site logo
D.S. Miles

D.S. Miles

Federal (USA)


Dixon Stansbury Miles

(1804 - 1862)

Home State: Maryland

Education: US Military Academy, West Point, NY, Class of 1824;Class Rank: 27

Command Billet: Harpers Ferry Commander

Branch of Service: Infantry

Unit: Harpers Ferry Garrison

Before Antietam

After graduation from West Point, he began service with the 4th US, then 7th Infantry, becoming adjutant in 1830, promoted to 1st Lieutenant in April 1833, and Captain in June 1836 (assistant Quartermaster 1839-45). He was in action in the Seminole War in Florida (1839-42) and Mexican War (1846-48) and was cited twice by Brevet for gallant and distinguished conduct in 1846 at Fort Brown, Texas, and Monterey, Mexico.1

He was appointed Major of the 5th US Infantry in February 1847, Lieutenant Colonel of the 3th US in April 1851, and Colonel of the 2nd US Infantry in January 1859.1 In those years he served primarily in the West. He was at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas when War broke out in 1862.

He briefly had command of an infantry brigade under Patterson in Northern Virginia, then a small division with McDowell near Washington,. DC. He was at First Bull Run, in reserve position, and was accused there of being drunk during the battle. A court of inquiry found him guilty of the charge, but a general court-martial was not held "for the good of the service". It wasn't until March 1862 that he got another command: a brigade defending the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. He was then assigned as garrison commander at Harper's Ferry, Virginia.2

On the Campaign

He was in command of the garrison at Harpers Ferry, and was in the midst of surrendering his command to MGen Jackson on 16 September when he was wounded. He was relieved in command by Brigadier General White, and died later the same day.

The rest of the War

A military commission under direction of Major General David Hunter investigating the surrender of the post at Harpers Ferry found, in part:

"An officer who cannot appear before any earthly tribunal to answer or explain charges gravely affecting his character, who has met his death at the hands of the enemy, even upon the spot he disracefully surrendered, is entitled to the tenderest care and most careful investigation. These this Commission has accorded Colonel Miles, and, in giving an opinion, only repeats what runs through our nine hundred pages of evidence, strangely unanimous upon the fact that Colonel Miles' incapacity, amounting to almost imbecility, led to the shameful surrender of this important post".

"Early as the 15th of August he disobeys orders of Major-General Wool to fortify Maryland Heights. When it is attacked by the enemy, its naturally strong positions are unimproved, and, from his criminal neglect, to use the mildest term, the large force of the enemy is almost upon an equality with the few men he throws out for their protection".

"He seemed to have understood and admitted to his officers that Maryland Heights was the key to the position, and yet he placed Colonel Ford in command with a feeble force; made no effort to strengthen him by fortifications, although, between the 5th and the 13th of September, there was ample time to do so; and to Colonel Ford's repeated demands for means to intrench and reenforcements to strengthen the position, he made either inadequate return or no response at all. He gave Colonel Ford discretionary power as to when he should abandon the heights, the fact of the abandonment having, it seems, been determined on in his own mind, for, when the unhappy event really occurred, his only exclamations were to the effect that he feared Colonel Ford had given them up too soon. This, too, when he must have known that the abandonment of Maryland Heights was the surrender of Harper's Ferry. This leaving the key of the position to the keeping of Colonel Ford, with discretionary power, after the arrival of the capable and courageous officer [Brigadier General White] who had waived his rank to serve wherever ordered, is one of the more striking facts illustrating the utter incapacity of Colonel Miles".3

References & notes

The photo above is from an original at the US Library of Congress.4


05/04/1804; Baltimore, MD


09/16/1862; Harpers Ferry, VA; burial in Saint James Episcopal Church Cemetery, Monkton, MD


1   Heitman, Francis Bernard, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army 1789-1903, 2 volumes, Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1903, pg. 708  [AotW citation 440]

2   Some service also substantiated with references in bio file card at ASU, Collection of Pioneer Biographical Essays.
Dodge, Russ, and Jim Tipton (founder), A.J. Marik, et al., FInd A Grave, Published 1995, first accessed 01 January 2000, <>, Source page: /cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7774425&pt=Dixon%20Miles  [AotW citation 441]

3   US War Department, The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (OR), 128 vols., Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1880-1901, Vol. 19/Part1 (Ser #27), pg. 799  [AotW citation 442]

4   US Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, Published c 1998, first accessed 01 January 2000, <>, Source page: /cwpb.06494  [AotW citation 443]