General Nelson Appleton Miles
As someone who has a deep appreciation of history, and a great appreciation of historical characters, it is of most interest when two of my American West favorites appear in a historical lost commentary, and the story is unpleasant, and it provides the foundation of where the Joint Chiefs of Staff appeared, and it brings about another progressive question of "Was the United States Military better serving America with a General of the Army as with George Washington, or with a military establishment of political appointments?"
It is interesting in the Roosevelts, Theodore and Franklin had a habit of getting their way by leveraging proven agencies of service, and replacing them with a political army leadership and a stacked liberal Supreme Court still overthrowing America.
Where this begins is the greatest advanced warfare expert and military genius which America ever produced in General Nelson Appleton Miles. Miles was a unique military officer, as he was not military at all and rose through the ranks in the Civil War to become General.
Miles was heroic in preserving the Union, the Indian Wars and in the Spanish American War.
Where the genesis of this politicized American military begins is with an incident of military inquiry.
What this inquiry was about, was the Spanish American War, and the battle of Santiago, in the Spanish Fleet. The focus was acting Admiral Winfield Scott Schley, whose operational Admiral, William Sampson, was sent to Cienfuegos to pursue the Spanish flotilla there.
The Spanish were not there, and Sampson suspected they were not there, but did not inform Schley of that information for several days.
The end result was that Schley concluded the Spanish were at Santiago, but had to return to Key West for coal for his steamer, as he was ordered to Santiago. He later countermanded orders and steamed to Santiago, where Sampson was and in the ensuing battle Schley became the hero of the Naval War.
The problem was Sampson made no mention of Schley's bravery and it became a muddled political battle, in which Schley was before a court of inquiry, and they ruled against him........against Hearst papers and the American opinion.
In a separate conclusion, Admiral Dewey found for Schley, and it was in this, that a reporter in Ohio asked General Miles of his opinion, which the General gave, which infuriated President Theodore Roosevelt, even though Teddy Roosevelt had not even ruled on the case or knew of it, so General Miles' observations had nothing to do with the President.
This is where this all begins, in Teddy Roosevelt was fuming that day, ranting to at least two people that "he would show Miles his teeth".
"I'll show you I've got teeth" — suiting the action
to the word and lifting a menacing forefinger.
"I've got teeth, and you shall feel them!"
The speaker was Theodore Roosevelt, Presi-
dent of the United States, and the person addressed
in these savage words was Nelson A. Miles, Com-
manding General of the United States Army. The
time was December, 1901 ; the place, the reception
hall in front of the executive office in the White
House ; and the audience, an indiscriminate assem-
blage of senators, congressmen, newspaper men,
The immediate and aggravating cause of this
presidential explosion was an interview which
Miles had given to an inquisitive reporter some
days before in Cincinnati, wherein he had ex-
pressed his approval of Admiral Dewey's verdict
— just made public — in the "Schley Court of In-
quiry," which convened in September, 1901, had
not concluded its work until December. It will be
recalled that this Naval Court, called to decide on
the merits of the Santiago campaign, was composed
of three admirals — Dewey, Benham, and Ramsay;
and that Admiral Dewey, the presiding member of
the Court, had rendered a verdict at variance with
the other two. The majority verdict, being re-
viewed and approved by the Secretary of the Navy,
was suffered to stand; from it there was no appeal,
except to the President of the United States, and
he, when appealed to some weeks later by Admiral
Schley, agreed with the majority finding.
The preceding events of the above, were as stated in General Miles providing a statement to the press, which the General thought he had full right to as a Citizen, who apparently agreed with Admiral Dewey' findings.
At the time General Miles gave the Cincinnati
interview, however, the President had not rendered
his decision against Schley; it was not apparent, at
that stage of the proceedings, that he had had any
part In the findings of the Naval Court. General
Miles's comment, therefore, could not have carried
any criticism of Roosevelt
General Miles in a written report to the Secretary of War Root, explained his position and right, and took it upon himself to visit the White House and explain the situation to the President.
"I have the honor to state that my observations
as substantially reported had no reference to the
action pending, or otherwise, of a co-ordinate
branch of the service. They were merely my per-
sonal views, based upon matters set forth in various
publications given to the world, and concerning
which I conceive there was no impropriety in ex-
pressing an opinion, the same as any other citizen,
upon a matter of such public interest. My obser-
vations were In no sense intended as a criticism of
a co-ordinate branch of the service, and the state-
ment that I had no sympathy with the effort to dis-
parage a distinguished and gallant officer likewise
had no such reference.
