Phillip J. Miller, 156th N.Y. Infantry

Unidentified Corporal Infantryman, Library of Congress

Unidentified Corporal Infantryman, Library of Congress

These twenty-one letters were written by Phillip J. Miller (1839-18xx), a wheelwright from Southfield, Staten Island, who emigrated from Germany. Phillip enlisted in Co. I, 156th New York Regiment in August 1862 at Westfield (on Staten Island), Richmond County, New York, and was mustered in as a private. A couple of months later, he was promoted to corporal. He appears to have missed little active duty with his Company until late March 1863 when he contracted typhoid fever and was absent for several months convalescing in a hospital at Baton Rouge and possibly elsewhere. When he returned to his unit in December 1863, he was reduced to a private. He was detailed to the Brigade Commissary in September 1864 and mustered out of the service with his Company in October 1865 at Augusta, Georgia.

According to the Company Records, Phillip Miller stood 5 ft. 9½ inches tall, had blue eyes, brown hair, and a dark complexion.

After the Civil War, Phillip J. Miller settled down in Irvington, Essex County, New Jersey. The 1880 US Census shows him residing there with his wife, Henrietta (1839-Aft1930), and four children; Annie F. (b. 1870 in N.Y), Wilbur E. (b. 1871 in N.J.), Philip F. (b. 1874 in N.J.), and Ida L. (b. 1877 in N.J.; married Carl F. Kees). His occupation is given as wheelwright. Miller died sometime between 1880 and 1900.


Camp McClellan
November 15, 1862

Dear Friend Taylor,

I take the opportunity to inform you that we are going to leave today for the Park Barracks in N. York. We did not know anything about it until yesterday about 4 o’clock. We keeps on the jump. We are going to east N. York in camp in a few days.

I will write when we get in our new quarters. Tell my friends where I am for I have not time to write to them now for we are all packing up and it is quite a busy time. I shall come as soon as I can.

Yours, — P. J. Miller


Syress [Cypress] Hill, Long Island
November 22nd 1862

Dear Friend,

I have just arrived from New York. We left the Park [Barracks] last Wednesday and camped on the Battery until this morning 9 o’clock. Then we marched to this place and got here at 2 o’clock and had nothing to [d0] since this morning.

This is a very nice place for we sleep in the stables where they keep the fast horses in the summer time. We are glad to get that for we have had no beds since we left Staten Island land and we are no better off tonight but I hope we will have some tomorrow. But we are getting used to it for if you had seen us when we were on the Battery where [there was] no room for to lay down and we had to sit up and sleep.

I don’t feel much like writing for we are wet and tired after marching through the rain for 5 hours. I will write as soon as we get rested and dry and find out how to direct a letter. But I will try to come over and see you. Tell Farow’s folks where we are and tell him to tell Forster’s folks that we are well. I must stop for I am cold and sleepy.

Give my love to all inquiring friends and keep some for yourself. Yours, — P. J. Miller

P.S. You must excuse my writing for I have no ink.


Coast of Florida
December 10, 1862
Steamer M. Sanford ¹

Friend Taylor,

I take this hasty opportunity to inform you where we are this morning. At 6 o’clock we run on a rock and sprung a leak and here we are about 15 miles from land and no way to get on shore.²

Night 12:00. There is a Steamer in sight and coming to help us. 12 at night. The boys are gone aboard some ship and I am left to guard our baggage on board the wreck. I expect to go off in the morning somewhere. We have the pilot under arrest. ³ The water is up to the first deck but if it does not storm we are all right till morning.

This steamer is about the size of the Josephine and we slept between deck and it was an awful hole, for just think of 980 men in a small place and half of them sick. It put me in mind of the shoemaker’s hog pen. I suppose G. Perine knows where we are. It is called Florida Reef near the light house and 120 miles from Key West, the 11th December morning.

The Colonel told me that there was a steamer lying off here bound for New York and I could send my letter. When you hear from me, you will find where I turn up.

Fare you well. From your old friend. — P. J. Miller


¹ The wooden-hulled side-wheeler steamboat Menemon Sanford was built in 1854. She weighed 1,000 tons and was 237 feet long. She ran between New York and Philadelphia for awhile and then was placed on the Bangor line.

² The 26 December 1862 issue of the New York Times published the following description of the wreck of the steamer Menemon Sanford on Carysfort Reef 1.5 miles south of the Turtle Harbor Lighthouse:

KEY WEST, Monday, Dec. 15, 1862.

The Banks expedition has met a serious loss in the wreck of the transport steamer M. Sandford, on Carysport Reef, coast of Florida, near the Light of that name, on the morning of the 10th inst., just before daylight. She had on board the One Hundred and Fifty-sixth Regiment N.Y.S.V., and from one of the officers I learn the following particulars: That at a very early hour in the morning the pilot, a Mr. RICHARDSON, of New-York, was heard to order the ship to be headed S.W. by W., which attracted the attention of some one, who immediately notified the Captain of the steamer, whereupon he came at once upon deck and consulted the pilot, who assured him that all was safe and right, and the water being deep all around her quieted all apprehension, when in less than two minutes the steamer was hard on the perpendicular reef in nine feet of water, drawing eleven feet. She was bilged and immediately filled to the water level. Fortunately there were other transports in sight, which at once tendered assistance. These were the propellers Curlew, George’s Creek and City of Bath, which took off on to their already over-crowded decks about 300 of the troops, and landed them here on the 11th. The balance of 500 arrived here this morning, the 12th, on the naval transport steamer Blackstone and gunboat bark Gemsbok, in tow of the steamer. The Blackstone had left here on the morning to the 10th with Rear-Admiral LARDNER, bound home of New-York, carrying our mails; and the promptness and self-sacrifice manifested in this case calls for our warmest commendation. She is now taking in another supply of coal, and will leave again as soon as that shall be completed, having rendered a very important service in thus relieving this large body of men from the discomfort and destitution of a sunken ship and a consequent tedious trip to this place. The troops are all being very comfortably housed in the extensive barracks here and in the fort, where they will await transportation, which can soon be obtained in sailing vessels now here discharging coals.

More than fifty large vessels have been seen passing to the west during the past three days, and no disaster has been reported here except that of the Sandford. We bespeak for them fair weather and prosperous gales to their haven, and then may the fate of war give them a glorious victory in the cause of freedom, unity and good government.

The steamer M. Sandford, it is feared, will be a total loss, although the agent of Underwriters, Capt. WELCH, with commendable zeal, has sent a steam pump and all necessary assistance to do whatever can be done in saving the vessel and stores.

³ History records the ship’s pilot, Captain A. W. Richardson, was placed under arrest for criminal negligence and sent to Key West under guard. Richardson’s fate is not known but he was accused of being a southern sympathizer and we learn from this letter that he was placed immediately under arrest. All that remains of the Sanford are metal and wood fragments of its two paddle wheels as well as remnants of its boiler submerged in about 20 feet of seawater.

The Menemon Sanford (1855)

The Menemon Sanford (1855)


Camp Mansield
Carrollton, Louisiana
January 4, 1863

Dear Friends Mr. & Mrs. Taylor

I wish you all a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year.

Dear Friend Bill,

We left Key West on the 22nd in the Steamer G. B. McClellan and were so crowded that our company had to sleep on deck. The first night passed very well but the next day was rough and we all got seasick and it was fun to see the boys crawl on the leeward side to cast up their accounts but it only lasted for one day; then were alright again. The rest of the voyage was quite pleasant if they had only given us enough to eat in the morning. They would give us a cup of coffee at five in the morning and 3 hard biscuits, and for dinner a piece of salt horse & for tea we had what was left from dinner.

On Christmas morning, we entered the mouth of the Mississippi River. It looked more like [a] Crick than the great Mississippi. At the mouth of this Great River, there is a large bay and looks like a _____ ____ and as far as the eye can behold, the wild geese & dicks as thick as hair on a dog.

We had a nice day for Christmas and enjoyed our sail. Everything looked strange and new. When we got up the [river] some five miles, we came by two forts — one on each side; Fort Jackson & Fort Phillips. They look savage. And about a half mile farther is one of the Rebel’s Iron Rams which our gun boats sunk. It is a queer looking thing — mostly all iron. The river is full of drifted timber and the houses are built on piers to keep the water out of the cellars.

