Background on John C. Carter

John C. Carter was a native of Georgia, a citizen of Tennessee, where he was educated, entered the service as a lieutenant in the Thirty-eighth Tennessee, won honorable mention from his colonel at Shiloh, and further promotion and honor until he was made a brigadier-general. He early attracted the attention of his division general, upon whose recommendation his final advancement was made upon his merit. He had a wonderfu gentleness of manner, coupled with a dauntless courage. Every field officer of his brigade except Colonel Hurt was killed, wounded or captured on the enemy’s works.

Source: Confederate Military History Volume 8:
Tennessee Chapter X

One thought on “Background on John C. Carter

  1. Service Records – J. C. Carter – Carter was the son of a doctor from Waynesboro, Georgia. He was a graduate of the University of Virginia and had studied law at Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. He was married at 21 years of age and was now only 24 years old. Originally joining Looney’s Company or Company B of the 22nd Tennessee Infantry Regiment, his company was transferred to the 8th Tennessee Infantry Regiment on September 23, 1861. Initially designated as the 8th Tennessee they were officially re-designated the 38th Tennessee on November 16, 1861 while the company was re-designated to Company L. Carter was originally elected Brevet 2nd Lt. at the 22nd Tennessee Regiment’s organization, and then upon transfer to the 8th – which was quickly re-designated to the 38th Tennessee – he was elected Captain. At the reorganization at Corinth in May of 1862, he was elected Colonel, and by Nov. of 1862 was already being recommended for promotion to brigadier general by Brigadier General D. S. Donelson. An ardent push was made starting in April of 1863 to have him promoted by Generals Wright, Cheatham and Polk, and by July – the soon to be elected but never to serve governor of Tennessee – R. L. Caruthers began a series of at least five letters to the Secretary of War and the President imploring them to promote Carter and elevate him to brigade command. At Shiloh – he received official praise in the reports of the battle while serving as a Captain and was wounded in the foot on the second days fight. He was described by Wright as having, “fought with great gallantry and judgment” at the Battle of Perryville. Carter’s horse was killed in battle at Perryville and Carter himself was again wounded. Other attributes Carter was honored with by Wright included, “He is a gentleman of fine natural ability & classical education – a thorough tactician and a man of unexceptionable habits.” In the summer of 1863, T. B. Murray’s 22nd Battalion of Tennessee Infantry was consolidated with the 38th Tennessee. On July 7, 1864 he was promoted to brigadier general as he commanded Wright’s Brigade resting along the north side of the Chattahoochee River. On September 17, Carter was granted thirty days leave on a Surgeon’s Certificate – perhaps for a wound received at Lovejoy Station on the 5th of September. Carter was mortally wounded on November 30, 1864 while leading his brigade against the main line of Federal earthworks in support of Gist’s Brigade. Mounted on horseback, advancing through the locust grove, Carter was struck by at least one bullet in the stomach. He lingered at the Harrison house south of Franklin until December 10, 1864 where died. The following are cited from letters submitted by his superiors to the President and the War Department.

    Nov. 4, 1862 – To the President – D. S. Donelson – “… a patriotic and brave officer.” “He is a good disciplinarian of strong intellect, well educated & has a military sort of mind. I think he would make an excellent Brigadier General, & take pleasure in recommending him to you for the appointment.”

    Attachment to above – To the President – Caruthers – “Col. Carter is well known to me & I am sure he would do honor to the position for which he is recommended by Genl. Donelson. He was one of the most promising & distinguished of the law students who graduated at Cumberland University at Lebanon where I reside. He is brave, energetic & highly intelligent.” “… [he] was promoted to the command of a regiment by an almost unanimous vote. I understand from every quarter that he greatly distinguished himself at the Battle of Perryville.”

    Feb. 12, 1863 – To Sec. of War – James J. Jones (Georgia State Representative from 1850 – 1861) – “Col. Carter is a native of Burke Co., Ga. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and a lawyer by profession. Having married in Tennessee, he settled in Memphis to pursue his profession. … Col. Carter is a young man of … fine moral character and stern integrity – possessing those rare qualities of mind and character that eminently fit him for commanding.”

