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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Three Who Rode to War

Vespasian Chancellor (National Park Service, with thanks to Tom Myers)

     Over a span of 21 years, Reverend Melzi Chancellor and his wife, Lucy, had 10 children together. Of their five sons, three were old enough to enlist in the Confederate service when Virginia seceded from the United States in 1861.
     Vespasian Chancellor, the oldest of the 10, was born in Spotsylvania County on November 22, 1838. In 1860, he was still living in his parents' household, working as a farmer at their home at Dowdall's Tavern on the Orange Turnpike. The following year, on April 25--just as Virginia was formally withdrawing from the Union--Vespasian was appointed postmaster at Chancellorsville. He would serve a second time as postmaster at the newly rebuilt Chancellorsville in 1877.
     On July 3, 1861, Vespasian enlisted for one year in Company C of the 30th Virginia Infantry. Much of his time was spent as a wagon driver for the quartermaster department. He was admitted to the General Hospital (where his uncle, Dr. James Edgar Chancellor, was chief surgeon) on May 12, 1862. He was furloughed five months later with a diagnosis of "Functional disease of the heart and anemia."

Vespasian Chancellor (The Photographic History of the Civil War)

     At some time after his departure from the 30th Infantry, Vespasian began to operate as a scout and spy for the Confederate cavalry, and was attached directly to the headquarters of General J. E. B. Stuart, for whom he became "one of his most successful scouts." On February 11, 1864, he officially enlisted in Company E of the 9th Virginia Cavalry and served with that regiment until at least January 20, 1865.
     After the war, Vespasian returned to Spotsylvania and lived with his parents, his three unmarried sisters and his younger brother, Melzi, Jr. As he had before the war, Vespasian continued to work as a farmer. However, because of his experiences during the Civil War, and also because of his family's unique place in Spotsylvania's history, he was able to supplement his income with much more interesting work.

     Over the years, Vespasian Chancellor was called upon by a number of veteran's groups to provide guided tours of the area's battlefields. Some of these are well documented and will be presented here. In the photograph below, taken in May 1884, Vespasian is seated at far right.

Veterans at Chancellorsville, 1884 (National Park Service, with thanks to Tom Myers)

     Standing in front of the tree at left is Warren Dudley Foster of Spotsylvania, who had been captured with Captain Benjamin Cason Rawlings during the Mine Run campaign in November 1863. Next to him is Reverend James Power Smith, who as a young lieutenant was among the first to render aid to General T. J. "Stonewall" Jackson after he was wounded on May 2, 1863. Seated at center and holding a cane is Joseph Dickinson, former adjutant of General Joseph Hooker. During the Battle of Chancellorsville, Dickinson saved the Chancellor family and other civilians by shepherding them from their burning house. Standing second from right and sporting the Dundreary whiskers he affected in his later years, is General James Longstreet.
     Although Vespasian does not appear in the picture below, it does show some well-known personages at Chancellorsville. General James Longstreet is standing third from right next to the one-legged Union General Daniel Sickles.

Veterans gathered at Chancellorsville (Donald Colvin)

     During the fighting on May 2, 1863, Reuben Towle Leavitt, Jr., of the 12th New Hampshire Volunteers was shot in the knee and brought into the Chancellor's house with scores of other Union wounded. The following day, the house--which was also used by General Hooker as his headquarters--came under heavy bombardment by Confederate artillery. Hooker was knocked unconscious after a solid shot hit the pillar he was standing next to. The house very shortly thereafter caught fire. Joseph Dickinson escorted the Chancellor family and other civilians there to a place of safety in Stafford County. Leavitt and other incapacitated soldiers gathered in a room were startled when a chimney collapsed from the fire and bricks came tumbling into the room. These men were saved from the burning house, but were captured by Confederate forces. Leavitt was imprisoned for six months before being paroled. He was permanently disabled by his wound. In October 1888, Leavitt and other surviving members of the 12th New Hampshire visited Chancellorsville, which was then undergoing repairs. The photo below, from Asa W. Bartlett's history of the 12th New Hampshire, shows Leavitt, at left, seated in the carriage next to Vespasian Chancellor. Damage from the battle 25 years before can still be seen in the wall facing the camera.

Reuben T. Leavitt and Vespasian Chancellor (Asa W. Bartlett)

    Vespasian also played a role in deciding where to mark the spot where a monument would be erected to commemorate the wounding of "Stonewall" Jackson. In an episode recounted in Charles Royster's book, The Destructive War, Vespasian, James Horace Lacy (owner of Ellwood and Chatham) and Lacy's son-in-law, Reverend James Power Smith, identified a likely spot on the old Chancellorsville property while giving a tour to Union veteran J. O. Kerbey. It was decided then that, because it would never be known for certain precisely where Jackson had been shot, the monument would be placed close enough to the Orange Turnpike to encourage tourists to visit it.
     In 1888, a granite marker was dedicated on the spot chosen by Chancellor, Lacy and Smith. In May 1899, Vespasian acted as tour guide for the 114th Pennsylvania Volunteers, the Collis Zouaves, who had come to Spotsylvania for the dedication of the monument which listed the names of the 38 men lost by that regiment during the Battle of Chancellorsville. The Zouaves and Vespasian also visited the Jackson monument nearby and posed for this photograph. Vespasian Chancellor is leaning against the tree at right:

114th Pennsylvania Volunteers and Vespasian Chancellor at Jackson monument (Donald Colvin)

The Free Lance, May 11, 1899

     Vespasian was a member of the Chancellorsville Battlefield Association, which bought property at the battlefield sites of Chancellorsville and Spotsylvania Court House. Although their timing was off by 30 years or so, the Association anticipated that the federal government would create a national park encompassing these locations, and that money could be made by catering to the expected influx of tourists to the area. Good intentions notwithstanding, the enterprise was a financial failure by the late 1890s.

