Abbott was born in Concord, New Hampshire on July 15, 1825. He attended Phillips Academy in Andover Massachusetts, graduating in 1846. Abbott went on to study law in Concord and was admitted to the Bar in 1852. Abbott then managed and edited a newspaper, the Daily American, until 1857. In 1855, Abbott was selected as adjutant-general of New Hampshire in which he commanded and reformed the state militia.
In 1859, Abbott became editor of Boston Atlas. Meanwhile, he joined the Know Nothing Party, and was a member of the commission to reform the New Hampshire-Canadian border. Abbott started participating in the Civil War as Lieutenant Colonel of the 7th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. During the Civil War, Abbott was known for his proficiency in organizing his troops. He served with the regiment in South Carolina and Florida before leading an attack on Fort Wagner in July 1863. Shortly thereafter, in November 1863, he was appointed to Colonel and participated in the 1864 Overland Campaign in Virginia. In January 1865, he led a successful Union Army and Naval campaign on Fort Fisher, North Carolina. Abbott transferred to Wilmington, North Carolina.
Residing in Wilmington, North Carolina after the war, Abbott became politically active and served as a delegate at the state Constitutional Convention in 1868. He served as a Republican U.S. Senator from July 14, 1868 to March 3, 1871. During his tenure, he was viewed as a carpetbagger, Yankee politician who voiced opinions on matters such as suffrage and army administration. Rewarded by his political allies for his support, Abbott served as Collector of the Port of Wilmington under President Grant and Inspector of Ports under President Hayes. While working in southeastern North Carolina, Abbott founded the town of Abbottsburg in Bladen County and in 1869, as well as the Republican leaning newspaper, the Wilmington Post.
Abbott died on October 8, 1881. His body was originally buried at the National Cemetery in Wilmington, but his body was transferred to the Valley Cemetery in Manchester, New Hampshire in 1887.
"1898 Wilmington: Debunking the Myths." www.1898wilmington.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr 2012. http://www.1898wilmington.com/dancy_french.shtml; "Joseph Carter Abbott." . N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr 2012. http://virtualology.com/josephcarterabbott/; "Joseph Carter Abbott." . N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr 2012 http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=a000006; "Joseph Carter Abbott." . N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr 2012. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=5993447.