Here’s something to think about the next time you stub your toe, or suffer any injury short of getting shot in the head. During the Union’s most brutal defeat of the civil war, Union soldier Jacob Miller was shot in the face and survived. With a bullet hole clearly between his eyes, this tough bastard walked away from the Battle of Chickamagua on September 19, 1863. It would be another 54 years before this soldier finally went down for good, and he spend 31 of those years with pieces of the bullet painfully pushing through his forehead.
In 1911 he told his story to The Joliet Daily News. Read the story of a true American badass in his own words below,
I was left for dead when my company fell back from that position. 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).
At last some bearers came along and put me on their stretcher and carried me to the hospital and laid me on the ground in a tent. A hospital nurse came and put a wet bandage over my wound and around my head and gave me a canteen of water. I don’t know what time of day they examined my wound and decided to put me on the operating table till after dark some time. The surgeons examined my wound and decided it was best not to operate on me and give me more pain as they said I couldn’t live very long, so the nurse took me back into the tent. I slept some during the night . The next morning (Sunday), the doctors came around to make a list of the wounded and of their company and regiments and said to send all the wounded to Chattanooga that the ambulances would carry and told me I was wounded too bad to be moved, and if the army fell back those that were left there could afterwards be exchanged.”
After leaving the battlefield nearly blind from facial swelling, Miller’s wound was unchecked for another three days before it was finally properly dressed. It took another four days before he made it to a hospital, and those days were spend walking 60 miles. When he finally arrived at a hospital, none of the doctors wanted to operate on him.
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 thirty one years after two pieces of lead came out.”
Miller suffered every day for years, but he didn’t complain, that wasn’t something men did back then.
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.”
Accounting for inflation, that’s a monthly sum of around $1,000 in 2016 money. Would you take a bullet to the head for $12,000 a year? Private Miller did. If you’re curious about that Medal of Honor, it has nothing to do with the Battle of Chickamagua. Private Miller earned that medal in 1894 in honor of his volunteered charge on May 22, 1863 while fighting with Company G of the 113th Illinois Infantry.
(image source; Historical Times)