Sue Chancellor (Rich Morrison)

     Vespasian married his first cousin, Susan Margaret Chancellor, in Washington, D.C.  on March 8, 1893. Sue Chancellor was one of the fortunate people saved by Joseph Dickinson at Chancellorsville in 1863, and her memoir of that event was published in 1921. Vespasian and Sue made their home in Fredericksburg at 300 Main (modern Caroline) Street.

300 Caroline Street, Fredericksburg (Google)

     On January 28, 1904, Vespasian took a spill on the icy pavement near his home in Fredericksburg. He fractured his right hip and was attended to by Dr. J. E. Tompkins. Vespasian died at his home on April 28, 1908. He is buried in the Chancellor family cemetery in Spotsylvania.

George Edward Chancellor*

G. E. Chancellor broadside, 1884 (Library of Virginia)

     Vespasian's brother, George Edwards Chancellor, was born in Spotsylvania County about 1842. On April 25, 1861, George enlisted in Company E of the 9th Virginia Cavalry. Except for a period of time in late 1864, during which he was reported absent without leave (this occurred a month after he had been granted a furlough by General Robert E. Lee), George served for the duration of the war. His horse was killed in action at Buckland Mills in Fauquier County on October 19, 1863. Lieutenant Chancellor received eleven hundred dollars for the mount he had furnished to the Confederate service. Near the end of the war, George was wounded while fighting near besieged Petersburg. When he returned home a war's end, he brought with him the jacket he had worn as a trooper with the 9th Cavalry, which bore "a dozen or more bullet holes."

Invoice of George E. Chancellor (Author's collection)

     In 1868, George moved to Fredericksburg, and by 1870 he was living in the household of Irish-born merchant Patrick McCracken, in whose store he worked as a clerk. By 1873, George had established his own business, where he sold groceries, feed and seed, and farming implements at the corner of Commerce (modern William) and Charles Streets. He was active in the Conservative Party and was elected as a delegate to its state convention in 1870.

Receipt of George E. Chancellor (Author's collection)

     In October 1876, General Joseph Hooker (who had never fully recovered from his injury at the Battle of Chancellorsville) and his literary executor, Samuel P. Bates, visited the battlefields of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania. Bates wrote an account of their experience at the Chancellorsville battlefield in an article he wrote for The Century Illustrated Magazine:
     "We were accompanied on our ride to the Chancellorsville field some ten or twelve miles above Fredericksburg by Major George E. Chancellor, a son of Melzi Chancellor, whose home at the time of the battle was at Dowdall's tavern, where General Howard had his headquarters. On setting out, General Hooker suggested that we should take some lunch along with us, as when he was there last, there was very little to eat in all that region. Major Chancellor thought it unnecessary, and, in fact, we feasted most sumptuously at his father's house."
     The house where they had lunch that day, "Chancellor's Retreat," stood behind Wilderness Baptist Church, as shown in the 1884 photo below. The Orange Turnpike (modern Route 3) is in the foreground.

Wilderness Church and "Chancellor's Retreat," 1884 (National Park Service)

     George Chancellor never married. In 1880 he was sharing a home on Commerce Street with merchant John J. Berrey, also a life-long bachelor.
      In 1883, a fire occurred in George's store, while it was a serious event for him, the fire did not actually threaten any other nearby buildings. However, this focused the minds of the member of city council on the fact that the city did not have a municipal water system, and not fire-fighting equipment to deal with the next unexpected blaze. Steps were then taken to remedy both situations.

The Free Lance, February 13, 1885

     On November 12, 1887, George died at home of "a lingering disease of the stomach and secretive organs." He is buried in the Chancellor family cemetery in Spotsylvania. His obituary appeared in the November 1887 edition of The Free Lance:


*To see the original photograph from which George's portrait was taken, please see my post The Chancellors Revealed

Thomas Frazer Chancellor (National Park Service, with thanks to Tom Myers)

