Page 8: Wartime obituary of Orderly J. F. M' Millen, including a portion of an early wartime letter to his mother; Correspondence from the front: Nov. 30, 1861 letter to the editor of New Castle paper from Rev. Robert Audley Browne, Regimental Chaplain;
Death of J. F. M’Millen.
It is with no ordinary feelings of pain that we announce the death of Orderly J. Ferris M’MILLEN, of Capt. Van Gorder’s Co., Roundhead regiment. Mr. M’Millen was one of the most promising young men ever raised in New Castle. A consistent member of the F. Pres. Church, he was noted among his associates for the genuine piety which characterized his life. He was among the first to leave the endearments of a comfortable home and the society of an affectionate family circle, at the call of his country, and after serving for three months with credit to himself, re-enlisted in the Roundhead regiment for the war. He died the death, not only of a true soldier to his country but of a genuine soldier of the Cross. Such men can face the king of terrors, wherever met, as they can face their country’s foes, with calmness, and without emotion of fear. His afflicted relatives have the deepest sympathy of our whole community in their bereavement. When such men died, the loss falls not alone upon those related by the ties of consanguinity – the whole community suffer. But FERRIS has gone to his reward, and He who “doeth all things well,” knew best when, and from where to call him home. While the country of his birth, and which he loved with the devotion of a true Christian Soldier was was still enveloped in clouds, “he fell asleep in Jesus,” in whom his trust had long been placed. Yes, he sleeps; but the morning cometh, and bereaved ones have the sweet consolation of knowing that all clouds will be dispersed, and a bright sun will shine for him at his waking.
To show something of the spirit that animated the man, we append the following extract of a letter written by him to his mother, when they were on the eve of starting South. It is dated Annapolis, October 16th, 1861.
“A number of married men in our regiment, some in our company, received dolorious letters from their wives and friends, saying that they give them up as lost, and never expect to see them again, and all such stuff as that. How unreasonable, yea, how unchristian are such thoughts and feelings. Plain stern duty is ours; consequences belong to God, let Him take care of that; let us attend to duty. I now write these things not because you need them dear mother, but because there are those with whom you will come in contact, who do need them. For Heaven’s sake don’t burden the shoulders of those who have come out to fight the battles of God and our country, with the weight of broken, despondent hearts, at home; cheer up, be strong in the in the Lord, and trust in the God of Battles. Don’t be despondent and low spirited, but rather be cheerful, and even thankful that you are connected with those that have the courage and true manhood to risk their lives in defence of your and our rights. You may not hear from us again for some time. The future lies veiled before us; what awaits us we know not, but we hope, yea, expect to meet you all again in peace.
We commend our country, our friends, our selves, our all, into the hands of a just and mournful Heavenly Father. Adieu dear mother. You son, J. FERRIS M’MILLEN.”
LETTER FROM REV. BROWNE.
PORT ROYAL, S. C., Nov. 30th, 1861.
DEAR SIR. – I write you on the evening of this pleasant warm Southern Saturday evening. You know you will have Sabbath tomorrow. It will dawn upon our dear friends and call them to rest and converse with God in their sanctuaries in Lawrence and other counties of Western Pennsylvania. But it is painful for us to be in suspense not knowing but our regiment may be detailed for guard, picket, and fatigue duty, the latter being work on the entrenchments, until there shall be only a handful left in camp. So it was last Sabbath and many a painful thought had we, and no doubt many a tender and gentle thought blended with it of home and its sweet worship on the part of those who with spade and shovel or wheel-barrow toiled on with brave hearts in the earthworks. Well might each one say, “When I remember these things I pour out my soul in me, for I had gone out with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day.” General Sherman seems to think the case requires Sabbath work; and, of course he it is whose judgment must determine what are works of necessity for his army; and, our it is to obey. The obedience has been bravely rendered; but I can assure you it has not elevated our General commanding in the estimation of our noble boys; reared amid the institutions of Western Pennsylvania.
