Captain Eben Everett
Who Served With Colonel Kit Carson
Craig A. Everett
The first references
After all of these years of working with our family histories, it is still surprising to find a reference to a previously unknown Everett. While browsing through a table of new books at our local bookstore for my pre-Christmas shopping, one caught my eye: Blood and Thunder: An Epic of the American West (Hampton Sides, New York: Doubleday, 2006). At first I thought it was a novel but it is the story of the expanding western frontier with a focus on Kit Carson and the Navajo wars in the southwest, particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and the Mexican border areas. Since I live in the Southwest I decided to take a look at it, and I still, somewhat obsessively, check the indices of books for Everett references. To my surprise I found references to a Captain Eben Everett.
In the book Captain Everett is described as the “probable author of the only known diary kept during the campaign (Navajo wars).” The book describes Everett’s entry for a morning raid on the Navajo on August 28, 1863: “…a party of some thirty men were sent off to go round by way of an Indian village. They joined us at Camp about 3 o’clock bringing with them one scalp of an Indian they had shot. From its appearance the original wearer…must have been an hombre grande (p.341).”
Later in the story from the book it is noted that nearly one half of Carson’s officers serving in the Navajo campaign were either court-martialed or forced to resign – many having been charged with “murder, alcoholism, embezzlement, sexual deviation, desertion, and incompetence (p344).” It mentions Captain Everett again, but this time that he was court-martialed for “…being so drunk as to be wholly unable to perform any duty properly (p344).” More about this later.
These notes and the mention of the diary stirred enough interest that I searched for the reference in the bibliography of the book. It indicated that Everett’s diary had been published in the New Mexico Historical Review in an article edited by Raymond E. Lindgren. He was identified having been on the faculty of the History Department at Vanderbilt University at that time. The article was entitled, A Diary of Kit Carson’s Navaho Campaign, 1863-1864 (New Mexico Historical Review, (Volume 21, 1946, pp. 226-246).
In just a few minutes on the internet I found the a website for the Review and learned that it was published by the University of New Mexico. Another page indicated the availability of past issues, their cost, and a telephone number through which to order. The next morning I made the call. A responsive staff member took my order very straightforwardly (along with my credit card number) and I received a copy of the 1946 journal in the mail two days later.
Background to the Navajo wars and the Everett diary
As historical background, Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson was identified as the commander of the First New Mexico Volunteers: “The Navaho campaign, one of Kit Carson’s most famous accomplishments, is probably the first introduction of the use of scorched-earth tactics in Southwestern Indian warfare….(His) strategy consisted of killing as many sheep, horses, mules, and cattle as possible and also to destroy all standing corn. It was proposed to starve the Indians and force them to surrender (p.262).”
This campaign began in July, 1863 with the establishment of Fort Canby and a supply base at Forth Defiance. At that time the largest group of Navajo (8,000) had retreated from their earlier lands and taken refuge in Canyon de Chelly. Today this is a well known and beautiful tourist area for hiking and photography.
Lindgren stated that the diary was believed to have been written by one of Carson’s commanders, Captain Eben Everett, commanding officer of Company B, First New Mexico Volunteers. He stated that its authenticity was corroborated by comparing the data in the diary with Carson’s military reports. Other supporting data suggested that Everett was the only commander at certain locations mentioned in the diary.
Lindgren reported in his article that Captain Everett initially enlisted in the Army in 1851 at Fort Leavenworth. He was assigned to Company H of the 1st Dragoons, with a Captain Stein as its commanding officer. Apparently he made his way to the New Mexico and Arizona frontier and soon volunteered with the New Mexico territorial troops. During this campaign of 1863 he was the commanding officer of Company B.
It was Brigadier General James Henry Carleton, commander of New Mexico, who recruited/ordered Carson back into service to lead the campaign against the Navajo. Carson had resigned his commission in a letter to General Carleton in February, 1863. He had also served as an Indian Agent with the Utes and, as reported by Sides, Carson generally believed that the difficulties with the Indians were due to aggression by the white settlers. However, Carson was persuaded to command the New Mexico troops.
This command included near 1000 men who represented a group of U.S. Army officers, New Mexico volunteers, auxiliaries from many of the New Mexico pueblo tribes, and scouts from the Ute tribe. On July 7, 1863, at 53 years of age, Carson led the long column of troops from the Rio Grand River north toward Navajo country. As was often noted throughout the story, Carson was surrounded by his Ute scouts rather than his white or Hispanic colleagues.
