Samuel Miles Papers, 1776-1802

Mss.B.M589

Date: 1776-1802 | Size: 16 items

Abstract

Correspondence and an autobiographical sketch of the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War service of Samuel Miles. A native Pennsylvanian, Miles raised and commanded a regiment of riflemen, but was captured near Flatbush in August 1776, during the battle of Long Island. He was held as a prisoner of war in New York until his exchange in April 1778. Miles subsequently served as Mayor of Philadelphia and was a presidential elector in 1796.

Background note

A native Pennsylvanian of Welsh Quaker stock, Samuel Miles served as a young man in the militia during the French and Indian War. Despite his youth, not yet being 20, Miles rose to the command of a company in 1759 and was appointed Captain in 1760.

By 1761, Miles left the army, married, and settled in Philadelphia to sell dry goods, rum and wines. He held various elective offices, including the General Assembly (1772-1774), but took an early and active part in the movement for independence. Once again elected to the General Assembly in 1775, Miles continued to serve there and on the Committee of Safety until helping to raise and command a regiment of riflemen in the Spring, 1776. Dispatched to Long Island, however, Miles and 159 members of his regiment were taken prisoner near Flatbush on August 27, 1776, having been cut off from American lines by British forces. He was held in New York until his exchange in April 1778. During his imprisonment, he was promoted to Brigadier General for services rendered.

After being released from prison, Miles served as Deputy Quartermaster for Pennsylvania until 1782, was appointed Judge of the High Court of Errors and Appeals in 1783, to the Council of Census at Philadelphia (1787), the City Council (1788), and Alderman and a member of the Council of Property (1789). In 1790 he became Mayor of Philadelphia, and continued taking an active role in politics until becoming a Federalist Presidential elector in 1796. In that year, Miles chose to support Jefferson for the Presidency over John Adams, reasoning that Jefferson's attitudes toward France would more likely prevent America from entering war. His stand, however, was not viewed well by his Federalist peers. In 1792, Miles retired to Cheltenham, Pa., where he died at the age of 67 on December 29, 1805. He is buried in the First Baptist Church, Philadelphia.

Scope and content

The Miles Papers consist of fifteen miscellaneous drafts of letters relating to the capture and imprisonment of Brigadier General Samuel Miles during the American Revolution, along with an autobiography describing his exploits in the French and Indian War, the Revolution, and in Philadelphia politics during the last two decades of the eighteenth century.

Almost all of Miles' letters were written when he was held as a prisoner of war in New York, and are addressed primarily to British and American authorities, including William Howe and George Washington, pleading for parole or exchange. The interesting autobiographical account was written in 1802, and provides a nice summary of his French and Indian War service in central and western Pennsylvania following Braddock's defeat, and a particularly valuable description of the chaos experienced by the American forces during the disastrous Battle of Long Island in 1776. Although he provides a detailed account of his capture, Miles unfortunately sheds little light on his imprisonment per se. Finally, this account touches on aspects of Miles' tumultuous political career in early Republic Pennsylvania, capped by his election as Mayor of Philadelphia and as presidential elector.

Digital objects note

This collection contains digital materials that are available in the APS Digital Library. Links to these materials are provided with context in the inventory of this finding aid. A general listing of digital objects may also be found here.

Collection Information

Provenance

Acquired, 1961.

Preferred citation

Cite as: Samuel Miles Papers, American Philosophical Society.

Processing information

Catalogued by rsc, 2001.

Bibliography

The autobiographical sketch, 1802 was published in American Historical Record 2 (1873), 49.

Early American History Note

The Samuel Miles Collection contains three sets of documents. One includes correspondence. The other contains autobiographical information that covers Miles life from his time in the Seven Years' War to the American Revolution, and a third contains financial information pertaining to the family. Miles served in the Pennsylvania militia during the Seven Years' War. During the Revolution, he was an officer and a POW. Later, he was a Federalist official. These experiences are well-documented in the collection. An account book from his time as a POW provides insight on the daily activity of many prisoners of war. Entries include donations for funerals, coffins, and other items related to the prisoner of war experience. There are additional pieces of correspondence from the American Revolution. A letter from Catherine Miles, Samuel's wife, is included in the correspondence and discusses property in Philadelphia that she worried would be used by the Army. There are also a couple of letters from Joshua Loring, the British officer in charge of prisoners, reprimanding Miles and other American officers for their behavior.

Aside from the details on his service during the Revolutionary War, the autobiographical account provides a fascinating first person narrative of an officer in the Seven Years' War who saw action in Northampton and western Pennsylvania, a politically active Pennsylvanian during the imperial crisis, and an officer holder in the early republic. As one of the electors in the election of 1796, Miles recounts his decision to vote for Jefferson even though he was nominated by Federalists, claiming he did so only with an eye towards which of the two candidates was more likely to keep the United State out of war.

