William Porcher Miles
|Member of the C.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina's 2nd district|
February 18, 1862 –March 18, 1865
|Preceded by||New constituency|
|Succeeded by||Constituency abolished|
|Deputy from South Carolina |
to the Provisional Congress
of the Confederate States
February 4,1861 –February 17,1862
|Preceded by||New constituency|
|Succeeded by||Constituency abolished|
|Member of the U.S.HouseofRepresentatives |
from South Carolina's 2nd district
March 4,1857 –December 24,1860
|Preceded by||William Aiken|
|Succeeded by||Christopher Bowen|
|36th Mayor of Charleston|
November 7,1855 –November 4,1857
|Preceded by||Thomas Leger Hutchinson|
|Succeeded by||Charles Macbeth|
|Died||May 11,1899 76) (aged|
|Resting place||Green Hill Cemetery,|
|Alma mater||Charleston College|
|Branch/service||Confederate States Army|
|Years of service||1861|
|Battles/wars||American Civil War|
William Porcher Miles (July 4,1822 –May 11,1899) was an American politician who was among the ardent states' rights advocates,supporters of slavery,and Southern secessionists who came to be known as the "Fire-Eaters." He is notable for having designed the most popular variant of the Confederate flag,originally rejected as the national flag in 1861 but adopted as a battle flag by the Army of Northern Virginia under General Robert E. Leebefore it was reincorporated.
Born in South Carolina,he showed little early interest in politics,and his early career included the study of law and a tenure as a mathematics professor at the Charleston College from 1843 to 1855. In the late 1840s,as sectional issues roiled South Carolina politics,Miles began to speak up on sectional issues. He opposed both the Wilmot Proviso and the Compromise of 1850. From then on,Miles would look at any northern efforts to restrict slavery as justification for secession.
Miles was elected as mayor of Charleston in 1855 and served in the United States House of Representatives from 1857 until South Carolina seceded,in December 1860. He was a member of the state secession convention and a representative from South Carolina at the Confederate Convention in Montgomery,Alabama,which established the provisional government and constitution for the Confederate States. He represented his state in the Confederate House of Representatives during the American Civil War.
Miles was born in Walterboro,South Carolina to James Saunders Miles and Sarah Bond Worley Miles. His ancestors were French Huguenots and his grandfather,Major Felix Warley,fought in the American Revolution. His primary education came at Southworth School and he later attended Willington Academy where John C. Calhoun had matriculated a generation earlier. Miles enrolled at Charleston College in 1838 where he met future secession advocates James De Bow and William Henry Trescot. Miles graduated in 1842 and in 1843 he briefly studied law with a local attorney before returning to his alma mater as a mathematics professor.
Throughout the 1840s Miles showed little interest in active politics. He did not participate in the Bluffton Movement in 1844,although he did recognize that the 1846 Wilmot Proviso threatened his concepts of "southern rights,the equality of the states under the Constitution,and the honor of a slaveholding people." In 1849 Miles was invited to speak at a Fourth of July celebration in Charleston.
In this speech,Miles attacked the principles behind the Wilmot Proviso. While he believed that slavery was a "Divine institution," he was willing to accept differences of opinion as long as antislavery advocates returned the favor by admitting that slavery was "recognized and countenanced" by the Constitution.To Miles,Northerners,in their efforts to legislate restrictions on slavery,were not simply raising an issue of constitutional interpretation. Miles argued:
They are not contending for an abstract principle – they are not influenced by a mere spirit of fanatical opposition to slavery ... they are deliberately, intentionally, and advisedly aiming a deadly blow at the South. It is intended as a blow. It is intended to repress her energies – to check her development – to diminish and eventually destroy her political weight and influence in this confederacy.