At a prior meeting in Sante Fe with Navajo leaders, General Carleton had given them until July 20 to return to Sante Fe to offer assurances that the entire tribe would surrender. Upon the passing of this deadline, Carleton issued General Orders Number 15: “For a long time past, the Navajo Indians have murdered and robbed the people of New Mexico. It is therefore ordered that Colonel CHRISTOPHER CARSON, with a proper military force proceed without delay to the Navajo country and there…to prosecute a vigorous war upon the men of this tribe…(p.339).”
Sides observed that with Carson’s invasion there were “no great engagements,...no decisive victories….the Navajos did what they had always done – they scattered, vanished, dropped into their thousand pockets and holes and abided in silence (p.339).”
Examples of the diary entries
Captain Everett’s first entry was on August 4, 1863: “Co. B. 2 officers, 61 non-com. And Pvts., including 9 attached, left Defiance and marched to Hay Camp. 6 miles. Got a wetting before reaching camp. Drew 24 Pack Saddles &c. complete. Rained all night, slept in wagon (Lindgren, p.228).”
August 12, 1863: “…About 9 A.M. Stragglers from Col. Carsons party began to arrive, their horses having given out in the first 25 miles. They say the Col. Is after the Indians at full speed and is determined to overtake them if horseflesh will stand it.
Col. Carson and his command arrived at camp about 10 A.M. did not overtake the Indians and were compelled to return for water. Many horses were completely broken down (Lindgren, p.233).”
August 14, 1863: “…One of our men was yesterday at work chiseling in the face of a smooth rock on the side of the (Volunteer) Canon the Legend “1st Regt. N.M. Vols.” Aug. 13, 1863” in letters a foot square. (Today the canyon is known as Keam’s Canyon in Arizona.) Ages hence this may cause as much curiosity among antiquarians, as do now the old names upon the famous Inscription Rock near Zuni, where there are hundreds of names and records of events, back to the year 1618.”
Found in our camp a rather rare thing in this country, abundance of wild rose bushes. Gathered and prepared some sprigs for home on the Hudson (Lindgren, p.235).”
August 15, 1863: “About one o’clock this morning...we were aroused by a demoniac yelling and the firing of guns….Some twenty shots were fired when the yelling ceased and the firing also….The men were roused again but Co. B took the precaution, instead of forming in line, so as to present a broad target, to scatter over their camp, but not so far as to prevent an instant formation….This second edition of firing & yelling lasted perhaps 5 minutes during which nearly a hundred shots were fired, when with an occasional whoop, the Indians retired (Lindgren, p236.)”
August 22, 1863: …We started again for Canon De Chelle. Passed by the body of the Indian killed yesterday and found the scull bare, every particle of hair having been taken off making at least a dozen scalp locks. This style of proceeding may inaugurate retaliation and a system of warfare in which we may be sufferers. The Navajoes seldom or never scalp their prisoners and the barbarous practice should not have been commenced by us (Lindren, p.243).”
Who was Captain Eben Everett?
Could he be descended from Richard Everett of Dedham, Massachusetts?
Captain Everett’s military career in New Mexico apparently ended somewhat inauspiciously. Lendgren reported that Everett had bouts with alcohol abuse and that early in the campaign he signed a pledge: “As an officer and a gentleman, that for one year from this date, I will not drink on single drop of an intoxicating liquid in any manner or shape whatever.” However, Lendgren reported further that following the portion of the campaign which was recorded in the diary, Everett was again found intoxicated, “but was excused.” Later Everett’s third offense led to his court martial and dishonorable discharge from the Army in April, 1864.
In the search to discover Captain Everett’s origins and family I first found him (via Ancestry.com) in the 1860 U.S. Census. He was listed as 30 years of age, born “abt 1830” in New Hampshire. His residence in 1860 was shown as Fort Buchanan, Arizona, New Mexico Territory. His wife is identified as Alice Everett, 25 years old, and there is a daughter, Laura E. Everett, 2 years old. Much of the same data was confirmed in the Arizona 1860 Territorial Census Index.
The Civil War Service Records identified him as a 1st Lt and “Adjt” in Company F of the 1st New Mexico Infantry with a note relating him to the 1st New Mexico Calvary.
