MS-096: John Miner Letters
MS - 096: John W. Miner Letters
(2 boxes, .54 cubic feet)
Inclusive Dates: 1864-1869
Bulk Dates: 1864-1865 and 1869
Processed by Matt Gross, Class of 2010
Provenance: Gift of Mr. Fred Mahar
John William Miner was born in 1828, but nothing in particular is known about his place of birth or childhood. It is known that prior to the Civil War he served ten years of military service. Before his Civil War service he resided in Wellsville, Ohio with his wife Annie and his four children: Charley, Lizzie, Emma, and Carrie. According to records he joined the 7th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry as a substitute on June 23, 1864 at the age of 36. His enlistment in New Jersey was a result of Ohio not offering the proper enlistment materials at the time.
Miner was originally a Corporal of Company K of the 7th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Division of the 2nd Corps of the Army of the Potomac. In mid-October of 1864 he was reassigned to Company C after Company K had been reduced to a mere 18 men. Though Miner states he is a Corporal Lance Sergeant (Sept. 5, 1865) he never achieved the rank of Full Sergeant, and the amount of time he served as Lance Sergeant is unknown (a Lance Sergeant temporarily serves in the position of Sergeant). As a member of the 7th New Jersey he fought primarily around Petersburg, Virginia during the siege of that city. His first battle experience was at the First Battle of Deep Bottom in late July of 1864. The unit was later placed on reserve duty outside of Petersburg where he would witness the Battle of the Crater. Beginning in Mid-August of 1864, his unit participated in a series of engagements at the Second Battle of Deep Bottom, the Battle of Globe Tavern, and the Battle of Second Ream's Station. These actions resulted in the acquisition of a large part of the Weldon Railroad for the Union, gained primarily during the Battle of Globe Tavern. However, heavy combat and defeat at both the Second Battle of Deep Bottom and the Second Battle of Ream's Station left the II Corp under Maj. Gen. Hancock tired and battered. These three battles encompass the most intense combat that Miner would experience during his Civil War service.
Following these engagements his unit spent a month and a half stationed first at Fort Crawford and then at Fort Davis. Mid-October brought the Battle of the Boydton Plank Road in an attempt to further cut Confederate avenues of communication and transportation. With the coming of cold weather, Miner and the 7th New Jersey saw little action and were stationed first at Fort Michael where they began to construct winter quarters at Catlet Station. However, his unit was abruptly pulled from their camps and sent on a series of raids on the Weldon and South Side railroads and into Sussex County where Miner recounts burning the county capital, Sussex. Upon return from the raids, the 7th New Jersey was stationed at both Fort Green and Fort Warren.
In the beginning of January, Miner left his unit due to a severe case of scurvy and was first sent to a hospital near Petersburg. When his condition did not improve he was sent to City Point, Virginia and finally to Annapolis, Maryland where he stayed in the Division No. 1 General Hospital until early May of 1865. During this time, he continued to keep up with news and his letters are filled with information on national events during the last months of the Civil War. In mid-May, he was transferred to Baltimore and after being moved from Patterson Park Hospital to Hicks General Hospital he was discharged on June 9, 1865.
Around 1869, Miner recollects being cheated out of work in Ohio by his brother-in-law Wilson. Entering into steamboat work, he found the labor to be too strenuous and was laid up for eight days in Nashville after one work trip. He enlisted in the military due to of a lack of money and a subsequent need for medical care. Since the infantry was not recruiting at the time, Miner joined Company F of the 4th Cavalry Regiment headed for Fort Griffin, Texas. The unit sailed from New York in April 1869 and arrived at Fort Griffin the beginning of June 1869. The garrison's main duty was patrols to secure the area from Indians and horse thieves to protect the settlers of the area. However Miner's health once again took a downturn. As a result, for the majority of his stay in Texas he was ill and trying to obtain a discharge. The exact date of his discharge is unknown, but it is estimated that he was discharged and traveled home sometime in late October of 1869. John W. Miner died on an unknown date in 1869 at the age of 43.
Scope and Content Note
The bulk of the collection contains the letters of John W. Miner to his wife Anna throughout his service in the Civil War with the 7th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry at Petersburg, Virginia and his service in the 4th US Cavalry at Fort Griffin, Texas. Miner's letters are most valuable when used as a tool to study the perceptions of the Civil War soldier regarding battles and national events.
A variety of information is contained within the letters ranging from personal narratives on camp life to national events news. Some of Miner's most interesting letters are about battles, the election of 1864, and the assassination of Lincoln. Miner's personal opinions are very evident throughout the letters and his love of Lincoln and attitudes towards the Rebels and the Copperheads are noteworthy. One of the most interesting aspects of his letters is his perceptions of casualty numbers after various battles, with most all of the estimates being skewed immensely in the Union's favor.
The only photographs in the collection are of the women of the family, dated 1882, and a reproduction of a photograph of Miner. A number of miscellaneous envelopes, a few undated letters, and a letter to Mrs. Miner from her brother in 1872 are also included. Though a large gap exists between the January and March 1865 letters, the collection is organized in chronological order with sub-series assigned to groups of letters that correspond with events or locations.
The collection is divided into two series. Series I: Civil War Letters (7th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry) June 28, 1864- June 12, 1865. Series 2: Texas Letters (4th US Cavalry) March 12, 1869- October 17, 1869.