Assemblyman George B. Carse (R-Camden) was a key player in Florida politics during Reconstruction after serving as a decorated Civil War hero.
Carse enlisted in the Union Army after the fall of Fort Sumter in April 1861.
During the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, Carse was credited with reforming “a shattered and retreating line.” He was gravely wounded in the battle; Sgt. Robert Bloody saved Carse’s life and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
During Carse’s convalescence, General Joseph Hooker wrote a letter to President Abraham Lincoln commending his heroism. He was given a battlefield commission as a captain.
After the Civil War, Carse was sent to Florida to work in the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands where he administered contracts between former slaves and white planters. His job was to obtain justice for Blacks during Reconstruction.
In that role, Carse also became involved in politics, instructing Blacks on their opportunity to vote. He became Adjutant General under Florida’s new Republican governor, Harrison Reed.
During an internal Republican struggle between Reed and Lt. Gov. William Gleason, Carse caught Gleason trying to remove papers from the governor’s safe. He took out his revolver, pointed it at Gleason’s head, and forced the Lt. Governor out of the office.
A similar incident with a revolver happened again when Carse found out that Secretary of State George Alden had also removed some documents form Reed’s office.
That caused U.S. Senator Thomas Obsorn to seek Carse’s removal. Carse was indicted on charges of attempted murder after Alden filed a complaint, but the charges were dropped after Reed prevailed in the Florida GOP warette and removed Gleason and Alden.
Carse’s controversial time in Florida continued after he was accused of offering bribes to state legislators to support Reed after Osborn sought to impeach the governor.
After souring on the rough-and-tumble of Reconstruction-era politics, Carse returned to New Jersey and pursued a political career in a more docile place: Camden County.
Carse became editor of the Camden New Republic newspaper was studying law when he was elected to the State Assembly in 1871 by 357 votes at age 34. He was re-elected in 1872 and 1873.
After leaving the legislature, Carse continued to play a key inside role in New Jersey politics and was serving as a general of the New Jersey National Guard when he died in 1883.