Miles Seymour Adams updated 12 July 2018

Miles Seymour Adams was born 1830 in New York State, probably the son of New Yorker Alanson or Addison Adams (b. 1802) and Scottish-born Anna or Sarah Glenn (1800-1882).

Sometime after 1842 (when their son William was born) the family left New York and eventually settled in Michigan. (They were possibly living in Grand Rapids in 1846 when their daughter Margaret Sarah died.) By 1850 Miles was probably working as a blacksmith along with an older brother and his father and living with his family in Grand Rapids, Kent County. By 1856 he was living in Grand Rapids when he joined the Valley City Guard, the first local militia company established in the Grand River valley (many of whose members would serve as the nucleus for Company A, Third Michigan infantry in the spring of 1861.) Miles would eventually be promoted to First Corporal of the VCG.

By 1860 Miles was working as a blacksmith with his younger brother William and they were living with their mother Sarah (who was listed as head of the household) in Grand Rapids’ Second Ward; also residing at the same address was Ellen Adams.

Miles was 30 years old and probably still living with his family in Grand Rapids when he enlisted as Third Sergeant of Company A, on May 13, 1861. (Company A was made up largely of men from Grand Rapids, many of whom had served in the Valley City Guards, or VCG, under the command of Captain Samuel Judd, who would also command Company A.)

He was wounded in the right shoulder on May 31, 1862, at Fair Oaks, Virginia and subsequently sent to the City Hospital (possibly Cook’s) in New York City, where he was treated for his wounds from June 8 to July 21. On July 18 he was sent home on furlough from the hospital in New York, and arrived in Detroit on the evening of July 23.

Although he was still absent in Grand Rapids recovering from his wound, Miles was promoted to Second Lieutenant of Company K on August 12, while the regiment was at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia, and commissioned as of July 1.

On August 14, four days before his furlough was due to expire, Miles requested an extension of his furlough from the Adjutant General in Washington, DC. His request was accompanied by an endorsement from two prominent local physicians, Doctors Charles Shepherd and Oscar Chipman, who both recommended that Adams be discharged for disability. By the end of October he was reported as absent sick at Grand Rapids.

Although Miles eventually returned to the Regiment in Virginia his wounds continued to bother him. On February 11, 1863, Regimental Assistant Surgeon Walter Morrison wrote that he had examined Adams “and find that he is suffering from the effects of a gunshot wound received in the right arm under the shoulders [at Fair Oaks] totally disabling him -- the arm being paralyzed and very much atrophied -- rendering him unfit to perform the duties of an officer or soldier, besides, affecting his general health through the nervous system rendering him unable to perform a day’s march with a column. I further declare my belief that a recovery is uncertain and that he is entitled to a pension.” Adams submitted his formal resignation five days later, on February 16.

Apparently there were rumors going around the Regiment that Adams’ resignation had not been accepted. “Lieutenant Adams,” wrote Sergeant Charles Wright of Company A, on February 5, 1863, “formerly of my company” had “received a severe wound in his right shoulder, which has totally disabled him from the use of his arm in the battle of seven pines [Fair Oaks], has had his discharge returned, disapproved, to these headquarters, stating that although he was deprived of the use of one arm his bodily health was good and he should be returned to duty. Now this is one of the most absurd ideas I ever heard of, to hold a man in the service after having lost the use of an arm, and suffering the pain he does every day, for indeed he does suffer, for I see him every day, and to return his discharge papers disapproved.”

Colonel Byron Pierce, then commanding the Third Michigan in fact approved Miles’ resignation on February 5; General David Birney, Third Brigade commander, subsequently accepted Adams’ resignation on February 18 and General Daniel Sickles, Third Corps commander, approved it on February 20, 1863.

After his discharge from the army Miles returned home to western Michigan, and in early 1864 was defeated in his bid for election as City Marshal of Grand Rapids. The Eagle wrote on March 30, 1864, under the headline, “Soldiers Not Wanted” that “Miles Adams, crippled for life in the battles on the Peninsula, under McClellan, has twice been a candidate in the Democratic City convention for the office of City Marshal, and has been defeated each time. This year another soldier was one of his competitors; but both were unceremoniously voted down. Soldiers stand no chance in that party.”

Following his bid for election as City Marshal Miles enlisted in the Veterans’ Reserve Corps, and was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the VRC on August 22 and assigned to Company A, Twentieth Regiment VRC as of September 5. (The VRC was made up of men who while ambulatory were generally incapable of performing regular military tasks due to having suffered debilitating wounds and/or diseases and were assigned to garrison the many supply depots, draft rendezvous, camps, forts, prisons, etc. scattered throughout the northern cities, thus freeing able-bodied men for regular military duty.)

