A Civil War Biography

Samuel Powhatan Carter

Carter was born 6 August 1819 in Elizabethton, Tennessee. He attended Washington College in Virginia (now Washington & Lee) and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) before hearing the call of the sea. In 1840 he was appointed a navy midshipman and served in the Pacific, on the Great Lakes, and with the home squadron. In 1845 he was appointed to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and was graduated in 1846. He served aboard the USS Ohio, a ship of the line, during the war with Mexico, witnessing the fall of Vera Cruz. In the years leading up to the Civil War he served with the Naval Observatory, in the Mediterranean squadron, as an assistant professor at Annapolis, and with the East India squadron.

When the war erupted Carter was serving with the Brazil squadron. At the irging of Tennessee Senator Andrew Johnson, Carter was assigned special duty with the War Department. He was sent to Tennessee to organize and train volunteer troops. He would organize a regiment, the first troops from Tennessee to side with the Union. He was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers on 1 May 1862 and commanded a brigade of Tennessee troops. He led what was the first Union cavalry raid which defeated Confederates at Holston, Carter's Station, and Jonesville tying up troops that otherwise would have put further pressure on the Union troops at Murfreesboro. He commanded the cavalry division of the XXIII Corps at Knoxville, Tennessee. During the Carolina campaign he commanded the 3rd division of the XXIII Corps. At Kingston, North Carolina he commanded the left wing of the Union forces. He was brevetted major general of volunteers on 13 March 1865. Although serving with the army he was promoted to lieutenant commander in 1863, then commander in 1865.

After the war ended Carter returned to the navy and served in various posts until he was placed on the retirement roles in 1882 with the rank of rear admiral. He is the only officer to wear two stars in both the US army and US navy. He died 26 May 1891 in Washington DC.

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