Portraits of Privates

A Thanksgiving Letter Home

The below letter was written by Charles Clarence Miller (1843-1912), Gates, Monroe county, New York. In the 1860 US Census, 16 year-old Charles was enumerated in his parents household in Gates where he attended school and worked as a farm laborer.

140th NY depicted at Saunders Field

In August 1862, he enlisted with Company D of the 140th New York Zouvaes. At the time, he was 19, but lied and said he was 20. He was described as as brown-eyed, sandy-haired farmer who stood 5 feet 5 inches tall. I you remember from the post about Saunders Field in the Wilderness, it was the 140th NY that sustained heavy casualties when charging Johnson’s works on the edge of the field.

He mustered out of the regiment on 3 June 1865 at Alexandria, Virginia and survived the war to return home to his parents. 

Upon his first Thanksgiving away from home, his thoughts went back to the farm in New York…


Thursday, November 27th 1862
Camp near Fredericksburg

Dear parents,

Today is Thanksgiving and having a few leisure moments I thought that I could not spend them in any better way than writing to you again to let you know that I am still well and all the rest of the boys from Gates. Fred Shane is not very well. He has got a cold. Last night I asked him how he would like to be at home and up to our house tomorrow eating turkey or even some potatoes. He said that if we had minded what the folks told us, we might have been there. But now we are here, we will have to stay till our time is out. You may think that I am getting tired of it by what I have said but I am not yet and hope that I never will. To be sure, I think of home some times and how I would like to be there but it is of no use now and so I will try to keep from getting sick if I can and I may one day return home to meet you again if God is willing that I should. But if I am shot, I can never meet you again on earth but I hope that we may all meet in heaven where there is no war.

Since I wrote to you we have moved on again towards Aquia Creek and Fredericksburg. There is about 40 thousand rebels at Fredericksburg. We are in camp only two and one half miles from there but we have a very large force here but it will be a very hard place to take, I think, on the account of crossing the river as there is no bridge over the river. But we could easy burn the city by throwing shells into it as we are elevated so much higher than it. They have given them so long a time to surrender and if they do not, we will burn it to ashes.

You wanted to know what we have to eat. The papers, I suppose, say that we have nothing to eat half of the time but that is not so. We have all that is necessary for us to eat—fresh meat most every other day, and good fat pork & bacon, and ten hardtacks a day, and vegetable soup twice a week besides some vinegar and other things. But I must bring my letter to a close as it is a getting late at night. With these few lines you can tell Miss Warner that her husband is well be he would like to be at home. I suppose that Maggie is there yet and that she is well. You must tell her to stay there till I come back—if I do—and tell her to write a letter. Tell my sister that I send my love to her and hope that she will go to the Sabbath School and learn to be good and if I never meet her on earth again, that I may meet her on Canaan’s happy plains where there will be no parting there.

But I must bid you goodbye for this time. Write when you can get time. From your true and obedient son, — Charles C. Miller

N. B. Thursday night we got part of our old mail that we had not got in three weeks. I got four letters but not one from home. I hope that you will send some postage stamps. If you have not, there is about a bushel more of old mail to come in yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s