Wednesday, February 29, 2012

James H. Carleton, Ft. Tejon, and the California Column

I am always amazed when things just fall into place, and once again, the history gods have smiled on me!

The stern looking gentleman to the right is Brevet Major General James H. Carleton. He served in the U. S. Army during the Mexican American War, and then served in the 1st U. S. Dragoons, stationed at Fort Tejon (!!!!!!!!!!!!) in Lebec, California.

He did a lot of interesting things, including burying the remains of the Mormon Massacre victims from Mountain Meadows, in 1857.

I am interested in him because I am working on a post concerning the Battle of Picacho Peak. In 1861, Major Carleton raised the 1st California Volunteer Infantry in defense of the Union during the Civil War. He was appointed to the rank of Colonel for his efforts.

In October, 1861, Carleton replaced Brigadier General George Wright as Commander of the District of Southern California, and just over six months later he led the California Column across California, Arizona, New Mexico, and into Texas. When in Arizona, he fought the Battle of Picacho Peak--sort of.

A subordinate--Lieutenant James Barrett--was ordered to sweep the Picacho Peak area, but not to engage in any fighting if Confederates were sighted. Barrett took matters into his own hands, attacked a Confederate patrol with his twelve-man cavalry unit, and lost his life.

Even though this battle was small, it represents the high-water mark of the Confederacy in the West.

As I learn more about this skirmish, I will share it here. Learning to write military history is NOT an easy task, so I am starting with smaller engagements. Wish me luck!


  1. I might be visiting Mountain Meadows site this summer, I had no idea that Carlton was involved with the clean up. Very interesting.

    Also, I'm pretty sure that I neglected Picacho Peak in the CWDG, so when that date rolls around, I believe I'll be linking to your piece on it (though I'm not sure about the high-watermark of the Confederacy in the West bit). April 15 was also the Battle of Peralta, the last battle in New Mexico (more or lessish) and I spent quite a bit of time yacking on about that one.


  2. Oh Eric--can we ever do it all? I will certainly be writing about Picacho, both here & for ECW.