The Miner Couple: Both Earned Veteran Pensions
by Gordon Thorsby
The Miners lived in three states; Ohio, Indiana, and then settled down in mid-Michigan. They experienced a western United States that eventually became a Midwest. They lived at a time in a country that still had a lot of wilderness, which became small towns and vibrant cities.
Common diseases such as as typhoid, tuberculosis, and others shortened the life expectancy for many, but for Irena and Plum Miner, they lived well into their eighties and nineties respectively. The Civil War took a minimum of 750,000 military and civilian lives, yet Plum and Rena Miner survived it all as active participants.
Plum Philo Miner (Plumb and Philo were family names) was born August 12, 1842, and enlisted as private in the 12th Indiana Infantry in Company B on August 8, 1862. It was his twentieth birthday. At the time of enlistment, he lived in Angola, Indiana in the northeast corner of the state. Only two weeks later, on August 22nd, the regiment moved
out to Indianapolis and then on to Lexington, Kentucky. By late September, the regiment was part of General “Bull” Nelson’s army near Richmond, Kentucky. Not long after their arrival, at the battle at Richmond, the inexperienced Union troops of Nelson’s army were routed. The Twelfth was positioned on the extreme right of the Federal line and tasked to delay the pursuing Southerners and allow the army to escape. They did what they could but the entire regiment wound up as casualties or prisoners. All but a fraction of Nelson's entire army ultimately fell to Kirby Smith's Confederates on August 30, 1862. Company B was not on the firing line that day (possibly in reserve or guarding supplies). The prisoners of the 12th were held in the town square and under guard for 45 days until parole could be arranged and the regiment’s officers sent to Libby Prison.
Upon a second reorganization (first in 1861 after the 90 days reorganization), the regiment joined the XV Corps for the Vicksburg and Jackson Campaigns. When trouble arose in Chattanooga in September, 1863, the XV Corps and the 12th Indiana moved to Tennessee. In Sherman's attempted flank attack on Tunnel Hill, the 12th Indiana was positioned on the extreme right on the line of advance. It is reported in the regimental history:
“In a beautiful and unbroken line the command pressed forward through open fields throwing down and leaping fences, and crossing ditches until they were ordered to lie down. While the battle raged furiously to our left until our wounded began to be brought from the field for five hours, the Brigade occupied their exposed position. The entire line was withdrawn within the entrenchments having suffered a severe loss.”
It was reported that nearly five hundred from the brigade were casualties, 110 of these were from the 12th Indiana. Of the three killed and nine wounded in Company B, it included Plum who received a minie ball in the left thigh. The soldiers of the Brigade spent the next day burying 35 of their comrades on the field. According to records, another forty died from their wounds. Plum survived and rejoined Company B for the Atlanta Campaign. At Resaca on May, 14, 1864, around 2 P.M. , Company B was pushed out as skirmishers. They advanced in front and traded fire with Confederates from Polk’s Corps., eventually incurring forty casualties.. From Dalton through Atlanta, the regiment suffered an additional 240 killed and wounded. The regiments in the first Brigade had been mauled so badly that they were merged with the Second and Third Brigades. Miner continued with the regiment through Johnston’s surrender and was in the Grand victory parade in Washington, DC.
Rena Miner’s story is also an interesting one to know more about. Irena Leona Littlefield (went by Rena), was born on December 5, 1842 in Pretty Prairie, Indiana. She came from a settler family of Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan so she possessed that “hardy” stock of Midwesterners and she held her convictions most proudly.
As a girl, she took great interest in what she later described as the “social problems” of the day and the advantages of a few over the mistreatment of others. She strongly disliked inequality in almost any form and the most obvious was slavery. The second greatest inequality was in opportunities for women. Upon reaching adulthood, she started work as a mill operator (common work for men), as a seamstress, and as a compositor. She picked up teaching that she gained from a common school education. Female teachers were uncommon in the day. With the outbreak of the war, she went to Indianapolis and then to Jeffersonville General Hospital where she assumed nursing duties in the military hospitals. Additional types of nursing duties were picked up when she transferred to St. Louis in 1864 with returning prisoners of war from Southern camps. Altogether, Rena put in sixteen months of service helping the wounded, the sick, the dying, and recovering POW's before returning home.
Plum and Rena were introduced shortly after the war in the Angola area. They courted for a year until their wedding in Sturgis, Michigan. The Miner and Littlefield clans recognized inexpensive land in mid-Michigan, area and several family members migrated to the Saginaw region. The Miners raised three children near Brant, Michigan and they both took up writing in addition to farming. Rena wrote for seven newspapers and even started an eighth, all with the goal of helping those less fortunate and improving opportunities for all. Rena passed away in 1928, and Plum was one of last three remaining veterans of Saginaw County when he died in 1938. The two now rest in Brant Cemetery and Rena’s marker communicates a proud achievement “Civil War Veteran, Civil War Nurse.” The Federal government recognized her contributions with a pension in 1911.
Note: Plud had several brothers. Ianthus served three years in the 30th Indiana, Eli served in the 48th Indiana joining Plum in Company B in the 12th in January, 1864, and Isaac joined up in the 149th Indiana in February, 1865. It is said that their father Milo also served (no record).
“Our Army Nurses”, Museum of Civil War Medicine, Frederick, MD.
“From Vicksburg to Raleigh or A Complete History of the Twelfth Regiment Indiana Infantry”, M.D. Gage, Chaplain, Clark & Co., Chicago, 1865.
Obituary for Plum Miner, Chesaning Argus, January 27, 1938.