Miles rejected any compromise on slavery and supported Calhoun in opposition to the Compromise of 1850. However while activists within the state in 1850 and 1851 mobilized, Miles remained on the sidelines as Southern Rights associations and rallies dominated South Carolina politics. In 1852 Miles delivered an address to the Alumni Society of the Charleston College that included one of the frequent arguments of the Fire-Eaters. Addressing himself to the Declaration of Independence, Miles denied the concept of inalienable rights and maintained that liberty was an "Acquired Privilege." He argued that "Men are born neither Free nor Equal" and some men were born with the innate ability to earn liberty while others were not. Government should not attempt to either "make a Statesman of him who God intended should be a Ploughman" or "bind down forever to the plough him to whom God has given a mind capable of shaping the destinies of a People." From this point on in his career, Miles rejected the political legitimacy of abolitionists and free-soilers and responded to any attempts to restrict slavery with a call for secession.In 1852 he delivered "Republican Government Not Always the Best" to members of College of Charleston graduation address.
In the summer of 1855 a yellow fever epidemic hit the coast of Virginia. Eventually 2,000 people would die as well as half of the doctors who attempted to treat it. Virginia called for volunteers from the lower South where the disease was more common and residents had developed some natural immunity. Miles responded by serving for several weeks in Norfolk as a nurse. His heroic activities were reported back to Charleston, and his friends used the popularity generated by his activities to draft him as a candidate for mayor. Upon his return to Charleston he made only one public speech but was still elected mayor by a vote of 1,260 to 837.While serving as mayor, Miles lived at 53 Beaufain Street; the house no longer exists.
Interested in reform, the new mayor first tackled police reform. After sending out fact finding missions to other cities, he implemented a plan that addressed the problem of excessive partisanship within the city council. Appointment responsibility was reassigned to the police chief for lower ranks and to the mayor, with city council approval, for higher ranks. He expanded patrols, cracked down on habitual offenders.
In the area of social reform, Miles created a house of corrections for juveniles, an almshouse, an orphanage and an asylum. He provided aid for transient poor and free black paupers and implemented a sewage system as a health measure. Having inherited a large public debt, he increased property taxes in an effort to retire the debt in 35 years. At the end of his two-year term he was widely judged to have been successful, leading him to consider further public office.
In 1856 Miles ran for the seat being vacated by Congressman William Aiken Jr. The national issues of slavery in Kansas and the rise of the Republican Party dominated the election. Miles argued that the election of the Republican candidate for president, John C. Fremont, would require a joint southern response that could include boycotting the new Congress and calling a southern convention to determine further action. In a three-way election Miles was victorious by a vote of 1,852 to 1,844 for his two opponents.
When he took office in 1857 he found that the Kansas issues dominated Congressional debate, threatened the unity of the Democratic Party and increased the growth of the Republicans. His first speech on the House floor came in 1858 and argued the Southern position on Kansas. Despite his acknowledgement that the Kansas climate was not conducive to slavery, he stated:
But, sir, the issue has been made, the battle joined; and though it be on an abstract principle which does not at present promise to result in any practical advantage to us, I am willing to stand by the guns and fight it out. ... The South may not dissolve the Union on the rejection of Kansas, but such rejection would, assuredly, sever still another of the cords – rapidly becoming fewer – which the course of events has been snapping one by one.
Miles was re-elected in 1858. In January 1859 he spoke in support of fellow fire-eater William Lowndes Yancey in advocating the repeal of federal laws banning the African slave trade. Miles felt that the regulation of the trade should be a state function and that the national ban was an insult to Southern honor. This stance was considered too radical even by his friends, such as Trescott, who felt, since it could never be supported by the majority of the nation, that Miles' stance was simply a guise to force disunion.
John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry sent a shock wave across the South. When the Thirty-sixth Congress met in December 1859 the first order of business was the selection of a speaker. Already in turmoil over the Brown raid, Southerners were further aggravated by the nomination of Ohio Republican John Sherman for the post. Sherman was one of 68 Republicans who had endorsed Hinton Helper's book, The Impending Crisis and How to Meet It, which Southerners believed would ignite class warfare between slaveholders and non-slaveholders in the South.Republicans proposed buying 100,000 copies of the book and distributing it throughout the country. Miles conspired with South Carolina's governor to send a regiment of militia to Washington to break up the Congress in the event of Sherman's election, but the withdrawal of Sherman's nomination prevented action.
