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William Lewis Carpenter
Born 13 January 1844(1844-01-13)
Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, New York, U.S.A.
Died 10 July 1898 (aged 54)
Madison Barracks, Jefferson County, New York
Cause of death Bright's Disease
Residence New York State
Nationality American
Citizenship U.S.A.
Years active 1861–1898
Known for U.S. Army Officer, Naturalist and Geologist
Parents William Lewis Carpenter (Senior), Mamie Frances Bristol

William Lewis Carpenter, born January 13, 1844 at Dunkirk, Chautauqua County, New York, died July 10, 1898 at Madison Barracks, Jefferson County, New York. Carpenter was a U.S. Army Officer, Naturalist and a Geologist who helped document the minerals and resources of the Black Hills of South Dakota which led to the Great Sioux War of 1876-77.[1]


Carpenter was the son of William Lewis Carpenter (Senior) (born July 17, 1813 in Batavia (city), New York - died in 1867) and Mamie Frances Bristol (born about 1813). He was the only son of three children. His immigrant ancestry came from the Rehoboth Carpenter family through William Carpenter (born 1605 in England).[2][3]

Carpenter married A. Curtis Steever (born about 1844 New York) on March 12, 1878. There was no known surviving children.

Early career[]

During the American Civil War he served as a Midshipman in the U.S. Navy from 1861-1864. Wanting to see more action, he resigned from the Navy and joined the Army. He became a private in Battery "D" 2nd Artillery on July 29, 1864. He transferred to Battery "L" September 25, 1865. He served at the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia and with the Army of the Potomac. He made Corporal on September 28, 1866 and Sergeant on January 29, 1867.

After publication of several scientific articles, which later had many facets from Naturalist to Geological surveys, he was appointed a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army on April 5, 1867. He was assigned to the 9th Infantry Regiment and encouraged to continue his scientific research on the frontier.[4][5]

Black Hills duty[]


Gold miners in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

In 1872-1874 as part of the 9th Infantry Regiment, the then Second Lieutenant Carpenter, documented in a series of reports information of minerals, including gold, being seized from illegal miners and trespassers who were being ejected (See: Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868) from the Black Hills of South Dakota.[1]

Carpenter was promoted to First Lieutenant for "exceptional duties" on December 31, 1873. His and other reports lead to Custer's 1874 Black Hills Expedition that set out on July 2, 1874 and returned on August, 30, 1874. Listed as "Bill Louis (sic) carpenter" he briefed naturalist George Bird Grinnell and others for that expedition.[6]

In 1875, Lt. Carpenter, under Colonel Richard Irving Dodge became part of the 1875 Newton-Jenney Party which was a scientific expedition sponsored by the United States Geological Survey to map the Black Hills of South Dakota.[7] Lt. W. Carpenter was commended for his "exceptional diligence and scientific assistance" and that he "contributed greatly" to the 1880 Black Hills Geological report.[8]

In 1876, Carpenter was recorded as a participant in the Battle of the Rosebud in Montana Territory on June 17, 1876 as First Lieutenant of Company G, 9th Infantry[9], in which 1,200 cavalrymen under General George Crook supported by 300 Crow (Absaroke) and Shoshone warriors were attacked by about 1,500 Sioux and Cheyenne warriors under Chief Crazy Horse.

Carpenter was second in command of Company G, 9th Infantry Regiment who was documented as "awaiting reinforcements after the Battle of the Rosebud" on June 20, 1876.[10]


The Black Hills, South Dakota, United States

In 1877, under orders from General Philip Sheridan (later in 1883, Commanding General of the United States Army), Lt. William Lewis Carpenter made his final report on the "Geology and Natural History of the Big Horn Mountains."[11] This report provided the economic reasons of the land and gold rush into the Black Hills of South Dakota 1873-1877 was well received by the scientific community. Nominated by geologist W. P. Jenney, who encouraged him to go into academics, William L. Carpenter was elected a "Fellow"[12] of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on September 4, 1877.

In 1880 he was enumerated in the U.S. federal census as a soldier in the unorganized territory of Nebraska. In 1882 he was listed as an officer of the Department of the Platte: "First Lieut. W. L. Carpenter, Ninth Infantry, Company B, Fort Niobrara"[13][14].

His later duties included scientific collections and observations[15].

Later career[]

File:9 Infantry Regiment COA.png

9th Infantry Coat of Arms.

File:9th Infantry Regiment DUI.gif

9th Infantry Distinctive Unit Insignia.

