Jacob Miller was a Union soldier at The Battle of Chickamauga (where a badass drummer boy also participated). He served in Company K of the 9th Indiana Infantry, in the middle of the bloodiest battle, second only to Gettysburg in terms of casualties. At Chickamauga, the Confederate Army of the Tennessee attacked the Union Army of the Cumberland with the aim of recapturing Chatanooga from the Federals. Miller was one of the casualties. Unfortunately, he was hit with a bullet right between his eyes, and it bore a hole and just about entered his brain. He instantly fell.
This could be the end of a tragic story, just like what happened to the others, but Miller chose to persist and live. His troops thought he was dead, and we couldn’t blame them. I mean, who would believe that a man shot on the forehead, covered in blood, would still be alive?
But Miller was indeed alive.
His account of the battle was written on the Daily News Joliet I11. Here’s what happened, as per Miller:
“When I came to my senses some time after I found I was in the rear of the confederate line. So not to become a prisoner I made up my mind to make an effort to get around their line and back on my own side. I got up with the help of my gun as a staff, then went back some distance, then started parallel with the line of battle. I suppose I was so covered with blood that those that I met, did not notice that I was a Yank, (at least our Major, my former captain did not recognize me when I met him after passing to our own side).”
He refused to be held captive by the Confederates. Despite his situation, he got up and went to the end of the confederate line. He then struck an old road and followed it the best that he could, all while having to raise the lid of his already swollen right eye so he could see ahead. He had to lie down on the side of the road because he was understandably exhausted (that might be an understatement). As he said, no one recognized that he was from the other side, so some bearers came along and brought him to a hospital. He exited the next day without being noticed. To cut the story short, after all his agony and persistence, he made it back to safety. Here’s what happened next:
“In all the hospitals I was in I begged the surgeons to operate on my head but they all refused.
I suffered for nine months then I got a furlough home to Logansport and got Drs. Fitch and Colman to operate on my wound. They took out the musket ball. After the operation a few days, I returned to the hospital at Madison and stayed there till the expiration of my enlistment, Sept. 17, 1864. Seventeen years after I was wounded a buck shot dropped out of my wound and 31 years after two pieces of lead came out.”
In case you’re wondering how he felt about all the hullabaloo that happened to him, he’s what he had to say:
“Some ask how it is I can describe so minutely my getting wounded and getting off the battle field after so many years. My answer is I have an everyday reminder of it in my wound and constant pain in the head, never free of it while not asleep. The whole scene is imprinted on my brain as with a steel engraving.
I haven’t written this to complain of any one being in fault for my misfortune and suffering all these years, the government is good to me and gives me $40.00 per month pension.”
Miller lived with an open, infected wound in his forehead that required daily cleaning for another 54 years. He married and had a child. He once said the only release from his pain was when he slept. He was also stuck with the nickname of “Center Shot” to add mild insult to grave injury. Miller lived the incredible age of eighty-eight.