This week in 1863, the Western Reserve Chronicle published an extract of a letter sent by Capt. Oscar O. Miller of the 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry to his father, Reuben Miller of Warren. The letter had been written "in the field" three weeks earlier:
Dear Father: I sent you a short letter yesterday, informing you of my safety and promising you a more detailed account of the part the 19th took in the past week.
Monday evening, (December) 29th ult., the left wing under Major General Thomas Crittenden came up with the enemy in force near Stones River, Tennessee, about four miles from Murfreesboro. Orders to enter the town that evening had been received from Major General William Rosecrans; but the execution of the order seemed impracticable and it was rescinded.
Tuesday our lines joined those of Major General Alexander McCook's forces on the right, and during the entire day there was considerable skirmishing in front.
Our division was in reserve of the 1st and 2nd - Generals Thomas Wood and John Palmer. The programme for Wednesday was, as is generally understood, that the right wing, under Major General McCook, supported by the center, under Major General George Thomas, was to engage the enemy in front, while the left wing should cross the river and swing around into Murfreesboro, in the enemy's rear.
At about 8 o'clock, the 19th led the division across and sent forward skirmishers, advancing nearly half a mile when we heard sharp firing almost directly in our rear. An aide de camp rode up in haste with orders to recall our skirmishers and recross the river immediately, which we did without loss of time.
When we came to the rise of ground near our bivouac of the previous night, a scene of the most indescribable confusion met our eyes. Thousands upon thousands of men, batteries of artillery, ambulances, wagons and riderless horses retreating in the most utter confusion, while cannon balls, shells and leaden missiles of every description filled the air with their whirring noise.
A few unseen batteries checked the advance of the enemy in the center, until they reformed to support them. (We are not the 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, Left Wing, instead of 11th Brigade, 5th Division.)
The 1st Brigade was ordered to the extreme right where the enemy was driving our men, and had nearly reached the turnpike in our rear. Several brigades broke through our lines while we moved to our position. Through all these unfavorable circumstances our men kept cool and constantly reformed their files after being broken through.
When they had all passed us, the order "File by file; commence firing" was given, and officers who were near us said they had never heard such a continuous roar of musketry as was delivered by our men.
General Rosecrans came up and asked the name of the regiment; being answered "the 19th Ohio" he said "I can trust you to save us," and soon ordered a charge. The rebels fled at the first charge but rallied somewhat, when another volley and another charge completely dislodged them. Lieutenant Denarge was killed at or about this time.
We were then relieved by the 79th Indiana, and advanced in the second line about 3/4 of a mile, when a heavy column of fresh troops of the enemy broke through our right support and under heavy enfilading fire we were compelled to change front to the right and rear. After this was executed the enemy came up on the field we had just left, their colors plainly indicating that a double line was advancing upon us.
We again opened fire and the Board of Trade Battery, from an eminence in our rear, poured destruction into the rebel ranks. Again they fell back, and having saved the day, the 1st Brigade became reserve again.
Captain Henry Stratton was wounded when we changed front. He has shown himself brave and fearless, and is highly esteemed.
Many encomiums and compliments were paid us by all parts of the army for our action that day. During the night, we were sent back to the Left Wing, and Thursday morning the 3rd Division crossed the river again. Our regiment and the 9th Kentucky were held in reserve all day, and until 4 o'clock p.m. Friday when a heavy column marched against us and broke through our front lines. The reserve was ordered forward, double quick.
Again we had the most unfavorable circumstances to contend with, vis: broken front lines passing through as we advanced. Yet in no instance did a man straggle from our ranks.
When we commenced firing, the rebels were within fifty feet of the right of our regiment, advancing in three lines against our unsupported line while their artillery was playing upon us at the same time. We had feared all day that they would come in just as they did, but were assured of support on our right.
The right broke off by files, and the order to fall back was given three times before the left wing of the regiment understood it. We lost Captain Bean, Lieutenant Job Bell, and Sergeant Major Tayler there, as gallant men as ever went into battle.
One great advantage the enemy had made it necessary for us to cross the river until our batteries could be brought into position. When this was effected, we rallied as well as we could and the colors of the 19th were seized by Lieutenant Reefy, who was commissioned but a few weeks ago, and were the first to recross the river, those of the 9th following, closely, carried by a boy 17 years of age.
Colonel Grider, commanding Brigade, took of colors of his regiment, and rode ahead, cheering on his men. Those two colors were planted on three guns of the celebrated "Washington Artillery" of New Orleans, which were captured by our men.
Reinforcements now formed in on our right and left, and the rebels gave way, our men occupying more ground on the left that night than before. Our Division was now relieved by fresh troops, and very soon got the most of our men together and brought in our wounded and killed.
Heavy work for us; our loss in the two days fighting is over 200 out of 450. Lieutenant Reed has sent a list of the casualties in Company C. I have lost two killed, 9 wounded, and three missing (probably prisoners) of 34, I started with from Nashville.
We have now present about 250. So many instances of individual bravery and coolness, I could not have expected.
NOTE: Oscar O. Miller, 23, and his younger brother, Horace M. Miller, 21, had both enlisted in the "Trumbull Rifles" Company C of the 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in 1861. In March 1862, Oscar was commissioned as an officer in the regiment. Horace had become ill and was sent home to Warren, where he died on April 11, 1862.
While on leave, Oscar married Frances Harmon in Warren on March 23, 1864. Returning to his regiment, Oscar Miller, now holding the rank of captain, participated in the Atlanta Campaign. On Sept. 2, 1864, Capt. Miller was killed in action at Jonesboro, Ga., south of Atlanta.
The Miller brothers are both buried in the family plot at Warren's Oakwood Cemetery next to their parents.
Compiled by members of the CW150 Committee of Warren's Sutliff Museum.