John Hampden Chamberlayne"Ham"
(1838 - 1882)
Home State: Virginia
Command Billet: Aide de Camp
Branch of Service: Artillery
Unit: A. P. Hill's Light Division
Before the Antietam Campaign:
He was well educated at private schools in Richmond, and entered the University of Virginia in 1855, where he was a fraternity man and member of the Jefferson Literary Society. He graduated with an MA degree in 1858. He then briefly taught at his old prep school, the Hanover Academy, and studied law. In March 1860 he passed the bar and began to practice law in Richmond.
Soon after the War began in Spring 1861, he enlisted as Private in Company F of the 21st Virginia Infantry regiment. The company had been formed as militia in Richmond in 1859 by fellow lawyer R. Milton Carey, so in it Ham was among friends. The company operated in defense of Richmond through the summer, then in the mountains of Western Virginia through the rest of the year without seeing action.
In 1862 he transferred, as Sergeant, to the Purcell Artillery: an elite outfit soon to be commanded by "Willie" Pegram, another former Company F soldier. In June of that year he was commissioned Lieutenant and appointed Assistant Adjutant General on the staff of Colonel R.L. Walker in command of the Corps Artillery, but from the Seven Days (25 June-1 July) through Maryland Campaigns (5-21 September 62) he was detached to General A.P. Hill's staff as Aide-de-Camp.
In the Antietam Campaign:
After the battle he wrote his mother:
The remainder of the War:
After fighting at Frederickburg and Chancellorsville, he was captured in combat at Gettysburg in July 1863 and imprisoned at Johnson's Island, Ohio, and Point Lookout, Maryland. Released in 1864, he was promoted to Captain and commanded an artillery battery in the Army of Northern Virginia from July til War's end in April 1865, fighting in the Wilderness, at Gaines' Mill, and Petersburg.
After the War:
After the war he tried to make a living by farming in Louisa County, Virginia, but could not make a go of it after 18 months "of hard work and extreme poverty, spent in the hopeless effort to extract from the none too generous soil of a small farm a living for his mother and one of his brothers and himself." In 1867 he suffered a complete breakdown, needing a year to recuperate.
He briefly worked as a clerk for the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad in Radford, then took a job on the Petersburg Index newspaper in early 1869. This was the beginning of a career in journaliam which would carry him through the rest of his life.
In his last years he was active politically, being opposed to General William Mahone's Readjuster movement, and served a term in the Virginia legislature. In 1873 he married Mary Walker Gibson, minister's daughter, and was editor of the Norfolk Virginian. In 1876 he came home to Richmond, founding The State, an evening newspaper, which he owned and edited until his death in 1882.
References, Sources, and other notes:
Most of the biographical detail, along with quotes and photograph above, are from a collection of Chamberlayne's wartime letters published1 in 1932 by his son. Additional service information from material accompanying the collection of his papers at the Virginia Historical Society and from Krick2.
|Birth Date: 06/02/1838 Place of Birth: Richmond, VA |
College: University of Virginia Graduating Year: 1858
Death Date: 02/18/1882 Death Place: Richmond, VA Burial Place: Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, VA
1 Chamberlayne, John Hampden, and Churchill Gibson Chamberlayne, ed., Ham Chamberlayne – Virginian. Letters and Papers of an Artillery Officer in the War for Southern Independence, 1861-1865, Richmond: Press of the Dietz Printing Co., 1932 [AotW citation 602]
2 Krick, Robert E.L., Staff Officers in Gray; A Biographical Register of the Staff Officers in the Army of Northern Virginia, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003, pg. 94 [AotW citation 603]
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