     The youngest of Reverend Chancellor's sons to fight for the Confederacy was Thomas Frazer, born in 1845. He enlisted in Company E of the 9th Virginia Cavalry on March 1, 1862.
     On October 10, 1862, General J. E. B. Stuart led a force of 1,800 cavalrymen on a raid into  Pennsylvania. They cut telegraph wires, seized ammunition, clothing and other supplies, and burned the railroad depot and trains at Chambersburg. They accomplished this at the cost of a few wounded men and two unaccounted for. One of these missing troopers was Private Thomas Chancellor.
     Thomas had been taken prisoner "near Gettysburg," and spent the next two months incarcerated at Fort Delaware. He was sent to Fort Monroe in Virginia on December 15 and was exchanged on December 20, 1862. He then rejoined his regiment and served as a courier for General Stuart.
     Late in 1862, Thomas Chancellor issued an invitation to General Stuart to attend a party to be hosted by his aunt Fannie Chancellor at Chancellorsville. Although Stuart was well acquainted with Fannie and had been her guest a number of times previously, he sent her his regrets. But he allowed Major John Pelham, Colonel Heros von Borcke and some others to attend, including a couple of musicians. This party of 10 men commandeered an ambulance and set out from Fredericksburg for Chancellorsville. En route the ambulance hit a snow covered stump and wrecked violently four miles from Chancellorsville. When this battered group finally arrived, they were greeted by Thomas Chancellor. Fannie Chancellor's guests danced until midnight, ate supper, and then resumed dancing until the wee hours of the morning. (From Jerry Maxwell's book, The Perfect Lion, 241-243).
     Private Chancellor accompanied General Stuart's cavalry a second time into Pennsylvania, arriving at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. Thomas was mortally wounded during the fighting there and died on July 15, 1863. In 1939, George Harrison Sanford King, a grandson of Thomas' sister Anna, ordered a headstone for Thomas from the Department of War and had it placed in the Chancellor family cemetery in Spotsylvania.


Maxwell, Jerry H., The Perfect Lion: The Life and Death of Confederate Artillerist John Pelham. The University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, AL: 2011.

Bartlett, Capt. A. W., History of the Twelfth Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion. Ira C. Evans, Concord, NH: 1897.

The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. May 1886, to October 1886. Volume XXXII, New Series Volume X. The Century Company, New York, NY: 1886.

Miller, Francis Trevelyan and Lanier, Robert S., editors, The Photographic History of the Civil War in Ten Volumes. New York, NY: 1911.

Royster, Charles, The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson and the Americans. First Vintage Civil War Library Edition, January 1993.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Dr. James Edgar Chancellor

James Edgar Chancellor (UVA Library Special Collections)

     He was the youngest child born to George and Ann Chancellor of Chancellorsville, arriving on January 26, 1826. He received every benefit a loving and well-to-do family could provide, and he made the most of those advantages.
     James attended the "classical academy" in Fredericksburg and studied medicine under Dr. George French Carmichael [1]. He then enrolled at the University of Virginia and took classes in medicine, anatomy and surgery, and chemistry and earned his degree in 1847. He then spent a year in Philadelphia, where he attended the Jefferson Medical College. He received his medical degree in 1848 and returned to Spotsylvania, where he began a successful private practice.
     Until about 1853, James lived with his half-sister, Mary Pound, and her husband, Jacob E. Appler, on their farm near Chancellorsville. In 1853, James was appointed to a one-year term as postmaster at Chancellorsville, a sinecure held by a number of his relatives over the years. That same year, on November 18, James married his sweetheart, Dorothea "Dorry" Josephine Anderson.
     Born on February 3, 1828, Dorry was the daughter of Thomas W. Anderson and Jane Porter Alsop. In 1834, Jane's father, Samuel Alsop, Jr., gave to Thomas and Jane a house and large farm in Spotsylvania called "Coventry" [2].

James E. Chancellor house (Library of Congress)

     James and Dorry Chancellor made their home at the house shown above. It was located across the road from Spotsylvania Court House [3]. The wall in the foreground enclosed the lawn of the court house at that time. The triangular wooden frame in front of the barn at left was a well built in the road. An earlier granary and stable belonging to Dr. Chancellor burned in 1857.
     Six children were born to James and Dorry: Eustathius (1854), Euodia Livingston (1855), Alexander Clarendon (1857), Thomas Sebastian (1858), Samuel Cleveland (1859) and Josephine "Josie" Anderson (1862). Euodia died in 1857. James and Dorry published the poem below dedicated to her memory. This clipping is part of the George Harrison Sanford King collection at the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center in Fredericksburg. Euodia lies buried in the gated portion of the Berea Christian Church cemetery belonging to J. E. Chancellor (his name is on the gate) at Spotsylvania Court House. Berea Church was built in 1856 under the supervision of Dorry's grandfather, Samuel Alsop, Jr.

     Soon after the Civil War began, Dr. Chancellor made his services available to the Confederacy. On September 4, 1861, James was commissioned assistant surgeon for the General Hospital at Charlottesville. The following year he was named chief surgeon of the hospital complex in Charlottesville, and remained at that post for almost the entire war.
     Since there was no such thing as a "general hospital" in Charlottesville in 1861, the wounded and sick Confederate soldiers who were brought here via the Virginia Central Railroad were quartered in the town's stores, hotels, private homes, the town hall and court house and even the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. During the Civil War, more than 22,000 men were treated at this place. Over 1,100 died there and are buried in umarked graves near the University.
     On February 23, 1862, James and Dorry Chancellor celebrated the birth of their second daughter, "Josie." Their happiness would be short lived, however. Dorry became sick just five months later and she died of "typhoid fever with pulmonary congestion." Her body was transported back to Spotsylvania, and she was buried next to Euodia at Berea Christian Church.