"(Signed) Nelson A. Miles,
"Lieut.-General, U. S. A."
The story then takes place at the White House, where General Miles is patiently waiting, and Teddy Roosevelt appears in full fury and "shows his teeth to the General" who bears it with resolve.
According to these. General Miles was standing
within a window embrasure, talking to a gentle-
man, when a stir near the door made him aware
of the President's entrance. He Immediately
started toward him with right hand extended ; the
President quickly thrust his hand behind him, and
the General as quickly dropped his — standing at
attention. The eyes of all those in the room at
once fastened on the pair, and under this stimulus
Roosevelt's theatrical sense rose rapidly. His
wrath was manifested in manner, tone, and sharp
explosive sentences: "Yes, yes! I wanted to see
you. I wish you to understand that I will have no
criticism of my administration from you, or any
other officer in the Army. Your conduct is worthy
of censure, sir. You had no business to express an
opinion," etc., etc. "I have got teeth, and you will
find that I can show them," shaking his finger in
the General's face and baring all his dental armo-
Miles's attempted explanation was cut short by a
repetition of the foregoing — menacing forefinger,
teeth, and all. Whereupon the old soldier of a
hundred battles lifted his chest and his chin in
quiet disdain and allowed his assailant to rave;
thinking, as he afterward remarked, that "he must
surely stop presently for lack of breath." Hav-
ing reached this breathless point, the President
turned abruptly, and left the Commanding
General standing in silence amid the gaping
The following day General Miles received from
Secretary Root a formal reprimand, which was at
the same time made pubhc "by the direction of the
Another letter follows, this time from Secretary of War Root, who states an Officer has no right to speak of personal opinions. The Lame Cherry will note that historically, during the election of 1864, Union Officers took it upon themselves to lecture their troops to not be led away democrats and to vote for President Lincoln.
No officers face court martial over supporting President Lincoln.
"Your explanation of the public statement made
by you is not satisfactory. You are in error if you
suppose that you have the same right as any other
citizen to express publicly an opinion regarding of-
ficial questions pending in the course of military
discipline. . . • (Here follows a partial quo-
tation of Army Regulations.) You had no business
in the controversy, and no right to express an opin-
ion. Your conduct was in violation of the Regula-
tions above cited, and you are justly liable to cen-
sure, which I now express.
"(Signed) Elihu Root, Secretary of War."
The problem with Secretary Root and President Roosevelt lecturing and actions, was they had no legal right to reprimand the General, as a reprimand could only be issued by a court martial finding General Miles guilty.
Had Root quoted the full text of the Army
Regulations, the irregularity and injustice of this
"reprimand" would have been manifest to all.
After waiting a whole month for the President's
wrath to cool, and willing to forgive much to what
was popularly supposed to be the "Roosevelt im-
petuosity," General Miles, carrying a full copy of
the Army Regulations, again sought the Executive
presence; and, pointing out the clause suppressed by
Root, asked Mr. Roosevelt, as a matter of simple
justice and manly reparation, to order a retraction
of the reprimand. Roosevelt promised to "think
about it" ;
The official finding of the Army and Navy found for General Miles, and yet President Roosevelt did nothing to remove the reproach on General Miles.
The Army and Navy publications of that period,
however, were not so sparing of the Roosevelt sen-
sibilities. The Army and Navy Journal, of Decem-
ber 28, 1901, said: "By Article 898, of the Army
Regulations, punishment for light offences is lim-
ited to the censure of the commanding officer; and
a reprimand, such as has been administered to Gen-
eral Miles, can only be administered on the verdict
of the court-martial
It was not enough though for President Roosevelt to let sleeping dogs lay, for he next moved in a vendetta to force General Miles to retire, after refusing the General to an inspection of the Philippines.
The retirement was met with absolutely backlash, and that ended the early retirement push.
Afterward, despite Miles's plea for
"sober, second thought"; and despite the Presi-
dent's promise to consider reparation; General
Miles became, thenceforth, the object of studied
slights and petty persecutions at the hands of the
Roosevelt administration which, beginning with the
"reprimand" in December, 1901, did not end with
the "retirement order" in August, 1903. His re-
quest to be sent to the Philippines in March, 1902,
was denied, and his plan for ending the war in
those islands was rejected.
