Valor Friday

| March 17, 2023

General/Admiral Samuel Carter

Samuel Perry (sometimes his middle name is listed as Powhatan) Carter is, in American history, the only man to have been commissioned in the armed forces as both a general officer and a flag officer (admiral). There have been others, who have served on active duty as a general officer in one of the branches and then later served as an admiral in civilian agencies such as the US Maritime Service (aka the Merchant Marine). Carter is the only to have done it in two active duty branches of the armed forces.

Born in 1819, Carter was from Elizabethon, Tennessee. Elizabethon is the county seat for Carter County, named after one of Carter’s ancestors. The small town is best known for having been the location of the first independent government in America, the Watauga Association.

The Watauga Association (sometimes called the Republic of Watauga) only lasted a few years (1772-1775). The Governor of the Virginia Colony at the time, Lord Dunmore, called the Watauga Association a “dangerous example” of Americans forming a government “distinct from and independent of his majesty’s authority.” Those uppity Yanks!

President Theodore Roosevelt called the Watauga settlers, among whom would be several of Carter’s heritage, the “first men of American birth to establish a free and independent community on the continent.”

Coming of age, Carter attended college, first in Elizabethon, then at Washington College in Limestone, Tennessee, and finally at Princeton. He then sought adventure in the Navy, enlisting in February 1840.

He sought to serve as an officer. At the time, this meant spending several years as a midshipman literally learning the ropes of seamanship. It would typically take many years as a midshipman to earn a commission. Even those men graduating the US Naval Academy in those days weren’t commissioned until they’d served some time afloat, though they were known as “passed midshipman” since they had moved past the early apprenticeship phase and were merely awaiting a commission.

Carter spent five years as a midshipman, serving in both the Great Lakes and Pacific region. When the US Naval Academy opened in 1845, Carter asked for and received a position there. He would have been among about 50 midshipmen to be receiving instruction from seven professors (4 officers and 3 civilians) at the nascent institution.

Carter graduated in 1846, one of the first men to matriculate from the new service academy. His graduation was likely moved up as the American declaration of war on Mexico in that same year saw the academy tasked with providing dozens of officers for the Navy. He was passed midshipman by rank until 1854 when he was finally commissioned a master.

Carter was assigned to USS Ohio, a 74-gun ship-of-the-line. In typical Navy style, it actually had 104 guns though, since nothing in the Navy can be named as it seems. Aboard Ohio, Carter participated in the Battle of Veracruz during the Mexican-American War. Also known as the Siege of Veracruz, the 20 day long battle was a decisive American victory in March 1847.

Post-war, Carter served at the US Naval Observatory, was a professor of mathematics at the Naval Academy, then in the Pacific and Brazil Squadrons of the fleet. Through his various duties, he eventually was promoted to lieutenant in 1855. In 1856, he was aboard USS San Jacinto when the ship bombarded Chinese coastal positions in the Battle of the Pearl River Forts during the Second Opium War. After that tour, Carter was again assigned to the Naval Academy as a professor. He’d remain in that post until the Civil War.

In 1861, as the Civil War was looming large, Carter wrote to his home state’s senator, future president Andrew Johnson. He swore his loyalty to the Union and offered his service should it come to war. Johnson used his connections at the War Department to petition to get Carter detached from the Navy and instead placed with the Union Army.

Carter was sent to his native east Tennessee to organize and recruit loyalists. When the Confederate occupation of the state prohibited this, he organized a full brigade of infantry from the Unionist refugees fleeing across the state line to Kentucky. While he was operating in this capacity, he began to use the codename “Powhatan,” when corresponding with loyalists behind enemy lines.

With his brigade, Carter was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers. He led his men in action at the Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky in January 1862. It would be the first significant Union victory of the war, though soon eclipsed by Grant’s victories at Forts Henry and Donelson.

He then served under General George W. Morgan in the campaign that led to the occupation of the Cumberland Gap later that year. He’d hoped that Morgan would lead them into retaking Tennessee, but Confederate advances precluded that.

