Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Just One Family (In Photos)

Michael Miller - Company B, 30th WI
Since the holiday season is upon us, I thought in the spirit of family I would share a group of family portraits. They belong to just one family that went through the American Civil War. Based purely on visual senses, it is estimated that these photos were taken around the outbreak of the war, or even into 1862.

Michael Miller (also spelled Moeller) was born in 1813 and emigrated to the United States with his wife Mary Ann (1812-1886) before 1850 from Hessen, Germany in search of a new life. They settled in Mineral Point, Iowa County, Wisconsin, an area that at that time was filling with many German immigrants.  Not only was the landscape perfect for agriculture, but it probably reminded many of these people of home as well.  Michael was a farmer and according to the 1850 census owned property at a value of $300.00. He and his wife had four children; John (1842- ), Casper (1847-1931), Mary (1851-1914) and Nicholas (1853- ).

As the Civil War broke out in 1861, Michael kept to working the family farm at Mineral Point, Wisconsin (property valued by that time up to $1,000 - Personal Property Value $200), but finally in
1862, he could no longer hold out. After President Lincoln's call for 100,000 men he enlisted in Company B, 30th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry on August 15, 1862 at the age of 49. Yes, he certainly was among the older soldiers in the 30th, and for that matter in almost any regiment. The 30th Wisconsin did not see the glory that other units experienced on famous battlefields across the south, but spent most of its time assisting expeditions into Indian territory in northwest Minnesota and even into the Dakota Territory. This is largely a forgotten front of the American Civil War and it was dirty and inhospitable business from so many perspectives. Similarly to today's situation in parts of the world, these men on the frontier had great difficulty distinguishing between friend and foe. Their job was to keep that balance from tipping on the periphery while the country tore itself apart. Although names like Shiloh or Gettysburg did not adorn their banners, the job was equally as important. The 30th Wisconsin also guarded prisoner of war camps and eventually moved to Kentucky later in the war for garrison duty. Michael Miller was one of the regiment's wagoners during his service. He served nearly his entire enlistment until being mustered out of Federal service after the cessation of hostilities on August 14, 1865 due to disability.

Michael's wife, Mary Ann
After the war, Michael returned to his farm where he lived with his family, the sun starting to set on his life's journey. He died on January 27, 1876 at the age of 63.  It is also believed that his son, John, served during the later stages of the war (1864-65) in the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry. Unfortunately he must have died fairly young as well because the records are very foggy. The rest of the family eventually moved with the only daughter (Mary Miller Prideaux) and her husband to Saint Paul, Minnesota where they lived out their lives and expanded the family.  They must have remained somewhat close because Mary Ann Miller (mother), Mary Miller Prideaux and Casper Miller (and his wife) are all buried together at Oakland Cemetery in St. Paul.

This brief story of course barely scratches the surface of the life these folks lived, but they were just like so many families today when the cruel winds of war severed the family bond. Even those family's that survived unscathed, moved on from the war years greatly changed. These changes along with a pervading perseverance allowed the country to start living again, healing, and moving forward in an effort to build something better out of the ashes of that terrible conflict. The reconstruction was even more complicated than the fighting of course, but the hope of that "new birth of freedom" to which Lincoln ingrained in the minds of Americans at least had an opportunity to expand...
Of course 150 years later, the difficulties of that postwar era were just beginning, but during this holiday season we have a lot to be thankful for.

John Miller
Nicholas Miller
Mary Miller Prideaux
Casper J. Miller

Michael Miller in civilian attire


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