The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Chambers (William Pitt) Diary
Collection Number: M214
Dates: March 1862-May 1865
Volume: 194 pages (1 folder)
One original copy of the diary is in Special Collections at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
William Pitt Chambers, son of John and Mercer Welch Chambers, was born in Covington County, Mississippi, on December 14, 1839. Prior to the Civil War, he was a school teacher. On March 26, 1862, Chambers left his home as a member of the "Covington Rebels," a company of infantry under the command of T.D. Magee. He was part of the 6th Mississippi Infantry (Balfour's Battalion) in April 1862 but after October 1862 became Company "B," 46th Mississippi Infantry.
With this company Chambers was promoted from private to first sergeant, although he suffered from severe fever and spent a good deal of his time in the hospital. When he was able to perform his duties, he was given the responsibility of transporting the sick to hospitals and guarding company supplies. At the siege of Vicksburg, Chambers was detailed to write for an Adjutant. However, being eager to take part in the battle, he was allowed to join his company. Besides picket duty, Chambers prepared muster and pay rolls for his company and requisitioned guns and ammunition. He also took it upon himself to keep track of his company's losses. Chambers survived the seige, was taken prisoner, and then released on parole according to the terms of the Vicksburg surrender.
Returning to the army after his parole and exchange in late 1863, Chambers and his unit were transported by rail and water through Mobile and Montgomery to Resaca, Georgia, where they remained for more than a month doing road repairs following the battle at Chattanooga; then they returned to Mobile to man fortifications there. Later in 1864, they were transported back to Georgia where they fought at Lost Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain, and Atlanta. Chambers was wounded near Lost Mountain, Georgia, and describes 20 days of marching before he reached a hospital where the bullet was removed from his shoulder.
Following a 60-day furlough, Chambers joined his unit in West Point, Mississippi, and was transported to the area of Mobile, Alabama, where his unit fought at Blakely. Chambers and several others who had been separated from their units returned overland to Meridian, where on April 22, 1865, they were ordered aboard trains and moved into Alabama. On May 9, 1865, Chambers' diary entry included these words: "I am a soldier no longer." The final entry in the diary is dated May 16, 1865.
After his return from the war, Chambers married Sarah Robertson and returned to teaching school. In later years he lived in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where he worked in the office of the Chancery Clerk of Forrest County. He was active in the United Confederate Veterans Camp, holding the office of Adjutant at his death in 1916.
This collection consists of a copy of pages 225-386, volume V, centenary series, of the Publications of the Mississippi Historical Society, a transcription of the Civil War diary of Confederate soldier William Pitt Chambers.
The diary itself is preceded by a preface written by Ruth Polk, presumably the editor of the diary, and a brief biographical sketch of William Pitt Chambers. Chambers himself wrote an introduction reviewing the military units in which he had served and a preface in which he explained that at the surrender of the Confederate armies in 1865, he had several hundred pages of notes written daily during his military service. In 1891 he revised these original notes to form the existing personal narrative which he entitled "My Journal."
Chambers' narrative, which is referred to here as a diary, is remarkable in its detailed account of Civil War experiences. Its language is clear and precise, its commentary thorough. The author rarely, if ever, neglects to mention names and places involved. Therefore, the diary gives an in-depth look into Mississippi war-time experiences from Shiloh through the siege of Vicksburg to the surrender at Citronelle, Alabama.
Although not present at the battles at Corinth and Chattanooga, the author comments on war rumors concerning such battles. He records the number of prisoners and wounded brought in from trains out of the north.
Other matters reflected in the diary include the importance of water and railway transportation to the Southern war effort and the politics of electing officers. Chambers points out inefficiencies observed in the chain of command, but he is by no means disloyal.