After we got up the river some 20 miles we came in sight of the plantations and orange groves. It would make your mouth water to see them. The trees are about the size of a peach tree. The oranges are so thick and yellow & the leaves so green, it is the nicest thing I ever saw grow. The plantations cultivate sugar all together and look like small villages to see the Niges [“Nigg’s”] huts. Some has from 2 or 3 Niges House just like Hen Biddle on the Mill Lane and the Darkies live better [than] the Irish on the [Staten] Island. They had Hallow Day Christmas and they came down to the river to cheer us as we passed by. To see them move, you would have said they were all Niges.

We arrived at the City of New Orleans on Christmas night and anchored. What we could see of the city looked very well. They keep Christmas as we do Fourth of July — by discharging fire works. By next morning, we steamed up the river five miles and landed, marched ¾ of a mile and pitched our tents along side the shell road as they call it here. The road is made of shells and is as level as a floor and straight as a line as far as one can see. And I tell you what, there is some fine footing on it. We go to the river to wash every morning. There are plenty of troops around here and they are coming and going every day.

We had a pleasant day New Year’s. We drilled three hours in the morning, then came in for dinner but our cooks got drunk and we had to do without. Drilled 2 hours in the afternoon and when we went after our tea, they let the bread fall in the beef barrel and got it soaked with brine so you see we had quite a feast for New Year’s. Many a time did I wish I was where I was last New Year’s Day, but we put on our buckskin gloves and took our ramrods for canes and went from tent to tent making calls. But we could not raise a treat.

Last night we had quite a shower and this morning when we turned out the Camp was overflowed. But as good luck would have it, we got boards for flooring for our tents and we did not get wet. But our officers had a fine time this morning when we went to look for them. We found the water about 6 inches and they standing on chairs to keep out the water. That was fun for us for every time we get in a scrape like that, they laugh at us. But this time the laugh came on the other side.

The weather is very fine and the ___s are making garden. The roses are in bloom and they are setting out cabbage plants and are eatables as ___ Turkeys 10 dollars a p__ fresh beef 50 lbs.Butter 30 cts. Cheese 25 Sugar the best 12 Molasses 60 cts Oranges 3 for 5 cts. Apples the same ilk 10 cts quart and so on. Our boys are quite well except the Dysentery is way bad here. The dew is very heavy every night and the ground when you lay down at night. In the morning your blanket is all wet. You dig two feet down and find water but they say it will kill one in two hours after you drink it and we have to be very careful what we eat and drink. It is now time for dress parade and I must close. Write soon for you can’t imagine how glad it makes one feel to hear from his friends.

Give my love to Mrs. W. B. Taylor’s family and to all enquiring friends and save a large portion for yourself.

Yours cordially, — P. J. Miller

N. B. You must excuse my mistakes for there are 5 in one tent and some of them are raising Old Ned all the time. Yours, — P. J. Miller

Direct to Corp. P. J. Miller, Co. I, 156 Regt. N.Y. Vols., Bank’s Expedition, via Washington D.C.

Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Marshland, Staten Island, New York

Greenville, [Louisiana]
February 6th 1863

Dear Friends Mr. & Mrs. Taylor,

I now take the first opportunity of answering your most welcome letter which reached here on the evening of the 3rd of February. I happened to be on guard that night and did not come off till next day. It was quite cold and I had to stay up all night and got cold all over me. The officer of the guard is a cousin to Mr. Etting and a gay boy too.

Yesterday it rained all day and was cold last night. We got an old tin kettle and put a fire in it to warm up our tent but it smoked so that we had to put it out for fear we would smother and the morning the ground was frozen quite hard. The weather is quite changeable here. Some days it is hot enough to roast us and next morning when we turn out we find the ground frozen. It is enough to kill a man made of stone.

Old boss Burbank stands it quite well but he looks very thin and bad. Corp. [Oscar] Guyon has not done a day’s duty since he left New York. He is getting as fat as a bear. He has the same disease that Mr. H. B. Taylor has and the doctor has detailed him to carry powders to the sick and see that they take them. That just suits him to death and Bill Simonson is playing sick all the time and now we have only two Corporals for duty out of eight. So you see it comes hard on us two. One of the boys out of our tent has been detailed to write at Headquarters at New Orleans. He comes up to see us every two or three days. He is a gay boy.

We left our old camp a week ago last Monday and are but a short distance from the City of New Orleans. The railroad from Carrollton to New Orleans comes past our camp every hour in the day. It put me in mind of New Doep so much that I feel quite at home. The boys are all well from the [Staten] Island but old Bob Bell and he has been quite sick but he is getting better now. Bill Cortelyou is quite well and his father with him. That Dutch Charley is on the Island every night but I don’t believe it myself.

I saw by your letter that you spent New Year’s at Farrow [faro]. How I was wishing I was where we was a year ago last New Year’s Day. I did not have such a fine time this year although we had a bottle of Champaigne in our tent and had a fine time but we did not have enough to get tight. Next time you get playing muggens with my girl — as you call her — I wish you would keep a little farther off for I don’t want to pay for damages done in my absence. You know your failing.

Dewitt Cones has just passed my tent. He feels in a good [mood] today but sometimes he feels cross as a dog with a sore head. Sometimes he gets the blues and wishes he was home on old Cones’ farm. He would never leave it again. He is the most independent cuss I ever saw.

It is getting near time for st___ parade and I have to black my boots now, don’t you see.


Camp Kearney
Greenville, La.
Sunday evening, February 8th, 1863

Mr. Taylor,

Gen. William H. Emory

Gen. William H. Emory

You may think it strange that I did not send this before but I could not finish it in time for the last mail, but there is another soon. I had to go on guard again yesterday and did not come off till dark tonight. I was detailed at Gen. Emory Headquarters ¹ about a mile and a half from our camp. I had four men with me and stayed in the railroad station in front of his house last night. 4 soldiers of Co. A 38th Massachusetts Regt. came to serenade the General. I passed them inside of the gate and they began and Oh, such singing I never did hear. It took down everything I ever heard. They sang three tunes, then the General came [to] call them in and treated them [to] the staff of life. Then they came out and gave him two more. Then they came out and went to a small gin mill close by and gave them some; then left for the camp.

Last night there were two steamers came up with troops. One stopped here and one went farther up. We had to go to Camp for our grub but last night I thought I would have a cup of good tea. I went to a house close by and asked for it. I got two small cups of tea and one slice of bread. What do you think it cost? 30 Cents. I thought that was doing very well. I must stop for tonight for I did not get much sleep last night and feel tired. This writing on my knees ain’t very pleasant.

Monday Morning. Last night after we turned in, our Lieut. came around with some letters and one for me me. It was from Dicken Cole. He gave me some of his good advice. He says that they miss me very much, but I guess he did not find it out till I had left. Cones came in just now and I let him read it. He says it done him as much as a chapter in the Bible. I had a chance to have a ride in the cars yesterday and saw some of the fine places around here. There ain’t many can compare with them on the [Staten] Island but they are all going to ruin. The owners are all gone and no one left to take care of them. We use what we want of them for Headquarters and Hospital purposes and so forth.

You must excuse this writing for I am in a hurry. I have to be ready by 9 o’clock for dress parade and it is near that time now. I read your letter with ease. Cones & Cortelyou send their love to you.

Remember me to all your family and to Mr. H. B. Taylor and to all inquiring friends. From one who often thinks of you. — P. J. Miller

Co. I, 156 Regt. N.Y. S. Vols., Banks Expedition
Care of O. D. Jewett via New Orleans, Louisiana

P. S. Write soon and oblige. Goodbye. P. J. M.


¹ This is probably Gen. William Hensley Emory (1811-1887) who served as a Division Commander under Banks in the Port Hudson Campaign.

Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Richmond, Staten Island

Camp Mud
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
March 18th 1863

Dear Friends Mr. & Mrs. Taylor,

I take these few hasty moments of writing you a few lines to tell you how we are getting on. We left Carrollton a little over a week ago and come up this way. We are on the move since Friday and camp in the mud like pigs. We started last Friday night and went till 12, camped in a corn field, and next morning started off again, the whole of Emory’s Brigade — about 1,000 men. We thought we were going to take Port Hudson. We marched to within 5 miles of it and turned in a cornfield and were drawn up in line of battle and were ready at any moment for the gunboats had already commenced to bombard for we could hear the guns and we were to cut off the Rebel’s retreat if they came that way.

