Brevet Maj.-Gen. Joseph Bradford Carr
Brevet Maj.-Gen. Joseph Bradford Carr

Information on this page is from History of Rensselaer Co., New York by Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, published in 1880. The photo below right was submitted by Brad Miter. Many thanks to Brad, who was kind enough to type this rather lengthy biography.

BREVET MAJ.-GEN. JOSEPH BRADFORD CARR, U.S.V. was born in the city of Albany, N. Y., on the 16th of August, 1828. His parents were natives of the Emerald Isle, and came to this country in 1824. His military career dates from 1849, when he joined the ranks of the Troy Republican Guards, then organizing. Carrying the musket for a year, his soldierly conduct and efficiency won for him a commission as second lieutenant. He rapidly rose, through the intermediate grades, to the command of the 24th Regiment New York State Militia, which position he accepted on the 10th of July, 1859, and retained until the insult to our flag at Sumter.

On the breaking out of the Rebellion Col. Carr was one of the first to offer his services to his country. On the 15th of April, 1861, the 2d New York Volunteers was organized in Troy, N. Y., and on the 10th of May, Col. Carr was elected its commander. Four days later its members were mustered into the service of the United States for the term of two years.

Col. Carr left Troy with his command on the 18th, and sailed from New York for Fortress Monroe on the 22d of May, arriving on the 24th, where he disembarked, and marched to the north side of Mill Creek, near the village of Hampton, where his command bivouacked, this being the first regiment to encamp on the "sacred soil" of Virginia. The colonel was most assiduous in the performance of his duty here. The men were instructed in their various duties, such as drilling, marching, picketing, policing, cooking rations, etc., and taught to feel that much depended upon their vigilance and discipline. A beautiful and well-regulated camp was formed, which was frequently alluded to by the department and other commanders in complimentary terms for its precise, military, and cleanly appearance. Col. Carr participated in the battle of Big Bethel, and with his regiment supported the heroic Greble until the fall of that accomplished officer, when he sought authority to charge the enemy's works. This being denied, he was soon after ordered to retreat, which movement was executed in a masterly manner. The distance covered on this occasion was thirty miles, the longest continuous march the 2d ever made. On the 1st of August the regiment was ordered by Gen. Butler, commanding Department of Virginia, to proceed to Newport News. Here it remained for more than nine months, nothing occurring to break the monotony of the daily routine of camp-life save an occasional skirmish with the rebels, and the remarkable and ever-memorable conflict between the "Monitor" and "Merrimac." On the 10th of May, 1862, by order of Gen. Wool, Col. Carr removed his command to Portsmouth, and took position on the exterior line of defenses. His immediate commanding officer, Brig.-Gen. Viele, assigned him to the command of a provisional brigade, consisting of the 2nd and 10th New York Volunteers and Howard's Battery of light artillery. In just one month thereafter he was ordered with the 2d to report to Gen. McClellan at Fair Oaks, on the Peninsula. He proceeded to the extreme front, when he was immediately assigned to Gen. Frank Patterson's brigade, Hooker's division, Heintzleman's (3d) corps of the Army of the Potomac, and placed upon the picket-line. The old regiments at the front were numerically so weak that the 2d appeared to them like a brigade. In consequence of the absence of its regular commander, Col. Carr was temporarily assigned to the command of the 3d Brigade, familiarly known as the jersey Brigade, which he led throughout the battle of the Orchards, June 25th, and the historical fight which continued with such sanguinary results for seven days, and embraced the desperate struggles at Glendale and Malvern Hill. On Gen. Patterson's return, Col. Carr resumed command of his regiment at Harrison's Landing; and on the 2d of July, while engaged with the enemy at Malvern Hill, Gen. Patterson, by order of Gen. Hooker, was superseded by Col. Carr, who promptly charged and routed the rebels, a number of whom he captured. He remained at the head of his brigade during the retreat to Yorktown, and until promoted by the President, upon the personal recommendation of Gen. Hooker, "for gallant and meritorious service in the field," to be a brigadier-general of volunteers, to date from Sept. 7, 1862.

The intrepidity of Gen. Carr was well illustrated during the battle of Bristoe Station, one of the most brilliant engagements of the war. During the heat of the conflict, in a murderous storm of iron and lead that burst upon his brigade, Gen. Carr conspicuously moved about, cheering on his men, and otherwise encouraging them by his manner and unflinching courage. A singular coincidence occurred at a moment when the brigade was sorely pressed by the foe. Gen. Carr had directed Capt. Benedict, his adjutant-general, to bring up reinforcements. At that moment they both fell, their horses having been shot simultaneously. The general coolly mounted the horse of an orderly, and successfully charged the enemy. His bravery, skill, and dash in this affair gained for him the sobriquet of the "Hero of Bristoe," by which designation he was subsequently known.

