasted a water-powered flour mill, two churches and a public school, which Josiah attended. Sadness filled the Miller home when on February 3, 1853, his mother, Elizabeth Blair Miller, passed. The twin boys, Joseph and Josiah, would become teenagers the next week, but there was no celebration; they were motherless. The country was a buzz. Josiah read about the new law stating that any federal official who did not arrest a runaway slave is liable to a fine. He heard new words: abolitionist, nullifications, preserving the Union and talk around the table in 1857 was whether the Lower southern states were contemplating secession. November 6, 1860, Abe was elected President. President Lincoln was against slavery and their entire family agreed. Wendell brought home the paper with the headline: On April 12, 1861 at 4:30 AM 50 cannons open fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The Civil War begins. The 11 state Confederacy, with a population of 9 million which included 4 million slaves, lines up against the Union with 21 states and a population of 20 million. North vs South.
Josiah enlisted April 23, 1861 at Sparta, Wisconsin and Captain John W. Lynn, the enlister wrote down hazel eyes, light hair, 6 feet, occupation soldier. There were many young lads going down the road to Racine, on Lake Michigan; all cheerful and expecting to be home in three months. They organized as the Fourth Wisconsin Infantry Regiment at Camp Utley and were mustered in on July 2, 1861, signing on for a three year term. Josiah was in Company I and Joseph in Company D. A long worn out freight train stands on the track ready to transport the 1047 recruits to Washington D.C. to guard the railroad there. The 4th received orders to instead go to Baltimore, Maryland and on the morning of July 23, 1861 marched right through the city and put up tents on Mount Clare. They called it Camp Dix. After a week they moved to Camp Randall then by August 19th joined forces with others of the Regiment. Josiah picked up a fever and was hospitalized for two days. One of the detachments occupied Ellicott’s Mills, guarding the Harpers Ferry Railroad. They are in charge of examining the cargo on each train as it goes toward the enemy. Another is guarding the Washington branch of the Ohio Railroad from here to Annapolis Junction. The winter of 1861 was spent waiting and waiting. The night temperatures froze the water. His friend Josiah McManus was discharged October 9th. Josiah was sure his parents would greet him with warmth but how would be farm while his leg was missing. Four days after Josiah marched to Camp Bean the doctor again treated Josiah for fever. He couldn’t seem to shake it and they made him go for medical treatment from November 4th-December 12th. Josiah was weak and incapacitated and missed the expedition into Accomac County. By February, 1862 the 4th was active again, moved to Fortress Monroe, Virginia and sailed on the Steamer Great Republic joining what was called the Army of the Gulf. April 16th the 4th Wisconsin was on Ship Island, below New Orleans, Mississippi. Josiah got used to the movements of embarking, disembarking, marching, striking and repitching tents. Once or twice a day they took their knapsacks and marched up and down the beach. They rafted the seven miles to get wood from the timbered part of the island and did the usual camp duties. April 19th found them aboard the ship with a mission to approach Fort St. Philip, from the rear and capture the stronghold. This was unsuccessful. The next day regiments E and G, were landed ten miles from the fort and waded waist deep through water and mud pulling their boats with them. The rebels surrendered when they reached them. The rest left on the 29th, April for the mouth of the Mississippi. Joyous spirits prevailed when they saw the American flag over the Forts there. On May 1st they landed in New Orleans. There was much celebrating as the town had surrendered that very day. The 4th Wisconsin was sitting still. June 7-9 went on an expedition to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Josiah saw his first plantation called Hamilton Plantation, Grand Gulf Mississippi. On July 15th on the Mississippi River the 4th Wisconsin attempted to destroy the gunboat, Arkansas. they were not successful but not for valiant effort. August 2-7 Josiah had the weakness and debility again. He missed when the Arkanas’s engines failed and with the Union gunboats she was blown up. What a victory but not without cost. His friend William was wounded and captured in the battle over Baton Rouge. Moses, the blacksmith was also wounded but would survive. So many had diseases from chill and fatigue. The casualties at this battle list 371 for the Union, 478 for Confederate soldiers. August 9-27 Josiah as still being treated for his debility. The troops would soon be stopped for the winter but Josiah stood on the steps of the St. Charles court house, Louisiana that September. Word reached him of his twin brother, Joseph discharged from the army on November 4th, 1862 with a Surgeon’s Certificate.
I have in my possession a very treasured historical record written by Josiah Miller. It is dated March 4th, ’63 Algiers Opposite New Orleans.
As it has been sometime since I have written to you, I thought that I had better spend this evening in writing a few lines to let you know that I am still alive and well and in the enjoyment of all the blessings and privileges that a soldier is heir too. Allso to let you know that we have again got marching orders although we have had only about a week to rest in. We have to go on another tramp or be transported which is worse still. we read orders to cook up three days rations this afternoon and be ready to march at a minutes notice which way or where we are going I haven’t the faintest idea whatever. But I surmise that we are going back to Baton Rouge for I suppose that they anticipate an attack there again according to reports they have already been fighting neighborhood and they probably need us there worse than they do here and then it is entirely against the creed of the 4th Wis to stay where they can’t have half of the Regt on guard every day. We have been up and down this confounded old river five or six times and there are Regiments in the city that have never been out of since they come here nearly a year ago so much for an eastern Gen to command western troops.
I have not had a letter from home for nearly a month and you do not know how anxious I am to hear from poor Joe. As well as the rest of the folks. Henry Fay got a letter the other day and it stated that Joes was much worse and that you did not expect that he couldn’t live now for the Lords sake write and let me know for certain how he is getting along for I shall spend many an anxious hour till i know for certain how he is getting along and if he is in actual danger But I do hope that he is better by this time if not entirely well. I have spent many an anxious hours since Joe left here but still try to keep up good spirits but it is awful hard work sometimes in spite of all that I can do things look might dark very often but the old maxim that we could not see the light spots half as plainly if it was not for the dark ones takes off the burden of gloom and makes lonely hours even gay or as gay as a lone heart can be. Well it is nearly tattoo time and I must stop. Write as often as you can make it convenient. Give my love and respects to all the kind friends. Accept the love and well wishes of your ever faithful brother till death
If you read the previous blog called Our Children Will See, Joseph Miller, you will know that Joseph died February 12, 1863. His twin brother, Josiah, would not have received the news yet when he wrote his letter home. Each time I read this letter, I am surprised at the literacy of it, the penmanship, and the details, confirming the war was not glamorous and the sickness and fatigue so great and so much loss of life and destruction.
Will there be another civil war fought? Has the United States fallen short of the democratic version outlined in the Constitution. For centuries after the nation’s founding, the right to vote was withheld from African Americans, Native Americans and women. Does voter suppression and gerrymandering continue to make a mockery of majority rule? Big money dominates. There were over 100 Congressmen stood by their decisions not to certify the results of the presidential election after a mob rampaged through their halls. Is this what Josiah, my 2nd great-grandfather, fought for, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all?