I tell you we did not feel like fighting after marching all day and sleeping only 4 hours in the hot sun. The roadside was strewn with blankets and knapsacks for the men could not stand it. The woods were full of exposed men. Just after we got in camp, one of our men, Corp. Edward Haggerty ¹ — a brother of Sgt. Haggerty of Port Richmond, got shot through the right side and the ball came through his body. He is getting better.

We slept on our arms all night and next morning we heard that the expedition had accomplished what we went for so we marched back to within 5 miles of Baton Rouge and camped in a woods and swamp. Stayed two nights and yesterday had orders to march again. We marched some 4 miles and camped but had to keep one eye open all night and this morning we came back here again and are in the mud near over our boot tops and have to get fence rails to sleep on. That is the way that so many of the men get sick — marching all day in the mud, then sleeping in a swamp where the G. Lizards ____ _____ _____ all night and the snakes are so thick that you can see them everywhere. Today one man found one about 3 feet long in his knapsack and some of the boys had a rattlesnake today with 9 rattles on his tail. It was a nasty looking thing and had a long flat head.

I suppose you have heard of this before. I saw the Mississippi [gunboat] blown up on the night of 14th [March] while engaged at Port Hudson. It was a beautiful sight and it shook the earth for 4 or 5 miles around. I will write you a better letter when we get in camp again for we are on the march all the time and have to keep packed up all the time, ready at any moment so you see we have not much time.

The boys are all well and Bill Cortelyou is to sleep with me on six rails tonight and sends his love to you.

You must excuse this writing for I have no light and the fire smokes so I can hardly see. My love to all.

I remain yours, — P. J. Miller

Co. I, 156 Regt. N.Y.S. Vols.
Banks Expedition
Baton Rouge, La.

Write soon for we do not get any letters now and have no chance to send them.

N.B. The Regt. in with us that Mort Daniel’s and one-eyed Daley and the Regt. that Hen Timlet is in. He was here to see me the other day but I was not in camp but Bill saw him.


¹ Despite Phillip’s claims to the contrary, Corporal Edward Haggerty did not get better; he died of his wounds received in the assault on Port Hudson.


Convalescent Hospital
Baton Rouge [Louisiana]
April 23d 1863

Friend Bill,

You must not think it strange that you have not heard from me before this but I have not been able to write to you before, for when I received your last letter we were under marching orders and everything upside down that I could not sit still long enough to write.

We ¹ started on the evening of the 9th of March for Port Hudson — that was the talk. We marched till 12 that night and slept in a corn field. We were drummed up at 4 in the morning but did not start till 7. [We] marched through the hot sun till 4 P.M. when we turned in a cornfield again [but] this time in line of battle and the news was that we were to cut off the Rebels retreat while the gunboats shelled the Fort.

Paddlewheel Steamboat USS Mississippi

Paddlewheel Steamboat USS Mississippi

We slept on our arms all night and about 10 in the morning, the gunboats began to shell. I got up and could see the shells pass through the air. They shell[ed] for about 2 hours and then the [USS] Mississippi got on fire. She drifted down the river some 5 miles when she blew up and it shook the ground like an earthquake.²

At three in the morning we had orders to put out all the fires and lay flat on the ground. Then I thought  the Ball had began but we were sadly disappointed for we never saw a Rebel and at 9 we marched back again all done ____ ____ we thought we were to [go] right through to see Port Hudson so we came back 6 miles and had to camp in a swamp where the mud and water was very near over our boots and there we had to stay. We were there two days when we got orders to march so we march[ed] on [the] other way some four miles through mud up to our knees and camp[ed] in a clear field. I had to go on guard all night and next morning we pulled up stakes and started back to our swamp again where we stay[ed] two days more.

While we were there, I found Fred Mitchell. He was glad to see me and wanted to know the news from home. He is just as fat as he can be and he says that he is too lazy to write home. He send his love to you and all inquiring friends. He belong[s] to 162 Regt., Co. G, and Hen Timlet is done here. He came in camp one morning as he was going out on picket to see me but I was off somewhere and did not see him. And Matt Denice [Dennis?] is down here but I have not seen [him], but saw some of the men from his company. He has been sick. They are all gone from here now somewhere.

I hear they are going to draft again but if they do draft you, don’t you go if you have to lose your right arm or go to prison. I would ten times rather be shut up in prison than be down here where they use men like hogs and feed them on raw pork and hard tack with the worms crawling out when you break them up. And if you show them to the officers, they say we ought to be glad to get that. I would not want any of my old friends down here for when you want to get a New York paper, you have to pay 20 cents for it, and I think that is paying too dear for the ____.

I want to give you an idea how they use sick soldiers down here. I was taken sick the 22 of March with the Typhoid Fever and went to the Regimental Doctor ³ — the biggest old hog you ever saw. He kept me full of pills all the time till I got so weak that I could not walk and wanted to be sent to the hospital but he would not let me go. Then he put up a Hospital tent and put me and 4 or 5 others in and there we lay with nothing but our blankets under us for three days and on the 1st of April, the Regt. had orders to march so he had to send us to the Hospital. We were sent to the General Hospital and there we had to lay on the floor for 4 days and them that were too sick to go down three pair of stairs had to go without and I went 36 hours without eating or drink[ing] and had the fever so bad that my tongue was so dry that I could not speak. Then I was taken alone in a room where there was nothing but fever [patients] and there I had a ____ on the face three days there. Where you can see hard times where they die off every day from 8 to 10 and as soon as they are dead, they tie them up in a sheet and carry them off and put on clean bed cloths and put others in there.

We got toast and tea three times a day and the poor fellows get so poor that you can see every bone in their bodies and some are ___ on their backs from laying so long. One of the men that was sent with me died and there are two more that I have not heard from them since I’ve been alone here. The Doctor comes around in the morning about 9 and that is the last you see of him till next morning and in the afternoon about 4 you get your medicine. It does not make any difference if you are most done. Sometimes the nurse makes a mistake and gives you the wrong medicine and that is the way a good many are killed. But a man is of no account here.

There is a room full of officers and you do not hear of any of them doing fair. They have everything they want. When a private is ordered milk, he gets it if the officers has not taken it all. They have fried potatoes and beef steaks, milk and butter, which the poor sick soldier never gets a smell of. That is the way the Hospitals are conducted down here and when they get so they can get downstairs to eat, they get boiled rice and molasses, a cup of coffee without sugar and a piece of bread. And if you eat that, you can’t have anymore. For dinner you get 2 potatoes, a piece of bread and some fat pork enough to make a well man sick and sometimes they have beans. For tea, they get a cup of tea without sugar and bread. I was half-starved when I first came down here. I came here on the 14th and now I can walk around to the ___ and around the yard. I hope and pray I shall never get sick again alone here. You do not know how often I wished I was on Staten Island again but there is no use crying over spilled milk, But if I ever get back, it will take more than one man to get me down here again.

I must close ___ this. Give my love to Mrs. Taylor and all inquiring friends and save a large portion for yourself.

Yours, — P. J. Miller


¹ Phillip Miller does give the name of his unit but it was Co. I, 156th New York Volunteers. This regiment, known as the “Mountain Legion,” was recruited in the counties of Ulster, Greene and Richmond and was organized at Kingston, where it was mustered into the U. S. service for three years on Nov. 17, 1862. The New Paltz volunteers formed part of the regiment, as did three companies recruited by Col. Minthorn Thompson. It left the state on Dec. 4, 1862, and sailed for New Orleans, where it was assigned to the 3d brigade, 3d (Emory’s) division, 19th corps, with which it participated in its first battle at Fort Bisland, losing 22 killed and wounded. It took an active part in the long siege of Port Hudson, including the assault of June 14, when Lieut.-Col. Fowler was mortally wounded while leading the regiment in a charge. The total loss of the regiment during the siege was 30 killed and wounded. After the fall of Port Hudson it spent the ensuing 9 months in post and garrison duties, with occasional reconnoissances into the enemy’s country. On March 15, 1864, in Grover’s (2nd) division, it moved on Banks’ Red River expedition and was engaged at Pleasant Hill, Alexandria and Mansura, but sustained slight loss. In July, 1864, when the first two divisions of the corps were ordered to Virginia, the 156th embarked for Washington and after marching through Maryland engaged in Sheridan’s famous Shenandoah campaign against Early. At the battle of the Opequan the regiment lost 20 killed and 91 wounded, a total of 111. Col. Sharpe had been promoted to brevet brigadier-general for gallantry and was in command of the brigade at Winchester, while Lieut-Col. Neafie gallantly commanded the regiment. The 156th was also in the fights at Fisher’s hill, and Cedar creek, losing in the latter action 92 killed, wounded and missing. In this fight, when several of the color-guard had fallen, the regimental colors were narrowly saved from capture by the bravery of Capt. Alfred Cooley, who stripped the colors from the staff and brought them safely off the field. The fighting in the valley had now ended and in Jan., 1865, the regiment proceeded with Grover’s division to Savannah, Ga. Gen. H. W. Birge was now given command of the division, which joined in the final campaign in the Carolinas, temporarily attached to the 10th corps as the 1st division. In ‘May it returned to Savannah, and the regiment continued to serve in that vicinity until finally mustered out under Col. Sharpe, at Augusta, Ga., Oct. 23, 1865. It lost during its term of service 4 officers and 60 men killed in action and mortally wounded; 4 officers and 163 men died of disease and other causes; total deaths, 231.