Later, in the Spring of 1902, it was currently
rumored in Washington that the President would
retire Miles more than a year before the legal age
for his retirement, and would appoint a successor
to the post of Commanding General.
The "cuckoo" press was prompt with Its explana-
tion : Miles was not harmonious with the Adminis-
tration; he had opposed Secretary Root's Army Bill
for the creation of a "General Staff," with a "Chief
of Staff" who would take the place of the "Com-
manding General"; and he had indulged some ra-
ther frank criticisms of the existent order before
the Senate Committee in charge of the bill. All
these were capital offences, meriting capital punish-
ment, and the White House birds chirped forth the
news that Miles was slated for decapitation. Then
came a lull in retirement rumors, when presently
they ceased altogether.
The retirement talk though was not from generosity in President Roosevelt, it had more to do with Republicans were about to take a shellacking in the polls and if General Miles were forced out, the democrats were going to nominate him, and with the American West voting for the General who saved them from Indian Terrorists, the Hearst Press for the General, hosts of Veterans loyal to the General, Teddy Roosevelt would not win the election.
An Army officer now living in
Washington overheard a dialogue between two
White House factotums, wherein one of them af-
firmed: "Loeb went to him and just told him, if
he retired General Miles, the Democrats would
run Miles against him for the presidency and beat
So to foil that political problem, President Roosevelt sent General Miles to the Philippines who upon inspection found abuse by Americans of the Filipino peoples which did not help in the situation in the least for President Roosevelt.
In October, 1902, the War Department con-
sented that General Miles should go to the Philip-
pines, to inspect the troops and report conditions.
If they had known what he was going to find, more
especially if they had known what he was going to
report, it is most likely the President and Secretary
Root would have kept him at home, despite the
great personal relief to themselves to get him out
of the country for awhile.
It was not to be supposed, however, that the man
who had exposed the "embalmed beef" scandal in
1898 — braving the wrath of corrupt officials —
would keep silent concerning the mediaeval tortures
and barbaric cruelties practised by American sol-
diers upon defenceless Filipinos in 1902. Still less
would he connive at the scandal in the Commissary
Department, growing out of the "reconcentration
order," wherein hundreds of thousands of natives
were ordered into the towns on fifteen days' notice
— gathering in such property as they could carry —
and held there for several months; during which
time the enterprising heads of the Commissary De-
partment sold them "second quality rice, and dam-
aged flour," at profits ranging from 25 to 100 per
This Philippines Report submitted by General
Miles, February 19, 1903, is not exhibited with
noticeable zest at the War Department, but a copy
of it may be seen in The Army and Navy Journal
of May 2, 1903, and the "Anti-Imperialist
League" at Boston is always pleased to furnish
copies to applicants. The language of the Report
is clear and to the point. It does not deal in vague
generalities; it makes specific charges, names spe-
cific individuals, and cites the proof.
The pains taken by Mr. Roosevelt at the time
the Report was issued to refute the truth of it, by
trying to produce counter evidence — in which he
failed — should have served to impress it on his
memory; but we cannot believe he had it in mind
when he exhorted the Britishers — in his Guildhall
speech — to model their government of the Egyp-
tians upon "My Policy in the Philippines and in
With the General having returned to America, his retirement had reached its time in 1903, and General Miles was the last General of the Army as Teddy Roosevelt brought about a community organized politically appointed group called the Joint Chiefs of Staff which would devolve into the Pentagon.
Naturally enough, this Philippines Report did
not tend to improve General Miles's relations with
Mr. Roosevelt; and when August 8, 1903 — the
date for the former's legal retirement — arrived, it
brought the President's opportunity to even the
score. This date also marked the passing of the
"Commanding General," as the new order would
begin with the installation of the "General
This is the history of the United States in one of the worst episodes of American history, and a personal low for Theodore Roosevelt, and against an American Hero in General Nelson Appleton Miles.
It is the worst of situations which has not served America well in the Joint Chiefs, as it created a military industrial complex revolving door of quid pro quo, and in Vietnam the worst of incompetence.
The moment a politician begins picking political officers in the military, the military degrades. Congress should pick the most able General to be General of the Army, from a group who actually commanded and fought in wars.