Gen. Carr took part in the battle of Bull Run, on the 30th and 31st of August, and Chantilly, where Kearney fell, on the 3d of September. In these conflicts he had many hair-breadth "'scapes" and thrilling experiences.

On the 17th of September, Gen. Carr was transferred from the 3d to the 1st Brigade, composed of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire troops. He soon after marched to Falmouth with the corps, and participated in the terrific struggle at Fredericksburg, on the 13th and 14th of December, where he lost very heavily in officers and men. On the 12th of January, 1863, he was intrusted with the important command of an expedition to Rappahannock Bridge, the object being to sever the communication afforded the rebels by the bridge, and scatter the enemy at that point. The troops engaged in this expedition were the 2d Division of the 3d Corps, and also fourteen hundred cavalry and three batteries of artillery, who suffered greatly from the severity of the weather, but returned to camp crowned with victory. On the 30th of March, Gen. Carr was officially notified by the Secretary of War that, the Senate having failed to act upon his nomination, he had ceased to be an officer of the army. On communicating the fact to Gen. Hooker, commanding the Army of the Potomac, the latter immediately proceeded to Washington, and on the following day telegraphed Gen. Carr that the President had reappointed him, to date from March 3, 1863. The spring campaign was commenced on the 30th of April, and at this time Gen. Carr moved forward with the rest of the army to Chancellorsville, where, on the 3d of May, a sanguinary battle was fought. Here he displayed most admirable judgment in the disposition of his troops, and cool, calm courage in leading them. Succeeding to the command of Hooker's old division—the white-patched heroes—after the fall of the chivalrous Berry, Gen. Carr sustained the enviable reputation he had so nobly earned on other fields, and was made the subject of special mention in the official report of that battle by Maj.-Gen. Sickles, the corps commander.

Directly after this campaign he was notified by the Secretary of War that his reappointment would receive the date of his original appointment. Maj.-Gen. Humphreys assumed command of the division on the 1st of June, 1863, and Gen. Carr returned to his brigade. On the 15th of the same month Gen. Carr moved with the army to Gettysburg, and participated in the memorable battle fought at that place on the 2d and 3d of July, after a march of nearly two hundred miles. Here his valuable horse, presented by his friends in Troy, fell pierced with five bullets, and in his fall injured the general's leg. Though scarcely able to stand, lame and exhausted as the general was, he refused to retire from the field, and, mounting another horse, continued to direct the movements of his brigade. In no battle of this war did the rebels fight with more determined fury than at Gettysburg, as shown by the great loss sustained by the two armies in killed and wounded. Nearly fifty thousand covered the battle-field and made it an awful scene of carnage. Repeated charges were made and resisted. The vast armies in motion resembled the undulating waves of the ocean. Carr lost heavily in officers and men,--nearly two-thirds of his force,--while not one of his staff, orderlies, or headquarters' horses escaped the enemy's fire. After the battle the division general and nearly all the officers of Gen. Carr's brigade assembled at headquarters, complimented him for his gallantry and good judgment, and congratulated him n his safe delivery from the fiery ordeal. Maj.-Gen. A. A. Humphreys, in his official report of that battle, spoke of him as coming under his own observation, and said, "I wish particularly to commend to notice the cool courage, determination and skillful handling of their troops of the two brigade commanders, Brig.-Gen. Joseph B. Carr and Col. William R. Brewster, and to ask attention to the officers mentioned by them as distinguished by their conduct."

Moving from Gettysburg, Gen. Carr took part in the battle of Wapping Heights, and pushed on to Warrenton, where he established a temporary camp. On the 1st of September he moved to Culpepper Court-House, and on the 5th of October was assigned to the head of the 3d Division of the 3d Corps, a comparatively new organization recently arrived from the Shenendoah, and advanced to Warrenton Junction, and subsequently participated in the engagements at Brandy Station and Kelly's Ford. Crossing the Rapidan in the latter part of November, he was one of the principal actors in the battles of Locust Grove, Robinson's Tavern, and Mine Run. After the latter engagement he returned to Brandy Station where he remained until the reorganization of the army in April, 1864. At this juncture Gen. Carr was relieved and assigned to the command of the 4th Division, 2d Corps (Hancock's). This position he retained until directed by the lieutenant-general to report to Gen. Butler, commanding the Army of the James, who placed him in command of the exterior line of defense on the Peninsula, headquarters at Yorktown.

