The Civil War

Confederate Government Offers to Hire Slaves for the War Effort. In this September 1863 broadside, the office of the Chief Quartermaster in the Trans-Mississippi Department calls for Confederate slaveholders in Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas, to hire out 2000 to 3000 ‘able-bodied men’ to the government, promising to compensate slaveholders for ‘any servants that may be killed by the enemy.’ J.F. Minter ‘Broadside from Confederate Quartermaster to People of the Trans-Mississippi Department,’ RG 109, NARA., accessed May 12, 2020.

Nathaniel Chambliss supported the Rebellion.

A meeting convened on November 21, 1860, in Hallettsville, in response to calls for a County Convention. At this meeting, a vote was held on the issue of secession from the Union. Abraham Lincoln, suspected by many southerners to be an abolitionist, had just become President-Elect of the United States. Five hundred people attended the convention and heard speeches by six men, including Nathaniel’s son-in-law, Benjamin F. Fly, an attorney. A resolution supporting secession was read and unanimously adopted.1 Delegates were elected to a Secession Convention in Austin, and on February 1, 1861, Texas seceded from the Union. Two state military units were organized in Lavaca County on June 6, 1861. Oliver Searcy’s company included Samuel. L. Chambliss (Nathaniel’s only son) and S. Hudspeth (probably the brother of Nathaniel’s son-in-law) as privates.2

On February 14, 1862, Nathaniel’s seventeen-year-old son enlisted in a company commanded by his brother-in-law Benjamin Fly. This company was attached to the 24th Texas Cavalry Regiment. Samuel L. Chambliss was captured twice and, having violated his parole, was sent to Rock Island Barracks, Illinois, where he died as a prisoner-of-war on August 8, 1864.3 Captain Benjamin Fly (Mary Rutledge Chambliss’ husband) was captured on January 11, 1863, and paroled on April 25, 1863, at Fort Delaware, Delaware.

In May 1862, Nathaniel Chambliss was about 60 years old and exempt from military service.4 Nevertheless, he did what he could for the war effort. The Lavaca County Commissioners Court appointed three men in each Beat or Precinct to examine the condition of indigent families of absent soldiers. Nathaniel was one of these relief commissioners.5 In the beginning, county aid was extended to 45 families. In September, at least 100 families of absent soldiers were in need of clothing. In the January term, the county commissioners were authorized to purchase cloth made in the penitentiary at Huntsville to supply these families with clothing. In the May term, the Court levied a tax of 35 cents to be assessed on each $100.00 worth of property for the support of needy families. Nathaniel, his wife, and daughters contributed a total of $50 to a hospital fund, and some of the ladies made socks and caps to be sold to the government and the money put into the hospital fund.6

To provide relief to soldier’s wives, the Commissioner’s Court remitted delinquent taxes on the property of Confederate soldiers. Taxes could also be paid with produce at a value of 50 cents a bushel for corn, 12½ cents for a pound of bacon, and 10 cents per pound of cotton. The county’s cotton was carried to Mexico and sold.7 By 1865, prices of clothing and foodstuff were so high, and the county’s credit so low that the county relief program was abandoned. After that, indigent families had to depend on their gardens for food and on their neighbors for charity.

As the Federal blockade of the Southern ports increased in effectiveness, manufactured goods from abroad became scarce. Soldiers in the field depended more and more on those at home for supplies, especially clothing.8 The women of Lavaca County worked to clean and card wool to make thread, spin yarn, weave cloth and make items of clothing that were then shipped to company headquarters for distribution to the men in the Army.9

In Carroll Parish, Louisiana, Nathaniel’s brother, Samuel Lee Chambliss, was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the 13th Battalion, Louisiana Partisan Rangers, in October 1862.10 He resigned his commission in April 1863 due to infirmity and “advanced age,” although he was only 48 years old. He was examined by a physician and found to be suffering from emaciation and debility due to “exposure during the past winter.”11 Most of the plantations around Lake Providence were abandoned by the spring of 1863. In the spring of 1863, Confederate or Federal troops broke into Samuel’s house in Carroll Parish and destroyed his library.12

After the War, many parts of the Old South were in chaos.