Richmond Times Dispatch, August 21, 1862

     After Dorry's death, James' two youngest children, Sam and Josie, were brought to the widowed Jane Alsop Anderson to care for. While it is not known how long Sam lived with his grandmother, it appears that Josie lived with her for most of her life.
     In addition to his responsibilities for thousands of patients and caretakers, James also did what he could for his extended family. After the destruction of Chancellorsville in May 1863, James made arrangements for his aunt Fannie Chancellor and her children to come to Charlottesville. He obtained for Fannie a position as matron at Midway and Delevan hospitals. Fannie, with the help of her daughters Frances and Penelope, brought fresh eggs and vegetables to the patients and provided whatever other small comforts they could. Unfortunately, James' skills as a doctor could not save Fannie's daughters once they contracted typhoid fever in August 1864. They died within days of each other.
     The year 1864 also saw Dr. Chancellor detailed on temporary duty when he was ordered to report to the Reserve Medical Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. These surgeons assisted in the care of thousands of Confederate soldiers wounded during the battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House. He returned to Charlottesville after the completion of this tour of duty.
     In early March 1865, Union cavalry commanded by General Philip Sheridan occupied Charlottesville for three days. Although there was a moderate amount of looting and burning, the town and outlying farms were spared the wholesale destruction these same troopers meted out in the Shenandoah Valley.
     A month later, after the capture of Richmond by Federal forces, Dr. Chancellor loaded medical supplies into an ambulance with the intention of making his way to General Joseph Johnston's army in North Carolina. However, when news of General Lee's surrender at Appomattox reached him, James returned to Charlottesville and acknowledged that the struggle for southern independence had come to an end.

Dr. James Edgar Chancellor (UVA Library Special Collections)

     James did not return to Spotsylvania after the war. Instead, he elected to remain in Charlottesville. In October 1865 he was named demonstrator of anatomy by the medical school at the University of Virginia. He also met someone who would become part of his life for the next 30 years.

Birdwood (Virginia Department of Historic Resources)

     Gabriella Garth was born about 1828 at "Birdwood" in Albemarle County, the impressive home of her wealthy and socially prominent parents, William Durrett Garth and Elizabeth Woods Martin. The beautiful young Gabriella enjoyed all the benefits of a storybook upbringing, including an education received at Mrs. Mead's School in Charlottesville. In the map detail below, I believe Birdwood is indicated as "Garth" in the left center of the image, just south of the road and east of "Randolph."

Map detail of Albemarle County, 1860s (National Archives)

     In November 1851, Gabriella married Dr. James Kirk of Hilton Head, South Carolina, in a ceremony held at Birdwood. The bride and groom then returned to Rose Hill, the Kirk home in Bluffton. A portrait of Gabriella hangs in the house today, and can be viewed by clicking on this link. Dr. Kirk and Gabriella had three children together. Dr. Kirk and their oldest child died in 1858. She remained at Rose Hill with her surviving children, Woods and Lilla, until 1861. With the threat of a Union invasion of Hilton Head now imminent, Gabriella took her children and a small contingent of slaves to the train depot in nearby Hardeeville. From there they headed west to Alabama, presumably to refugee with her uncle, Jesse Garth.
     While living in Alabama, she met Dr. John Summerfield Mayes. They were married in Lawrence County in March 1862. Dr. Mayes and their son died there in 1865. Gabriella then took Woods, Lilla and her youngest child, Martha Mayes, home to Birdwood and soon thereafter met Dr. Chancellor. They were married in her parents' home on November 14, 1867. Reverend J. S. Lindsay, chaplain at the University, officiated.

School of Medicine, 1867. Chancellor seated at far right (UVA Library Special Collections)

     James and Gabriella Chancellor lived at University Place in a large house. Over the years, in order to help make ends meet, Gabriella took in boarders, mostly young male students at the University. In 1880 there were 34 people boarding in the Chancellor household.
     Dr. Chancellor also sought ways to supplement his meager income. The most successful of his ventures was to become resident physician at various mineral springs which featured hotels and other amenities to attract those who sought to "take the waters." Testimonials by James appeared in newspapers over the years, attesting to the efficacy of the waters at such places as Jordan Alum Springs and Rockbridge Alum Springs in Rockbridge County, Virginia and at the Salt, Sulphur and Iodine Springs in Monroe County, West Virginia.
     Beginning in 1872, this would be virtually his sole source of income. That year he suffered a nasty wound while dissecting a cadaver. His health became so compromised that he was obliged to resign his position at the University of Virginia.