Carpenter was promoted to Captain in 1887, and was elected in 1897 to the Sons of the American Revolution of the District of Columbia.[16]

In 1892, after 37 years of service in the Civil War and Indian Wars, the 9th Infantry Regiment was transferred to routine garrison duty in Madison Barracks, New York.[17]

In Feb 1894, Captain Carpenter was at Madison Barracks where he was appointed to serve on an Army court-martial: "A general court-martial is appointed to meet at Madison Barracks, New York, on Feb. 21, 1894. Detail...William L. Carpenter, Ninth Infantry..." The 9th Infantry's official 1909 history includes several mentions of his service.[18]

After Captain Carpenter's death from Bright's Disease on July 10, 1898 at Madison Barracks, his widow was appointed postmistress of Fort Myer, Arlington County, Virginia in 1899 as cited in The Washington Post, May 24, 1899: "Mrs. W. L. Carpenter, widow of the late Capt. Carpenter, Ninth United States Infantry, has been appointed postmistress at Fort Myer, Va. The office was sought for by numerous candidates, but Fourth Assistant Postmaster General Bristow decided to give the plum to Mrs. Carpenter. Her late husband died at Madison Barracks, N.Y., on July 10, 1898, after an illness of several months. He had a long record of honorable service, extending over more than thirty years."[19]

A detailed obituary issued as a military order is printed on pp. 848–849 in "The Carpenter Memorial".[20]

See also[]

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  1. 1.0 1.1 Finerty, John F., "Warpath and Bivouac" published 1890. The author mentions an news article he wrote for the "Chicago Tribune" in 1873 citing Lt. W. L. Carpenter's reports on gold being found in the Black Hills.
  2. Carpenter, Amos B. A Genealogical History of the Rehoboth Branch of the Carpenter Family in America, a.k.a. "The Carpenter Memorial", Press of Carpenter & Morehouse, Amherst, Mass., 1898, reprinted and duplicated by many organizations in print, CD, and DVD formats. Subject is listed as number 4477. See page 472. See also page 848.
  3. "Carpenters' Encyclopedia of Carpenters 2009", data DVD format. Subject is RIN 47525.
  4. Carpenter, Amos B. A Genealogical History of the Rehoboth Branch of the Carpenter Family in America
  5. "Carpenters' Encyclopedia of Carpenters 2009"
  6. Punke, Michael, "Last Stand: George Bird Grinnell, the Battle to Save the Buffalo, and the Birth of the New West", Smithsonian Books, 2007, ISBN 978 0 06 089782 6
  7. The Black Hills Journals of Colonel Richard Irving Dodge, Edited by Wayne R. Kime, University of Oklahoma Press, September 1996.
  8. H. Newton, W. P. Jenney, et al., Report on the Geology & Resources of the Black Hills of Dakota (Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1880).
  9. Friends of the Little Bighorn Battlefield & Bob Reece: Department of the Platte,, 6 Sep 2005.
  10. Overfield II, Lloyd J., "The Little Bighorn, 1876" University of Nebraska Press 1971. Reprinted 1990 by Bison Book. ISBN 0-8032-8601-5 .
  11. Carpenter, William Lewis, "Geology and Natural History of the Big Horn Mountains." (Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1877).
  12. Honorific title Fellow of the AAAS awarded by the American Association for the Advancement of Science formerly called the Association of American Geologists and Naturalists. See: - See also:
  13. A. T. Andreas: History of the State of Nebraska, The Western Historical Company, Chicago, Ill., 1882.
  14. Thomas R. Buecker: Fort Robinson and The American West, Nebraska State Historical Society, 1999, published by the University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Okla., 2003, pp. 46-47.
  15. P. H. Kirsch: Notes on a collection of fishes obtained in the Gila River at Fort Thomas, Arizona, by Lieutenant W. L. Carpenter, U.S. Army, Proceedings of the U.S. National Museum, Smithsonian Institute, 11, 1888/9, pp. 555-558.
  16. Amos B. Carpenter: The Carpenter Memorial..., p. 472.
  17. 2nd Battalion / 9th Infantry Regiment (Mechanized) "Manchu" - See: - See also:
  18. Captain Fred R. Brown: History of the 9th Infantry, 1799-1909, R. R. Donnelly & Sons Co., Chicago, Ill., 1909, short bio on p. 692 and a photo in the plate on p. 693.
  19. "Soldier's Widow Made Postmistress", The Washington Post, issue of 24 May 1899, p. 7.
  20. Amos B. Carpenter: The Carpenter Memorial... , pp. 848-849.