I could not locate him in the 1870 census but the 1880 U.S. Census identified him as 50 years of age and living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was working as a Clerk. It also identified his father and mother as having been born in New Hampshire. His wife in 1880 was identified as Agusta Everett, 43 years old. This data identifies two “new” daughters: Mary Everett, 16 years old, and Eva Everett, 22 years old. The child, Laura E. Everett, who was identified in the 1860 Census, is not listed in 1880. She would have been 22 years old. However, the “E” identified as her middle initial in 1860 could have been for “Eva” – now being used as her first name.
Eben was not found in subsequent record searches. His wife, Alice (from the 1860 Census), applied for his Civil War Pension. All I had access to was the General Index to Pension Files on Ancestry.com. On the original document the year was illegible but the date of application was August 11. Her application number was 503,621.
The Ancestry World Tree Project (which we know should be used with some caution) actually identifies Eben as part of a fairly exhaustive family line going back to the well-known Richard Everett of Dedham, MA and then further back into the UK. Eben’s parents are identified here as Ebenezer Everett, born 8/31/1789 in Francestown, NH and died 6/28/1877 and Betsey Post Everett, born 4/7/1793 in Saybrook, CT. They were married 10/17/1816 in Durham, Greene County, NY. Two children were identified from this relationship:
Evangela Everett, born 1/5/1818 in Livonia, Livingston County, NY and
Euphemia Everett, born 5/20/1822 in Ogden, Monroe County, NY.
Ebenezer, the father, was married a second time to Laura M. (Walden) Stanley. She was born 7/20/1796 in Canandaigua, NY and they were married 11/22/1828 in Bloomfield, Ontario County, NY. They had four children:
Ebenezer “Eben” Everett, born 2/12/1830 in Jaffrey, NH
George Everett, 7/31/1831 in West Brookfield, MA
Laura Elizabeth Everett, born 11/5/1834 in Hector, Tompkins County, NY
James Harvey Everett, 2/11/1837 in Kanona, Steuben County, NY
A third marriage for Ebenezer was identified to Maria Weir whose birth dates were estimated as 1787-1843 (actually 1809, see below). The marriage took place in September, 1861. No further children were identified.
Ebenezer and his second wife, Laura, were identified in the 1850 U.S. Census. He was 61 years old and she was 55 years of age. He was listed as a clergyman. There were two children identified: James Everett, 15 years and Augusta (sp?) Everett, age 3 and identified as a female. Their residence was in Victory, Cayoga, NY. If this is James Harvey Everett (above) he would have been 13 years old based on the birth date of 1837. Augusta would have been born in 1847. Apparently Laura had either died or left the family before the third marriage in 1861.
I found Ebenezer and his third wife, Maria Weir, in the 1870 U.S. Census living in Gorham, Ontario, NY (Yates Co.). He is identified as an 80 year old “retired minister” and Maria is identified as “keeping house”. Maria was listed as 61 years of age which would make her birth date as 1809. No children are identified in their household but an 85 year old female, whose name is illegible, is listed in the household. It is not an Everett so possibly this is Maria’s mother.
The World Tree data identified the earlier U.S. family line, starting with Eben’s grandfather as follows:
Eleazer Everett (b.1761, Dedham, MA; d.1828, Francestown, N.H.)
Eleazer Everett (b.1712, Dedham, MA; d.1786, Dedham, MA )
John Everett (b.1676, Dedham, MA; d.1750/1, Dedham, MA)
John Everett (b.1646, Dedham, MA; d.1715 Dedham, MA)
Richard Everett (b.1597, Essex, England; arrived in MA c.1636; d.1682, Dedham, MA)
I am listing these data because most of the individuals identified in Eben’s family line are corroborated in the well-known book on Richard Everett – Descendants of Richard Everett of Dedham, Mass., Edward Franklin Everett, Boston, 1902. This work also identified Eben as a merchant in 1860 in Tucson, Arizona. This would seem to contradict the 1860 U.S. Census data cited above that identified him living at Fort Buchanan, Arizona. Unfortunately there is no additional data on him or his siblings in the lineages in this book.
The World Tree data also follows this line back to a Ralph Everard, identified as born about 1323 in Mashbury, Essex, UK. However, in reviewing this line more closely, there appear to be too many potential errors in dates and sequences of these early data to warrant reproducing them here. There are a number of ancestors in this line identified geographically from the Suffolk area of the UK, an area some of us have been researching. These data are accessible through Ancestry.com – just identify Ebenezer Everett and the location for New Hampshire under the World Tree link.
For those of you who would like to read more from Eben’s diary, it can be ordered from the following source (it is a 20 page article in a bound journal volume): New Mexico Historical Review, Volume 21, 1946, $36 plus mailing cost.
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