² Corp. Miller is describing the attempt by Fleet Admiral David G. Farragut to run gunboats past the Confederate defenses at Port Hudson on the Mississippi River. Annoyed at the delay of the Gen. Banks’ army, which was to threaten Port Hudson from the rear, Farragut gathered his attack force and attempted to run his fleet past Port Hudson in the late evening of 13 March 1863. Farragut’s fleet consisted of four principal warships and three gunboats. The principal warships were the sloops-of-war USS Hartford, USS Richmond, and USS Monongahela and the steam paddle frigate USS Mississippi. The gunboats were USS Albatross, USS Genesee, and USS Kineo. Farragut commanded this fleet from his flagship, Hartford. The first six vessels were lashed together in an attack column of pairs, with the USS Mississippi bringing up the rear by herself.

The USS Mississippi was “last in line and also ran aground on the western shore. The large steam paddle frigate was an irresistible target, and was riddled with shot, shell, and hot shot. The vessel being afire in many places, with flames endangering the magazine, Captain Smith ordered her abandoned. The garrison of Port Hudson cheered loudly as the ship went up in flames and drifted loose from the shore and back downriver at about 3 am, panicking the remainder of the Union fleet downriver at the threat of her magazine exploding. At 5:05 am Mississippi disappeared in a terrific explosion, seen in New Orleans nearly 80 miles (129 km.) downriver.” [Source: Wikipedia]

³ The Regimental Surgeon in March 1863 was Edward R. Percy of Kingston, Ulster County, New York. He was assisted by William S. Webster and Charles M.M. Laurie.

Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Richmond P.O., Staten Island, New York

Convalescent Hospital
Baton Rouge, [Louisiana]
May 22, 1863

Friend Bill,

I received yours of April 8th on the 14th. Glad to hear you are all well. I am getting so I go where I please now. I think I will have a chance to go to the Regiment soon. Bill, I wish I could give you a letter to read every Sunday but that can’t be did. Even if I tried, they would no go in time. You must excuse me for not answering your before but the mail does not leave New Orleans till the 31st and I thought there might be something new so I waited.

Day before yesterday I saw Bill Woods and Gus Johnson from Richmond [County]. They camped here all night and started off yesterday for Port Hudson. All the troops are gone from here and the men that are able to walk around has to guard the city. They have commenced fighting up there for last night there were 12 wounded came here from the 2nd La. Regiment — one was the Lieut. Col. shot through both legs. He died this morning.¹

Today there were 4 steamers went up the river loaded with troops. I heard from my Captain too. ² He is sick in New Orleans and 4 of his men. He says that Dewitt Cones was shot through the head and never spoke. The boys see some tough times. They marched 29 miles in one day through 6 inches of dust. The last I heard of them, they were at Alexandria, Louisiana, but the Captain thinks they will be in the Port Hudson fight.

Will, I am sorry to hear that Mr. Egbert is so very low but we are all liable to be taken down at any time. One thing I am glad to [hear] is that the girls has to stay in the house. I hope some of the skines will get by it.

We have very fine weather here but it is very warm and have had but one shiver in five weeks. I do not see how things grow but the night’s dews are very heavy. Blackberries are very plenty here. Some of the boys go everyday and get two or three pails full. Figs are getting very near ripe and so are the peaches. That is about the Northern fruits that grow down here, and plums.

I saw by your letter that Sally Carnow has got married again. The fellow must have had a good stomach to stand all that. He must be a greenie or he would not have had such a clucher, don’t you think so? Ha.

I had a letter from old Hie.[?] He says he is doing a big business a rushing things but he must have improved since I left.

Tuesday morning, 23rd. Last [night] there was heavy cannonading up at Port Hudson. I think we will be able for them at last. I hope so for I want to get out of this scrape. Will, I tell you, I have learned something since I have been out here. I have nothing more at present. You must write soon again and let us know what is going on. remember me to all inquiring friends. I remain yours, — P. J. Miller

Will, I send a note to Kate. Please forward it to her and oblige your old friend, — P. J. Miller

Co. I, 156 Regt. N. Y. Vol., Bank’s Expedition, New Orleans, La.


¹ The Lieut. Col. of the 2nd Louisiana Infantry was Charles Everett. He was wounded at Plains Store on 21 May 1863 and died the following day. The 2nd Louisiana was brigaded with the 21st Maine, the 48th & 49th Massachusetts, and the 116th New York (First Brigade) of the First Division in Gen. Banks’ XIX Army Corps during the Port Hudson Campaign. 

² The Captain of Co. I, 156th N.Y. Vols. at the time this letter was written in 1863 was Orville D. Jewett (1837-1877). He was promoted from first lieutenant to captain in November 1862. Muster Rolls indicate Orville stood 5’10½” tall, had blue eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion. He resigned his commission later in 1863. Orville was a merchant prior to the war. Following the war he married, resided in Orange, New Jersey, and entered into a partnership with his uncle and others in the manufacture of white lead. He killed his uncle and wounded one of the other partners with a hand grenade before committing suicide with a pistol in April 1877.

Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Marshland P.O., Staten Island, New York

Baton Rouge, La.
July 15th 1863

Friend Will,

I take the pleasure of answering your most welcome letter which reached me on the 13th. I was glad you were all well and hope you will continue it.

I have good news to write you. We have the Reb’s strongholds now and came off safe. I think that this war will not be long now and we will be home once more. But the best news, I had the pleasure of seeing the boys (in the Regt.). They came here last Saturday night and remained here three days. I was down to see them last evening till 2 P.M. but this morning I hear that they had left in the night. The Rebs have got the river between here and New Orleans blocked so as to starve us out up here but our gunboats have gone down to give them a game. They drove them back (from the river) and now we have to attack them by land. General Banks can’t do without the 156th Regt. so they had to go down to drive out the Rebs. The Regt. looks well and the boys are in good spirits. They have seen some hard time but I hope that they will have a chance to rest soon. Co. I lost two men killed and one taken prisoner. There are 10 or 12 sick.

Mr. [Abiel H.] Burbank is here sick. He looks very bad but is getting better. He was going around the yard yesterday and passed by our office door. By chance I happened to see him and called him in and had quite a chat. In the afternoon, I went to the Rgt. and got two letters for him. He says that they had (reported) him as dead on the (Staten) Island.

I wish you could have seen the boys when they came here. They had hardly any clothing and so dirty that you would think they were Negroes. Then you could have seen what a poor soldier has to go through out here. My Captain and Colonel came here Sunday and took dinner in our office. The Captain says that as soon as I get fat enough, he will send for me. He did not want me to go yet so I am in the hospital still.

The weather is very warm and no rain till the last two days it has been rainy everyday.

I saw by your letter that some of he old maids are looking well but I do not see where Lusan gets his claim as the Corporal, as you say. I don’t believe that when I get back I will ever have courage enough to run after the girls again unless you will condescend to give me some lessons again.

I saw by your letter that Farrow has got back on the (Staten) Island again. I hope he will stay for a month or two this time. Give them my kind regards when you see them and also Mrs. Hallott.

I do not think there will be any draft after this unless something new turns up more than we know here.