    July 9, 1863 – To the President – R. L. Caruthers – Chattanooga – “He is a son of Dr. Carter of Waynesboro, Ga., but married in Tennessee & was located in Memphis, Ten. before the commencement of the war. He was a young lawyer of extraordinary promise.” “… much applauded for his gallantry & coolness in battle, & for his excellent discipline. He is a young man of fine education both literary & legal, & great ambition.” “The genl. (Donelson) after told me that he was one of the best, if not the very best colonel in his brigade.” In the same letter he addressed Bragg’s evacuation of Tennessee and the feeling throughout the army, suggesting that Bragg be replaced.

    Sept. 8, 1863 – To Sec. of War – Caruthers – Etowah – Again, he pushed for the appointment of Carter and expressed to the President his feeling concerning the loss of Tennessee for 18 months noting that the army must be fed. He notes the abstraction of troops from the Army of Tennessee at critical times and calls for a reinforcement of 20,000 men from the Army of Northern Virginia. “… there can be no doubt, but that the moral effect of putting Genl. Johnston at the head of this army would be equal to a reinforcement of 10,000 men of itself. I would not, & do not, disapprove Genl. Bragg, but events have so followed each other as to produce that want of confidence that enenotes [inundates] an army & emboldens an enemy.”

    Oct. 1, 1863 – To Sec. of War – Caruthers – Cartersville, Ga. – Another recommendation is sent.

    Nov. 13, 1863 – To the President – Caruthers – Cartersville, Ga. – “He has a finished literary & legal education. His habits are unsurpassed in the army for sobriety & morality. He never tastes spirits nor plays at any game of hazard & is a member of the church. He is a son of Dr. Carter of Waynesboro, Ga., & after finishing his law course & marrying at the age of twenty-one located in Memphis. He was ahead of his friends in the secession movement & entered the service among the foremost. His whole mind had been directed to the study of tactics from the beginning, & all agree has become proficient in the service.”

    Jan. 30, 1864 – Caruthers – West Point, Ga. – “[Carter] has the elements of a great military man” “He is a young man (about 24) of the first order of intellect & the best education in literature & law. Since he has been in the army he has devoted all the powers of his strong & active mind to the study of tactics. I understand that no officer has made greater progress, & that Genl. Wright has generally entrusted him with the drilling [of] his brigade. Indeed he has been in command of it all the time when that general was absent. In relation to him Gov. Harris says this, in a letter to me, “With regard to Col. Carter be assured it will give me pleasure to aid him. I know him to be a most gallant, efficient, accomplished & deserving officer.”

    Feb. 5, 1864 – Sec. of War – A. P. Stewart – Near Etowah – “… a young officer of merit and promise, whose claims to promotion are entitled to consideration. He is the senior colonel of the Brigade, has been in service since an early period of the war, has shared with credit and distinction in all the battles fought by the Army of Tenn., from Shiloh to Chickamauga, and has had experience in temporary command of the Brigade. He is a native of Georgia, but a citizen of Tenn. He possesses a high order of talent, is well educated and intelligent, and is a Christian gentleman. He has devoted himself with ardor & success to the study of military science, and, it is believed, would distinguish himself as a Brigade Commander. Should a vacancy occur in that, or any other Tenn. Brigade, I respy. Recommend him as amply qualified, and in every way worthy of promotion.”

    April 26, 1864 from R. L. Caruthers, Farmington, Ga.
    “I am so fully convinced that he has extraordinary qualifications for command that I cannot too strongly recommend him. He is a man of high attainments, strong mind & unexceptionable habits with much devotion to the profession of arms.” “He is one of those men who will be sure to make his mark in this war,”

    From The History of the Sixteenth Tennessee Volunteer Infantry Regiment; Volume II: No Hope of Getting Out Alive.

    Jamie Gillum

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