Faculty in 1868. Chancellor at lower left (UVA Library Special Collections)

UVA faculty. Chancellor in front, 2nd from left (UVA Library Special Collections)

     Despite this serious setback, James E. Chancellor's reputation and stature as a physician continued to grow. He published a number of professional papers that were presented at various conferences. He became a member of the Medical Society of Virginia in 1871, serving as its vice president in 1874 and 1880 and as president in 1883. He also was appointed to the Virginia State Board of Medical Examiners. Chancellor was made a permanent member of the American Medical Association in 1875 and the American Public Health Association in 1878.
     In 1885 he was elected and served one term as professor to the chair of diseases of women and children at the University of Florida in Tallahassee. He also filled the chair of anatomy during his stay there.
     That same year, on May 6, James's youngest child, Josie, died at "Coventry," her grandmother's house in Spotsylvania. She is buried with her mother and sister at the Berea Christian Church cemetery. Her obituary is part of the George Harrison Sanford King collection at the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center:

     On Monday, December 9, 1895, The Alexandria Gazette reported that "The dwelling house of Dr. J. E. Chancellor was destroyed by fire at the University of Virginia at 7 o'clock Saturday evening. Loss about $2,000."
     James and Gabriella moved to 110 13th Street in Charlottesville. Dr. Chancellor died there one year later, on September 11, 1896. He is buried at the University of Virginia Cemetery and Columbarium.

James E. Chancellor standing with his brothers (Ancestry)

     After his death, Gabriella was joined in her house by her divorced daughter, Martha Mayes Shuey and her two children. Ten years after the burning of the house she shared with James, this house also burned:

Richmond Times Dispatch, November 23, 1905

     Gabriella Garth Kirk Mayes Chancellor died in Louisa County, where she had gone to spend the summer, on August 10, 1909. She is buried at Maplewood Cemetery in Charlottesville.


All four of James Edgar Chancellor's sons lived well into the 20th century and prospered.

Dr. Eustathius Chancellor (Nationial Institutes of Health)

     Eustathius Chancellor earned his medical degree at the University of Maryland in 1877. He moved to St. Louis, where he completed his classical education by earning a Master of Arts degree at St. Louis University, while establishing a successful private practice. The governor of Missouri appointed him as Medical Director of the Missouri State National Guard. He never married. Eustathius died in 1931.

Alexander Clarendon Chancellor

     A. C. Alexander married and raised a family in Columbus, Georgia, where he owned a successful store specializing in men's high-end clothing and accessories. He was named president of the Georgia Retailers Association in 1909. A photograph of his palatial home appears in Kenneth H. Thomas' book, Columbus, Georgia in Vintage Postcards. Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC: 1901. He died in 1933.

Home of Alexander Clarendon Chancellor

     Thomas Sebastian Chancellor and his wife lived in Alabama and Florida, where he worked in retail and as a commercial traveler.

Samuel Cleveland Chancellor

     Sam Chancellor graduated from the Pharmaceutical College in Baltimore, Maryland with the intention of becoming a medical doctor, but impaired eyesight obliged him to pursue a career as a pharmacist instead. He spent years honing his skills at drug stores in Baltimore, Richmond and Charlottesville. In 1890 he bought out the drug store of R. C. A. Seiburg in Charlottesville and established his long standing pharmacy there.

Charlottesville directory, 1902 (Ancestry)

Chancellor's Drug Store (UVA Library Special Collections)

Chancellor's Drug Store (UVA Library Special Collections)

     In 1905 Sam married Clarissa Lynn Rodes, who died after a failed appendectomy a year later. Sam Chancellor died in 1922.


[1] Dr. Carmichael (1806-1882) served as surgeon in charge of the General Hospital in Danville during the Civil War.

[2] Samuel Alsop, Jr. built houses for two of Dorry's sisters as wedding gifts. "Kenmore Woods" was given to Ann Eliza Alsop and her husband, John M. Anderson.  "Oakley" was built for Clementine Alsop and her husband, Thomas Coleman Chandler. I wrote this article about Oakley several years ago.

[3] In future years, this house would be occupied by Spotsylvania County Sheriff Thomas Addison Harris and Commonwealth's Attorney Samuel Peter Powell.


Makers of America: Biographies of Leading Men of Thought and Action, volume 1. B. F. Johnson, Washington, D. C.: 1901.

Virginia: Its History, Influence, Equipment and Characteristics, volume 2. Lewis Publishing Company, New York: 1904.

Kelly, Howard A. and Burrage, Walter L. American Medical Biographies. The Norman, Remington Company, Baltimore, MD: 1920.

Henry, William Wirt and Spofford, Ainsworth R. Eminent and Representative Men of Virginia and the District of Columbia of the Nineteenth Century. Brant and Fuller, Madison, WI: 1893.

The George Harrison Sanford King archive at the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center:

Sunday, March 13, 2016

"O the horror of that day!"

Susan Margaret Chancellor (Rich Morrison)

     When she was 16 years old, she witnessed the destruction of Chancellorsville,  the former home of her grandparents, during the epic battle that took place there in May 1863. Almost 60 years later, she shared her recollection of those times with a local historian [1], which was then published in The Confederate Veteran in 1921.
     Susan Margaret Chancellor was the youngest of 11 children who were raised at "Forest Hall," a large farm on the Rappahannock River near the United States Ford, arriving on February 19, 1847. The two maps below show the location of that farm. In the second map, the Chancellor farm is shown as "Major Fitzhugh."

