A Western Dragoon

A Western Dragoon

James Henry Carleton (Image from public domain)

Thoughts From Afar by Mustang

Owing to his participation in the civilization of the American West, I have mentioned James Henry Carleton on several occasions —usually as a backdrop to conflicts with American Indians— as a senior in the chain of command.  I thought for this week it would be interesting to take a closer look at this distinguished military officer.

Carleton was born in Lubec, Maine on 27 December 1814, the son of John and Abigail (Phelps) Carleton.  John was a sea captain, which suggests that Carleton was raised in a home where his father was frequently absent.  He was apparently well-educated, as he obtained a commission as a lieutenant of militia for the state of Maine at the age of 24-years.  As a lieutenant, he participated in the boundary dispute with Canada, known to history as the Aristook War (often referred to as the Pork & Beans War) of 1838.  It was a year-long American-British confrontation involving both military and civilian personnel over the international boundary between New Brunswick, Canada and the state of Maine.  Several British were captured, but no one was killed.  Black bears did injure two Canadians, however, a tidbit of information that begs the answer to “huh?”  In any case, the issue was resolved by the Ashburton-Webster Treaty of 1842, which gave most of the disputed area to Maine, giving a militarily vital area between lower Canada and the Atlantic colonies to Britain.  A “right of way” was also designed to allow British commercial interests a transit route through Maine.  It is still in use today.

Subsequently, Carleton received an appointment to second lieutenant in the First Dragoons on 18 October 1839 and attended military training at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania [1].  In the next year, Carleton married Henrietta Tracy Loring of Boston, Massachusetts.  Henrietta accompanied her husband to his duty assignment at Fort Gibson [2] in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). She passed away at Fort Gibson in October 1841.

Carleton later served as assistant commissary of subsistence at Fort Leavenworth, accompanied Major Clifton Wharton’s expedition to the Pawnee Villages in Nebraska, and served as an officer on Col. Stephen Watts Kearny’s 1845 expedition to South Pass, and saw action in 1847 in the battle of Buena Vista during the Mexican-American War. During this later engagement, the US Army employed well-aimed artillery fires to repulse a much larger Mexican Army outside of Buena Vista, a small village in the state of Coahuila, seven miles south of Saltillo, Mexico[…]

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