Saturday, November 5, 2011

November 6, 1861 (Monday): The Miles Court of Inquiry

Colonel Dixon S. Miles
No. 63. Findings of Court of Inquiry on conduct of Colonel Dixon S. Miles, Second U. S. Infantry, commanding Fifth Division, at battle of Bull Run.


No. 42.
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 Colonel 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 Colonel I. B. Richardson was justified in applying the term drunkenness to Colonel 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 convince 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 Colonel 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.

At Manassas on July 21, with defeated remnants of the Union Army streaming to the rear, Miles occupied a key defensive position on  the heights of Centreville.  Suffering from an intestinal ailment for which he had been prescribed brandy, he there rearranged the alignment of troops by Colonel Isreal Richardson.  According to testimony at the court martial, Miles was reeling in his saddle and "..his language, tone, and utterances was thick.."  Add to which Miles was wearing two hats at the same time.  The court may have believed, and not without justification, that a court martial of an officer for drunkeness in the face of the enemy would not be good for troop morale.  So Miles continued to serve, commanding at Harper's Ferry during the Antietam Campaign, where he surrendered the town to troops under Stonewall Jackson.  He died there as the result of a final artillery shell exploding nearby and injuring his leg. 

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