b. 13/10/1862 Stillwater, Minnesota. d. 02/10/1948 Sacramento, California.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 29/12/1890 Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
Born on October 13, 1862 at Stillwater, Minnesota, Albert Walter and his twin brother, Thomas Erskine, were the third and fourth sons of Judge Samuel James Renwick McMillan and Harriet Elizabeth Butler.
At the time of Albert’s birth his father was serving as the judge of Minnesota’s first judicial district, a position he held until 1864. Judge McMillan did not serve in the military during the Civil War, but at the same time during the Minnesota Indian War of 1862 he did serve for about three weeks as a second lieutenant in the Stillwater Frontier Guards. The company sized unit participated in the uneventful Chengwatana Expedition departing from Stillwater at the end of August with the purpose of preventing the Chippewa from joining the Sioux uprising. In 1864 Judge McMillan was appointed an associate justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court and was subsequently reelected until 1874 when he was appointed chief justice of the same bench. Running as a republican, Judge McMillan was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1875 serving his state in that capacity for twelve years. He returned to St. Paul in 1887 and practiced law until his death in 1897.
An intelligent young man and son of a sitting senator, Albert McMillan studied at Princeton College, and during his sophomore year was president of the class of 1884. In the summer of 1883, he worked as a clerk for the Senate Judiciary Committee but did not return to Princeton for his senior year. McMillan’s travels west saw him enlist in the Army at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, on August 15, 1887, five months after his father left the U.S. Senate. The twenty-four-year-old native Minnesotan listed his age as twenty-five, his birth place as Baltimore, Maryland, his profession that of a school teacher, and was recorded as having blue eyes, brown hair, a fair complexion, and standing just under five feet, ten inches in height. McMillan was assigned as a private in Captain Ilsley’s E Troop, 7th Cavalry where the young man’s intelligence and drive saw him quickly rise to the rank of sergeant in his troop and later, sergeant major of his regiment. After McMillan requested that he be reduced to the rank of private, and just prior to receiving the Medal of Honor, the Princeton educated trooper was assigned to G Troop, then F Troop, before ending up again in E Troop.
It was in the spring of 1892 that Private Albert McMillan ran afoul of civil and military justice. On Saturday morning, April 9, 1892, McMillan, drunk and in civilian attire, staggered into the streets of Junction City, Kansas, where he verbally accosted a woman. He was arrested, tried, convicted, and jailed for three days by civil authorities for “using vile and insulting language to a lady.” While in confinement, he was carried as absent without leave from his unit, and, following his release and return to Fort Riley on April 15, he faced a general court martial. The Army charged him with being absent without leave and of conduct that was prejudicial to good order and military discipline. He pled guilty to all charges and specifications and the court sentenced him to three months confinement at hard labor and ten dollars a month for the same period. The convening authority for the trial was the department commander, Major General Nelson A. Miles, who reduced the sentence to fifteen days bringing it in line with punishments prescribed in general orders of the day. Private McMillan’s five year enlistment should have ended in the middle of August 1892, but he was continued in the service until September 21 to “make good time” for the period in which he was in confinement and while absent without leave.
McMillan returned to St. Paul, Minnesota, and entered the University of Minnesota where he earned a bachelor’s of law degree in 1894. He worked for a time as the legal editor for the West Publishing Company. While thus employed McMillan suffered a breakdown, or “nervous prostration” in the vernacular of the day. Before the close of the decade he moved to Blaine, Washington, and eventually to Brawley, California. Perhaps suffering from the effects of his nervous breakdown, intemperate use of alcohol, or even what today we would call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, McMillan seems to have fallen on hard times and never recovered. He worked variously as a hired man, teamster, farmer, and truck driver. During World War I, he served with the American Red Cross traveling to England in September 1918 in that capacity. Following the war, he returned to Los Angeles and eventually retired in Sacramento, California, never having married.
Despite attempts by his Princeton classmates to find their former class president, McMillan remained lost to them for decades. Albert Walter McMillan died in Sacramento on October 2, 1948, eleven days shy of his eighty-sixth birthday. His body was returned to St. Paul where he was buried in a plot adjacent to his father.
While engaged with Indians concealed in a ravine, he assisted the men on the skirmish line, directed their fire, encouraged them by example, and used every effort to dislodge the enemy.
BURIAL LOCATION: OAKLAND CEMETERY, ST PAUL, MINNESOTA.
BLOCK 50, LOT 14.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: BELIEVED TO BE FAMILY.