Posted By Norman Gasbarro on February 19, 2017
William Henry Miller was born in January 1846 in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania. He was the son of John Miller (1812-1857) and Mary Jane [Bryan] Miller (1811-1868). John Miller, the father, was the grandson of Capt. Johann Philip Christian Enders. The 1850 census portion (shown above from Ancestry.com), is from Halifax Township, Dauphin County, where the family lived at the time.
Russ Ottens has written the following concerning the Civil War experience of William Henry Miller:
On 4 Sep 1862, William enlisted in Company D, 11th Kansas Infantry. His mother had to give her consent for her sixteen-year old son to enlist and her signature appears with his declaration of recruit. His father had died on 26 Jan in Topeka, Kansas, and was buried there. The family had moved to Kansas sometime after 1850. William’s records describe him as 5’2″ with a fair complexion, blue eyes, light hair and by occupation, a farmer. His regiment was organized at Camp Lyon near Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, between 29 Aug 1862 and 14 Sep 1862. Their first action was at Old Fort Wayne or Beattie’s Prairie in the Cherokee Nation, near Marysville on 22 Oct 1862. This was followed by engagements in Arkansas at Cane Hill, Boston Mountains, and Reed’s Mountain. On 6 Dec 1862, the 11th Kansas Infantry fought in the fierce Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas. Sergeant William Casper Haynes, the husband of his sister, Elicia Jane Miller, wrote a letter to Elicia describing the carnage of this day….
The regiment then made an expedition over the Boston Mountains to Van Buren, Arkansas, 27 December 1862 to 31 December 1862 In January 1863, the regiment was ordered to Springfield, Missouri. The weather was bitterly cold and streams were swollen with dangerous currents. A halt was made at Crance Creek, thirty miles south of Springfield, where measles and sickness of all kinds broke out in camp, causing many deaths. The men came to speak of this locality as “the Valley of the Shadow of Death.” On 17 February 1863, they moved to Forsyth, Missouri, thence to Fort Scott, Kansas. The regiment was on furlough in March, then moved from Fort Scott to Salem, Missouri, thence to Kansas City, Missouri, 6 April 1863 to 20 April 1863. That month, the infantrymen were were given mounts and regimental designation was changed to the 11th Kansas Cavalry. This change was by order of General Schofield, intended as a reward for the excellent service rendered by the men.
The 11th Kansas Cavalry was assigned to duty on the eastern border of Kansas until Oct 1864. They were involved in operations against Col. William C. Quantrill‘s raid into Kansas 20 August 1863 to 28 August 1863. There was action at Scott’s Ford, Missouri on 14 Oct 1863 and Deep Water Creek the following day. Next came operations against the famous raid by Gen. Sterling Price in Missouri and Kansas. These included engagements in Missouri at Lexington on 19 Oct, Little Blue River 21 Oct (here Company D fought as dismounted cavalry, holding the center with companies C and K), Independence, Big Blue and State Line 22 Oct, Westport 23 October 1863, Cold Water Grove 24 October 1863, and finally into Kansas at Mine Creek and Little Osage river on 25 October 1863. Gen. Price and what remained of his original force of nearly 12,000 men retreated into Texas, marking the end of any major Confederate resistance in the western theater of the war.
The regiment was ordered to Fort Riley, Kansas, in December 1864. On 20 February 1865, the regiment moved to Fort Kearney in present-day Nebraska, a distance of 200 miles covered in twelve days under severe winter snow, rain and cold, arriving on 4 March 1865. Two days later, they headed to Fort Laramie in present-day Wyoming, 400 miles to the northwest. Once again, the weather was harsh, with only two points en route for resupply. The 11th Kansas Cavalry arrived at Fort Laramie on 9 April 1865. Here they received word by telegraph of successes near Petersburg, causing great rejoicing. Little did they know that on that very day, General Robert E. Lee had surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House. A halt was made at Fort Laramie, the regiment being ordered to Platte Bridge, 130 miles west. The regiment’s remaining duty was guarding telegraph lines and operating against Cheyenne and Sioux Indians in the Dakota Territory. Interestingly, some of the fighting force of this area consisted of “Galvanized Yankees,” former Confederate soldiers who had been captured, swore loyalty to the United States and agreed to go west to fight the Indians. On 13 August 1865, the 11th Kansas Cavalry was relieved of duty and ordered to Fort Leavenworth for mustering out.
During its service, the 11th Kansas Cavalry lost 61 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded and 2 officers and 110 enlisted men who died of disease. Unfortunately, William was one of those statistics. Three months to the day after General Joe Johnston surrendered the Confederate Army of Tennessee in North Carolina, WIlliam was killed while defending a wagon train attacked by Indians at Platte Bridge in the Dakota Territory on 26 Jul 1865. Through two and a half difficult years of war, young William Henry Miller served as a drummer boy, a farrier, and a wagoner. He was promoted to Corporal on 28 Mar 1863, but returned to the rank of Private for being absent without leave in Feb 1863. Without knowing the circumstances surrounding his absence, we must not assume it was for dishonorable reasons. We do know that William and the rest of the men in his regiment suffered great hardships and saw horrible sights. Ironically, it was not a Confederate soldier that snuffed out young William’s life. Imagine how bittersweet it must have been for William Casper Haynes to return home to his wife Elecia after a three year absence, having to report that her brother was killed by Indians about two weeks before he was to have been mustered out! The Kansas State Historical Society has many of the letters Sgt. Haynes wrote home to Elecia during the war. Most of them reassured Elecia that her brother William was all right. Tragically, he could not give her the same reassurance upon his return from the war.
Additional information is sought on William Henry Miller, who has a definite connection with the geographic area of this Civil War Research Project. Comments can be added to this post or information can be sent by e-mail.