William Raphael Miles
William Raphael Miles was born on
March 25, 1817, near Bardstown in Nelson County, Kentucky. His parents were John
and Sarah (Howard) Miles, farmers in Nelson County, both of old Maryland
families. The young Miles was educated at St. Joseph's College and, after
graduation, moved to Yazoo County, Mississippi. There he became a wealthy lawyer
and planter. A Whig, Miles served as a state representative from 1844 to 1846,
state senator from 1846 to 1848, and as a state elector-at-large for the Whig
ticket in 1852. Miles was termed a "gentleman of distinguished ability ... [and]
among the foremost public speakers in the state"; it was said that "even a
Democrat found it difficult to vote against William R. Miles." By 1860 Miles
owned a ten-thousand-acre plantation in the Yazoo Valley and had substantial
business interests in New Orleans.
In 1861 Miles was elected to represent New Orleans in the Louisiana Secession Convention. At the convention he voted with the majority in favor of secession. At the start of the war Miles and other New Orleans businessmen financed a privately owned and operated ship (a former river towboat renamed the Calhoun) to raid Union shipping. On May 16, 1861, the Calhoun made the first capture by a privateer in the war. Miles offered the Confederate government a plan to promote a whole fleet of privateers, based in Europe, but the Navy Department did not take up Miles's offer. In 1862 he raised and largely financed "Miles's Legion" (sometimes called the 32nd Louisiana), a mostly Louisiana unit composed of eight infantry companies, a cavalry battalion, and two artillery companies. On May 16, 1862, Miles was elected colonel of the legion. Made part of the Port Hudson garrison, the legion saw no action until 1863. In that year the legion was sent on an unsuccessful expedition to intercept Grierson's raiders. Miles led the legion at the Battle of Plains Store, where his troops made a successful assault. He commanded a brigade and the right of the Confederate line at the siege of Port Hudson. Captured there and imprisoned at Johnson's Island, he was exchanged on October 11, 1864- In 1865, as colonel, Miles commanded the post at Choctaw Bluffs, Alabama.
After the war Miles returned to Mississippi, his property in ruins, with a debt of $210,000, and no prospects of earning a livelihood. He resumed his Yazoo City law practice and for the next twenty years labored to provide for his family and discharge his debts. With his legal talents and with hard work he restored his finances and accumulated another fortune. In 1894 he retired to his plantation in Mileston in Holmes County, Mississippi. Miles died on January 1, 1900, near Mileston and is buried in the Catholic Cemetery in Yazoo City.
Wood, Heitman, SHSP, and CV list him as a general. SHSP states he received his commission in 1864 in order to command in northeast Mississippi. However, the OR show Miles as a colonel as late as April 3, 1865. In his postwar pardon application, Miles terms himself colonel of a legion, and he signed his May 17, 1865, parole as colonel.
Reference: More Generals in Gray. Bruce S. Allardice. A companion volume to Generals in Gray. Louisiana State University Press. Baton Rouge. LA.