Will, I hope this show will be closed son as to let us get home once more. I saw Bill Cortelyou. He looks well and sends his love to you. The boys are all satisfied now and would like to go home. They have seen two battles since they have been on the march. They begin to look (forward) to old times. The river is full of boats all day of all kinds and the nine-month troops are getting ready to go home every day next.

Will, you must excuse my scribbling fir I have got so used to it that I can hardly write otherwise. If you can’t read it, let me know in your next. I have nothing more to tell you at present so I will close by sending my best wishes to you and your family.

Respectfully yours, — P. J. Miller

P.S. Please tell Kate that I received the paper she sent me.

Write soon and direct your letter to this place: Convalescent Hospital, Baton Rouge, La., Care of W. S. Webster ¹


¹ William Stewart Webster (1833-18xx) mustered in as the Assistant Surgeon of the 156th N. Y. Vols. in November 1862. He was discharged in April 1864 to accept a commission in U.S. Colored Troops. William was the son of Luther Webster (1809-1852) and Cornelia C. Hermance (1811-1843) of Red Hook, Dutchess County, New York. William married Marie Ruth Bloom in 1848.

Addressed to William Taylor, Marshland P.O., Staten Island, New York

U.S. Hospital
Baton Rouge, La.
July 20th 1863

Friend Will,

You must excuse me for not writing right away. I received your letter with stamps and three papers. I am much obliged to you for the kindness you bestowed me by sending those stamps, I will try and repay you when I get my next pay. I do not know how soon that will be for I have not had any since the first of January — most seven months.

This image from a stereoscope says, "View of the river -- a part of our camp in the foreground and Port Hudson in the distance." (1863)

This image from a stereoscope says, “View of the river — a part of our camp in the foreground and Port Hudson in the distance.” (1863)

Will, the reason I did not write yesterday was because I wanted to go to Port Hudson and see what it looked like so that I could give you all the particulars as you wanted me to write them to you. Port Hudson is the hardest looking place I ever saw. The banks on the river are some places 100 feet steep and the Rebs had their heavy guns mounted. I was very much dissapointed in the place. I expected to find a strong fort but in place of that it is a wilderness — all roads and bush. I did not go all over for I came near getting sun stroke. It was the hottest hole I ever been into. There are some few Rebels there yet and mostly all the nine month’s Regt. are gathering to go home for their time is out and they are going home.

All the Rebs had to live on was beans and mule meat. There are a few houses and a church. The church is all shot to pieces and they had their beans in it. I saw some horses eating there yesterday so you can make up your mind that Port Hudson is ——-. But the saddest of all is the poor soldiers that lost their lives there. I saw Fred Mitchell’s Regt. and enquired about him. They said that he was struck with a shell and killed. He was made 2nd Lieutenant ——–.¹

My Regt. was here a week ago today and the boys are all well except poor Cones. Mr. Burbank is rich here and he comes in our office very —— and I give him his bitters; that is all he wants to fix him up.

My company lost only two men. All the boys from the Island are all well. Bill Cortelyou is around here as usual. [Jacob M.] Guyon is in New Orleans so I hear but his son tells me he has gone home.²

Dinner is ready. I have just had my dinner and feel better. My Regt. left here last Wednesday night. They left here for Donelsonville where the Rebs have blocked up the river but when Port Hudson was taken, the gunboats went down there and gave them a few shells. They went back some three miles and then the land forces had to go after them. They had a fight and they say that we got the worst of it. I have not heard from there since. I hope that our boys will not have to engage the enemy again for they are pretty well used up by this time.

My Captain told me that I could stay as long as the Doctor stays. I have one of our boys in the office with me as assistant steward. Well, I am very much obliged to you for those papers you sent me for we do not get any Northern papers only once in awhile and then they charge 20 cents for them. That is more than we soldiers can afford to pay.

Gus Johnson from Richmond (County) came down on the boat with me from Port Hudson last night wounded in the hip. He is doing well. He says that he has not seen Bill Wood in some time so I do not know whether he is living or not.

The weather is very hot here now and will be for some time. We have plenty of figs to eat and I would like to send you some if I could but they wouldn’t let anything go away from here. I hope these few lines will find you all enjoying good health. I am quite well and getting fat and as soon as I can get my pay, I will send you a card (carte-de-visit) so that you can see how it makes a fellow look to go a soldiering down in Dixie. We see boats coming down the river from Vicksburg with cattle — that goes to prove that Vicksburg is in our hands. I have nothing more to say at present so I will close.

Remember to all my old friends. Yours with respect, — P. J. Miller

P. S. Direct as before. Convalescent Hospital, Baton Rouge, La., Care of Dr. W. S. Webster


¹ Fred Mitchell served with the 162nd N. Y. Infantry. He was made an Acting Lieutenant before the assault on Port Hudson where he was killed on 14 June 1863.

² Jacob M. Guyon enlisted at age 44. He was discharged for disability on 17 June 1863 from the Marine Hospital in New Orleans. His son, Oscar G. Guyon, also served in Co. I, 156th N. Y. Vols.

Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Marshland P. O., Staten Island, New York

U.S. Hospital
Baton Rouge, La.
August 7th 1863

Friend Will,

I thought I would send you some papers so I will write you a few lines to tell you what is going on around here. My Regt. has got here again and are going to stay all summer, I think. The boys are all well and some are going home after the conscripts — 6 men from every Regiment. I do not know the rest of the men but Sergt. [Edward] Steers is the man from Co. I. Oh Will, how I would like to see some of the boys from Richmond down here. It would do me more good than to go home. I mean such fellows as Don Dyson, Bill Bennett, and Bill Little and Marsh. I wonder if some of those boys wouldn’t be lucky enough to be drafted. I say lucky. I mean it would be the best for they would do a big business on 19 dollars a month and salt mule steak and hard tack free. That is more than some of them make at home.

Will, I think you must have a fine time on the Island nowadays. If those fellows want to fight so bad, why the deuce don’t they come out here where they have plenty of room and plenty of Negroes if that is all they want? We have some of that kind here and since the Battle of Port Hudson, the darkey take the best.

Last Sunday, the 2nd Louisiana Regt. White came in the —– and the 3 Native Guards Blacks are in —- they most kill some of the Black D——s but some time they get fond of the wrong Nigger and they give them Hell and today a Morter Battery came in here and I think now there will be some fun around here. All the Gin Mills are closed and the men are fighting all the time.

I hear that all the men had to turn out and guard Richmond (on Staten Island). You must have quite a fine time at standing guard (did you have any muskets?). Will, I wish they would send for our Regt. to come home and guard the Island. Then wouldn’t we have a fine time. I hear that Dan Cortelyou and Hen Stillville is home too. I think those boys on the Potomac have the advantage of us. They can go home and get back while we go one way. We are shipping men for the North most every day — sick men, I mean. And yesterday, the 50th and the 28th Massachusetts Regt’s went home up the river. They might as well have stayed at home for all the good they were. The two would hardly make a decent Regt. and they have never saw a fight. I think they got rather the best of us on the New York (men), but they get home just in time for the draft.

Col. Jacob Sharpe, 156th N.Y.

Col. Jacob Sharpe, 156th N.Y.

Will, I think there will be some queer times in our Regt. Last spring one of the Captains [William H. Van Wagenen] was dishonorably discharged for getting drunk and gambling with his men and he went home. The first thing we knew he came back as Major and he has been here but two weeks and got to be Lieutenant-Colonel. As the Colonel and the (other) officers don’t recognize him at all and the Colonel [Jacob Sharpe] has been to see General Banks about it. The way this works, he is a big politician and has a good many friends at Albany to work for him. Now what do you think of that? The regulations say an officer that has been dishonorably discharged from the service of the United States shall not hold any office in the service again, but you know that money makes the war go.

Will, I liked to have forgotten to tell you I went to New Orleans last week and had a very hot time if it. It aint like going from Staten Island to New York where it is cold aboard the boat, but it is just like going into a hot kitchen when you get aboard the boats. It took us 22 hours to go down and 19 to come back, some 125 miles. I was in the city 24 hours. I saw some of the boys in the Hospital there, and as son as it gets cooler I want to try and go to Vicksburg.

It is getting dark and I will have to bring this to a close for my eyes are so weak that we cannot write or read by candlelight. In this, I will send you some Confederate money that some of the boys got on the march and an envelope that I got myself when I was up there about 4 months ago. Please remember me to all the old friends and to Mrs. Taylor’s family. I will close by sending you my best respects and kind regards to all your family.

