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Nelson A. Miles

AKA Nelson Appleton Miles

Born: 8-Aug-1839
Birthplace: Westminster, MA
Died: 15-May-1925
Location of death: Washington, DC
Cause of death: Heart Attack
Remains: Buried, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA

Gender: Male
Religion: Baptist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Military

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Army volunteer promoted to Commanding General

Military service: US Army (1861-1903, to Lieutenant General)

Nelson A. Miles was the best-known and arguably most respected American soldier of his era. He volunteered with the Army just after the start of the American Civil War, and fought in every major battle of that war except Gettysburg, which he missed because of a war injury suffered weeks earlier. Having received informal military training from a French officer while working as a retail clerk, he was commissioned as captain immediately, and rose to General in less than four years. He first served under General Oliver O. Howard at the battle of Fair Oaks, suffered injuries there and at the battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and among numerous other battles he fought at Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg. After the South's surrender at Appomattox, he commanded the jail that held Confederate President Jefferson Davis in irons at Fort Monroe. The shackling was unnecessary, since Davis had been a cooperative prisoner, and this left Miles reviled in the South.

After brevet promotion to Major General during the Civil War, he bristled at his reduced rank of colonel in the vastly smaller peacetime Army, but over subsequent decades he earned his stars again. He served at the forefront of the Indian Wars, and played key roles in operations against the Central Plains tribes in the early 1870s and Northern Plains tribes in the late 1870s and early 1880s. He was involved in the pursuits of Sitting Bull, Chief Joseph, and Crazy Horse, and led the prolonged militarily efforts that led to Geronimo's capture and exile in Florida. Dashingly handsome, popular in the press and admired by his troops, Miles often spoke of his aspiration to be Secretary of War or President of the United States. He was never well-liked by other high-ranking officers, but he married Mary Hoyt Sherman, a niece of Ohio Governor John Sherman and Army General William T. Sherman, and he frequently asked his in-laws to exert political pressure on his behalf.

Miles was the Commanding General of the US Army from October 1895 until August 1903, when that post was superceded by the new position of Chief of Staff of the United States Army. He was, however, shunted aside during the Spanish-American War of 1898, when President William McKinley sent him to command a militarily unimportant expedition in Puerto Rico, and he was openly reviled by a hero of that war, the next President, Theodore Roosevelt. Miles retired after becoming a figure of controversy, first for commenting on a feud between two Admirals, then for criticizing US policy in the Philippines, and finally for a public dispute with Secretary of War Elihu Root over the poor quality of what Miles termed "embalmed beef" being fed to soldiers. In his latter years he appeared in a few silent westerns but mostly lived a quiet life in Washington DC. On 15 May 1925 he took his granddaughter to the circus, where he died of a heart attack while saluting the flag during the performance of the National Anthem.

Father: Daniel Miles (farmer)
Mother: Mary Curtis Miles
Brother: Daniel Curtis Miles (bank examiner, b. 21-Jun-1827)
Sister: Mary Jane Miles (teacher, b. Jun-1832)
Sister: Ann Maria Miles Sprague (b. 1837)
Wife: Mary Hoyt Sherman Miles (b. 7-Jun-1842, m. 30-Jun-1868, d. 1-Aug-1904)
Daughter: Cecelia Stewart Miles Reber (b. 12-Sep-1869)
Son: Sherman Miles (Army officer, b. 5-Dec-1882, d. 12-Oct-1966)

    High School: Westminster Academy, Westminster, MA (1856)

    Congressional Medal of Honor 1892
    Heart Attack 15-May-1925 (fatal)
    Shot: Battle Battle of Fair Oaks (31-May-1862)
    English Ancestry

Author of books:
Personal Recollections of General Nelson A. Miles (1896, memoir)
Military Europe (1898, memoir)
Serving the Republic (1911, memoir)

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