Northwestern Spotsylvania County, 1863 (National Archives)

Site of Forest Hall, 1863 (National Archives)

     Sue Chancellor's parents were Sanford Chancellor (1791-1860) and Frances "Fannie" Longwill Pound (1803-1892). Fannie's mother, Ann Lyon Pound Chancellor, was married to Sanford's brother, George Chancellor, for whom Chancellorsville was named. This connection made Ann Chancellor both his sister-in-law and mother-in-law.
     A remarkable photograph of the Chancellors taken at "Forest Hall" about 1858 shows Fannie and Sanford Chancellor standing in the doorway of their house. The little girl sitting at the bottom of the steps is Sue Chancellor. Sue gave the original of this photograph to her nephew, Fredericksburg genealogist George Harrison Sanford King. The version shown here is part of the archive of the National Park Service, which generously shared it with me.

The Chancellors of "Forest Hall," about 1858. (National Park Service)

     During the War of 1812, Sanford Chancellor served on the staff of General William Madison, brother of the future president of the United States. For the remainder of his life, Sanford was often referred to as "Major Chancellor."
     Sanford Chancellor served his community as a school commissioner, justice of the peace, sheriff of Spotsylvania County, and postmaster at Chancellorsville during the last year of his brother George's life, 1835-1836.
     Sanford and Fannie Pound were married in Spotsylvania on January 7, 1823. Their first two sons,  William Cooper (on March 9) and John Andrew (on September 28), died in 1838. Their obituaries are part of the George Harrison Sanford King archive at the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center:

William Cooper Chancellor (CRHC)

John Andrew Chancellor (CRHC)

     In the early years of their marriage, Sanford and Fannie lived at New Store, located in Spotsylvania County southeast of Chancellorsville. They built "Forest Hall" about 1840, where their youngest four children were born.
     In addition to his work in the public sphere, Sanford was also a man of enterprise. His farm employed the labor of 29 slaves (according to the 1850 census) and included a bark mill, which ground up sumac and other plant material and was shipped down the Rappahannock to the tannery in Fredericksburg. Sanford was an investor in the Rappahannock Canal, which extended up the Rapphannock from Fredericksburg to his property. Once that project was complete, the engineers who built the dam presented this tea service as a gift to Sanford and Fannie Chancellor:

Chancellor tea service (Ancestry)

The canal remained in active use until the 1850s. Sanford was also an officer in the United States Gold Mining Company, located just west of his home and for which the United States Ford was named.
     In February 1854, a slave belonging to Sanford was murdered by a slave belonging to William T. J. Richards. An inquest was held, and a vivid account of that tragic incident, based on the coroner's report, can be read here.
      Sanford Chancellor died of pulmonary disease at his home on February 25, 1860. Fannie sold "Forest Hall" to Norman Richard Fitzhugh [2]. Together with her 7 unmarried children--Mary Edwards, Ann Elizabeth, Jane Hall, Frances "Fannie" Douglas, Penelope "Abbie" Abbett, George Sanford and Sue--Fannie moved to Chancellorsville, her mother's house. When Ann Chancellor died in December 1860, Fannie became the mistress of Chancellorsville.

Chancellorsville (Virginia Historical Society)
     The following spring brought with it Virginia's secession from the United States and the onset of hostilities between north and south. Fannie's oldest surviving son, Dr. Charles William Chancellor, joined the Confederate cause and served in several positions during the Civil War. These included regimental surgeon of the 19th Virginia Infantry, surgeon at Division No. 2 of the Charlottesville General Hospital (where his cousin, Dr. James Edgar Chancellor, was chief surgeon) and as chief medical officer in General George Pickett's brigade [3].
     After the battle of Fredericksburg, Sue Chancellor remembered that Confederate troops under the command of Generals Carnot Posey and William Mahone were encamped near Chancellorsville to guard the vulnerable fords across the Rappahannock. Fannie Chancellor cooked meals for the private soldiers, who enjoyed the company of Sue and her sisters, who played the piano and sang songs for these young men. In return, they taught Sue's sisters to play cards, which met with Fannie's disapproval. A South Carolina trooper in Hampton's Legion, Thomas Lamar Stark, took a fancy to Sue and gave to her as a present a white lamb. Sue named her new pet "Lamar." [4]
     In addition to the kindnesses she showed to the enlisted men, Fannie Chancellor entertained Generals Posey and Mahone, as well as Lafayette McLaws, Richard Anderson and J. E. B. Stuart, a personal favorite of the Chancellor family ("He was so nice and had always a pleasant word for everyone").
     During the winter of 1862-1863, Fannie took in several refugees after the battle of Fredericksburg: Murray and Sally Ennis Thornton Forbes and their married daughter, the wife of Dr. John R. Taylor of "Fall Hill," their younger daughter Kate, Kate's enslaved "mammy" Aunt Nancy, and a driver who saw to their horse and carriage. [5]
       Mr. and Mrs. Forbes and their daughter Mrs. Taylor left Chancellorsville on April 29 to attend to business in Fredericksburg, leaving behind their young daughter Kate and their slave Aunt Nancy. In their attempt to return to Chancellorsville, they were caught up in the chaos of the second Battle of Fredericksburg. It would be another two years before they saw Kate again. 
      That evening, Generals Anderson, Posey and Stuart, together with their aides, were enjoying dinner at Chancellorsville when a courier galloped into the yard. He brought word that the Union army, commanded by General Joseph Hooker, was crossing the Rappahannock River at United States Ford. "Immediately all was confusion. Hastily the generals bade us goodbye, but General Stuart, always so charming, took time to say to my sister: 'Thank you, Miss Fannie, for the good supper; and as it is always my custom to fee the waitress, take this from me as a little remembrance.' And he gave her a tiny gold dollar. I have it yet, one of my most cherished possessions."
     The Chancellor women put on all the clothes they could. Some of Fannie's daughters secured items from the treasured tea service in their hoop skirts. Meat was hidden beneath one of the front steps of the house. Union troops arrived shortly thereafter and informed the Chancellors that their house was to become the headquarters for General Hooker. The Chancellors and their guests were herded into one room, where they slept on pallets. Union staff officers comfortably occupied the rest of the house.
     "General Hooker did not come until the next day. He paid no attention to my mother, but walked in and gave his orders...We were joined by our neighbors, who fled or were brought to Chancellorsville house for refuge, until their were sixteen women and children in that room. From the windows we could see couriers coming and going and knew that the troops were cutting down trees and throwing up breastworks. I know that they were pretty well satisfied with their position and were confident of victory."

