On February 17, 1921, there passed away at his winter home in Tampa, Fla., Maj. Willis J. Milner, a distinguished Confederate veteran and one of nature's nobleman.
Major Milner enlisted in the Confederate Army as a private when only seventeen years old, and emerged at the end of the war a major at the age of twenty-one.
Enlisting as a private in Company A (Clinch Rifles), 5th Georgia Regiment, at Pensacola, early in August, 1861, he was in the battle on Santa Rosa Island, fought by volunteers on the night of October 8, 1861. He served in East Tennessee and in Brag's North Mississippi campaign also in his march through Kentucky in 1862; was wounded in the battle of Murfreesboro, December 31, 1862. In January 1863, he was transferred to Company D, 33rd Alabama Regiment, Wood's Brigade, Cleburne's Division, Army of Tennessee. In February or March he was promoted to first lieutenant and placed in command of Company K. Served in Bragg's Chickamauga campaign, and was wounded in that battle. In October, 1863, was appointed adjutant, 33rd Alabama Regiment. Was in Johnston's Dalton-Atlanta campaign, almost a continuous battle for seventy-three days; was appointed aid de camp, rank of captain, staff of Brigadier General Lowrey, July 1, 1864. In September, assigned to duty as acting assistant inspector general of brigade. He was in Hood's Georgia and Atlanta campaign and on his march to Nashville. Wounded at Spring Hill, Tenn., November 29, 1864, but not seriously. Was in battle of Franklin next day. There Captain O. S. Palmer, A. A. G., of Brigade, was mortally wounded and Captain Milner was assigned to his duties.
In reorganization of the Army of Tennessee by Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, in North Carolina, in 1865, the 17th and 33rd Alabama Regiments were consolidated, and Captain Milner was selected as major of the consolidated regiment. Was paroled as major when the Army of Tennessee surrendered at Greensboro, N. C., April 26, 1865. Reached home, Greenville, Ala., May 25, 1865.
Battles engaged in: Santa Rosa Island, October 8, 1861; Farmington, Miss., May, 1862; Murfreesboro, Tenn., December 31, 1862;, McLemore's Cove, Ga., September, 1863; Chickamauga, September, 1863; Missionary Ridge, November, 1863; Ringgold Gap, Ga., November 27, 1863; Rocky Face, Ga., May, 1864; Resaca, Ga., May, 1864; New Hope Church, May, 1864; Pickett's Mill, May, 1864; Lost Mountain, June, 1864; Pine Mountain, June, 1864; Kenesaw Mountain, July, 1864; Atlanta, July 21 and 22, 1864; Peachtree Creek; Jonesboro, Ga., August and September, 1864; Lovejoy, Ga., September, 1864; Spring Hill, Tenn., November 29, 1864; Franklin, Tenn., November 30, 1864; Nashville, Tenn., December 15, 1864; Nashville, Tenn., December 16, 1864.
Major Milner was twice cited for gallantry under fire, and on one occasion when he was carrying a dispatch he had to ride between the lines of the Confederate and Federal forces, exposed to the fire of both sides. The enemy were so impressed with his intrepid bravery that they suspended their fire until he had passed the dange zone.
He was one of the pioneers of Birmingham, Ala., and one of the builders of that great city, A well-known man of Birmingham, in writing of Major Milner said: "He did more for Birmingham and its people than any man, living or dead."
He was a consistent and devoted member of the Episcopal Church and a Mason.
Major Milner never aspired to political office, but was a keen observer of political events, a great student of history, and a writer of talent.
As an engineer he stood very high, having designed and superintended the construction of the Birmingham water works plant, the Belt Railroad, the development of all that part of the South Highlands which belonged to the Elyton Land Company, and especially Highland Avenue, which is admired as one of the most beautiful streets in America.
Major Milner's vision of the future was prophetic. Some of his plans made forty years ago were to meet present conditions, which they have done with remarkable accuracy.
While as tender hearted and gentle as a woman, his firmness could not be shaken where any question of right or wrong was involved.
Major Milner reached the ripe age of seventy-nine years, and has been mourned and missed by hundreds, if not thousands, of our people who knew and loved him.
SOURCE: Confederate Veteran Magazine, January, 1922.
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