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An Uncompromising Secessionist

The Civil War of George Knox Miller, Eighth (Wade's) Confederate Cavalry

Written by George Knox Miller and edited by Richard M. McMurry

Publication Year: 2007

Engaging letters from a gifted and perceptive Confederate cavalry officer.

This book contains the letters of George Knox Miller who served as a line officer in the Confederate cavalry and participated in almost all of the major campaigns of the Army of Tennessee. He was, clearly, a very well-educated young man. Born in 1836 in Talladega, Alabama, he developed a great love for reading and the theater and set his sights upon getting an education that would lead to a career in law or medicine; meanwhile he worked as an apprentice in a painting firm to earn tuition. Miller then enrolled in the University of Virginia, where he excelled in his studies.

Eloquent, bordering on the lyrical, the letters provide riviting first-hand accounts of cavalry raids, the monotony of camp life, and the horror of battlefield carnage. Miller gives detailed descriptions of military uniforms, cavalry tactics, and prison conditions. He conveys a deep commitment to the Confederacy, but he was also critical of Confederate policies that he felt hindered the army's efforts. Dispersed among these war-related topics is the story of Miller's budding relationship with Celestine "Cellie" McCann, the love of his life, whom he would eventually marry. Together, the letters offer significan insight into the life, heart, mind, and attitudes of an intelligent, educated, young mid-19th-century white Southerner.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Several kind friends helped with this project. Paula and Jim Carson, of Anderson, and Rosalind and Ted Tedards, of Greenville, gladly furnished quarters, rations, and local transportation when I spent time in the South Carolina Upcountry seeking information on Knox Miller’s family. Paula (even if she is a Clemson fan) and Rosalind (like me, a...

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Editor's Note

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pp. xi-xiv

These letters are not those of a typical Civil War soldier. Knox Miller was—as his writings demonstrate—a well-educated young man. Readers will be struck by his vocabulary. On occasion he employed words rarely found in the writings of his fellow soldiers. Few Americans of the Civil War era would use such words as “paragon,” “misanthrope,” “apostrophizing...

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Bibliographical Sketch

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p. xv

George Knox Miller, who penned most of the documents in this collection, was born 30 December 1836 in a “double log cabin” in Talladega, Alabama. Local lore has it that Knox, as family and friends called him— no doubt to differentiate him from his father, George—was the first white child born in that community.1 The earliest of Knox Miller’s paternal ancestors to live in the new world was John Miller, printer, of London, who arrived in South Carolina...

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1. Prewar: 14 June 1860 - 11 May 1861

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pp. 1-29

Seven of the letters in this chapter were written by George Knox Miller in 1860 or 1861 during his last months as a law student, all but one of them from Charlottesville, while he attended the University of Virginia. They shed light on Southern college student life in those last antebellum months and on the attitudes of an intelligent...

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2. Early Months at War: 31 May 1862 - 17 April 1862

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pp. 30-70

On 19 April 1861, two days after a state convention meeting in Richmond declared the Old Dominion out of the Union, George Knox Miller left Charlottesville and the University of Virginia to return to Talladega, Alabama, to enter Confederate military service. 1 Anxious to reach home as quickly as possible, he traveled directly southwest..

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3. Battles and Marches: 14 June 1862 - 12 January 1863

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pp. 71-122

The climatic battle that Knox Miller and many others expected near Corinth in the late spring of 1862 did not take place. As the massive Union army inched closer to the Confederates, General Beauregard realized that his much smaller force could not hold the town and that if he attempted to do so his army might be destroyed...

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4. Prison and Retreat: 1 March - 16 July 1863

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pp. 123-144

For almost half a year after the retreat from Stones River, the Confederate army remained in its camps near Tullahoma and along the Duck River in Middle Tennessee. During those months Rebel mounted forces clashed repeatedly with Federal horsemen who covered the Yankee positions around Murfreesboro while most...

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5. Home and Sickness: 15 September - 6 November 1863

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pp. 145-161

In the late summer of 1863 the poor health that had dogged Knox Miller for several months became so bad that he received a welcome, if unorthodox, leave to go home to recuperate. As with many soldiers in many wars, he found the home visit a mixed...

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6. "The Lull That Precedes the Storm": 2 January - 23 April 1864

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pp. 162-197

The two months that elapsed between Miller’s 6 November letter and the next extant documents—those of 2 January 1864 (both of which he misdated “1863”)—witnessed great changes in the fortunes of the Army of Tennessee and in Miller’s personal life....

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7. Cheerfuly into Battle: 4 May - 30 June 1864

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pp. 198-227

Less than two weeks after Knox Miller mailed his letter of 23 April the great campaign that he expected got under way. A Union force of about 110,000 men under the command of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman advanced upon the Confederates at Dalton. The Rebels, who numbered about 55,000 and were soon joined...

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8. The Fight for Atlanta: 1 July - 5 November 1864

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pp. 228-252

The rains that held both armies in the mud around Kennesaw Mountain ended in late June. As soon as the roads dried, Sherman renewed his flanking maneuvers, pushing around the Confederate left and threatening his opponent’s railroad supply line. Within a...

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9. "This Trying Time": 10 November 1864- 23 February 1865

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pp. 252-272

Late on 8 November George Knox Miller reached Talladega for what proved to be his last wartime visit. By that time the military situation had begun to clarify. Hood’s Army of Tennessee was in northwestern Alabama, preparing to cross the Tennessee River and move north. The Federals meanwhile had divided their force...

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10. Postwar: 1865 - 1916

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pp. 273-348

For the first eleven months after the war Knox and Celestine Miller lived with her parents in Equality. Miller helped Major McCann with his farm, and the proceeds from the sale of some cotton that the major had managed to save financed the resumption of the family mercantile business. Miller’s future, however, lay...


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pp. 349-360

E-ISBN-13: 9780817381455
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817315313

Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 213271661
MUSE Marc Record: Download for An Uncompromising Secessionist

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Subject Headings

  • Miller, George Knox, 1836-1916 -- Correspondence.
  • Talladega (Ala.) -- Biography.
  • Alabama -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Cavalry operations.
  • Alabama -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Regimental histories.
  • Soldiers -- Alabama -- Talladega -- Correspondence.
  • Confederate States of America. Army. Cavalry Regiment, 8th.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Personal narratives, Confederate.
  • Confederate States of America. Army of Tennessee.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Regimental histories
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