07 November 2007 by Published in: Union Cavalry 10 comments

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.

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  1. Don
    Thu 08th Nov 2007 at 11:44 am


    Nicely done. I was hoping you were going to cover him, as I know you have much more information on him than I do. I can add a couple of things.

    He was promoted to corporal and sergeant in Companies C and L during his year of service prior to receiving his commission (Henry, Heitman). I haven’t yet had a chance to check the muster rolls to find the exact dates yet, or when he switched companies.

    I saw the Sidney Morris Davis commentary on him just last night, they’re on page 186 of Common Soldier, Uncommon War. There was obviously some resentment there.


  2. Thu 08th Nov 2007 at 2:48 pm



    I think it was the usual grousing, nothing surprising there. Obviously, Carpenter’s record demonstrated that Davis’ criticisms were not well-founded.


  3. Robert Carpenter
    Tue 05th Aug 2008 at 11:10 pm

    I was wondering if there is a Family tree of Louis H. Carpenter
    I would like to find out if we are Part of the family. My Great Grandfather fought in the civil war for the 20th Maine His name was Henry Austin Carpenter. If someone could help me it would be great.
    Thanks for the help
    Robert Carpenter

  4. Nick Frankunas
    Sun 12th Apr 2009 at 12:51 am

    I found this article to be very informative especially due to the little known fact that there was a Medal of Honor recipient from Glassboro, NJ. The VFW and the American Legion will be hosting the annual Memorial Day parade in Glassboro and will have a dedication ceremony afterwards to honor fallen Union soldiers from this town. A monument contains the 23 names of Union Soldiers from Glassboro who died in the Civil War. The names will be read and I believe an honorable mention of Gen. Carpenter would be in order. Thanks for posting.

    Nick Frankunas

  5. Sun 09th Aug 2009 at 7:31 pm

    Hello, I started an article on Wikipedia about Louis H. Carpenter. Any help there or indirectly via my email would be appreciated.

    I have his ancestry back into England, including cousin lines. This is part of the Carpenter Genealogy and Family History I have. I am also involved with the Carpenter Cousins Y-DNA Project http://members.cox.net/johnrcarpenter/index.htm , Authoritative William Carpenter Immigrant Sketches
    http://members.cox.net/jrcrin001/carplink.htm & For details on the CE 2009, please see:

  6. Tue 08th Nov 2011 at 5:38 pm


    Eric’s article is great!

    The Wikipedia article on Louis Henry Carpenter is at:

    Updated Carpenter web page addresses are:

    Carpenter Cousins

    Carpenter Cousins Y-DNA Project

    Carpenter Cousins Y-DNA Project Lineages

    Carpenter Sketches

    Carpenters’ Encyclopedia of Carpenters 2009 Data DVD

    John R. Carpenter
    La Mesa, CA USA

  7. Ted Hontz
    Sat 06th Oct 2012 at 10:25 pm

    I’m a first cousin many times removed from GEN Carpenter and have been gathering information on him for a few years. I have an original photograph of him mad his staff officers, probably in Cuba that my mother handed down to me.

    I have seen the Civil War Letters at the Historical Society of PA but the only ones I’ve seen transcribed are those during the Gettysburg campaign. Are others transcribed?

    Any help greatly appreciated by this old retired Navy captain!

    Ted Hontz
    Fredericksburg, VA

  8. Jim Matthews
    Thu 19th May 2016 at 9:38 pm

    I have written several articles concerning Captain Carpenter when he was in command of Company H, Tenth Cavalry. I am now completing a company history of H Troop and would love to include more about Carpenter in the book. If any family members have additional materials such as the picture in Cuba that was mentioned, please contact me.

    Jim Matthews

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