The Civil War completely disrupted life in Carroll Parish. The conflict between the US Army, freedmen, and unrepentant ex-Confederates made life increasingly dangerous and troublesome in parts of Louisiana and Texas.13 The Mississippi River levee was breached, and the whole region was flooded.14 The Parish was overrun by both Federal and Confederate troops15 and later became a training base for freedmen who enlisted in the US Army.16 The Army confiscated farms and placed them in the hands of freedmen under the supervision of Federal officials.17

Taxes increased18, and the price of the region’s primary commodity, cotton, began a slow decline that continued for the next fifty years.19 In a letter to his uncle Jacob Rife (William Rife’s brother in South Carolina), Lawrence Wade stated, “I have lost all the money I had at the close of the war experimenting with freedman labor…We are the poorest people you ever saw and getting worse every day”.20 Most white families fled the area either during or after the war 21, and by 1866 the three younger Rife children had all moved from Louisiana to Issaquena County in the Mississippi Delta.22 William Sibley and his wife and family also moved to Issaquena County, where Martha Ann died in 1865.

In 1869 William Rife Jr. moved fifty miles north to Bolivar County and purchased part of the former plantation of General Vick near the village of Bolivar. In 1870 Lawrence Wade, his wife and four children, were still in Issaquena County, but by 1873, he had moved to the 500-acre former Vick plantation where he partnered with his brother-in-law, William Rife, Junior.23

Lawrence Wade died in 1875, and his widow died in 1888. Both are buried in Bolivar, Mississippi, on the former Vick plantation, which they called “Wadelawn.”24 Her younger brother, William Rife Jr., never married. He became a wealthy planter and respected businessman who maintained a close relationship with his sister Martha Ann and her husband.25 He also stayed in contact with his older brother, Thomas, who lived in Texas.26 William Rife Jr. died on April 14, 1908, and is buried in the Burrus Cemetery in Benoit, Mississippi.27

Thirty years after his service in the War of Independence of Texas, now impoverished Samuel Chambliss immigrated to Texas in 1867 and settled in Navarro County. The country was familiar to him although he had last seen it in 1836. He was elected to the Texas State Legislature in 1873 and represented Freestone, Limestone, and Navarro Counties in the 14th Texas Legislature.28

In early July 1868, Nathaniel Chambliss died, and on July 9, 1868, his son-in-law, Leonidas Hudspeth, (Martha’s husband) was named administrator of the estate. In this period of high financial stress, many plantations were idle. The estate remained in the Probate Court of Lavaca County for over four years because it was bankrupt.29 All assets were sold except the widow’s homestead of 200 acres, in order to pay the estate’s outstanding debts. The land-grant tract of 640 acres in Erath County was sold for $192 (30 cents per acre).30

In later years, Nathaniel’s son-in-law, Leonidas Hudspeth, was the physician in charge of the City Hospital of Houston. He examined his wife’s uncle, old Samuel Lee Chambliss, and declared him disabled due to his war wounds.31 On July 2, 1874, Samuel L. Chambliss was granted a state pension for his service in the Texas War of Independence in 1836.32 A bill passed by the Legislature on July 28, 1876, for relief of Texas veteran pensioners led Samuel Chambliss to swear that he was, on August 30, 1879, indigent and unable to support himself. He stated that he owned only his horse valued at $50 and a cow and calf valued at $20. Instead of a pension, he received a Republic Donation Voucher for 1280 acres for his service in the War for Texas Independence.33

  1. Paul C. Boethel, History of Lavaca County, (San Antonio: The Naylor Co., 1936), 43 ↩︎

  2. Paul C. Boethel, On the Headwaters of the Lavaca and the Navidad, (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1967), 53 ↩︎

  3. Pvt. Samuel L. Chambliss Record, 24th Regiment, Texas Cavalry, Compiled Service of Confederate Soldiers who served in Organizations from the State of Texas, M323, RG 109, NARA; Allan C. Richard, Jr. and Mary Margaret Higginbotham Richard, The Defense of Vicksburg: A Louisiana Chronicle, (College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 2003), 229, 263 ↩︎

