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James Henry Carleton
[[Image:File:Carleton, James Henry.jpg|center|200px|border]]James Henry Carleton
Personal Information
Born: December 27, 1814(1814-12-27)
Place of Birth: {{{place of birth}}}
Died: January 7, 1873 (aged 58)
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Other Information
Allegiance: File:Flag of the United States.svg United States of America
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Branch: United States Army
Union Army
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Rank: Brevet Major General
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Commands: 1st California Infantry
Department of New Mexico
Battles: Aroostook War
Mexican-American War
  • Battle of Buena Vista

Indian Wars
American Civil War

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James Henry Carleton (December 27, 1814 – January 7, 1873) was an officer in the Union army during the American Civil War. Carleton is most famous as an Indian fighter in the southwestern United States.


Carleton was born in Lubec, Maine. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant of the Maine militia in the Aroostook War[1] and took part in the Mexican-American War. He served in the 1st U.S. Dragoons in the American West and is known for committing war crimes against American Indians.

In May 1859, Brevet Major J.H Carleton leading K Company of the First Dragoons Fort Tejon CA escorted Major Henry Prince, paymaster U.S.A. 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 one 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 of such merit to warrant the issuance of 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.

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 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 mainly concerned 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, including orders to kill all males in any circumstances and to burn all crops, over the protests of Carson and the Indian Bureau.[1] 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. 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.

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 Gen. 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 in San Antonio, Texas, and is buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Massachusetts; his son, Henry was later buried beside him.

See also[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Beem, Engar Allen (August 2008), "Rogues, Rascals, & Villains", Down East: the Magazine of Maine: 89–90. 
  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


  1. Carleton, James Henry (1859), (Special Report on the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Washington: Government Printing Office (published 1902), .
  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, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, .

Research resources[]

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