Indexing Terms


Genre(s)

  • Autobiographies.
  • Autobiography
  • Military Records

Geographic Name(s)

  • Pennsylvania -- Politics and government

Personal Name(s)

  • Howe, William Howe, Viscount, 1729-1814
  • Loring, Joseph
  • Miles, Samuel, 1740-1805
  • Nicholson, John, 1757-1800
  • Reed, Joseph, 1741-1785
  • Rittenhouse, David, 1732-1796
  • Washington, George (1732-1799)

Subject(s)

  • American Revolution
  • Early National Politics
  • Long Island (N.Y.), Battle of, 1776
  • Military History
  • Seven Years' War
  • United States -- History -- French and Indian War, 1755-1763 -- Personal narratives
  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Personal narratives
  • United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Prisoners and prisons


Detailed Inventory

Correspondence
1776-180216 itemsbox 1
Rieger, Jacob.
Receipt to Samuel Miles
1776 June 10-July 51p.

D. 1p. and end.: "Letters written while in Captivity with the British". (see Miles papers.)

General physical description: 1p.

Miles, Samuel, 1740-1805.
ALS to Joseph Reed, Flatbush
1776 September 12p.

"flatt Bush" A.L.S. 2p. Draft. (see Miles papers.) He and officers are prisoners and want baggage sent them. Reports on their "genteel" treatment.

General physical description: 2p.

Access digital object:
https://diglib.amphilsoc.org/islandora/object/text:281437/

Miles, Catherine.
ALS to David Rittenhouse, Springmill
1776 December 151p.

Spring Mill, L.S. 1p.and add. (see Miles papers.) Asks if he can protect her new house in Philadelphia from soldiers.

General physical description: 1p.

Miles, Samuel, 1740-1805.
Account book, while in the Revolutionary War Army;
1776-1783 

A.D. 22p. Incomplete.

Miles, Samuel, 1740-1805.
ALS to unidentified recipient, Flatbush
1777 April 62p.

Flatt Bush, L[ong] Island, A.L. 2p. Draft. (see Miles papers.) Concerning life as a prisoner. Need of money. Business.

General physical description: 2p.

Loring, Joseph.
Letter to Samuel Miles and Maj. West
1777 April 261p.
Loring, Joseph.
ALS to Clayton & King, New York
1777 May 131p.

New York, L. 1p.and add.,end. Copy. (see Miles papers.) States they must pay for their room and board and not complain of their treatment.

General physical description: 1p.

Loring, Joseph.
ALS to Samuel Miles et al., New York
1777 May 141p.

New York, L. 1p.and end. Copy. (see Miles papers.) Requests they observe limits placed on their parole.

General physical description: 1p.

Miles, Samuel, 1740-1805.
ADfS to Elias Boudinot
[1777?] May 252p.

A.L. 2p. Drafts. (see Miles papers.) Need of money for prisoners.

General physical description: 2p.

Miles, Samuel, 1740-1805.
ADfS to William Howe
[1777?]1p.
Miles, Samuel, 1740-1805.
ADfS to George Washington
[ca.1777-1778?]5p.

ca. L. 4p. Drafts. Various sizes. (see Miles papers.) Need of prisoners.

General physical description: 5p.

Miles, Samuel, 1740-1805.
ADfS to unidentified recipient
[ca.1777?]2p.

[ca.] L. 2p. Draft. (see Miles papers.) Concerning the exchange of prisoners.

General physical description: 2p.

Other Descriptive Information: Not found 5/2011

Miles, Samuel, 1740-1805.
ADfS to William Howe
[1778?]2p.

A.L.by Samuel Miles for self and other officers. 2p., end. Draft. (see Miles papers.) Asks help for prisoners in hospitals.

General physical description: 2p.

Miles, Samuel, 1740-1805.
ADfS to George Washington
[ca.1778?]2p.

L.2p. Draft. (see Miles papers.) Concerning the possible exchange of prisoners.

General physical description: 2p.

Miles, Samuel, 1740-1805.
ALS to John Nicholson
[ca.1784?]2p.
Miles, Samuel, 1740-1805.
Letter to J[oh]n Nicholson;
1779?13-3/4x8

[ca.]. L. 2p. Draft. (see Miles papers.) Report on Pennsylvania finances.

General physical description: 13-3/4x8

Other Descriptive Information: Not found 5/2011

Miles, Samuel, 1740-1805.
AMsS, Autobiographical sketch
1802 February 414p.

A.D. 7 leaves and marbled covers. Incomplete. (see Mills papers.) Printed (according to Appleton): American Historical Record; 1873.

General physical description: 14p.

Miles, Samuel, 1740-1805.
Letter to Sir William Howe;
Undated12-1/4x8

[ca.1777?]. L.by Officers who are prisoners. 1p.and end. Draft. (see Miles papers.) Asks that the non-commissioned officers and enlisted men who are prisoners be given aid.

General physical description: 12-1/4x8