An Uncompromising Secessionist

Miller bookHere we have another Lieutenant, George Knox Miller, of the 8th Confederate Cavalry. The 8th was a “mixed” unit, comprised of four companies of Mississippians and six companies from Alabama. Miller was from Talledega, but he got around – he had attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and worked in Memphis for a time.

The “Confederate” designation of the 8th should not be confused with the Confederate Regular Army. That organization was different; the 8th Confederate was a volunteer unit, and bore the designation only because its organization crossed state lines.

Confederate personal accounts are much more rare then Federal ones, and letter collections as good as Millers – all the more rare. The first letter in this collection is written on June 14, 1860; the last, 23 February 1865. He went all through the war, with periodic lapses where letters did not survive or he was incapacitated. They are all addressed to his wife, Celestine, a.k.a. “Cellie.”

Miller’s letters are articulate, opinionated, and well-written. They should be, given his education; they definitely measure up. Knox reports on unit news, war news, and gives considerable detail about his own unit’s movements and actions. He provides ample details (he’s a keen observer, God’s gift to historians.) Miller’s letter of 10 January 1863, for example, describing Murfreesboro, runs for four and a half pages.

Here’s a quick passage concerning Miller’s actions on December 26, in a skirmish with the Federals:

I was on foot and went a little in advance of our lines to find better ground for some of the boys who were very much exposed, and just as I knelt at the root of a tree and was drawing a bead upon a big rascal, a minie ball grazed my pantaloons just above the knee. No great damage was done except tearing the yellow cord that I wear on my pants for a stripe. I had bark knocked into my eyes several times but was not hurt in the least.

It was an inconsequential skirmish, but Miller still conveys the feel of the fight. He has a knack for describing such actions.

The editing, by Richard M. McMurry, is outstanding, informative without being intrusive. McMurry is one of the best of his class of Civil War historians, and it shows in his notes to each letter.

Be forewarned, reader, few Confederate sources will be as richly rewarding to read. As we progress, Union sources will outnumber Confederate sources – such is life with the Army of Tennessee.


4 Responses to “An Uncompromising Secessionist”

  1. Charlie Downs Says:

    It appears that he survived the war. Were you able to find anything about him postwar? It is always interesting to see what they did, where they lived, and when they died.

    • Dave Powell Says:

      Charlie, He lived in Talledega after the war. He was a lawyer, some-time civil servant, and newspaper editor. The book has a lengthy piece on his postwar life. He died about 1915.

  2. Chris Young Says:

    Thanks for sharing Dave! This reminded me, I need to pick up Miller’s letters. Especially because Talladega isn’t too far from home and this is a Western unit. It’s been a while since I’ve picked it up.

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