Friday, May 13, 2016

Antietam soldier snapshot: 'I thought it was all up with me'

Left: A Civil War-era image of 124th Pennsylvania Private George Miller. Right: An image of
Miller decades later with his grandson.

 (History of the One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers)
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Soon after a bullet ripped through his abdomen at the Battle of Antietam, 124th Pennsylvania Private George Miller was taken to the David R. Miller farmhousewhich was used as a temporary field hospital. While Union artillery boomed nearby and "pieces of shell were flying" about that morning, another soldier in the 124th Pennsylvania recalled seeing Miller walking at the makeshift hospital, "although [he was] shot through the body below the ribs."  Miller's suffering was so intense that he welcomed death, but the 23-year-old soldier from Upper Providence, Pa., survived despite the Rebel ball that had sliced his colon.

Plagued by the wound for the rest of his life,  Miller married a woman named Ann, with whom he had three children. In the early 20th century,  he posed for a photo with his grandson on his lap -- an image that appeared in the 124th Pennsylvania regimental history. In December 1906, Miller recounted with the regimental historian his awful experience at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862, a little more than a month after he had enlisted:

"At South Mountain, while on the march from Virginia to Antietam, we saw a cartload of limbs -- mostly legs that had been taken off above the knee; it made a great impression on me, as losing a limb was the only thing I dreaded when I decided to enlist. At Antietam, on the 17th of September, when I was wounded and saw the hole in the front of my coat and put my hand to my back, I thought it was all up with me, and for a month it seemed impossible that I could get well, and when I took a turn for the better it was a great disappointment as I was in hopes I was through my earthly troubles.

"I still have the blouse with a half moon out of the front and a large hole in the back. The ball entered above the stomach, coming out between the lower two ribs and cutting the colon, from which it discharged for ten days or so. Dr. [James D.]  Linton of our company drew a silk handkerchief through the opening which was about all that could be done. This would not be considered scientific treatment in these microbe days. After receiving my wound Comrade Charles Eckfeldt, at my solicitation, helped me off with my belt and knapsack, and as the barrel of his gun had been flattened by a ball, he took mine, and when I left the gutter on the pike, he was firing away but was never heard of again. His father searched every place opening graves etc."

Miller, who was 80 when he died on June 21, 1919, is buried in Media (Pa.) Burying Ground next to his wife, Ann. 

SOURCES:

124th Pennsylvania Sergeant Charles Broomhall diary, Brian Downey's Antietam on the Web, accessed May 13, 2016.

History of the One Hundred and Twenty-fourth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion -- 1862-1863, Ware Bros. Co., Philadelphia, 1907

Miller attended the dedication of the 124th Pennsylvania monument at Antietam on Sept. 17, 1904.
(History of the One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers)
124th Pennsylvania monument on a beautiful morning in April 2016.

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