Early in July, 1864, Gen. Carr was directed by Gen. Butler to evacuate Yorktown, and report to him at the front for assignment. Obeying this order, he was sent to Maj.-Gen. E. O. C. Ord. who placed him in command of the 1st and 3d Divisions of the 18th Corps for the battle which was expected to take place on the following day, immediately after the explosion of the Burnside mine. On the 4th of August he was given the command of the 1st Division of the same corps, and occupied the right of the line in the front of Petersburg. This position he retained until October 1st, when he assumed charge of the defense of the James, headquarters at Wilson's Landing.

During the seven months and more that he was stationed here, he strengthened the defenses of the river and built two serviceable and important forts.

On the 20th of May, Gen. Carr was transferred to City Point, on the James River, where he remained until after the close of the war, and until our forces were reduced to a mere handful at that place. On being relieved from this command he returned to Troy, and was subsequently mustered out of the service.

On the 1st of June, 1865, he was promoted to be a brevet major-general "for gallant and meritorious service during the war," to rank as such from the 13th of March, 1865.

Remaining in Troy, the place of his former residence, he embarked in manufacturing pursuits, and while on a business tour at the West, without any previous knowledge that the honor was contemplated, he received intelligence of his appointment by the Governor as major-general of the 3d Division N. Y. S. M., to date from Jan. 25, 1867.

In this position, which he still retains, he rendered services of incalculable benefit to the State, during the railroad riots of 1877, which were fittingly acknowledged by Governor Robinson. Although threatened with the greatest danger from the infuriated rioters, the citizens of Albany had the extreme gratification of witnessing the dispersal of the mob and restoration to peace and order without the sacrifice of life or property,--in fact, without the firing of a shot,--a result achieved by prudence, determination, and skill on the part of Gen. Carr, and the brave officers and soldiers of his command.

Gen. Carr has risen to his present honorable position solely upon the claims of merit. His promotions have been awarded him without the asking on his part, indeed, without any knowledge that they had been applied for until after they were conferred. They were secured upon voluntary recommendations of superior officers, who had observed the ability and gallantry of Gen. Carr amid the fury of sanguinary battles. Compliments thus bestowed, honors thus awarded, are testimonials that possess substantial value, and which unmistakably show the deservings of the true soldier.

Most creditable and brilliant is Gen. Carr's record made during the war. The tributes of Gen. Hooker (see footnote), Gen. Meade, and Gen. Humphreys are evidences of his heroism and proof of his abilities and success as a commanding officer. He has won distinction by real work, by gallant performances on the field of battle, by the exhibition of cool courage and superior abilities amid the dangers of bloody contests. The Trojan general, without adventitious aids, rising from the ranks of the working people, and by diligence in study, zealous labor in his vocation, and fervent patriotism to stimulate his endeavors, has secured the plaudits of our ablest commanders and the honorable recognition of the government. His are well-earned laurels, and his example is one in all respects creditable to himself and vindicating the claims of honest, patriotic merit.

Gen. Carr received the unanimous nomination for Secretary of State at the Republican State Convention, held at Saratoga on the 3d of September, 1879, which nomination was ratified at the polls on the 4th of November. His well-deserved reputation justifies the prophecy that an honest, intelligent, and faithful discharge of the important trust imposed upon him by the people of this great State will characterize his administration of the affairs of that high and honorable office.

FOOTNOTE: The following quotation from a recent letter addressed to Gen. Carr by Gen. Hooker shows the estimate as a man and a soldier in which he was held by "Fighting Joe":

"Garden City, L. I.
Oct. 24, 1879

My dear Gen. Carr,

I formed my estimate of your civil and military character under circumstances in which I was not likely to be deceived, for if there is in all of life's situations a more searching, unerring test of character than that presented on the field of battle I have never found it, and my opinions formed of men in those desperate struggles for life I have never had occasion to change or amend. My notions, therefore, of yourself are indelibly impressed on my mind.... Certainly politics are not capable of changing my opinion formed of you from abundant opportunities furnished by our late war. In a word, then, let me assure you that you are sure of my vote on the coming election, and that I intend to sit cross-legged in your behalf until I hear of your success.... Representatives who have witnessed on the field the cost of our institutions will be likely to revere them.

Sincerely yours,

J. Hooker, Major-General."

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