Harrison Jackson Miller enlisted as a private for a period of three years or until the end of the war, in the 125th Illinois Infantry on 10 August 1862. He was mustered into Company E on 3 September 1862 at Danville, Illinois. Personal Characteristics at the time of enlistment: Residence SIDNEY, CHAMPAIGN CO, IL; Age 29; Height 5' 6 1/2' Hair LIGHT; Eyes GRAY; Complexion DARK; Martial Status MARRIED; Occupation FARMER; Nativity MIDDLETON, HENRY CO, IN. He died at Savannah, Georgia of disease on 15 January 1865.
Harrison would have received a $100 federal bounty for enlisting as well as any state and local bounties in effect which were problably about $27. His monthly pay as a private would have been $13.
The 125th Illinois Infantry Regiment was composed mostly of farm boys/men from Vermilion and Champaign counties.
After a brief rendezvous at Danville for the muster-in on September 3, 1862, the unit moved to Cincinnati, and then across the Ohio to the heights above Covington, Kentucky where the troops began their first military duties.
From the Adjutant General's Report:
'Hitherto they had been provided for by kind and patriotic friends, now they were dependent on the army ration, to be eaten as cooked by novices in the culinary art. Here drill and dress parade, guard and picket duty, and a semblance of discipline, were imposed upon all. Here, too, that scourge of camp life, the measles, broke out and a large number were so disabled as to necessitate their discharge, others lingered in hospital and died, while a few so far recovered as to be returned to their command.'
September 25, the Regiment was ordered to Louisville by transports, and began their first military campaign on October 1. They experienced their first battle on 8 October 1862 at the battle of Perryville, although only in a supportive role.
'...near Perryville on the 8th, there occurred the bloody battle of that name, and though not hotly engaged the Regiment had a splendid opportunity to witness the fierce struggle between others, get its first smell of hostile powder, and to observe the difference between the sharp, keen whistle of a minnie ball and the fierce shriek of shot and shell. Divided in two parts, it was all day supporting batteries, most of the time engaging the enemy. At near the close of the day the rebels made a desperate final charge on these batteries, but were handsomely repulsed by a strong line of infantry, and the Regiment was permitted to pursue flying fugitives, and swell the shouts of victory.'
After Perryville, the Regiment was stationed in Nashville, Tennessee from November 1862 to August 1863, doing the various duties incident to post service.
'In the meantime the Regiment having good opportunity became thoroughly drilled. Here too those who had temporarily broken down on the Kentucky Campaign, or were disabled from sickness and not discharged, were brought up, and by the time the command was required to leave Nashville it was in fine soldierly condition.'
In September 1863, the Regiment came under heavy fire at the battlefield of Chickamauga, where, on the morning of September 19, the brigade they were assigned to came very near being drawn into an ambush and surrounded at Reed's bridge They were under heavy fire for two days. The Regiment engaged in the battle of Missionary Ridge November 25 and 26, 1863.
'Regiment returned, December 18, to Chattanogga nearly barefoot and poorly clad, having accomplished a hard march in very severe weather.'
By the spring of 1864 they were preparing for the battle for Atlanta.
'Thorough drill and wholesome discipline had give the troops a splendid moral but now their best powers of endurance and highest courage were to be put to their severest test. The Atlanta Campaign was to begin, with the destruction of the rebel army for its objective point.'
The battle of Kenesaw Mountain proved to be the hardest of the Regiments history with 120 men killed in a space of just twenty minutes:
'Kenesaw Mountain was fought June 27, and the conspicuous part performed by the Regiment in that bloody conflict entitles it to some special mention. The Brigade charged in column of Regiment against Hardee's strongly protected fortifications, the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth in advance, with supports on right and left. At a few minutes before 9 A.M., the command 'forward' was given, and the lines moved with marked precision, first at quick and then at double-quick step, until, on reaching a descent they encountered a marshy creek, lined on either side with shrubs and thickly matted vines. Already under the enemy's fire, the command relieved itself as rapidly and orderly as possible from this confusion and again turning it face towards the foe, on and up the brave men rushed, with McCook, their gallant leader, at their head, until, first encountering a line of abattis, then of Chevalde frise, some of them gained the parapet and struggled to scale the works. Here McCook fell, mortally wounded, and Colonel Harman, taking instant command, sought to encourage the wavering hopes of his followers, and secure the victory that seemed so nearly and so worthily won, when a rebel bullet pierced his heart, and his remains were borne from the field. Shot and stoned down, completely exhausted by the distance covered and the impetuosity of the charge, the brave men who survived it reformed their lines a few steps to the rear, and partly under cover of the hill, where they immediately began the construction of earthworks. The loss to the Regiment was 120 killed and wounded in the short space of twenty minutes, nearly half of whom, including five officers, were killed outright, and four officers wounded.'
'June 29th, the dead still lying in great numbers between the lines, were in such a state of putrefaction as to have become offensive to both armies, when Colonel Langley, with nothing whiter than a Chicago Tribune for a flag of truce, shook that red-hot sheet in the face of the enemy until they ceased firing, and a truce was arranged for the burial of the dead.'
From the time they crossed the Chattahoochie River on July 18 through the siege of Atlanta on September 1, the command was practically under fire every hour. After a short rest at Atlanta, the Regiment on 16 November 1864 started with Sherman in his famous march to the sea.
Farms were looted for food, houses and farms burned, railroads torn up and destroyed. Sherman's March to the Sea was the first example of 'modern war' taking the war to the supporting population and destroying the will of the population to resist.
The Regiment arrived in Savannah in late December and after a brief siege, occupied the city. Sherman announced his success to President Lincoln in his famous telegram, 'I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.'
Sometime after arriving in Savannah, Harrison Miller became ill and died of disease on 15 January 1865.