In South Carolina the state legislature was unable to determine an appropriate response, but finally, reacting to a proposal by pro-secession Governor William Henry Gist decided to propose a Southern convention. As a first step Christopher Memminger was dispatched to Virginia in order to solicit their support. Miles advised Memminger to "urge our Carolina view in such a manner as to imbue Virginia with it ... [and] we may soon hope to see the fruit of your addresses in the sturdy and healthy offspring of whose birth we would be so greatly proud — a Southern confederacy.
By 1860 Miles was one of the leading secessionists in South Carolina. His position in Washington, D.C., allowed him to serve as a conduit in the flow of information between Washington and Charleston.State politicians focused on the upcoming Democratic Convention scheduled in Charleston beginning on April 23. Miles was concerned about the candidacy of Stephen A. Douglas, especially rumors that there might even be a pro-Douglas faction in South Carolina. Miles and other radicals were convinced that only a strictly Southern party could properly address the state's needs.
The convention deadlocked over the party platform. Southerners opposed Douglas' support for popular sovereignty – a concept which would have allowed new territories to decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery. Southerners preferred federal guarantees that slavery would be allowed in all United States territories. Thirteen of the 16 South Carolina delegates walked out of the convention.In May Miles returned to Charleston and declared that the next election would pit "power against principle – the majority against the minority, regardless of all constitutional barriers."
Support for secession was strong in South Carolina even before Lincoln's election. Miles pressed the issue, urging action as opposed to simply more discussion.Miles stated, according to a July 24 newspaper account:
I am chary of seeing the South pass "resolutions". They accomplish nothing. In truth, have come to be regarded very much like the cry of "wolf". Let us resolve less and do more. I am sick at heart of the endless talk and bluster of the South. If we are in earnest let us act. Above all, I am weary of these eternal attempts to hold out the olive branch, when we ought to be preparing to grasp the sword.
Miles argued that South Carolina should "break up things generally, which any state can at any time do."He believed that the South had "all the elements of wealth, prosperity and strength, to make her a first-class power among the nations of the world" and would "lose so little and gain so much" with secession." In August Miles was struck with typhoid fever and went to New England to recover, not returning to the state until the November elections.
As secession loomed, President James Buchanan was concerned about the safety of United States property in South Carolina. Miles, returning to Washington for the upcoming session of Congress, was one of the South Carolina delegates who met with Buchanan to discuss this problem. On December 10 Miles and the others presented a letter to the President that assured him that the forts in Charleston would not be molested "provided that no reinforcement should be sent into those forts, and their relative military status" maintained.Buchanan questioned the word "provided" since it appeared to bind him, but the delegates assured him that they were only communicating their understanding based on the status quo. According to both Miles and fellow South Carolina fire-eater Laurence M. Keitt, Buchanan said, "After all, this is a matter of honor among gentlemen. I do not know that any paper or writing is necessary. We understand each other."
Returning to South Carolina, Miles was elected as a delegate to the South Carolina secession convention. Miles was for immediate action. On December 17, fearing that even a few days of delay could be critical, he opposed the relocation of the convention from Columbia to Charleston due to a smallpox outbreak. Miles' last communications with southerners in Washington told him that they were all looking to South Carolina for leadership.Miles attitude was reflected in his statement, "Let us act if we mean to act without talking. Let it be 'a word and a blow – but the blow first."
The convention adopted an ordinance of secession on December 20. Miles, along with other South Carolinians, immediately resigned his seat in Congress.In the months ahead, Miles, believing in the possibility of peaceful secession, opposed precipitate action over either Fort Sumter or the Star of the West incident. In February 1861 Miles was one of eight South Carolina delegates to the Confederate Convention in Montgomery, Alabama, that established the Confederacy.
