Carter, George Washington (1826–1901)

By: Anne J. Bailey and Bruce Allardice

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: July 7, 2011

George Washington Carter, minister and educator, Confederate colonel, legislator, and diplomat, was born in January, 1826, in Fauquier County, Virginia, the son of Jonathan and Elizabeth (Rust) Carter. He became a minister in the Methodist Church when he was twenty-one years old. He served congregations in the Richmond, Petersburg, and Fredericksburg, Virginia, districts and in 1858 received an appointment to the University of Mississippi as professor of ethics. In January 1860 the Texas Methodist Conference invited him to become president of Soule University at Chappell Hill, Texas. After participating in the Secession Convention in 1861, Carter resigned his position and returned to Virginia, where the Confederate secretary of war authorized him to recruit a regiment for the army. He returned to Texas, raised three regiments instead of one, and planned to arm his recruits with lances. The regiments-his own Twenty-first Texas Cavalry, Franklin C. Wilkes's Twenty-fourth Texas Cavalry, and Clayton C. Gillespie's Twenty-fifth Texas Cavalry-became known as Carter's Lancers. When the force arrived in Arkansas in the autumn of 1862 the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth Texas withdrew from Carter's command, leaving him with only the Twenty-first Texas; this regiment joined a brigade under Col. William Henry Parsons. Throughout the war Carter claimed that he should have had command of Parsons's brigade because his commission as colonel came from the secretary of war and predated that of Parsons. This dispute was not settled until the Twenty-first Texas left Parsons's brigade early in 1865. At times during the war Carter did command portions of the brigade, and when it was under him it was known as Carter's brigade. He led this force with Brig. Gen. John S. Marmaduke into Missouri in 1863. Although both he and Colonel Parsons participated in the Red River campaign in 1864, the brigade was placed under Brig. Gen. William Steele. Soldiers found him eloquent, “a writer of great force,” “brave and fearless as a lion,” but with “a fondness for drink.” Carter was paroled in Houston June 29, 1865.

After the war Carter moved to Louisiana, where he was a controversial figure in Reconstruction politics. He served in the legislature as speaker in 1871–72. He was minister resident to Venezuela from June 30, 1881, to May 16, 1882, and in his later life was a lecturer. Carter was married and divorced three times. He married Ora McIlheney and subsequently wed a woman in Louisiana. His third marriage raised some controversy when Carter, at sixty-nine years old, married twenty-one-year-old Virginia Statham. Consequently, the Virginia Methodist Conference tried Carter for immorality. He died at the Maryland Line Confederate Soldiers' Home in Pikesville, Maryland, on May 11, 1901, and is buried at Loudon Park Cemetery in Baltimore.

Bruce S. Allardice, Confederate Colonels: A Biographical Register (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2008). Anne J. Bailey, Between the Enemy and Texas: Parsons's Texas Cavalry in the Civil War (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1989). Macum Phelan, History of Early Methodism in Texas, 1817–1866 (Nashville: Cokesbury, 1924); A History of the Expansion of Methodism in Texas, 1867–1902 (Dallas: Mathis, Van Nort, 1937).

  • Religion
  • Methodist
  • Military
  • Confederate Military
  • Regimental and Staff Officers
  • Soldiers
  • Politics and Government
  • Government Officials
  • State Legislators
  • Twelfth Legislature (1870-1871)
  • Education
  • Educators
Time Periods:
  • Civil War
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Anne J. Bailey and Bruce Allardice, “Carter, George Washington,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 17, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 7, 2011

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