Chancellorsville, May 2, 1863 (Virginia Historical Society)

     By Saturday, May 2, 1863, the frightened civilians trapped inside the Chancellorsville house could hear the sound of gunfire growing nearer. Hooker ordered that these unfortunate people be taken to the basement. By now the house was filled with wounded men, and the doctors began their grisly work. The sitting room was set up as an operating room and the piano was used as an "amputating table." Union surgeons allowed Fannie to care for two wounded Confederates who had been brought to the house.
     The 16 civilians at the Chancellor house were brought out of the basement and placed back into the room they had occupied earlier. "It was late in the day when the awful time began. Cannonading on all sides and such shrieks and groans, such commotion of all kinds! We thought we were frightened before, but this was beyond everything and kept up until after dark."
     The following morning, May 3, the women and children were taken back to the basement. "Passing through the upper porch I saw how the chairs were riddled with bullets and the shattered columns which had fallen and injured General Hooker. O the horror of that day! The piles of legs and arms outside the sitting room window and the rows and rows of dead bodies covered with canvas!"

General Joseph Dickinson (Library of Congress)

     The Chancellors and their companions were in the the basement for a short time when General Joseph Dickinson, assistant adjutant general to General Hooker, came downstairs and ordered everyone out. "'The house is on fire, but I will see that you are protected and carried to a place of safety.' Cannons were booming in every direction and missiles of death were flying as this terrified band of women and children came stumbling out of the cellar."

Chancellorsville as it looked in 1865 (Library of Congress)

     "The woods around the house were a sheet of fire--the air was filled with shot and shell, horses were running, rearing, screaming, the men a mass of confusion, moaning, cursing and praying... Slowly we picked our way over the bleeding bodies of the dead and wounded, Gen. Dickinson riding ahead, my mother with her hand on his knee, I clinging close to her and the others following behind..."
     This little band of sufferers made its way up to the United States Ford. One of Sue's sisters, who had been ill, had a hemorrhage from her lungs. General Dickinson ordered a Union trooper to dismount and put her on the horse and then walked behind her to hold her on. They encountered one of General Dickinson's superiors, who admonished him about not being at his post: "[Dickinson] drew himself up proudly and said, 'If here is not the post of duty, looking after the safety of these helpless women and children, then I don't know what you call duty.'"
     Once at the ford, they crossed over the pontoon bridge assembled several days earlier and stepped on the Stafford side of the bank. Here Sue's ailing sister fainted and was laid out on the grass. A Union drummer boy named Thacker brought her a lemon and some ice, and bound her head with a clean bandanna. An ambulance was found, and in it were placed Sue, her sister, Fannie Chancellor, her brother George and Kate Forbes. The rest of the refugees had to walk.
     They finally reached the home of John Hunt at the Eagle Gold Mine in Stafford County, which was within the Federal lines. Here the Chancellors and their companions remained under guard for 10 days. Sue's sisters were very cool to their guards at first, "but after a while they relaxed and relieved the irksomeness of our confinement by talking, playing cards, music, etc., and I even think there were some flirtations going on."
     General Dickinson managed to get a message to Sue's brother, Dr. Charles W. Chancellor, and inform him of his family's safety. In turn, Dickinson was able to bring to Fannie her son's grateful reply. At last, Fannie and her children were granted their freedom. There were placed in ambulances and taken to the United States Ford, where they were met by Sue's sister Julia, the widow of Thomas Rogers Chartters, who had died in August 1862. The Chancellors were taken to the Chartter's farm in Stafford, "Cherry Grove."
     That autumn, Fannie Chancellor took her children to Charlottesville, where Sanford's cousin, Dr. James Edgar Chancellor, worked as chief surgeon of the general hospital. James had gotten Fannie a job as matron at the Midway and Delevan hospitals there. She brought fresh food and other comforts to the sick and wounded, and was assisted by her daughters Frances "Fannie" Douglas and Penelope "Abbie" Abbett. Sue attended school in Charlottesville, and two of her sisters obtained teaching positions in the Shenandoah Valley.
     Work in the hospitals was a ghastly experience for all concerned, and was fraught with many dangers in an era when the acceptance of the germ theory of disease was many years in the future. Fannie and Abbie Chancellor died of typhoid fever within days of each other in August 1864. They are buried in the University of Virginia Cemetery and Columbarium.