Miles was selected for both the provisional and regular Confederate Congress. He was chairman of the House Military Affairs Committee while also serving as an aide-de-camp for General P. G. T. Beauregard at both Charleston, in the buildup to the attack on Fort Sumter, and the First Battle of Bull Run. Recognizing, however, his own lack of military training, Miles focused most of his attention on his congressional duties.
Historian Eric H. Walther describes Miles tenure in the Confederate Congress:
Like other fire-eaters, Miles found only frustration in the Confederate Congress. Before secession he had wanted to eliminate all trade duities in a southern confederacy. Now, De Bow warned him that a sudden shift to free trade would alienate and antagonize the powerful sugar planters of the Gulf South, who had prospered under the tariff policies of the Union. Miles complained that his colleagues on congressional committees made work impossible because their habitual absences prevented a quorum, and as events began to sour in the new nation he held no higher opinion of President Davis than other fire-eaters. Late in the war, when some military officials began to discuss the efficacy of using black troops in the Confederate army, Miles was perplexed. ... [H]e understood the urgent demands of the army, but eventually ... [concluded] that "it is not merely a military, but a great social and political question, and the more I consider it the less is my judgment satisfied that it could really help our cause to put arms into the hands of our slaves.
While serving in the Confederate Provisional Congress, Miles chaired the "Committee on the Flag and Seal," which adopted the "Stars and Bars" flag as the national flag of the Confederacy. Miles opposed this selection because, he felt, it too much resembled, as supporters of it admitted, the old Stars and Stripes. Miles argued:
There is no propriety in retaining the ensign of a government which, in the opinion of the States composing this Confederacy, had become so oppressive and injurious to their interests as to require their separation from it. It is idle to talk of "keeping" the flag of the United States when we have voluntarily seceded from them.
Miles favored his own design. When General P.G.T. Beauregard decided a more recognizable Battle Flag was needed, Miles' suggested his design. Although this design had been rejected by the committee for a national flag, it eventually became the Confederate Battle Flag, today often referred to as a "Rebel flag" or the "Southern Cross." Miles' design was later used as the canton in the second version of the national flag (nicknamed the "Stainless Banner") as well as in the third national design (nicknamed the "Blood-Stained Banner").
As late as January 1865, Miles offered a resolution in Congress stating, "That we, the representatives of the people of the Confederate States, are firmly determined to continue the struggle in which we are involved until the United States shall acknowledge our independence."
Describing Miles's feelings shortly after the war ended and quoting from a September 25, 1865 letter, Walther wrote:
And yet even the realities of defeat did not change Miles' abstract ideas. Watching how other southerners dealt with defeat greatly upset the highly principled Miles. "When we see the most ardent Secessionists and 'Fire eaters' now eagerly denying that they ever did more than 'yield their convictions to the voice of their State,'" and call secession a heresy and slavery a curse, Miles concluded, "it is plain that Politics must be more a trade and less a pursuit for an honourable man than it ever was before." For any secessionist to return to public office in a reconstructed Union, Miles believed, entailed a forfeiture of self-respect, consistency, and honor. For himself and other secessionists, he said, politics "for a time cannot be a path which any high-toned and sensitive – not to say honest and conscientious – can possibly tread."
Miles had married Bettie Beirne in 1863, the daughter of a wealthy Virginia planter, Oliver Beirne, and granddaughter of Representative Andrew Beirne. For a few years after the war, he worked for his father-in-law as a factor in New Orleans. In 1867, Miles took over the management of Oak Ridge Plantation in Nelson County, Virginia.He encountered serious financial problems as a tobacco and wheat farmer, and in 1874, he unsuccessfully applied for the position of president at the new Hopkins University of Baltimore. Miles remained on the farm and helped friends like Beauregard and former Fire-Eater Robert Rhett gather materials for their own histories of the Confederacy.