  4. James Farber, Texas, C.S.A.: A Spotlight on Disaster, (New York: The Jackson Company, 1947), 34 ↩︎

  5. Boethel, History of Lavaca County, 85 ↩︎

  6. Houston Telegraph, Dec. 26, 1862 ↩︎

  7. Boethel, History of Lavaca County, 87; Farber, Texas, C.S.A., 177 ↩︎

  8. Farber, Texas, C.S.A., 189 ↩︎

  9. Miss Mattie Jackson, The Rising and Setting of the Lone Star Republic, (San Antonio: n. p., 1926), 109; Boethel, History of Lavaca County, 87 ↩︎

  10. Anonymous, A Memorial and Biographical History of Navarro, Henderson, Anderson, Limestone, Freestone and Leo Counties, Texas, (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co. 1893), 821 ↩︎

  11. Lt. Col. Samuel Lee Chambliss Record, 13th Battalion, Louisiana, (Partisan Rangers), Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers who served from the State of Louisiana, M320, RG 109, Roll 26 ↩︎

  12. Samuel L. Chambliss, Republic Pension Files, Republic Pension Records, Texas Comptroller’s Office claims records. ARIS-TSLAC, 374-5; Samuel L. Chambliss, Republic Donation Voucher, file 1319, GLO; Bearss, The Campaign for Vicksburg, 1200 ↩︎

  13. William L. Richter, The Army in Texas During Reconstruction: 1865-1870, (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1987), 34 ↩︎

  14. Bearss, The Campaign for Vicksburg: Vicksburg is the Key, Vol. 1: 478 ↩︎

  15. William L. Shea and Terrence J. Winschel, Vicksberg is the Key: Struggle for the Mississippi River, (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2003), 60 ↩︎

  16. Shea and Terrence, Vicksburg Is the Key, 92 ↩︎

  17. Mark Swanson, Atlas of the Civil War Month by Month: Major Battles and Troop Movements, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004), 66 ↩︎

  18. W. C. Nunn, Texas Under The Carpetbaggers, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1962, 167 ↩︎

  19. Nunn, Texas Under The Carpetbaggers, 137 ↩︎

  20. South Carolina, Probate Records, Loose Papers, 1732-1964, Richland Probate Court, Estate Papers, 1870-1909, Richland, SC ↩︎

  21. Bearss, The Campaign for Vicksburg: Vicksburg is the Key, Vol. 1: 468 ↩︎

  22. L. T. Wade, W. W. Rife, Mississippi State Census (1866), Microfilm V229, Roll 2 ↩︎

  23. Florence Warfield Sillers, History of Bolivar County, Mississippi, (Spartanburg, SC: Reprint Company Publishers, 1976), 129; Goodspeed, Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi, 681 ↩︎

  24. George M. Mullins, Graves of Lawrence and Mary Jane Wade, Bolivar, Mississippi, Photo, September 26, 2014 ↩︎

  25. Goodspeed, Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Mississippi, 681 ↩︎

  26. Dallas Morning News, August 8, 1906, Advertisement, ↩︎

  27. James W. “Jay” Clifton, The Burrus Cemetery, (Benoit, MS: Dr. Keith Jones, Scoutmaster, Troop 1, July 22, 1981,) 6 ↩︎

  28. Anonymous, A Memorial and Biographical History of Navarro, Henderson, Anderson, Limestone, Freestone and Leo Counties, Texas, 821 ↩︎

  29. The Texas Democrat (Austin), November 11, 1848 ↩︎

  30. Probate Court Records, Case no. 320, Lavaca County, Hallettsville, Texas ↩︎

  31. Samuel L. Chambliss, Republic Pension Files, Republic Pension Records, Texas Comptroller’s Office claims records. ARIS-TSLAC, 376 ↩︎

  32. Samuel L. Chambliss, Republic Pension Files, Republic Pension Records, Texas Comptroller’s Office claims records. ARIS-TSLAC, 381-2; Republic Claims, Republic of Texas, Comptrollers Records, Public Debt, Reel #143, ARIS-TSLAC, Austin ↩︎

  33. Samuel L. Chambliss, Republic Donation Voucher, file # 1319, GLO ↩︎