Here’s another in my infrequent series of posts on forgotten American cavalrymen. The subject of this post is a favorite of mine; his letters home are some of the most useful and insightful I have ever read.
Louis H. Carpenter was born in Glassboro, New Jersey on February 11, 1839. His blood ran as blue as any Philadelphia aristocrat’s: he was a direct, linear descendant of Samuel Carpenter, who was William Penn’s right hand man. Louis enlisted in the army in Philadelphia as a private in 1861 after dropping out of college during his junior year. He served as a private in the 6th U. S. Cavalry until he was commissioned second lieutenant, 6th U. S. Cavalry, July 17, 1862, and first lieutenant Sept. 28 1864. He was brevetted from first lieutenant to lieutenant colonel for gallant and meritorious conduct during the course of the Civil War. Carpenter was one of only three officers of the 6th U. S. Cavalry to escape from its ordeal at Fairfield, PA on July 3, 1863. He served in the following campaigns during the Civil War: The Peninsula, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville (in Stoneman’s raid to the rear of Lee’s army), The Wilderness (as aide-de-camp to Major General Phillip H. Sheridan), Siege of Petersburg, The Shenandoah Valley, Richmond (Sheridan’s raid) and Trevilian Station.
He remained in the Regular Army after the end of the Civil War. He was appointed Captain on 28 July 1866 of “D” company, 10th Cavalry and served with them for thirteen (13) years of continuous Indian wars. His men respected him, and his company had the lowest desertion rate of the regular army during his charge. His ability to train and lead was notable and he was mentioned in the official reports for Gettysburg and in an order issued by General Sheridan concerning combat on the Beaver Creek in Kansas.
Carpenter was awarded the Medal of Honor as a Captain with the 10th Cavalry (“The Buffalo Soldiers”) during a forced march to the relief of Colonel Forsyth on the Arickaree Fork of the Republican River, Colorado, and for the combat on the Beaver, in the campaign of 1868. Brevetted Colonel for gallant conduct in an engagement with the Cheyenne and Sioux Indians in 1868.
Here is an account of the action that earned him the Medal of Honor: “On the 17th of this month Lieut.-Colonel G. A. Forsyth, A. D. C. to General Sheridan, with a party of white scouts, was attacked and “corralled” by a force of about 700 Indians on an island in the Republican River. Two of Forsyth’s scouts stole through the Indian lines and brought word of the perilous situation of the command to Fort Wallace. Parties were soon on the way to its relief. First and last the following troops were started towards it from different points. Captain Bankhead with about 100 men of the 5th Infantry, Captain Carpenter with Troop H and Captain Baldwin with Troop I, of the 10th Cavalry, and two troops of the 2d Cavalry under Major Brisbin. Captain Carpenter’s troop was the first of these commands to arrive upon the scene. It found Forsyth’s command out of rations, living on horse-flesh without salt or pepper. All its officers had been killed or wounded. Every horse and mule, too, had been killed. Forsyth, who had been twice wounded, was lying in a square hole scooped out in the sand, within a few feet of a line of dead horses which half encircled the hole and impregnated the air with a terrible stench. Captain Carpenter immediately pitched a number of tents in a suitable place near by, had the wounded men carried to them, and the rest removed to a more salubrious air. Twenty-six hours later Captain Bankhead arrived bringing with him the two troops of the 2d Cavalry. On the 14th of the following month, two weeks after he had returned to Fort Wallace with the wounded of Forsyth’s command, Captain Carpenter was ordered to take his own troop and I Troop of the 10th Cavalry and escort Major Carr, of the 5th Cavalry, to his command, supposed to be on Beaver Creek. On the march he was attacked by a force of about 500 Indians. After proceeding, regardless of the enemy’s firing and yelling, far enough to gain a suitable position, he halted his command, had the wagons corralled close together and rushed his men inside at a gallop. He had them dismount, tie their horses to the wagons, and form on the outside around the corral. Then followed a volley of Spencers which drove the Indians back as though they were thrown from a cannon. A number of warriors, showing more bravery than the others, undertook to stand their ground. Nearly all of these, together with their ponies, were killed. Three dead warriors lay within fifty yards of the wagons. The Indians were so demoralized by these results that they did not renew the attack and the troops accomplished their march without further molestation. They were back at Fort Wallace on the 2ist, having travelled 230 miles in about seven days. For their gallantry in the fight, which took place on Beaver Creek, the officers and men were thanked by General Sheridan in a general field order, and Captain Carpenter was breveted Colonel.”
Carpenter’s Medal of Honor citation reads:
Captain Louis H. Carpenter, Company H. Actions: At Indian campaigns in Kansas and Colorado, September October 1868. Entered service at: Philadelphia, Pa. Birth: Glassboro, N.J. Date of issue 8 April 1898. Citation: Was gallant and meritorious throughout the campaigns, especially in the combat of October 15 and in the forced March on September 23, 24 and 25 to the relief of Forsyth’s Scouts, who were known to be in danger of annihilation by largely superior forces of Indians.
He commanded the Army posts of Fort Robinson in Nebraska, Fort Myer in Virginia and Fort Sam Houston in Texas and served as director of cavalry instruction at Fort Riley, Kansas as Lt. Col, 7th Cavalry (1892-1897). He served as President of the Board to Revise Cavalry Tactics for the United States Army. Carpenter was promoted to Colonel, 5th Cavalry in 1897. In May 1898, he was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers May 1898 for the duration of the Spanish-American War. Carpenter commanded the 1st Division, 3rd Corps at Chickamauga and afterwards commanded the 3rd Division, 4th Corps at Tampa, Florida. Later ordered to Cuba to occupy the Providence of Puerto Principe with a force consisting of the 8th Cavalry, 15th Infantry and the 3rd Georgia Volunteers, his were the first troops to take station in Cuba after the Battle of Santiago. Carpenter was appointed Military Governor of the providence and remained in that capacity until in July 1899. He was relieved and returned to New York, reverting to his Regular Army rank of colonel.
He received a promotion to Brigadier-General U.S. Army and was then retired the next day at his own request on Oct. 19, 1899, after having served over thirty-eight years in the Regular Army. Much of his retirement was spent lecturing and writing about his Civil War service, including a well-known and well-respected account of his participation in the May 1864 Richmond Raid and the Battle of Yellow Tavern, where Jeb Stuart was mortally wounded.
General Carpenter died January 21, 1916 and was buried in Trinity Episcopal Church New Cemetery, Swedesboro, Gloucester County, New Jersey.Scridb filter