In 1880, Miles was appointed president of the newly-reopened South Carolina College. After his father-in-law's death in 1882, Miles took over the family business interests and relocated to Houmas House in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, where he managed a dozen plantations that Oliver Beirne had inherited just one year before at the death of his longtime friend, John Burnside. In 1892, with his son, he formed Miles Planting and Manufacturing Company of Louisiana.
Miles died on May 11, 1899 at 76 and was interred at Green Hill Cemetery in Union, West Virginia.
The American Civil War was a civil war in the United States. It was fought between the United States, and the Confederacy, which was formed by states that seceded. The central cause of the war was the dispute over whether slavery would be permitted to expand into the western territories or be prevented from doing so, setting it on the path to ultimate extinction.
The Confederate States of America (CSA), commonly referred to as the Confederate States or simply the Confederacy, was an unrecognized breakaway republic in North America that existed from February 8, 1861, to May 9, 1865. The Confederacy comprised U.S. states that declared secession and warred against the United States during the American Civil War. Eleven U.S. states, nicknamed Dixie, declared secession and formed the main part of the CSA. They were South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Kentucky and Missouri also had declarations of secession and full representation in the Confederate Congress during their Union army occupation.
The 1860 United States presidential election was the 19th quadrennial presidential election, held on November 6, 1860. In a four-way contest, the Republican Party ticket of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin, absent from the ballot in ten slave states, won a national popular plurality, a popular majority in the North where states already had abolished slavery, and a national electoral majority comprising only Northern electoral votes. Lincoln's election thus served as the main catalyst of the American Civil War. This election resulted in the first Republican president being elected.
The flags of the Confederate States of America have a history of three successive designs during the American Civil War. The flags were known as the "Stars and Bars", used from 1861 to 1863; the "Stainless Banner", used from 1863 to 1865; and the "Blood-Stained Banner", used in 1865 shortly before the Confederacy's dissolution. A rejected national flag design was also used as a battle flag by the Confederate Army and featured in the "Stainless Banner" and "Blood-Stained Banner" designs. Although this design was never a national flag, it is the most commonly recognized symbol of the Confederacy.
Historians who debate the origins of the American Civil War focus on the reasons that seven Southern states declared their secession from the United States and united to form the Confederate States, and the reasons that the North refused to let them go. Proponents of the pseudo-historical Lost Cause ideology have denied that slavery was the principal cause of the secession. While historians in the 21st century agree on the centrality of the conflict over slavery—it was not just "a cause" of the war but "the cause"—they disagree sharply on which aspects of this conflict were most important.
In the context of the American Civil War (1861–65), the border states were slave states that did not secede from the Union. They were Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri, and after 1863, the new state of West Virginia. To their north they bordered free states of the Union and to their south they bordered slave states of the Confederacy, with Delaware being an exception to the latter.
In American history, the Fire-Eaters were a group of pro-slavery Democrats in the Antebellum South who urged the separation of Southern states into a new nation, which became the Confederate States of America. The dean of the group was Robert Rhett of South Carolina. Some sought to revive America's participation in the Atlantic slave trade, which had been illegal since 1808.
William Lowndes Yancey was an American journalist, politician, orator, diplomat and an American leader of the Southern secession movement. A member of the group known as the Fire-Eaters, Yancey was one of the most-effective agitators for secession and rhetorical defenders of slavery. An early critic of John C. Calhoun at the time of the Nullification Crisis of 1832–33, Yancey began to identify with Calhoun and the struggle against the forces of the anti-slavery movement by the late 1830s. In 1849, Yancey was a firm supporter of Calhoun's "Southern Address" and an adamant opponent of the Compromise of 1850.
Robert Barnwell Rhett was an American politician who served as a deputy from South Carolina to the Provisional Confederate States Congress from 1861 to 1862, a member of the US House of Representatives from South Carolina from 1837 to 1849, and US Senator from South Carolina from 1850 to 1852. As a staunch supporter of slavery and an early advocate of secession, he was a "Fire-Eater".
