October 26, 1864: Letter from General William Miller

The following post is part of an ongoing series entitled Civil War Voices from Florida. Each day in October 2014, Florida Memory will post a document from the collections of the State Archives of Florida written exactly 150 years before that date, in October 1864.

Today we venture back to Florida’s capital city and to the headquarters of Brigadier General William Miller, commander of the Florida Reserves. The following is a letter Miller wrote to the commander of the 29th Georgia Battalion, which was involved in several military operations in Florida:

Excerpt from the letterbook of the Florida Confederate Reserves (Collection M90-2, State Archives of Florida).

Excerpt from the letterbook of the Florida Confederate Reserves (Collection M90-2, State Archives of Florida).


Hd. Qurs. Reserves of Fla.
Tallahassee October 26th 1864

Lieut. W.J. Barrett was detailed by order of Brig. Genl. Gardner and subsequently was retained by Major Genl. Patton Anderson commdg […] of Fla., for such time as the commandant [of] conscripts should think necessary. No proper revocation was ever sent to me, and I refused to return Lt. Barrett to his command. This statement is intended to remove all reproach from Lieut. Barrett. The responsibility for this action rests entirely with me.

I am, Colonel, Very Respectfully
Your obdt. svt.
(sgd) Wm. Miller
Brig. Genl. Commdg.

[Recipient] Lieut. Col. Hood
Commdg 29th Ga Batt. Cav.

This letter is fairly routine correspondence between commanders, but it illustrates one of the principal challenges of conducting a complex war without the aid of modern communication technology. Miller is essentially apologizing to Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Hood of the 29th Georgia Battalion for keeping a lieutenant on detail at Tallahassee instead of returning him to his original unit.

It appears Brigadier General William M. Gardner, who commanded the Confederate military district of Florida from late 1863 to early 1864, had singled out Lieutenant Barrett for a detail, possibly as a courier or secretary, and did not send Barrett back to his unit when he (Gardner) was relieved of command by Major General Patton Anderson. Barrett may have come under suspicion for his lengthy absence, and this letter was General Miller’s way of explaining that the lieutenant had not intentionally delayed his return. Had this been the case, it would have been a serious breach of military conduct for Barrett.

Major General James Patton Anderson (photo circa 1860s).

Major General James Patton Anderson (photo circa 1860s).

For more information on Florida in the Civil War, check out the related resources below. Also, come back tomorrow for another edition of Civil War Voices. We’ll head out to Savannah Harbor to check up on Confederate sailor Robert Watson of Key West.

Related Resources on Florida Memory:

Related Resources at the State Archives of Florida:

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