From your old friend, — P. J. Miller


Post Commissary Department
Baton Rouge, La.
September 8th 1863

Friend Will,

As it is some time since I heard from you, so I thought I would write and find out what the matter is. I hope you have not been drafted for I hear that they are putting the thing right through now days for every Regt. around here has sent home some of their officers after the poor conscripts. I pity those poor Bugers that have to come out here to spend their days as a soldier. How are you soldier? The troops have mostly all left here again for some place. My Regt. is here yet and they expect to leave every day but there is no telling what is going on around here.

I have left the Hospital as you will see. It is only across the street from there. It is in the Post Commissary where I was detailed the first of the month. I like it very much and it is a much better place than the Hospital. Sometimes we are hurried and other (times) there is nothing to do. A week ago today I had orders to report to my Company and did so but I tell you my Captain was mad when I told him that I was out. “Well, Phil,” says he, “I will have to reduce you the ranks again if you want to stay with the company.”

“All right, Captain,” says I, and off I went but I got the best of him for last spring he gave me my warrant as Corporal and he can’t take that away without a court marshal. I got my detail from Maj. Gen. Franklin.

Mr. Burbank left for home last evening for home up the river. He was going to let me know when he started but he is so childish that he don’t know what he is doing half the time. Bill Cortelyou has just come in to see me just now. He is well and fat as ever. He sends his best respects to you all.

Will, I went to the Nigger Meeting last Sunday night and had a bully time. The darkeys got a jumping over the seats and benches and dancing all over the churches until it stunk, so I had to take out for some fresh air, then I took out for home.

Yesterday we got the news that Fort Sumter is ours. That is the style for I want to get out of this darned hole and get back where White folks live again. Yesterday there was a mail up but nary a letter for me. I have not had a letter in some time and it makes one feel bad to see all the boys have letters and you get none so I hope you will write soon and I always do the same.

Will, I will send you some paper with this and one that you must keep scarce for it is something that folks ought not to read but it is all the go around here. Will, you must excuse me for this time for I have just just had my dinner and do not feel like writing. Will, I tell you we live here for we have everything that there is around in the storehouse and all the fresh beef we can eat everyday so you may know that we don’t live on Salt Horse or hard tack.

Will, I will have to close for this time and hope this will find you a free man yet, and I hope you know enough to keep so. That is all I get to tell you. Remember me to all inquiring friends and I remain your old friend. — P. J. Miller

Please write soon and oblige. — P. J. M.

Image 12

Enclosed Clipping

Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Marshland P.O., Staten Island, New York

Post Commissary
Baton Rouge, La.
September 20th 1863

Friend Will,

I received your long looked for letter yesterday dated August 20th, and I am very happy to hear that you and family were all well. You say that the draft has commenced. I saw a Staten Island paper this morning and am sorry to say your name was the first one on the list and several others that I know but I hope you will be exempt as you are one of Uncle Sam’s men, and if that won’t do, I would pay the three hundred (dollars) before I would go for a soldier if it took every cent I could make in a year. And you would think so (too) if you were out here a week or two. And the Regiments that are not off othis expedition are leaving all the dirty work for conscripts to do. But that won’t hurt them.

Will, I have had a good time today. One of my Company and I went downtown and got the key to one of the churches from a pair of very fine ladys and went in and heard music on the organ which my friend played. After that we came back and saddled a pair of horses and went to attend the funeral of a Captain in my Regiment who died night before.¹ That is the way we keep Sunday out here.

After tea, I took a walk over to the Regiment to hear the news for camps are Headquarters for news. Well, the news there was that they were going to maje Cavalry of us and make us enlist for three years longer. That is all very fine talk about but I don’t know the thing will work among the boys and if that is the case, it will raise the deuce with me for no mounted men are mallowed to be detailed. But that is only talk altho they are trying to persuade the men to re-enlist again for three years or during (the duration) of the war, and some of the boys tell me that the officers say they enlisted for three years or duration of the war, but I know better. There is something lrong with the officers and they are afraid that this thig is soon coming to a close and they wouldn’t have a chance to obtain their three hundred dollars a month — that’s what the matter is with them.

John Naughton has started for home and last week an order from the President wanting him to report to Washington immediately for he says that has never been sworn in the service.

Will, I must bring this to a close for it is getting late. You say that you saw Farrow and he says that he has not heard from me. I don’t see how that is for I answered every letter that I received and your letter is the first one that I have got in some time excepting the one you spoke of you know and that I got a week before yours and adopted your plan not to answer it.

Will, write soon and let me know how you made out with the draft so I will close by sending my kind regards to you all and hope to hear from you soon and oblige your old friend, — P. J. Miller


¹ Capt. John Donaldson mustered in as captain of Co. G. in September 1862. He died of disease on 19 September 1863 at Baton Rouge, La.

Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Marshland P.O., Staten Island, N.Y.

Commissary Dept.
Baton Rouge, La.
September 26th 1863


I received your paper you sent me and I am very much obliged to you for your kindness, but I do not receive any letters. I don’t know what the matter is for I always answer every letter that I receive and if they don’t get them it ain’t my fault (Don’t you say so.) Bill, you must have had a fine time at New Dorp the day Little Mac was there.¹ I felt real homesick when I read that but such thing —— are nothing out here for they have one every month or every time the officers get drunk enough to have a good time. Some of them have been on a drunk spree, I think, for the last two or three days, for they had a report that the Rebs were coming in here to take this place and had all the men in the rifle pits all night to take the Rebs but nary a Reb could they find. But they manage to find the whiskey. That’s whats the matter.

Bill, I took a ride up to camp and saw Bill Cortelyou. He had just got a box from home and had an apple out of it and cigar, Whilst I was eating the apple, I could imagine where it grew and where I was just a year ago up in Marshland.

Bill, I see you did not keep out of the Draft but I hope you will be exempt, but if not I do not know what to advise you to do. But if you can stand the price, pay your three hundred (even) if it breaks you up, for it will break you even if you do come out here. I know a little about that myself, by this time. I have not been out here all this time for nothing. Bill, you know I never say much but think a Devil of a lot.

Last night some of the men in the 175th Regt. — the one I first belonged to — two of the men got in a fuss and they thought that was the best time to end it so they both up and fired. One was shot through the breast and died in half an hour and the other was not hurt. That’s the way the boys do down here. When they can’t find any Rebs, they shoot one another. ²

Well Bill, I take a stroll through the great city of Baton Rouge most every night to see what is out. You would be disgusted to find in every nigger hut where there is a young wench but you will find a soldier or an officer there, and the most of them have families at home. That’s the style here. But thank God I ain’t quite so hard up as all that comes to, and that ain’t all but I would try your patience any longer with that kind of stuff. But all, I hope you will never be a soldier.

There is nothing of importance going on around here excepting the Rebs get one or two of our men once in a while. But that don’t amount to anything, for we get just as many of theirs in return.

The weather is quite warm yet, but it is nice and cool at night so one can enjoy his sleep very well. Bill, when you see Farrow’s folks, give them my kind regards and Mrs. Sharett also, and all other enquiring friends, and tell them that I would be happy to hear from then at any time,

I see that Hie and G. Cole is drafted. How will that suit his wife? And Creole Cones too. Bill, you will have to excuse me for this time as it is most three o’clock and time to open the warehouse so I will have to bid adieu for this time and hoping to hear from you soon. My love to all and I remain as ever your friend, — P. J. Miller


¹ Phillip is referring to the speech on 8 September 1863 by Gen. George B. McClellan (“Little Mac”) when he visited Sprague Barracks at New Dorp on Staten Island. The speech followed an inspection of the barracks and a general review of the some 3000 troops garrisoned there. Newspaper accounts record that McClellan addressed many of the men who served under him during the Peninsula and Maryland Campaigns which elicited “great enthusiasm.” The weather was said to be beautiful “and the scene a very striking and brilliant one in all respects.”  Nearly eight thousand spectators were present to witness the event and catch a glimpse of McClellan who was, by this time, larger than life and rumored to be the next President of the United States.

² The victim of this shoot-out was Michael Daly (1837-1863) who mustered in as first sergeant of Co. D in January 1863. Regimental Records for the 175th N. Y. Vols. state simply that Michael died of an “accidental wound” on 25 September 1863 at the hospital in Baton Rouge. Michael Daly lived in Schenectady, New York prior to his enlistment. He was married and had at least two children.

Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Marshland, Staten Island, NY

Winchester, Va.
January 1st 1864


I wish you all a Happy New Year.

Today is New Year’s Day and a cold one at that, or at least I thought so. This afternoon, we had orders to issue a ration of Whiskey to all the troops. We being out, I had to go to Stevenson’s Dept. after some. That is 4 1/2 miles from here so I had ti take that part of the job and I tell you I was never so cold as today ahd did not get any Whiskey after all my trouble. So I had am ride but did not make many calls on the way. Not quite so many as we did three years ago.

Will, I hope that this will be the last New Year’s that I will have to spend in the Army. Will, how is the draft this time? Will it affect you any? My advice is ti you, keep out of the draft for it is dangerous.

We are in the City of Winchester now and have pretty easy time and good quarters to live in. They are giving furloughs to one man in a company. Oscar Guyon has put in for the first one and expects to go home in a day or so. What do you think; would it pay for me to try for one for 15 days? I sometimes want to go and then again, I don’t.

Will, I do not feel like writing tonight so I will not say much this time. I have not had a letter for two weeks from the Island. I guess they have not got over Christmas yet. Has Georgey Taylor got the letter I wrote to her some time since and did you get the picture for her from below with this? I will send you one of Maj. Gen. (William H.) Emory, Commanding 19th Army Corps. He is rather a cross-looking fellow but a good commander. I met him on the road today sleigh-riding in an old jumper.

Please excuse me for tonight hoping this may find you and family all well.

I remain as ever your friend, — Phil

P.S. My kind regards to all inquiring friends if they —– and oblige. — P. J. M.

Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Marshland, Staten Island, New York

Harper’s Ferry [Virginia]
September 15th 1864

Friend Will,

I take a few spare moments this morning to tell you that I have got this far safe. I left N.Y. last Saturday at 10 o’clock and after getting to Jersey City, started at 12 M. I was all that afternoon and night going to Camden. Then I arrived on Sunday at 7 in the morning and had to put up for the day as there was no trains on Sunday. It rained mostly all day and I had a dull day of it for I was in a strange place so I went to bed and slept most all day.

Next morning I could not cross the river to Philadelphia until 2 o’clock in the afternoon so I took a stroll through the town and found Camden to be the finest place that I have been into yet. So after dinner, I payed my bill and started for Philadelphia. That is quite a fine city. I was there from 2 until 10 1/2 at night before the train left for Baltimore. It is fine fun to ride in the cars all night, I can assure you.

I got to Baltimore at 3 1/2 in the morning and started for a hotel to take a sleep. I found a kind of a One Horse Hotel and went to bed and slept until 6 1/2. Then went to Dept. to see if the horses had arrived. There I met the Quartermaster and we went round and got ready to leave at 2 o’clock for this place where we arrived at 9 1/2 that night. He started for a hotel and I stayed in the cars all night. Next morning I found out that I had the best of him for the hotel was so full that he had to take the floor for a bed. That’s the style out here.

After breakfast, I took a stroll through the place and came across the officer that I came from New Orleans with so I put right in with him. Then you see I was to home. After that, I found John Gilby and he took me up on the mountain to see his wife. There I had dinner and a good chat, then came back and found that our Doctor had come in. He told me that the Regiment was about 18 miles out and having pretty tough times. The Quartermaster started for the front this morning. I thought I would lay over a day or so and get good and ready before going out there.

Will, this is the roughest country that I ever saw — nothing but mountains and rocks and mud for it rains here every time it feels like it. This has been quite a place once, but it is mostly all burned down and what houses remain are full of holes where balls have gone through. There’s plenty of women round here than I have seen in any place. Sorry that I am not going to stay here for I would put in for one (what do you think, would it pay).

You must excuse this dirty paper for I come off without bringing any and had to beg this. I will write you when I get to the front so I will close for this time and remain as ever, your friend, — Phillip J. Miller, Co. I, 156th NYS Vols, Washington D.C.

P. S. Remember me to all my old friends. Write soon and oblige.

P. S. Please excuse the dirt for there is plenty of it here and I tried to send you all I could. — Phil

Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Marshland P.O., Staten Island, New York

Office of Commissary Supply, 3rd Brig., 2nd Div., 19th Army Corps

Winchester, Virginia
December 2nd 1864

Friend Will,

Last evening I took a tramp over to the Regt. to see the boys and there I found Will Cortelyou just from home and your letter — the first that I have had since I left you. Will, I would liked to have been on the Island on Election day and would have been there if the office I was with had not gone to the front at that time, and did not get back until it was too late. So I did not get  chance to vote this time. But our side is all right yet so far.

I left Martinsburg two days ago and got here yesterday. I hardly know what I will go at yet. I have not had orders to return to the Regt. but I can’t say how soon I may have. Everything is quiet around here at present and the boys are getting themselves in comfortable quarters for a short time at least.

The weather has been quite cold and some snow but for the last few days it has been pleasant. We have the railroad to within four miles of Winchester and get a mail every day — that is what we have never had before. There is great talk amongst the boys of going home on furloughs.

Will, the proposition you made me is very fair and I think that I would take hold with you, but a year is a good ways to look ahead now-a-days and there is no telling what may turn up in that time. I hardly know what to say on the subject at present altho I would not be at all surprised if I did not come with you when I get home — that is, if I ever do. You know life is very uncertain in the Army. The other day, two of the boys went out foraging and the report is that Mosby captured them and that was the last of them. One of them was Jim Whatson [Watson?] — the boy that used to work for Conner. The Regt. numbers now 236 men — that is big out of over 900 when we came out. There is strong talk of consolidating the Regt. with some other. I am at present in the Brigade Commissary until I get further orders.

Will, you must not think hard of my last letter for writing as I did for I did not blame you for not writing for you always do, but I was _____ on Farrow, En___ and one or two [others] that I had written to and had not got an answer from them. I had not heard from Farrow since I left the Island. I thought someone had made up some fine story about me which you know is not very hard work for some of the South Side folks to do, and I thought if that was the case, that they ought let writing alone and that would save me some trouble and time. But as it is, my time don’t amount to anything now days for my pay goes on all the same work or play. But the thing is, to get the money, if I stay around here until the regt. gets paid, I am agoing to make a haul of one year’s pay out of them {that’s what’s the matter} and if Uncle Sam don’t come down, I will tell him I am agoing to quit him and go home.

Bill Cortelyou was over here awhile ago after a drink of whiskey and he went through the details of what big things he done while at home, how he drank whiskey, and sported around New York with the Molls and H___ — big things to tell about.

Well Bill, I will close as I can’t think of anything more at present so I will bid you all ado and remain as ever with respect, — P. J. Miller

Co. I, 156th N.Y.S. Vols.
Washington D.C.


Camp Russell
December 16th 1864

How are you Will Taylor, the mail and stage driver?

I am happy to see you have a handle to your name. A man wants a handle to something to make his way through the world nowadays. I received yours of the 11th this morning and glad to hear that you are all well as I am at present and bound to keep it as long as possible.

I am now at the front as we call it but there is no more danger here than in the rear. It is most too cold for the Johnnies and Rebels to come around except some of Mosby’s gang. They hang around all the while to see what is going on and once in awhile pick up one of our boys if they catch them outside of our lines.

We had quite a snowstorm last week and there is some of it around yet. Two days this week we had it very cold — regular old snorters — and I tell you it made us blow our fingers. I bet you did not catch this child out of doors much those days. There were very few sleighs out for these folks here do not have many. Some of the staff officers got an old sled and went to Winchester and all hands got tight and coming back they broke down and they had to foot it back. But us soldiers do not enjoy ourselves so well. We have barrel staves to ride down hill on — gay fun.

You wanted to know whether any of those goodies that the Lady’s got up for the soldiers in the field, the regiments at the front got quite a lot of poultry — so much so that some of the boys were sick for a week afterwards. I was not with the regiment at the time so I had to go without, but that did not trouble me any for I had a pretty good dinner where I boarded at the time.

I am sorry to hear that the Baby of Em’s has not come to light yet. I wouldn’t mind helping her along but I have never tryed my hand. Therefore, I could not recommend myself. But if she wants anyone recommended, I would recommend you for you have had some experience in that line but I am afraid that Baby will never see daylight.