By the first of September Miles was in western Michigan, and in fact on September 1, 1864, he married Anna C. Reed (1830-1914), half-sister of Peter Lawyer (also of Company A, Third Michigan), in Muskegon, Muskegon County, Michigan; Benjamin Tracy of Grand Rapids, another former member of the Old Third, was one of the two witnesses at the wedding. Miles and Anna had at least two children: Cora (1867-77) and Alfred R.

Miles may have remained with the VRC garrisoned in western Michigan, probably in Grand Rapids and/or Jackson, Jackson County (where the draft and recruitment depot moved after Camp Lee closed down in Grand Rapids) although this is no means certain. In any case, Miles was posted to “Camp Cadwallader, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from July of 1865 to November 28 when he was relieved and directed to proceed to his home and report thence, by letter, to the Adjutant General of the Army for orders.” He remained at home until he was discharged “to date” June 30, 1866, per S.O. No. 37 from the AGO on July 3, 1866.

In 1867 when Miles applied for a pension the examining physician noted “His right arm is hopelessly disabled. The fingers of right hand are turned in towards the palm . . . the wrist being partially stiffened. The only use he has of the arm is to bring food to his mouth,” although “aside from appearance sake he would consider himself about as well off if his arm had been amputated.”

In February of 1863 Miles applied for and received a pension (no. 68821), drawing $24 a month by 1902.

Miles was elected (finally) City Marshal of Grand Rapids in 1868. His office was located at 34 Canal, and he was residing on the northwest corner of Jefferson and Wealthy. He was working as a blacksmith and living with his wife and two children in Grand Rapids at 66 Jefferson Avenue in 1870. That same year his mother Sarah (?) was living alone in Grand Rapids’ Second Ward next door to her son William and his family.

Miles and his family were living at 97 Ransom Street in Grand Rapids when the Grand Rapids Democrat of August 19, 1877, wrote that Adams and his wife had recently suffered the loss of their ten-year-old daughter, Cora, who died of acute gastritis. Funeral services were held from the home on Wednesday, at 2:00 p.m. The family placed the following poem in the newspaper:

A light from our household gone,
A voice we love is stilled;
A place is vacant at our hearth
Which can never be filled
A gentle heart that throbbed but now
With tenderness and love,
Has hushed its weary beatings here
To dwell in bliss above.
We call her dead, but Oh we know
She dwells where living waters flow.

Miles was living in Grand Rapids in 1883 and in September of 1885 when he became a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association. He was also a member of Grand Army of the Republic Custer Post No. 5 in Grand Rapids. In fact he probably lived the rest of his life in the city. Miles also worked as a mail agent for some years. He was still living in Grand Rapids in 1888, 1890, and by 1902 he was living with his son Alfred at 284 Quimby Street -- it is quite possible that by the time his wife had been committed to the Insane Asylum in Kalamazoo.

Miles was still living with his son Alfred when he died of pneumonia brought on by exposure on December 17, 1902. (It is possible that he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.) According to the Herald of December 18, he apparently wandered away from his home on Monday and “was found Tuesday afternoon eight miles out on West Bridge Street road, lying asleep in the snow and nearly dead from cold and hunger. He had been missing from home about 24 hours and had walked the entire distance in the snow, insufficiently clad. The immediate cause of death was pneumonia. For some time the aged man has been afflicted with dementia that caused him to wander from home. A close watch was kept on him, but a few times he escaped the vigilance of friends. About two months ago he wandered for two days and was found in the vicinity of Englishville [Kent County]. Deceased was a mail agent running out of Grand Rapids during the latter part of his life up to a few years ago, when he was incapacitated.”

Miles was buried on December 19 in Fulton cemetery, Grand Rapids: block 4 lot 4, grave 10 next to his brother William. Sarah is buried in lot 13 block 10 along with one Elizabeth V. Adams, who died in 1884.

His widow Anna applied for and received a pension (no. 565539), drawing $12 a month in 1914. By 1903 his widow was reported as a patient at the “Michigan Asylum for the Insane” at Kalamazoo, and under the guardianship of one Blanche Outhwaite of Muskegon, and then under the care of Elizabeth Much of Grand Rapids. Anna died in 1914.

Note that Miles' headstone, left, mistakenly lists him in the 20th Michigan Infantry; in fact, after his service in the 3rd Michigan he was transferred to the 20th company VRC.

Note that Miles' headstone, left, mistakenly lists him in the 20th Michigan Infantry; in fact, after his service in the 3rd Michigan he was transferred to the 20th company VRC.