Edward Alfred Pollard was an American author, journalist, and Confederate sympathizer during the American Civil War who wrote several books on the causes and events of the war, notably The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates (1866) and The Lost Cause Regained (1868), wherein Pollard originated the long-standing pseudo-historical ideology of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy.
James Chesnut Jr. was an American lawyer and politician, and a Confederate functionary.
Henry Cornelius Burnett was an American politician who served as a Confederate States Senator from Kentucky from 1862 to 1865. From 1855 to 1861, Burnett served four terms in the United States House of Representatives. A lawyer by profession, Burnett had held only one public office—circuit court clerk—before being elected to Congress. He represented Kentucky's 1st congressional district immediately prior to the Civil War. This district contained the entire Jackson Purchase region of the state, which was more sympathetic to the Confederate cause than any other area of Kentucky. Burnett promised the voters of his district that he would have President Abraham Lincoln arraigned for treason. Unionist newspaper editor George D. Prentice described Burnett as "a big, burly, loud-mouthed fellow who is forever raising points of order and objections, to embarrass the Republicans in the House".
Mississippi was the second southern state to declare its secession from the United States, doing so on January 9, 1861. It joined with six other southern states to form the Confederacy on February 4, 1861. Mississippi's location along the lengthy Mississippi River made it strategically important to both the Union and the Confederacy; dozens of battles were fought in the state as armies repeatedly clashed near key towns and transportation nodes.
South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union in December 1860, and was one of the founding member states of the Confederacy in February 1861. The bombardment of the beleaguered U.S. garrison at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861 is generally recognized as the first military engagement of the war. The retaking of Charleston in February of 1865, and raising the flag again at Fort Sumter, was used for the Union the symbol of victory.
Georgia was one of the original seven slave states that formed the Confederate States of America in February 1861, triggering the U.S. Civil War. The state governor, Democrat Joseph E. Brown, wanted locally raised troops to be used only for the defence of Georgia, in defiance of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, who wanted to deploy them on other battlefronts. When the Union blockade prevented Georgia from exporting its plentiful cotton in exchange for key imports, Brown ordered farmers to grow food instead, but the breakdown of transport systems led to desperate shortages.
The American state of Virginia became a prominent part of the Confederacy when it joined during the American Civil War. As a Southern slave-holding state, Virginia held the state convention to deal with the secession crisis, and voted against secession on April 4, 1861. Opinion shifted after the Battle of Fort Sumter on April 12, and April 15, when U.S. President Abraham Lincoln called for troops from all states still in the Union to put down the rebellion. For all practical purposes, Virginia joined the Confederacy on April 17, though secession was not officially ratified until May 23. A Unionist government was established in Wheeling and the new state of West Virginia was created by an act of Congress from 50 counties of western Virginia, making it the only state to lose territory as a consequence of the war.
Charleston, South Carolina, was a hotbed of secession at the start of the American Civil War and an important Atlantic Ocean port city for the fledgling Confederate States of America. The first shots against the Federal government were those fired there by cadets of the Citadel to stop a ship from resupplying the Federally held Fort Sumter. Three months later, the bombardment of Fort Sumter triggered a massive call for Federal troops to put down the rebellion. Although the city and its surrounding fortifications were repeatedly targeted by the Union Army and Navy, Charleston did not fall to Federal forces until the last months of the war. Charleston was devastated.
Historiography examines how the past has been viewed or interpreted. Historiographic issues about the American Civil War include the name of the war, the origins or causes of the war, and President Abraham Lincoln's views and goals regarding slavery.
The U.S. state of Louisiana declared that it had seceded from the United States on January 26, 1861. It then announced that it had joined the Confederate States (C.S.); Louisiana was the sixth slave state to declare that it had seceded from the U.S. and joined the C.S.
The Virginia Secession Convention of 1861 was called in Richmond to determine whether Virginia would secede from the United States, to govern the state during a state of emergency, and to write a new Constitution for Virginia, which was subsequently voted down in referendum under the Confederate Government.