Submitted by Stephanie Johnson; Edited and vetted by Cheri Todd Molter and Kobe M. Brown
General Nelson Appleton Miles was born in Massachusetts in 1839. He worked as a store clerk, but when the Civil War started in 1861, he joined the 22nd Massachusetts as a Lieutenant. That was the beginning of his long, respectful military career. He was in many battles during the war—Seven Pines, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville, to name a few. Rising through the ranks quickly, Miles eventually reached the rank of General. He was wounded four times during his service: One of those injuries almost killed him.
Immediately after the war, Miles was the commander of Fort Monroe where he supervised the incarceration of Jefferson Davis. In 1867, Gen. Miles was appointed the Assistant Commissioner of the North Carolina Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands and was sent to Raleigh, North Carolina. He worked to help North Carolina’s citizenry recover from the war and rebuild the state. In 1868, Gen. Miles married Mary Hoyt Sherman, Gen. William T. Sherman’s niece. They had two children: Cecelia and Sherman.
During the 1870s and 1880s, Gen. Miles led various campaigns against Native American tribes including Wounded Knee. In 1895, Gen. Miles was named Commanding General of the United States Army. He was the last person to hold this position, as afterward the position became what is now known as the Chief of Staff of the United States Army.
After decades of duty, Gen. Miles retired from active military service in 1903. In 1925, Gen. Miles died of a heart attack while attending Barnum and Bailey’s Circus with his grandchildren. He had a full life.