Biography of William A. Miller
By Bruce Kindig and Dee Shappell
A special thanks to Dee Shappell, a descendent of Will Miller Sr., for providing much of the information in this biography.
William A. Miller was born on a farm near Monroe, Louisiana on August 15, 1842. In May of 1861 he enlisted in a company of cavalry being organized in his home region and was sent north into Missouri arriving just after the Battle of Oak Hills. His company was then transferred to the light artillery under the command of Captain D. W. Harris of Homer, La. Harris had been recruiting men for the artillery service and delivered the company to Columbus, Kentucky in November of 1861 shortly after the Battle of Belmont. Columbus was being built into a fortress to block the Mississippi River from Union forces gathering at Cairo, Ill. Will Miller was assigned to Bankhead’s battalion.
The records are not clear about his service for the next year. It appears that he already has the rank of sergeant but he claims to remain in Harris’s Company. Smith P. Bankhead could have been his actual captain but he does not appear on any of the muster rolls for 1861 or 1862 in Bankhead’s Company. The artillery at Columbus included many batteries but there was no battalion organization at this time. Captain Harris returned to southern Arkansas in the spring of 1862 to do further recruiting for Captain Bankhead and will return with 32 recruits in April, shortly after the Battle of Shiloh.
What is certain is that Will Miller did serve with the artillery in Polk’s Corps where he served at New Madrid and then traveled through Ft. Pillow on his way to Corinth, Miss. He participated in the Battle of Shiloh although his company is unknown. Will Miller claims to have commanded Harris’s Company at Shiloh as First Sergeant and that the company was reduced from 108 to 38 members. No records show a Harris Battery at Shiloh and no artillery unit ever experienced that kind of casualty rate, not even the batteries overrun at Missionary Ridge. At any rate, he did fight at Shiloh apparently with a section of artillery.
After Shiloh he retreated with the army to Corinth where it is uncertain which battery he served with, but he remained in Mississippi while the rest of the Army of Tennessee invaded Kentucky in the fall of 1862. After the Battle of Stone’s River Will Miller was transferred to Scott’s Battery and served as First Sergeant during the Tullahoma campaign. He is on the battery roster and received pay in April 1863. He was either transferred or furloughed by August 1863 and did not take part in the Battles of Chickamauga and Chattanooga.
Will Miller received a 40 day furlough in the winter of 1863-4 and returned to his mother in Monroe, La. At this time he married his sweetheart Emma Whetstone. Although he enjoyed his time at home Will said, “The pleasure of being at home was greatly marred by meeting the bereaved fathers and mothers of the faithful boys who had died by my side.”
Sergeant Miller was ordered to report to Gen. T. C. Hindman at Little Rock at the conclusion of his furlough. He served several months on Hindman’s staff but with his artillery knowledge he was promoted to First Lieutenant in Hughey’s Arkansas Battery (aka. 8th Arkansas Artillery Battery) in Gen. W.L. (“Old Tige”) Cabell’s Brigade. He was in command of the battery on several occasions and fought in the Battles of Cane Hill, Prairie Grove, Fayetteville, Honey Springs, Mulberry Mountain, Portau, Blackbone Mountain, Prairie, D’Ane, Marks’ Mill and Jenkins’ Ferry in Missouri and Arkansas. In December 1864 he was wounded in the knee and for the rest of his life he will walk with a crutch. His war service had ended. After the war he went by the title of Captain but it is unclear if he was actually promoted to that rank.
After the war Will Miller moved to Lafayette Co. Arkansas and in 1873 moved to Texas. In 1878 he was living in Decatur, Texas. In 1884-l888 he was the district Court Clerk and he organized the Will A. Miller Land Company in Decatur. By 1903 the Land Company had sold 1.25 million acres of panhandle ranch lands. In 1905 he moved from Decatur to Amarillo, Texas.
Will and Emma Miller had six children, Nannie born in 1866, Robert Lee Miller born in 1868, Will Jr. born in 1871, Emma born in 1873, Jeb Stuart born in 1878 and Alma born in 1882. Two of his sons were partners with him in his land business. Robert became a physician; Will Jr. became a lawyer and ran the land company in Amarillo while Jeb Stuart ran the land company in Decatur. Will was also active in Confederate Veterans activities and organized the Ben McCollouch Camp No. 30 of the United Confederate Veterans in Decatur Texas in 1886. Will became a Colonel commanding the Texas Panhandle Regiment of the U.C.V. receiving honors and giving speeches in Texas and Oklahoma as late as 1915. Will A. Miller is buried in the Riverside Cemetery in Witchita Falls, Texas. His daughter Nannie Miller Beard helped organize U.D.C. Will A. Miller Chapter No. 1372 in Amarillo, Texas.
Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray, 1861-1865, pp. 518-9
Confederate Veteran, Vol. III, No. 5
Confederate Veteran, Vol. VI, p. 371
Confederate Veteran, Vol. XXIII, No. 7, 1915
Confederate Military History p. 546-8
Pioneer History of Wise County by Cliff D. Cates, pp. 374-6. 446, 448
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