Dixon Miles’s Petition for Court of Inquiry

28 11 2014

Exhibit “A”

Head Quarters 2nd U. S. Inf.
Camp South of Alexandria, Va.
26: July 1861 –

The commandg. Genl. Dept. N. E. Virg. not having taken any action in my case (so far as I know) and having by sickness been prevented from giving any personal attention to it: I now most respectfully solicit from the Executive of the United States, or Lieut. General commander-in-chief of the Army, to grant me a Court of Inquiry, to investigate the charge of “Drunkeness,” publicly made against me on the heights of Centerville Va. about 7 O’clock P. M. on the 21st Inst. by Col. Richardson commanding a brigade attached to my command, and on which false accusation the Brgd. Genl. commandg. did me the injustice to relieve me in command of my Division.

I am Sir,
Very respectfully Your Obt. Servt.
D. S. Miles
Col. 2d. Inf.

Capt. J. B. Fry
Asst. Adjt. Genl.
Hd Qr Dept. N. E. V. Arlington –

Document Image

M1105, Registers of the Records of the Proceedings of the U.S. Army General Courts-Martial, 1809-1890
Colonel Dixon S. Miles, 2nd US Infantry (August 1861), Washington, DC. Court-Martial Case File #II-498 pertaining to the Court of Inquiry for the Battle of 1st Bull Run

Dixon Miles Court of Inquiry News

26 11 2014

Friend Jim Rosebrock, host of the blog South from the North Woods, on a recent trip to the National Archives was kind enough to photograph the contents of the file containing the documents associated with the Dixon Miles First Bull Run Court of Inquiry for First Bull Run. Late in the day on July 21, 1861, Colonel Israel B. Richardson leveled a charge of drunkenness at Miles, to whose division Richardson’s brigade had been temporarily attached. This charge resulted in Irvin McDowell removing Miles from command, and at Miles’s request the Court of Inquiry was later convened.

I now have over 150 images of handwritten documents to transcribe, the bulk of which are of witness testimony. As far as I know, this file has never appeared in print or digital format, so we’re breaking new ground here. Long ago I posted the summary of the court’s finding here, and this is the index page I’ll be using for all the documents. Below is a taste of what I have to work with – thankfully the penmanship is not generally this poor (click for a larger image.)


Done, But Not Done-Done

29 10 2008

OK, I’ve posted my last Bull Run after action report (OR).  #62 was the last Union report – #63 is actually the findings of the Dixon Miles court of inquiry

You may have inferred from the reports of Richardson and Davies that there was something hinky with Miles’s behavior on the 21st.  He was prescribed some brandy by his doctor that day, and he was unfortunately wearing two hats at the same time.  No, I mean that literally.  It was not uncommon practice to wear two hats on a hot day – something about ventilation.  But Miles had a reputation for hitting the bottle, so combine his medicinal use that day with possible augmentation on his part, two hats, and some less than rational directions to subordinates in the field, and the evidence mounts up.  Kinda sorta cleared by the court of inquiry, Miles went on leave of absence, awaiting orders from July 26, 1861 until March 8, 1862.  I’ll try to track down more information on the court of inquiry and post it here.

The ORs aren’t done-done, as Miracle Max might say.  I’ll get around to putting up the Blackburn’s Ford reports.  And of course there is all that correspondence to get through.  But it’s nice to have one thing wrapped up, finally.

Findings of the Miles Court of Inquiry

29 10 2008

Findings of Court of Inquiry on conduct of Col. Dixon S. Miles, Second U. S. Infantry, Commanding Fifth Division, at Battle of Bull Run

O.R.– SERIES I–VOLUME 2 [S# 2] — CHAPTER IX, pp. 438-439



Washington, November 6, 1861

A court of inquiry, instituted by Special Orders, No. 67, of August 10, 1861 [following] from headquarters Department Northeastern Virginia,. upon the application of Col. D. S. Miles, Second Infantry, to examine into certain allegations made against him as stated in his letter to the assistant adjutant-general at the headquarters of said department, dated July 26, 1861, did, after mature deliberation upon the testimony adduced, agree upon the following


1. That Col. I. B. Richardson was justified in applying the term drunkenness to Col. D. S. Miles’ condition about 7 o’clock p.m. on the 21st July last.

2. That the evidence is clear that Colonel Miles had been ill for several days before July 21 last – was ill on that day; that the surgeon had prescribed medicines for him, and on the day of the battle had prescribed for him small quantities of brandy.

The court, however, considers his illness as a very slight extenuation of the guilt attached to his condition about 7 p.m. on July 21 last.


The court is of opinion that evidence cannot now be found sufficient to convict Colonel Miles of drunkenness before a court-martial; that a proper court could only be organized in this Army with the greatest inconvenience at present, and that it will not be for the interests of the service to convene a court in this case.

The court is therefore of opinion that no further proceedings in the case are necessary.

II. The proceedings of the court of inquiry in the case of Col. D. S. Miles, Second Infantry, have been laid before the major-general commanding, and are confirmed.

By command of Major-General McClellan:


Assistant Adjutant-General




Arlington, August 10, 1861

Upon the application of Col. D. S. Miles, Second Infantry, a court of inquiry is hereby instituted to examine into certain allegations made against him, as stated in his letter to the assistant adjutant-general, headquarters Department N. E. Virginia, dated July 26, 1861.

The court will meet at 12 m., on Monday, the 12th instant, or as soon thereafter as practicable, in Alexandria, Va., and will report the facts and give its opinion in the case.

Detail for the court.

Brig. Gen. W. B. Franklin, U.S. Volunteers.

Col. John Sedgwick, First Cavalry.

Capt. Truman Seymour, First Artillery.

The junior member will record the proceedings.

By command of Brigadier-General McDowell:


Assistant  Adjutant-General

Those who Make Holes, and Those who Close Holes Up

14 02 2008

 miles.jpgThe two preceding posts are the last from McDowell’s staff, Surgeon William S. King and artillery chief Major William F. Barry.  I’m intrigued by a reference in King’s report to an Acting Assistant Surgeon Miles, who during the action inquired of King as to the safety of his father.  Could it be that his father was the well lubricated Col. Dixon Miles (left), who was back at Blackburn’s Ford literally wearing two hats?  I haven’t been able to find an answer yet, but did run across a pretty amusing account in the New York Times from August 30, 1854.  Miles was on his way to New Mexico, and wrote from Fort Atkinson on the Arkansas River of his encounters with the Camanches and Ki-o-wags:

Some of the bucks offered me as high as ten dollars for my daughter, and I had an offer of the swap of a squaw for Mrs. M.  I declined both advantageous offers.

What a guy.


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