Anytime a soldier goes to war, the possibility exists that they will be severely wounded or even killed in action, but I don’t think anyone expected the events of September 19, 1863. It was the middle of the Civil War, and Jacob C Miller was a private in Company K, 9th Indiana Infantry Regiment. The company was fighting in the Battle of Chickamauga near Brock Field in southeastern Tennessee. One of the fastest ways to “get dead” is to get shot in the head. There is something about a bullet hitting the skull that puts an end to life pretty quickly…most of the time, anyway.
Maybe it was the type of bullets used in the Civil War, but no matter how it happened, I don’t think anyone would disagree with me when I say that living after taking a bullet between the eyes was a miracle. Jacob C Miller was just such a miracle man. After being shot, Miller crumpled to the ground. I’m sure everyone thought it was over, but Miller said later that he could hear the words of his captain, who said, “It’s no use to remove poor Miller, for he is dead.” The company, believing he was dead, moved on. Now, just imagine the shock when Miller became conscious and found himself alone. He raised up in a sitting position. Curiosity caused him to feel his wound. Clearly there was damage done. Miller’s left eye was out of place, and he tried to place it back, but had to move the crushed bone back together, or as near together as he could first. Once the eye was in its proper place, he bandaged the eye the best he could with his bandana. Then he began the journey to get help. Miller struggled to follow his company, until he was finally picked up by a liter party, and taken for treatment.
When he was taken to the doctors, and they examined him, they said that they were able to see his pulsating brain quite clearly. That said, we know that the bullet wasn’t somehow stopped by his skull. It had actually entered the brain lining, or at least into the skull bone. At that point, nothing was done with the bullet, and Miller was sent home to Logansport, Indiana. Doctors there were hesitant to remove the bullet, because they thought Miller would die, and somehow, he seemed to be functioning ok with the bullet in place. In the end they did remove about a third of the bullet, and Miller went on to live his life. Nevertheless, more pieces of the bullet simply fell out decades later. It was as if his body just rejected the foreign pieces of lead and moved them out of his head. It was a good thing, because the pressure on the bullet fragments during times of illness caused his to become delirious. Once the fragments fell out, that stopped.
Miller was born on August 4, 1840, in Bellevue, Ohio. He was shot on September 19, 1863, at the age of 23 years. Private Jacob C Miller lived an amazing 54 years with an open wound in his head. The wound never fully healed, but did not fully penetrate his skull, and apparently the brain area did close over, and caused no damage to his brain. He died January 13, 1917, in Omaha, Nebraska at the age of 76 years. No cause of death is mentioned, but I guess we know it wasn’t a gunshot wound to the head.