Niles, Nathaniel

Born: 1817-02-04 Plainfield Center, New York

Died: 1900-09-16 Belleville, Illinois

Flourished: Springfield, Illinois

Niles attended Albany Academy from 1830 to 1834. He subsequently served a clerkship in Albany and gained admission to the bar. Niles left New York in 1837, first living in Delphi and Frankfort, Indiana, then Owensboro, Kentucky, before settling in Belleville, Illinois, in 1842. At the outbreak of the Mexican War, he received a commission as first lieutenant of the Second Illinois Volunteer Regiment. After the Battle of Buena Vista, Niles earned promotion to command of a Texas company. In 1848, he married Louisa Thoma, with whom he had twelve children. He served as chief clerk of the Illinois House of Representatives from 1848 to 1849 and then as St. Clair County judge from 1849 to 1861. An anti-slavery Democrat and later Republican, Niles edited the Belleville Advocate from 1851 to 1859. With the onset of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln commissioned him colonel of the Fifty-Fourth Illinois Volunteer Regiment, but Niles resigned when he failed to fill the regiment with the minimum number of recruits. The following year, he took command of the 130th Illinois Regiment and served with it until resigning after the Battle of Chattanooga. After his resignation, the U.S. Army breveted him to brigadier general. On his return home, Niles won election to the Illinois House of Representatives and remained there until 1865.

Gravestone, Walnut Hill Cemetery, Belleville, IL; The United States Biographical Dictionary and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-Made Men: Illinois Volume (Chicago: American Biographical, 1876), 486-87.