Monday, January 29, 2007
When the War Between the States broke out in April, 1861, Franklin would have been 37 years of age, his wife, 36. The children that we are aware of, would have been 12 and just under 2 years. Franklin enlisted in the Union Army in Allentown, Lehigh County and presumably this is where he had his home.
Franklin Miller was among many Lehigh Countians that enrolled on October 21, 1861, in the three-year volunteer regiment known as the Fifty-fourth Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment. Company K' was made up of men from Lehigh County. Other Pennsylvania counties represented in the Fifty-fourth were Cambria, Somerset, Dauphin and Northampton. The regiment was organized at Camp Curtin where the men were drilled by squads and companies.
The regiment was ordered to Washington on the 27th of February, 1862. In late March, the regiment was sent to Haper's Ferry where they would be disbursed up and down the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Each company was assigned to a bridge that crossed a local creek. The total distance that the regiment protected was fifty-six miles of railroad tracks, or more correctly, the bridges along these fifty-six miles.
Company K' under the command of Captain Edmond R. Newhard was assigned to guard the bridge at Little Cacapon Bridge, which was more than fifty miles from Martinsville, Virginia and the second furthest from the first detachment.
The area was swarming with Rebel guerrilla bands that harassed the citizens that harbored northern sympathies and were bent on destroying the railroad bridges of the B&O. On the morning of October 4, 1863, A Confederate guerrilla band struck Company K's position. The men of Company K were at roll call and were caught off-guard. Although they attempted to resist the hostile force, the odds were too great and they had to yield. Thirty-five of the company escaped; but Captain Newhard, and fifty of his men were captured. Seven of the men were wounded. The enemy had two killed and eight wounded. The rebel force then moved on to the next station and completely surprised Company B. The entire company was taken prisoner.
The prisoners were taken to Libby Prison at Richmond, Virginia where they were held until exchanged in December, 1863. It is not known if Franklin Miller was among those imprisoned at Libby or was among those that escaped. At any rate, those of Company B and K that were taken prisoner were returned to their unit which had, in the meantime, been assigned to the Eight Corps, Third Brigade of the Second Division. With this new assignment, the regiment was no longer involved in the trying duty of defending the railroad from attack.
In the latter part of 1863, the unit saw service in West Virginia, a new state that had been created from the northwest portion of Virginia just the past June. In early 1864 the Fifty-fourth Regiment was stationed at Cumberland, Maryland while rotating companies were garrisoned at nearby Patterson Creek, West Virginia. On one such night in February, 1864, Company F' was captured by rebel forces while doing duty at Patterson Creek. By this time, the exchange program between the North and the South, had been suspended, The men of Company F' were sent to the newly opened Camp Sumter at Andersonville, Georgia. As time past, this prison would become infamous for its cruel and inhuman conditions and would come to be known simply as 'Andersonville Prison'.
On May 15, 1864, the Fifty-fourth was ordered to New Market to join in an existing campaign to drive the rebel forces out of the Shenandoah Valley. When the unit arrived at New Market, the battle was already raging. The regiment fell in behind the twelfth West Virginia Infantry Regiment until the twelfth shifted to the right. The Fifty-fourth moved into the gap and became the last unit on the Union left flank. When the West Virginia unit charged the Confederate right, the commander of the Fifty-fourth gave a similar order and the men of the regiment charged the Confederate line. The Fifty-fourth laid down an effective fire although they suffered a galling and destructive fire that killed or wounded many of the regiments men. At one point, the rebel left faltered and a replacement unit made up of VMI Cadets moved into the breach and continued to pour a blistering fire into the men of the Fifty-fourth. The Twelfth West Virginia began to withdraw, leaving the right of the Fifty-fourth exposed while simultaneously the rebel force began a flanking movement around their exposed left. Colonel Campbell, in an effort to avoid being surrounded, ordered the regiment to withdraw, which it did in an orderly and controlled fashion.
At the outset of the battle, the Fifty-fourth had 566 men engaged. After the battle ended, the regiment had lost five commissioned officers killed or mortally wounded and 2 wounded and brought off the field. Of the enlisted men, 27 were known to have been killed, and 42 were wounded, all of whom fell into enemy hands. An additional 98 wounded men were brought off the field of battle.
It is believed that Franklin Miller was among those wounded and captured at New Market. Like the men of Company F, the captured Union soldiers of the Fifty-fourth were taken to Andersonville Prison in Georgia. The prison had been built in February, 1864 and was designed to hold 10, 000 prisoners in an open stockade with no protection from the elements. At one time, in July 1864, the prison held more than 32,000 Union prisoners in foul, unsanitary conditions, with scant food supplies and virtually no fresh vegetables or water. Before the inmates of the prison were released, almost 13,000 Union soldiers had died. The dead were buried outside the prison walls in graves marked with a number.
Franklin Miller, Private, Company K, Fifty-fourth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers died on October 27, 1864. He is buried at Andersonville, Georgia in grave number 11,542.
Altogether, 27 men from the Fifty-fourth Regiment died at Andersonville. Most of the men were formerly with Company F' of the Fifty-fourth. There will be more on Andersonville on this blog at a later date.
The Miller family has a family plot at the Union and West End Cemetery in Allentown, Pennsylvania. In the family plot next to the monument that marks Sabilla Miller's grave is a similar monument that marks an empty grave. The monument is inscribed as follows:
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