It has been a week to try our faith, bravery and patience. Death has been busy in our ranks. The process of acclimation goes hard with our Northern constitution; and many are sick. We brought the measles ashore with us, and it has spread till there are many cases, but in general they are progressing favorably. There are some cases of dysentery, pneumonia, and remittent fever. The latter is of a severer type than is common in our climate. Our regiment as compared with most others has been remarkably healthy till now, and the mortality has been small, being only three deaths in the first two months, Samuel P. Ewing and W. H. Walker, both of Company A, of Washington County, who died while we were in Kalorama, and Wm. Sample, of Mercer County, a member of Co. B, who died in Annapolis. We had one death more before we landed, it was that of James Smith, of New Castle, of Co. K, Capt. Van Gorder, he died as the battle was impending before day on the 7th, and near sunrise, was buried in the waves in sight of shore. – Much would we have desired to place his body to sleep in the earth; but the shore had yet to be conquered, and how soon that would be we knew not. Since we landed as many as nine more have died, tow of whom were last week and seven this week; and these sudden strokes of death among us have filled the Colonel, physicians, nurses and others including myself who feel care and responsibility, with sadness. On the 20th, died Ed. H. Corban, of Leesburg, Mercer county, Capt. Squier, on the 22d, Mathias F. Fisher, of Eastbrook, Co. F., Capt. Cline. These were both young men, and the news of their early death far from home (one of the incidents of this cruel war,) will carry sorrow to their paternal dwellings. Suddenly, on the morning of the 27th, before day, died Sergeant J. W. Simmons, of Philadelphia, of Co. K, who nursed Capt. Van Gorder so tenderly during his illness. He was a noble young Christian soldier who would have been promoted to be Sergeant Major, but his Master said to him before that could be done, “Come up higher.” Next came the 28th, which you were keeping with Thanksgiving solemnities in Pennsylvania, and we were keeping by work on the trenches. Four of our number died that day; namely:
James Byrd, of Mercer Co., of Co. G, Capt. Brown, of remittent fever, aged about 20.
James Pile, of Webster, Westmoreland Co., Co. M, Capt. Campbell, aged about 20.
J. Ferris M’Millen, at about 3 ½ P.M. Orderly of Co. K, Capt. Van Gorder, of New Castle, of congestive fever.
Benj. Scott Stewart, at about 4 P.M., Orderly of Co. A, Capt. Templeton, of W. Middletown, Washington Co., killed by accidental explosion of a shell.
The first two of these were young men with characters remaining as yet in some measure to be formed. They bore their illness patiently and bravely.
What shall I say of the next? I know so well the sorrow that will have been awakened in New Castle over the early removal from us of a spirit so noble, generous, brave and patient. Here and in Lawrence County many a heart and lip will drop their tribute of profound respect for Ferris M’Millen. The world is better than he lived in it, and poorer that he is taken away.
“None knew him but to love him,
None named him but to praise.”
Similar is the loss occasioned by the death of B. F. Stewart. He was in Texas with his young wife (a noble feminine character now in Wheeling, Va.,) when the war broke out. – He scorned the tyranny of public opinion in that State, and with some difficulty effected escape for himself and wife to Washington Co., and became Orderly in the fine company from that county. He was cool, calm, patient and reckless of personal danger. He would have loomed up like a pillar of strength in the day of battle. Inscrutable indeed are God’s Providences. He was pouring out (to provide against danger) the powder from an unexploded shell fired by our fleet and picked up in the field here where it had fallen on the day of the battle when striking it against another shell, or cannon ball, it burst and he was slain at the door of his tent. He lived for perhaps an hour. When he knew his wounds were fatal, he died like a true christian and brave soldier. He was a member of the O. S. Presbyterian Church, and one of those who led in our prayer-meetings on Kalorama. “My darling wife,” said he, “tell her my last thoughts were of her.” “Tell her her favorite Psalm; the 12st was precious to me, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence my help cometh.” Thus did this noble man meet his death. It was a new experience to me to speak the consolations of Christ, and give the cup of cold water to the lips of a dying disciple through whose liver and lungs a fragment of shell had torn a fearful hole passing clean through his body, and who when he would lift up and clasp his hands in prayer brandished arms from which dangled the shreds of what had once been hands.
Friday 29th, died of dysentery, Solomon W. Smith, of Porterville, of Co. C, Capt. Cornelius who had been ill long; and the next morning early of relapse from measles Wm. Ramsey, son of Rev. J. Ramsey, of New Wilmington. So sudden and unexpected was this latter death that I was not apprised of young Ramsey’s illness. He was a good member of Capt. Dawson’s Co. B. Both these were excellent young men.
Such is the sad record of mortality in our regiment, thirteen deaths in all during three months, seven of which occurred in three days.
Let me add – the health of our regiment is decidedly more promising. Many of our men say they never felt better in their lives. Every precaution is taken to secure health, and our men are becoming more inured to the warm suns and cool nights of this latitude, and the climatic peculiarities of low altitude and proximity to the sea.
Sabbath 2 P.M. – Before closing I have to say thankfully, nine of our companies have a Sabbath’s rest to-day. At 10 this morning I preached to them on Rom. 12, 0-12, and I think all felt it to be appropriate to our lot.
Let our friends pray for our spiritual welfare. Let them not forget how wonderfully their prayers have been answered thus far – Sickness, sea and battle have only carried away in one quarter of a year thirteen men out of a thousand who have seen and been subjected to every peril.
Sad indeed are my thoughts and tender my sympathies for the bereaved, and glad I am to remember their share in the grace and comfort of God.
But I must close and say good-bye, with assurances of your interest in our prayers and our love.
ROBT. AUDLEY BROWNE.
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