James Miller (general)

James Miller (April 25, 1776 – July 7, 1851) was the first governor of Arkansas Territory and a brevet 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.

James Miller
AR Miller James.jpg
1st Governor of Arkansas Territory
In office
December 26, 1819 – December 27, 1824
PresidentJames Monroe
Preceded byRobert Crittenden (acting)
Succeeded byGeorge Izard
Personal details
Born(1776-04-25)April 25, 1776
Peterborough, New Hampshire
DiedJuly 7, 1851(1851-07-07) (aged 75)
Temple, New Hampshire
Resting placeHarmony Grove Cemetery
Salem, Massachusetts
42°31′33.21″N 70°54′52.22″W / 42.5258917°N 70.9145056°W / 42.5258917; -70.9145056
Spouse(s)Martha Ferguson
Ruth Flint
  • James Miller, Sr.
  • Catharine Gregg
Alma materWilliams College
Military service
Nickname(s)"Hero of Lundy's Lane"
Allegiance United States
Branch/serviceUnited States Army
Years of service1808–1819
RankBrevet Brigadier-General
Battles/warsWar of 1812

Early lifeEdit

James Miller was born in Peterborough, New Hampshire, to James and Catharine (née Gregg) Miller. He attended an academy at Amherst, Massachusetts, and then Williams College. After Martha's death, he married Ruth Flint. He had a law practice in Greenfield, New Hampshire, from 1803 to 1808.[1]

Military careerEdit

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 Regiment of Infantry in 1808. In 1811, Miller's unit went to fight Indians in Vincennes, Indiana, where he was promoted to colonel.[1] 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.[1] In 1814, Miller was colonel of the 21st Regiment of Infantry 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 United States Congress after the battle.[1]

Political careerEdit

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 Congress. Miller focused his attentions on finding a suitable location for a territorial capital. Since 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.

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.


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.

Honors and membershipsEdit

Miller was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1821.[2]

Legacy and memoryEdit

Miller County, Arkansas, and Miller State Park in Peterborough, New Hampshire, are both named after him.[3][4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "James Miller". Encyclopedia of Arkansas. Retrieved November 4, 2012.
  2. ^ American Antiquarian Society Members Directory
  3. ^ "James Miller". epodunk.com. Retrieved November 4, 2012.
  4. ^ "James Miller". New Hampshire Historical Markers. Retrieved November 4, 2012.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Crittenden
Governor of Arkansas Territory
Succeeded by
George Izard
Government offices
Preceded by
Willam Lee
Collector of Customs for Salem
Succeeded by
Ephraim Miller