Carter lobbied to lead a raid into occupied Tennessee. He was permitted to do so, for the purposes of sabotage, in the final week of 1862. Taking a force of 1,000 men into east Tennessee, he vanquished several Rebel formations, destroyed railroads and bridges, captured a moving train, destroyed tens of thousands of dollars of military stores, and returned safely to Kentucky just after New Year’s. Plans to invade Tennessee were called off as Carter reported that the route wouldn’t be suitable to moving a larger force.

In 1863 he was appointed commander of XXIII Corps’ cavalry division. He led them in action for the next two years, as they fought across Tennessee. He led his men in the Battle of Blue Springs, part of the Knoxville Campaign.

By 1865, Carter was leading the left flank of the Union line at the Battle of Wyse Fork in North Carolina. He was subsequently promoted a brevet major general of volunteers. He briefly commanded the XXIII Corps before being mustered out of service in 1866 at the end of the war.

While serving as an Army general, Carter had never actually resigned his Navy commission. With the war going on, he was promoted in absentia to lieutenant commander in 1863 and commander in 1865.

Upon his return to naval service after the Civil War, Carter’s wartime record led him to be assigned captain of USS Monocacy. Monocacy was a sidewheel gunboat in the Pacific Squadron.

By October 1870, Carter was promoted to captain. With the promotion came assignment as commandant of midshipmen at the Naval Academy. Three years later he returned to sea duty, seeing service in Europe. In 1877 he was appointed a member of the Lighthouse Board. In the years before wireless communication, lighthouses were an important part of successfully navigating coastal waters.

That same year, Carter married Martha Custis Williams, a descendant of Martha Washington (from her marriage to Daniel Custis, who left her widowed before she married to George Washington).

In 1878, Carter was made a commodore. At the time, this was the lowest of the flag ranks. It was equivalent with the current rank of rear admiral (lower half) or a brigadier general. He retired from the Navy in August 1881 after more than 41 years of service. The following year he was advanced to the two-star rank of rear admiral on the retired list.

Carter lived until 1891, when he died in Washington, D.C. at the age of 71. He was, and to this day remains, the only man to have served as both a general officer and a flag officer.

Category: Army, Historical, Navy, Valor, We Remember

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BlueCord Dad

I wonder who he rooted for in the Army-Navy Game(first meeting 1890)?😎


Navy, of course.

Thanks again, Mason.



Just a Reminder to our beloved Leader, AW1Ed…

Duty Roster Time! (DA Form 6)

“The Need For Speed”…

“You Can Be My Wingman Anytime”…

“Talk To Me Goose”




 😂  😂  😜  😘 

 :saluting:  gabn


29 November 1890, Navy shut out Army 24-0.

BlueCord Dad

Unfortunately that was then….


“Did you know the game was canceled by President Grover Cleveland in 1893?”

“Last week the U.S. Naval Academy Museum shared a photo of the 1893 team, which defeated Army 6-4. But the “resulting post-game brawls and possibly the threat of a duel between an admiral and general” caused Cleveland to cancel future Army-Navy games, the museum said. (President William McKinley would step in and reinstitute the game in 1899.)”


28 November 1891:

Army 32
Navy 16.



What a great Military History lesson, Mason.

Thank You for sharing!



What a great Military History lesson, Mason.

Thank You For Sharing!



Just goes to show you…


President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

Life around Officer Carter was neither slow nor boring.
A life well lived.


Interesting read, Mason. This Warrior was riding into a danger zone long before the term became the rallying cry for a couple of Naval Aviation Documentaries. Good job, Good Sir! Thanks!

Side note on the Wyse Fork Battlefield, not only a WBTS site but also a Rev War site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Site is in danger of being destroyed by a new Interstate Hwy (I-42) and interchange. Historical tidbits include the last mass capture of Federal Troops (890 of Upton’s Brigade) by the lads of the NC Junior Reserve, and documentation of the Lead Federal Troops being Seneca and Tuscarora Native Americans. (132nd NY, Co. D, The Tuscarora Company). 90% of the Battlefield is in danger, with the area where Gnrl/Adml Carter did his Warrior feats being completely destroyed. There are a dozen other routes available for this highway that would miss/preserve the Site and NCDOT, along with the Corps of Engineers, is telling folks that want to preserve the site to piss up a rope. So, once again, it is not just “All Things Confederate” that are in danger.


Another great story. Thanks, Mason.