Obituary of Penelope Abbett Chancellor (CRHC)

     Fannie and Sue Chancellor remained in Charlottesville for the remainder of the war, when they returned to Spotsylvania. In 1870 they were living at "Clifton" in the household of James Petigrew Chartters, brother of Julia's late husband Thomas. James' wife, Susan Philips Chancellor, was a cousin of Sanford.
     In 1872, Fannie's wealthy uncle, Andrew Lorman of Baltimore, died and left his Chancellor relations a sizable inheritance. With her share of that money, Fannie was able to buy "Oak Grove," a Spotsylvania farm just west of Fredericksburg. Here she lived out her remaining years.
     In 1876, Sue Chancellor and some friends and relatives boarded the train in Fredericksburg to make the trip to Philadelphia to attend the Centennial Exposition. "The name Chancellor caught the ear of a distinguished looking gentleman seated near and presently he came up, asking if we were the Chancellors of Chancellorsville. When he found out that we were, he said..."and I am General Hooker." [6] Of course we were surprised, but we invited him to join our party. He shared our bountiful luncheon and we had a very pleasant day--a contrast to the three days we spent in the same house with him thirteen years before. We never saw him again, but for years we had visits from soldiers north and south, who remembered "the ladies of Chancellorsville."
     Most notable among these visitors was Joseph Dickinson, who corresponded with Fannie Chancellor in the years since their first encounter, and he made a point to visit her whenever he was in the area. In fact, Dickinson served on the Chancellorsville Battlefield Commission with Sue's cousin, Vespasian Chancellor. When Francis Longwill Pound Chancellor died at "Oak Grove" on July 9, 1892, Joseph Dickinson attended her funeral.

Vespasian Chancellor (National Park Service)

     The following year, on March 9, 1893, Susan Margaret Chancellor married her cousin, Vespasian Chancellor, at the 5th Baptist Church in Washington, DC.

Marriage license of Sue and Vespasian Chancellor (Ancestry)

Fifth Baptist Church, Washington, DC (Library of Congress)

     Sue and Vespasian made their home at 300 Main (modern Caroline) Street in Fredericksburg. Vespasian died April 28, 1908. Sue continued to live there until near the very end of her life.

Sue Chancellor (Ancestry)

     By 1935, Sue was living in the household of Fredericksburg grocer Pelham Gray Finney. On December 17, 1935, she "stumped her toe," fell and broke her hip. She was taken to Mary Washington Hospital, where attending physician Dr. Earle R. Ware ordered x-rays. Sue never recovered and died in the hospital on December 28, 1935. Her funeral was held at Fredericksburg Baptist Church. Dr. Ware was one of her honorary pallbearers. She is buried in the Chancellor family cemetery in Spotsylvania.


[1] Vivian Minor Fleming (1844-1930) served in the 2nd Virginia Artillery during the Civil War, was injured in an accident and after his recovery served in the 1st Engineer Battalion. He was known for writing a number of books about the war. He was also one of the original owners of the Eagle Shoe Company in Fredericksburg. His wife was an organizer of the Kenmore Association, which in 1925 raised money to purchase Kenmore from its owner, E. G. "Peck" Heflin, who had plans to develop the property. Kenmore was thereby saved for future generations.

[2] Norman Richard Fitzhugh (1831-1915) served as assistant adjutant general to General J. E. B. Stuart during the Civil War.

[3] Dr. Charles William Chancellor (1832-1915) was a man of high accomplishment. He was educated at Georgetown College, the University of Virginia Medical School and the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. After the war he served as dean of the Medical School of Washington University until 1875. He then became secretary of the Maryland State Board of Health, In 1893, he was appointed by President Grover Cleveland to serve as U. S. Consul at Havre, France, where he stayed for four years.

[4] Thomas Lamar Stark (1843-1883) served in Company I, 2nd South Carolina Cavalry. He was captured on May 4, 1863 and imprisoned at the Old Capitol Prison and then Fort Delaware. He returned to his regiment after his parole. He was wounded on July 7, 1864. He survived the war and died in Columbia, South Carolina.

[5] A son of Murray and Sally Forbes, Lieutenant James Fitzgerald Forbes, was mortally wounded by the same volley that cost Stonewall Jackson his left arm on May 2, 1863.

[6] In October 1876, Joseph Hooker and his literary executor, Samuel P. Bates, visited the battlefields of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. On their ride out to Chancellorsville, they were accompanied by Sue's cousin, Fredericksburg merchant George Edward Chancellor.


Chancellor, Sue, "Recollections of Chancellorsville," The Confederate Veteran, vol. XXIX, No. 6., Nashville, Tennessee, June 1921.

Happel, Ralph, "The Chancellors of Chancellorsville," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 71, no. 3 (July 1963)

King, George Harrison Sanford, "The Chancellor Family," Genealogies of Virginia Families. William and Mary Quarterly Magazine, vol. 1, Adams-Clopton. Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc.: Baltimore, MD, 1982.