I should like to know how you found out what I was doing on board the boat. I would deny but that I was up to something and would have scorned all alike, but my courage failed me. You know the flesh is strong but the heart is weak. I would like to try that over again; I might do better.

I understand that Steve Wined has got to be a soldier very unexpected to him, through a kind friend of his. Those are the kind of friends that there are around home. I got a letter from Farrow the same time I got yours. He has been rather busy the reason he did not write before. I guess he don’t have much to do nowadays. I hardly think he will make a fortune in that place for it is no better than Eltingville was and that was poor enough. Good night.

December 17th.

Will, if you get tired, just say so and I will stop. But I tell you it does me good to blow Farrow up some time to make him stick to his promise.

Bill Cortelyou has just been in and gave me a letter from Dave. Bill likes to bring my letters over for I give him a drink of Whiskey every time he brings me a letter. That is just what he wants. Dave talks of throwing up his commission for the winter and go home until next Spring. Then come out again if he gets better.

Now I will tell you how I am fixed. I am in the Commissary of the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, with two other boys of my Company, and I tell you we have Bully times. We do our own cooking and wash our own clothes, and in fact, do everything ourselves. The other day we thought we would have some doughnuts so we went at it. We have plenty of lard for we have a baker with us. After so long a time we brought them forth. They were rather tough for we had no eggs to put in them but they done very well for soldiers to eat for we are used to tough and hard things.

If you will favor us with a call on New Year’s Day, will try and use you well. But as far as sleeping goes, you will have to take the soft side of a board like the rest of us. We stole a lot of sheep pelts sone time ago to sleep on but yesterday the man came after them so we had to let them go and take the hard thing again. We live in a small shanty about 14 by 20 — rather small but we get so we can live in a hen coop, if necessary. I wish you could come around some time and see how we live.

Will, this is very nice soldiering but I am afraid it is too going to last long. The 5th, 6th, and 8th Corps have all left here for the Potomac and there are no troops in the Valley but ours, the 19th Corps, and the Cavalry, and there is no telling how soon we will have to pull up stakes and move. Will, I think by the time you get through with this, you will feel kinda tired so I will not detain you any longer for it is getting near on to dinner time so you will please excuse me for this time for it ain’t very often that I feel like writing.

My pious regards to all inquiring friends abd I remain as ever, your humble servant. — P. J. Miller

P.S. We have just received the news of Gen. Thomas’ great victory over Hood. A salute of one hundred guns to be fired; they have just begun. All the Regimental colors are struck on the breastworks. I hope we may hear from Sherman soon and wind up the thing as soon as possible. Yours, — Phil

2nd P.S. I have just had my dinner composed of fried potatoes and ——-ed, tea and bread and butter. — Phil

Addressed to William Taylor, Marshland, Staten Island, New York

Baltimore, Maryland
January 10th 1865


Thinking that it may be some time before you may hear from me again as we are on the move again, but where ti is more than I can tell at present. We left Winchester three days ago and came here. Had a splendid time for it rained all the time and most of our troops were out in the open air. They were about perished with the wet and cold.

Since we have been here we are quartered in Camp Carroll near the city of Baltimore. Yesterday I went in town to taje a look around. There are lots of pretty women about the city. That’s about all the good it does a fellow.

Will, we expect to leave here in a day or so. The first brigade left this morning to embark on board transports and I think by tomorrow it will be our turn.

It is raining very hard and has been most all night and the mud is up to a fellow’s (—- I won’t say), but deep enough, I assure you. We are busy so I will have to close this hasty epistle.

Hoping this may find you all in the enjoyment of good health as I am at present. My kind regards to all enquiring friends &c. I remain ever yours with respect, — P. J. Miller

Co. I, 156th N.Y. Vols.
Washington D.C. or elsewhere
19th Army Corps

Addressed to Mr. William Taylor, Marshland, Staten Island, New York

Savannah, Ga.
January 23rd 1865

Friend Will,

I take this as my first opportunity of letting you know where we are. It may surprise you fully as much as it did me to learn where we are. Left Baltimore on the afternoon of the 13th on board the Steamer Oriental, landed at Fort Monroe on the 15th and took aboard 20 days rations, and put out to sea. Had one stormy dat, the rest of the time being pleasant. From the time we started until we arrived at the mouth of the Savannah River, we did not know where we were bound for. We came in the river on the morning of the 19th and lay in sight of the city until last evening. We came up to the city and landed this morning.

Will, I kinda hated to come down in this part of the world for this is almost as bad as being in Louisiana. Here one can m see the affects of war. Women and children going bare-footed and almost naked and look as if they were half starved — which they are.

It has rained every day since we have been here and the streets are like funnel. The houses are so damp that the moss grows all over the outside of then. That looks kinda healthy (don’t you think so?). This is a splended city if it was not so filthy. If it is not attended to before warm weather, we will all die with the Yellow Fever next summer — that is if we stay until that time. The government has to feed the citizens and Niggers to keep them from starving for all they have here is rice and cotton to eat.

Will, the day I left Baltimore, I received a letter from you. Not having time, I concluded not to answer it until I arrived at our new destination. Happy to hear that you and your family are all well and also the girls. I would like to be home and help you out of your troubles with those girls. I am sorry to hear that you have an opponent on your route. I should think that Bill Thompson had enough of that line by this time.

We have just got into our new quarters in a splendid house on the corner of Bell and Brighton Streets. We expect to have new quarters as soon as Sherman’s troops leave here.

Will, I have not time to tell you all for I have not seen much of this city (yet). I will try next time. Awhile ago I went out and had an oyster stew. What do you think it cost? Why, a dollar — cheap for this living in the South.

I must close for I have not had a good night’s rest since I left Baltimore for we were pretty well crowded on the steamer — 675 men besides the officers.

Hoping this will find you all in the enjoyment of good health as it leaves me at present. My kind regards to all inquiring friends and I remain as ever your old friend.

— P. J. Miller

3rd Brigade, 2nd Division
19th Army Corps,
Savannah, Ga.

Directed to Mr. William Taylor, Marshland, Staten Island, New York

Officer Post Commissary
Augusta, GA
July 9th 1865

Friend Will,

How is things by this time? You are getting to be quite a stranger. I don’t hear anything of you nowadays.

How did the 4th (of July) pass off this year? It was more like Sunday than anything else to me. No fireworks, nobody drunk, no fights — nothing at all. We are expecting to hear of an order that will reach us so that we can go home but I expect if there is an order to muster out, some of the officers will send an application to remain in the service until the Regiment’s time is out. That is what some of the other regiments are doing. They want to stay as long as they can for if they go home, they can’t make half what they do now. And they have the cheek to tell us that if we went home, there would not be a man that could make his 16 dollars a month. That ain’t true. Look out if they take us home and we starve. Thry won’t lose anything by it. I don’t think that there is as much danger of a private soldier starving as there is of an officer & not as much for all they do nowadays is to lay around and drink whiskey and run the streets with whores. I suppose all the Staten Island Company are all home by this time and if we had any kind of officers, we might be there too.

I want to get out of this place for all the places I have ever been in, this is the hottest. It lasts right along every day and no rain to lay the dust. Only think, the mercury yesterday in the sun stood 132 — two degrees over boiling heat. And at 6 in the evening 98. How do you suppose we live in such weather? You can’t sleep or eat or anything else, and the water is so warm that it makes one sick to drink it. And there is no ice excepting what they make and that is 15 cts. per pound. I am getting so poor that I can hardly make a shadow.

One thing — I don’t have to work. All I do is sit in the office and make sales to officers and they are so poor that they don’t buy anything but whiskey. The sales hardly average a hundred dollars a day. That is nothing to what we used to do last winter. They ran as high as 800 a day.

I must close for I am sweating too bad. If I do not get home soon, I would like to hear from you once more for the last letter I got from you was the 10th of April. That is some time ago.

My regards to all your family. I remain as ever yours, — P. J. Miller

P. S. Direct to Co. I, 156th NY Vols., Augusta, GA. for there is no telling how long we will be here. Yours, Phil.

Image 6

Phillip J. Miller’s Service Record



2 thoughts on “Phillip J. Miller, 156th N.Y. Infantry

  1. Pingback: List of Soldiers Letters | Billy Yank & Johnny Reb Letters

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