Thursday, September 24, 2015

Henry A Chambers (1841–1925) - Confederate soldier, Tennessee Politician, and Scotch-Irish historian

(The more you look the more you see, the more you dig the more you find. In looking for something else I came across this man recently.)

Captain Henry A Chambers (1841–1925) was born in Iridell County, North Carolina, which is said to have been nicknamed 'Scotch-Iridell" due to it being almost entirely Scotch-Irish in population. He attended Davidson College, joined the Confederate Army in May 1861 and was wounded at the Battle of Five Forks in Virginia in 1865. After the war he settled in Tennessee, becoming an Attorney and a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives. He was also a senior Freemason in the Grand Lodge of Tennessee (whose website features the portrait shown below)

His papers are held at the University of North Carolina, including a family history. Of the Chambers who settled there in 1754, having moved south from Pennsylvania, he wrote that –

"... They were all probably descendants of the James Chambers whose name appears on the rent roll of the Scotch farmers who settled in Ireland under the auspices of Hamilton & Montgomery in the reign of King James I of England (VI of Scotland) ..."
– from the Statesville Sentinel, 31 Dec 1914

The first Chambers in his line reached Philadelphia in 1726, a group of four brothers who had sailed from County Antrim. Chambers contributed to a huge family history compiled by William D Chambers in 1925, all of which is now online here. He said that Iridell County was full of:

"... families bearing such names of Scotch extraction as Freeland, Fleming, McHney, Chambers, Summers, Steelen, Murdock, Patterson, McNeely, Roseboro, Graham, Kerr, Irvin, Woods, Johnson, Hall and Ramsey. Most of them, whether church members or not, were of the Presbyterian or Calvinistic faith ..."

His papers include his Civil War diary, which shows his interest in reading and history even during army drills and training:

Monday, Sept. 28, 1863
Had company drill in the morning and battalion drill in the evening by Col. McAfee. After the evening drill, we had dress parade. A Rev. Mr. Rugland preached tonight. I was engaged in reading Macaulay’s History of England in my leisure time.

Monday, Jan. 18, 1864
I was engaged during the forenoon in writing and in the afternoon in reading Macauley’s England. I have become deeply interested in this history. The iniquitous reign of James II is now drawing to a close and it is instructive and interesting to see what desperate measures he and his courtiers are resorting to...

Tuesday, Jan. 19, 1864
I am becoming more and more interested in Macauley’s England. He groups his historical characters in such a way that his narrative excites something with the same interest that a well written novel produces. His reflections, his searching analysis of character, his felicity of style, all contribute to charm one with his history. I have today read his account of the influence and circumstances which induced Wm. Prince of Orange to interfere with the government of England and have arrived at the end of the 9th of the long chapter where James, after retreating before the prince and finding his friends and army deserting him, resolves to follow his wife and little son to France. Last night George W. Carr of my company got a sick leave of twenty days. This evening, Samuel S. Benson was sent to the hospital and we received orders permitting five enlisted men to be furloughed for every 100.

 At the infamous battle site of Manassas he reported that there had been whiskey smuggling into the Confederate camp by Irish girls –

Thursday, Jan. 9, 1862
On this day we were on duty in the muddiest of the muddy places, Manassas Junction. It was cloudy all day –that and a thick fog rendered it almost impossible to distinguish objects more than twenty paces distant. This morning, we police confiscated some goods in the shape of two boxes filled with “fire water”. These boxes were being smuggled into camp by two of the “fair daughters of Ireland”.

In 1915 he serialised a 15-part 'History of the Scotch-Irish' for the Statesville Sentinel, a remarkably detailed account which drew heavily upon Charles A Hanna's (1863–1950) landmark two-volume set The Scotch-Irish, or, The Scot in North Britain, North Ireland and North America (1902).