Fact Check: This Civil War Veteran Allegedly Survived Decades After Being Shot in the Forehead. We Checked the Records

Photo courtesy of NARA
Photo courtesy of NARA


Civil War veteran Jacob Miller lived more than 50 years after surviving a musket ball shot to the forehead.


Rating: True
Rating: True

The story of Civil War soldier Jacob Miller (spelled "Millar" in some instances), is seemingly miraculous, if nothing else. After suffering a gunshot wound to the forehead, the Union Army private not only survived battle but lived for decades after to tell the story.   

Now, more than a century later, his photograph and story are still circulated on social media, examples of which can be seen on Facebook, Reddit and X.

Amazingly, the story is true. 

Snopes found soldier details for "Jacob H. Millar" published by the National Park Service (NPS), which had originally filed it under "Jacob H./Miller."

According to NPS records, Miller served as a private with the 6th Regiment of the Indiana Infantry in the Union Army. A film record number, "M540 ROLL 51," was also associated with his file. Snopes reached out to NPS for a copy of the record but did not receive a response as of this publication. 

Snopes contacted the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Washington, D.C., for access to Miller's records. Juliette Arai, who works in the NARA reference branch, confirmed the NPS records, noting that he was also a volunteer in Company K.

"NARA staff checked available records concerning Jacob Miller's service and the wound he received during the Civil War. His service record confirms that he was wounded at Chickamauga and was either sent home or sent to the General Hospital in Jeffersonville, Indiana," wrote Arai.

Arai added that her staff located several copies of a photograph in his pension file (record number SC-34617) that showed a younger man than who is shown in some social media posts with darker hair. However, the facial features and forehead wound appear to be the same. Snopes found several records for men named Jacob Miller who served in the Civil War, but it appeared some specific details likely become convoluted over time. It's also possible, we should note, that some photos have not been accurately identified. As such, we have opted to only publish the official photo, below, as archived by NARA.

(Photo courtesy of NARA)

Snopes also found Miller's tombstone in the cemetery records database Find a Grave, which noted he died in Nebraska in 1917 at the age of 76.

We also found an interview with Miller published on June 14, 1911, in the Illinois newspaper Daily News Joliet titled, "Jacob Miller, A War Scarred Hero."  (A more legible version of the article is available here.) 


The article described Miller as "one of the most remarkable hero survivors of the Civil War." From Sept. 19, 1863, to his death more than five decades later, Miller "lived with an open wound in his forehead." The article, which also stated that Miller received $40 a month for his pension, continued: 

For a number of years the bullet remained in his head but piece by piece it fell out till now. It is thought none of it remains in the wound. During the time it was in the head it at times would produce a stupor, which sometimes would last two weeks, it being usually when he caught cold and produced more of a pressure on the brain. At other times delirium would seize him and he would imagine himself again on picket duty and would tramp back and forth on his beat, a stick on his shoulder for a musket, a pitiful object of the sacrifice for freedom. As these pieces of lead gradually loosened and fell out he regained his usual health and is now at the age of 78 years, one of the most, if not the most, remarkable survivor of the Civil war.

The remainder of the article above includes Miller's personal account of the harrowing ordeal. The veteran said he was "left for dead" after being struck by enemy fire. Below is Miller's interview as published in the newspaper (which Snopes has edited slightly for grammatical purposes): 

When I came to my senses sometime 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, I got to the end of the Confederate line and went to our own side while a brigade of Confederates came up to their line behind me. There were none of the Union forces found on that part of the field when I passed along. I struck an old by-road and followed it the best I could, as by this time my head was swelled so bad it shut my eyes... 

I at length got so badly exhausted I had to lie down by the side of the road. 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.

Miller described his determination to avoid becoming a prisoner of war. With a lop-sided walk and a water-filled canteen, he left the hospital tent "without being noticed." Due to the swelling, Miller could only see by opening his eye with his finger "to take my bearings on the road." An ambulance train eventually took him on and Miller, after going "blank, woke up in Chattanooga, Tennessee "lying with hundreds of other wounded on the floor almost as thick as hogs in a stock car."

Doctors across several hospitals refused to operate on Miller, who said he "suffered for nine months" before receiving a furlough home to Logansport (presumably Indiana). There, doctors were able to remove the musket ball — or most of it, at any rate. 

"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 said, adding: 

Some ask how it is I can describe so minutely my getting wounded and getting off the battlefield 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 anyone 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.

Snopes has examined other claims involving the Civil War, which can be viewed in our archive.


"Jacob C Miller | U.S. Civil War | U.S. Army | Medal of Honor Recipient." Congressional Medal of Honor Society, https://www.cmohs.org/recipients/jacob-c-miller. Accessed 19 June 2024.

Jacob C. Miller (1840-1917) - Find a Grave... https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/6404321/jacob_c-miller. Accessed 19 June 2024.

Jacob Miller, a War Scarred Hero 1911 - Tipton Twp, Cass County, IN Native. http://incass-inmiami.org/cass/bio_gen/millerjacob.html. Accessed 19 June 2024.

Shapell Roster. https://www.shapell.org/civil-war-soldier-database/soldier/763. Accessed 19 June 2024.

Soldier Details - The Civil War (U.S. National Park Service). https://www.nps.gov/subjects/civilwar/search-soldiers-detail.htm. Accessed 19 June 2024.