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James Miller (general)

James Miller
1st Territorial Governor of Arkansas
In office
Succeeded by George Izard
Personal details
Born (1776-04-25)April 25, 1776
Peterborough, New Hampshire
Died July 7, 1851(1851-07-07) (aged 75)
Temple, New Hampshire
Spouse(s) Martha Ferguson and Ruth Flint
Children James Rerguson Miller
Profession Lawyer
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1808–1819
Rank Colonel
Brevet Brigadier General
Battles/wars War of 1812

James Miller (April 25, 1776 – July 7, 1851) was a member of the United States House of Representatives from New Hampshire, the first Governor of Arkansas Territory, and a brigadier general in the United States Army during the War of 1812. It was during his term as governor, and partly due to his influence, that the territory's capital was moved from Arkansas Post to Little Rock.


  • Biography 1
  • Military career 2
  • Political career 3
  • Death and legacy 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


James Miller was born in Peterborough, New Hampshire, to James Miller and Catharine Gregg Miller. He attended an academy at Amherst, Massachusetts, and then Williams College. He married Martha Ferguson and they had one son, James Ferguson Miller, who became a noted naval officer. After Martha's death, he married Ruth Flint. He had a law practice in Greenfield, New Hampshire, from 1803 to 1808.[1]

Military career

Miller joined the New Hampshire state militia and commanded an artillery unit, until General Benjamin Pierce noticed him and recommended that he be commissioned as a major in the regular army. Miller joined with the 4th United States Infantry in 1808. In 1811, Miller's unit went to fight Indians in Vincennes, Indiana, where he was promoted to colonel.[2]

In May 1812, his regiment moved to Detroit, Michigan. He was the commander during the Battle of Maguaga. Shortly afterwards, Miller was taken prisoner in 1813 and was later exchanged.[3]

In 1814, Miller was colonel of the 21st Infantry Regiment and led his men in the capture of the British artillery at the Battle of Lundy's Lane. His "I will try sir!" quote became famous and he earned the name of "Hero of Lundy's Lane". He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in November 1814. Miller was made a brevet brigadier general by the U.S. Congress after the battle.[4]

Political career

Appointed governor of the Arkansas Territory on March 3, 1819, Miller resigned from the army, but did not leave New England for his governorship until September 1819. He traveled to Washington, D.C. first, where he learned that he would also serve as the superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Arkansas Territory. He traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and acquired armaments for the territorial militia. He then traveled down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers with the armaments in tow, arriving at Arkansas Post on December 26, 1819, on a vessel flying flags reading “Arkansaw” and “I will try, sir!” Due to Miller’s tardiness, Robert Crittenden, the secretary of the territory, had been running the state and filling necessary appointments which were validated by the U.S. Congress. Miller focused his attentions on finding a suitable location for a territorial capital. A number of influential men, including Miller, in the territorial legislature had purchased lots in the Little Rock area, the bill moving the capital from Arkansas Post to Little Rock passed the territorial legislature.

As Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the territory, Miller dealt with the considerable debate over Quapaw, Cherokee, and Choctaw land claims and the desire for American whites to take the land for themselves. To make matters more confusing for Miller, warfare between the Cherokee and the Osage erupted within the territory in 1821. From the beginning of his term, it was clear that he did not plan to stay in Arkansas, as his wife remained in New Hampshire. Miller left the torrid Arkansas summer for cooler New Hampshire in April 1821, returning the following November. In his absences, Crittenden ran Arkansas and made decisions regarding the Native American problems. Finally, in June 1823, Miller left Arkansas and did not return at all that year. He held the post as Governor of the Arkansas Territory from 1819 to 1824.[5]

Miller was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1821.[6]

In the fall of 1824, he was elected to the House of Representatives in New Hampshire but never took office. Instead he was appointed Collector of Customs in Salem, Massachusetts, a post he served in until 1849. It is in this role that he is portrayed as the General in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Custom-House, an Introductory to The Scarlet Letter.

Death and legacy

Miller retired to his home in Temple, New Hampshire, where he died of a stroke. He was buried in Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem, Massachusetts.[7] Miller County, Arkansas[8] and Miller State Park in Peterborough[9] are named for Miller.


  1. ^ "James Miller". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  2. ^ "James Miller". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  3. ^ "James Miller". Arkansas Encyclopedia. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  4. ^ "James Miller". Arkansas Encyclopedia. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  5. ^ "James Miller". Find A Grave. Retrieved August 10, 2012. 
  6. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  7. ^ "James Miller". Find A Grave. Retrieved August 9, 2012. 
  8. ^ "James Miller". Retrieved 4 November 2012. 
  9. ^ "James Miller". New Hampshire Historical Markers. Retrieved 4 November 2012. 

External links

  • Arkansas Encyclopedia
  • Encyclopedia of Arkansas
  • Find a Grave
  • Governors of Arkansas
  • New Hampshire Historical Markers
Political offices
Preceded by
Territorial Governor of Arkansas
Succeeded by
George Izard
Government offices
Preceded by
Willam R. Lee
Collector of Customs for Salem
Succeeded by
Ephraim F. Miller
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