Brevet Major James Edward Carpenter (USA)

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About Brevet Major James Edward Carpenter (USA)

James Edward Carpenter (March 6, 1841 – August 16, 1901) served in the Union Army in 1861 as a private in the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry. In 1862 he became a second lieutenant and progressed in rank to first lieutenant, captain, then a brevet major of volunteers due to gallantry. He later served his community and Philadelphia with honor as a business lawyer of high respect.

Early life and ancestry

James E. Carpenter was a direct descendant (great-great-great-grandson) of the notable immigrant Samuel Carpenter (November 4, 1649 Horsham, Sussex, England - April 10, 1714 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) who came to America in early 1683 by way of Barbados.

James was the second eldest son of eight children born to Edward Carpenter 2nd and Anna Maria (Mary) Howey. He was born in Chesterfield, Kent County, Maryland and in 1843 his family moved to Philadelphia where they attended Trinity Episcopal Church in West Philadelphia.

Civil War

In 1861 he joined as a private the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry and in 1862 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant.

During the night of September 17/18, 1862, he was wounded seriously inside the elbow in the engagement at Philomont, Virginia on the advance at the end of the fighting at the Battle of Antietam.

In the early evening of May 2, 1863, he was part of the heroic, but ultimately futile, charge of the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry against Confederate General Jackson's Corp flanking attack during the Battle of Chancellorsville. His horse was shot from under him and of the five officers who rode at the head of the attacking column, he was one of only two who survived. This charge of Union Cavalry was not strong enough and only marginally slowed down the collapse of the right flank of the Union Army Major General Joseph Hooker's Army of the Potomac. Hooker had only left a token force of Cavalry with his main attack thinking they would not be needed in the woods. Hooker had sent 7,500 Cavalry troopers with Major General George Stoneman to raid behind the Confederate line into their supply and communications. Stoneman's Raid, as it became known, ultimately failed in its main quest, but was a confidence builder for the Union Cavalry.

On June 29, 1863, he was selected and served on the staff of Brigadier General D. McMurtrie Gregg, who was just given the command of the Second Cavalry Division, Cavalry Corps, under the reorganization by Major General George G. Meade. Brevet Major Carpenter for the next eighteen months excelled in this position providing good documentation and order.

Post Civil War

In early 1865, he was honorably discharged at the expiration of his term of service and returned to Philadelphia. He resumed the study of law in the office of Theodore Cuyler, Esq. (1819–1876).

In October 1865 he was admitted to the bar in Philadelphia.

He assisted in helping to establish the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States in Philadelphia during May 1865. Later he became a companion of that order when the concern of conflict of interest was lifted.


On October 17, 1867, in Philadelphia, he wed Harriet Odin Dorr (22 Jul 1842 - 24 Jan 1896). She was the daughter of Reverend Benjamin Dorr and Esther K. Odin, both of Massachusetts. James & Harriet were wed by the Rector of Christ's Church, her father. She was a descendant of Edward Dorr, who was the first of that name in America. He immigrated to New England about 1670, from the west of England, where families of the surname Dorr have long been settled in Dorsetshire. They had the following children born in Philadelphia:

Edward Carpenter IV, born August 27, 1872. He was a private in the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry during the Spanish-American War of 1898. He was commissioned a second lieutenant, 2nd Artillery U.S.Army on July 9, 1898. Promoted to first lieutenant on February 2, 1901 and captain on August 14, 1903. He attended Graduate Artillery school in 1903, In 1908 he was one of the first graduates of the School of Submarine Defense and assigned to Coast Artillery Corps. He was later promoted to Major and became an assistant to the Chief of Artillery in Washington, D.C. He married Janet FitzGerald Lee.

Helen Dalton Carpenter, born November 11, 1874. She was baptized on December 18, 1874 in Christ's Church. She married Frederick Strong Mosley.

Grace Carpenter, born October 25, 1876. She died as an infant on May 27, 1877.

William Dorr Carpenter, born June 26, 1879.

Lloyd Preston Carpenter, born March 28, 1884.

Later life

He served as a second lieutenant of the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry.

He was elected Treasurer of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and afterwards its vice president.

In 1877 he became a vestryman of Christ Church, a manager of Christ Church Hospital and of Christ Church Chapel. Later he was rector's warden of the Church of Ascension in Pittsburgh. He was delegate to the Diocesan Convention of the Episcopal Church.

He was the governor in the Rittenhouse Club which was known before 1873 as the Social Arts Club of Philadelphia. James was instrumental at securing the former home of James Harper in Rittenhouse Square which led to the renaming of the exclusive men's club.

He was chairman of the Board of Managers and one of the founders (in 1888) of the Pennsylvania Society Sons of the Revolution.

He encouraged and financially assisted his brother, Brigadier General Louis H. Carpenter in the updating of their father's genealogical family history. This valuable work was published after his death in 1912 as "Samuel Carpenter and his Descendants."

James Edward Carpenter died suddenly while visiting his daughter Mrs. Helen Mosley on August 16, 1901 in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

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Brevet Major James Edward Carpenter (USA)'s Timeline

March 6, 1841
August 27, 1872
Age 31
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
November 11, 1874
Age 33
October 25, 1876
Age 35
June 26, 1879
Age 38
March 28, 1884
Age 43
August 16, 1901
Age 60