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NELSON A. MILES, THE SIOUX AND
APACHE INDIAN FIGHTER
NELSON APPLETON MILES, a soldier of the United States, of forty years of active service, from the beginning of the Civil War to the end of that with Spain, and a veteran of the Indian wars, was born in Westminster, Massachusetts, August 8, 1839. Raised on a farm, and afterwards spending some years in a Boston store, he was in his twenty-first year when President Lincoln's demand for troops called the North to war to avenge the insult to the flag on Fort Sumter.
Young Miles was among those quick to respond. He raised a company of volunteers, which became a part of the Twenty-second Massachusetts regiment, and in September, 1861, went with it to the front as its captain. Young in looks and without military experience, the boyish captain was deemed by the colonel unfit for so responsible a position, and was obliged to resign and accept the rank of lieutenant. But there were others who thought differently. On pay day, when the youmg officer appeared before the United States paymaster to draw his salary, the latter said: “ You are a captain: get your pay and take command of your company."
This put Colonel Wilson in something of a quandary. He feared a conflict of authority between himself and the Government army officials, and to escape it he advised the youthful officer to take a position on General Casey's staff. This he did, and afterwards entered the Peninsular campaign as an aide on the staff of General Howard. As such he continued to progress in rank, being commissioned on May 21, 1862, lieutenantcolonel, and on September 30 colonel, of the Sixty-first New York regiment, a rapid promotion for one so young
Bravery in battle had much to do with this progress in rank. At the battle of Fair Oaks he led a detachment under heavy fire to the support of Colonel Barlow, then hard pressed by the enemy. This brought him his first promotion, and also a severe wound, but he was able to fight in the battle of Antietam, taking command of the regiment when Colonel Barlow fell wounded, and winning the rank of colonel by his skill and courage as a regimental leader.
Miles led the regiment on the death-dealing field of Fredericksburg, and at Chancellorsville displayed conspicuous gallantry, holding a line of abatis and riflepits against charges by a strong force of the enemy, until he fell from his horse with a bullet in his body. The wound was so severe that it was thought to be fatal, but the ball was extracted, and as soon as he was fairly able to move he returned to the army on crutches. His soldierly service on this occasion was rewarded with a medal of honor. He was further rewarded for his gallantry here, in August, 1864, by the brevet rank of brigadier-general, and for his services throughout the war by that of major-general.
Similar recognition of his services was made in March, 1867, the brevet grades of brigadier-general and major-general in the regular army being awarded him as a reward for his gallantry in the battle of Spottsylvania. He had thrown aside his crutches before this battle was fought, and took an active part in the engagements of Grant's overland march upon Richmond, from the desperate confliet in the Wilderness to the final fights before Petersburg. In the closing events he commanded a division of the corps under General Humphreys, joining Sheridan after the battle of Five Forks and aiding him effectively in the capture of Petersburg.
On April 7, when Lee had retreated to Appomattox, Humphreys was in the lead of the pursuers, with his two divisions under Miles and De Trobriand. Crossing the Appomattox River, he found himself confronted by Lee's intrenched army. Not having men enough to dislodge the army by a flanking movement, he resolved on an assault, ordering Barlow to attack the front and sending Miles against the Confederate left. Miles proved the more expeditious of the two, and made his attack before Barlow had reached his allotted position. As a consequence he and his men found themselves very strongly opposed and were driven back, losing about six hundred men. Night was at hand before Barlow was ready, and the attack was not resumed.
This was the last success of Lee's army, except the repulse of General Crook and his cavalry division, which took place about the same time. It gave Lee momentary encouragement, but his case was really hopeless, and on the 9th, finding himself practically surrounded, he laid down his arms and the longprotracted contest came to an end.
Miles continued in the army after the war, and in July, 1866, when twenty-six years of age, found himself at the head of the fortieth regiment of the United States troops. Though the war in the South was at an end, there was war in the West likely to last for many years, and the leaders of the army found plenty of work awaiting them. The migration of settlers into