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James Henry Carleton
James Henry Carleton
Born (1814-12-27)December 27, 1814
Died January 7, 1873(1873-01-07) (aged 58)
Place of birth Lubec, Maine
Place of death San Antonio, Texas
Place of burial Mount Auburn Cemetery
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Union Army
Years of service 1839 - 1873
Rank Union army maj gen rank insignia.jpg Brevet Major General
Commands held 1st California Infantry 1861
District of Southern California 1861, 1862
California Column 1862
Department of New Mexico 1862-1866

Aroostook War
Mexican-American War

Indian Wars

American Civil War

James Henry Carleton (December 27, 1814 – January 7, 1873) was an officer in the U. S. Army and a general in the Union army during the American Civil War. Carleton is best known as an Indian fighter in the southwestern United States.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Carleton was born in Lubec, Maine. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the US Army in 1839, during the Aroostook War, and took part in the Mexican-American War. He served in the 1st U.S. Dragoons in the American West, participating as a Lieutenant in an 1844 expedition to the Pawnee and the Oto.[1]

Mountain Meadows Massacre[edit | edit source]

In May 1859, Carleton and K Company of the First Dragoons out of Fort Tejon, California, was detailed to escort Major Henry Prince, a paymaster, with government funds to the Southern Utah Territory. Arriving at Mountain Meadows, the command rendezvoused with the Santa Clara Expedition of the Department of Utah from Camp Floyd under the command of Captain Ruben Campbell[2] who had arrived in the area the previous week. With orders from General Clarke, commander of the Department of California, to bury the victims of the massacre that occurred in September 1857,[3] the dragoons gathered the remains of 34 found scattered on the plain and buried them in a mass grave.[4] A crude monument was constructed of rocks with a cross of cedar and an engraved marker. Assistant Surgeon Charles Brewer of the Santa Clara Expedition was in charge of a burial detail that had interred the remains of 39 in three mass graves a few days before the arrival of K Company.[5] After an investigation of the incident, Major Carleton felt his findings were significant enough to deliver as a Special Report[6] to Major W. W. Mackall, Assistant Adjutant-General, U.S.A., San Francisco, California. Major Carleton concluded that Mormons, some dressed as Indians, had murdered and plundered the possessions of 120 men, women, and children of a California bound emigrant train with the assistance of Paiute Tribesmen. In 1860, Major Carleton, attacked suspected Paiute raiders along the Mojave Road with a reinforced 1st Dragoons, Company K.

Civil War Service[edit | edit source]

In 1861 Carleton raised and was appointed colonel of the 1st California Volunteer Infantry Regiment. In October 1861, Colonel Carleton replaced Brigadier General George Wright as commander of the District of Southern California. In 1862 he led the so-called California Column across California, Arizona, New Mexico, and into Texas. Along the way the Californians fought the Battle of Picacho Pass and, afterward, the Battle of Apache Pass. Carleton was promoted to Brigadier General of volunteers on April 28, during the march from California to Arizona. He also established Fort Bowie near Apache Pass. Carleton finally linked up with Union forces under General Edward R. S. Canby in New Mexico. After the Confederate threat to New Mexico seemed to have been eliminated, Canby and many of the Union forces were sent to the east; so, in late August, Carleton was placed in command of the Department of New Mexico. Because of uncertainty as to whether the Confederates would try to re-invade New Mexico, Carleton took measures such as maintaining spies along the New Mexico-Texas border and retaining the services of volunteer units from Colorado which had played a prominent role in expelling the Confederates from New Mexico in the winter and spring of 1862.

During his tenure as department commander, Carleton was concerned mainly with Indian threats. His primary field commander was Colonel Christopher "Kit" Carson. Carleton campaigned relentlessly against the Indians, and although he was strong on discipline, he was popular with his men.[7] Against the Navajo he elected scorched earth tactics. Carleton's campaigning brought the depradations of the Navajo to an end at Canyon de Chelly, and was followed by the "Long Walk". Carleton next sent Carson on an expedition to rid the southwest of Indian raids which resulted in the Battle of Adobe Walls. One notorious quote by Carleton on the subject of Indians:

"All Indian men of that tribe are to be killed whenever and wherever you can find them…. If the Indians send in a flag of truce say to the bearer ... that you have been sent to punish them for their treachery and their crimes. That you have no power to make peace, that you are there to kill them wherever you can find them."[8]

Carleton was appointed brevet major general in the regular army in 1865, the same year that the Civil War ended. He retained command of his volunteer troops until 1866 when U.S. Regulars took over in the West. Carleton served as a lieutenant colonel of the 4th U.S. Cavalry after the war.

Literary Efforts and Death[edit | edit source]

Carleton wrote several books on the military: The Battle of Buena Vista (1848), Diary of an Excursion to the Ruins of Abo, Quarra, and the Grand Quivira in New Mexico in 1853 (1855) and The Prairie Log Books (posthumous, 1944). It was partly on the strength of The Battle of Buena Vista that Carleton received an appointment from Secretary of War Jefferson Davis in 1856 to make a study of European cavalry tactics. Carleton did not make the trip abroad himself, but based his report on the observations of Capt. George B. McClellan, who had recently returned from Europe. One of Carleton's children, Henry Guy Carleton (1852–1910) was a journalist, playwright, and inventor. General Carleton died, serving with the Fourth Cavalry Regiment in his permanent rank of Lieutenant Colonel, at age 59 in January 7, 1873, in San Antonio, Texas, and is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts; his son, Henry was later buried beside him.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Carleton, James Henry (1983). "The Prairie Logbooks". Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. pp. 3–152. ISBN 0-8032-6314-7. 
  2. Thompson 1860 p14
  3. Carleton 1859 p.1
  4. Carleton 1859 p.15
  5. Thompson 1860 pp.16&17
  6. Carleton 1859 p.17
  7. Biography by Captain Jim Balance
  8. Eigen's Political & Historical Quotations -- http://politicalquotes.org

Sources[edit | edit source]

  1. Carleton, James Henry (1859). "(Special Report on the Mountain Meadows Massacre". Government Printing Office. http://books.google.com/?id=MBYiwjNst6EC. .
  2. Thompson, Jacob (1860). "Message of the President of the United States: communicating, in compliance with a resolution of the Senate, information in relation to the massacre at Mountain Meadows, and other massacres in Utah Territory, 36th Congress, 1st Session, Exec. Doc. No. 42". U.S. Dept. of the Interior. http://www.archive.org/details/messageofpreside00unitrich. .

Research resources[edit | edit source]

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