finding your roots

Miles M Miller, Sergt. Co. C. 30th Iowa Vol. Inft.

Kelsey McConnell January 23, 2012

On August 11, 1862, my Great Great Great Grandfather enlisted in the Union Army. He was assigned to the 30th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Company C and spent the next three years fighting in the Civil War. He became a sharpshooter, watched Atlanta fall and marched with Sherman to the sea. I know this because he kept a diary and when, in 1907, the pencil-written original was fading, Miles M. Miller recopied it in ink. He writes, “I don’t suppose it will interest only those who by actual experience know what the Reveille, the long roll, the force march and the shock of Battle stands for.” And he was right. I find the diary fascinating and have been reading and re-reading it since childhood.

The journal shows my ancestor to be calm under pressure, observant and the possessor of a dry sense of humor–“the strains of heartied music was very inspiring, the singing of the Star Spangled Banner and cheering for the old flag was a proper and laudable thing to do. But to exchange mother’s good bed and buckwheat-cakes for army rations and a blanket to lay on the ground was quite another thing. To hire out for three years at 50 cents a day to be shot at looked to be rather a hazardous business.”

The two most poignant parts of the journal, I think, are its first and last pages. On the first, Miles copied a letter his mother wrote him as he was leaving to fight: “This is hard for a mother to do my good Boy. But I know it must be right, as I know our country must be saved. So I bid you farewell and may God who is able to, and through you and other brave Boys save our Country. And may he also shield and protect and return you to me safe is the Prayers of your Mother.”

Miles did return safely to his mother, but that was no easy task. He writes that he left with 104 others and was one of only 28 who made it back.

The last page of the journal reads, “it’s my sincere prayer than none who read this, nor any for all time, may ever be called on to undergo nor endure such hardship. That is the hope and prayer of yours until Reveille, Miles M Miller.” He finished recopying the journal in 1909. Less than a decade later, America would enter World War I.

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  • Arsenal soccer shirt

    April 7, 2012 at 6:25 am

    You have told a very good morale story. I like it.

  • Sharon

    April 24, 2012 at 1:55 am

    What a poignant and wonderful story, Miss McConnell, made even more so because I have Miller ancestry in Iowa.

    Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Warm regards.

  • Reid Taube

    April 27, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Miles M Miller was my mother-in-law’s grandfather. I have a photo copy of Miler’s
    war diary. I would like to chat with you about Miles and his diary, and his granddaughter’s comments about Miles.
    My land line is 603-715-1495.

    I have retyped and copyrighted the diary and plan to get it published.

    Reid Taube

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The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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