Carey was enslaved by a Mrs. Woods in Suffolk, Virginia. Mrs. Woods eventually married Owen R. Flynn, who enslaved Carey's future wife Maria (née Henderson). Around 1857, Miles and Maria Carey were married. They had two sons: Johnny, born around 1867; and Daniel, born around 1869. At some point before the war, Miles, Maria, and the couple who enslaved them moved from Suffolk to Portsmouth, Virginia. His service record described him as 5 feet, 9 inches tall, with dark hair, dark eyes, and light complexion.
Carey enlisted with the Union at the age of 29 as a private on January 1, 1864, and mustered in on January 11 at Fort Monroe, Virginia. He served in Company D of the 2nd Unites States Colored Troops Cavalry Regiment. Carey served on duty throughout Virginia during the war. On March 9, 1864, he engaged in action in Suffolk, where he lost equipment. In June of 1864, he suffered a kick from a horse near Richmond and Drewry's Bluff that later caused rheumatism. From August 17 to February 8, 1865, Cary was absent while in the hospital. Later, he also served on detached duty in the ambulance corps. While in Texas, he may have also started to develop partial blindness due to the light and heat of the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. He mustered out on February 12, 1866, from Brazos Santiago.
Following the war, Carey worked as a laborer in Portsmouth, where he lived with his wife Maria and their two sons, Johnny and Daniel. Carey spent the last 5 months of his life bedridden due to illness. He died on May 30, 1896, in Portsmouth at his home due to complications of asthma, dropsy and other diseases. His wife Maria moved across the street after his death to continue raising her children.
He first applied for a pension in 1890, but a doctor rejected it, not believing his leg and eyesight issues completely prevented him from working. Pension rejections and reductions were more common for Black veterans than white veterans. With more witnesses testifying on his behalf, he was able to start receiving a pension of six dollars per month in 1893. His pension was increased to $12 a month in 1894 due to his increasingly bad eyesight. After petitioning, she began receiving a widow's pension of $20 a month in 1916.
Private Carey was profiled by the University of Virginia's John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History in 2017, as part of their "Black Virginians in Blue" digital project.
- Web. [ Miles Carey (2nd USCT CAV)], Website, John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History: Black Virginians in Blue, April 10, 2021, retrieved July 28, 2021.
- Web. “Brave Boys of the Fifth”: The Service of Two Black, Albemarle-Born Soldiers of the Famous 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment, Jane Diamond, Website, John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History: Black Virginians in Blue, July 4, 2017, retrieved July 28, 2021.