James Edward Chastain

Updated
05-31-12



James Edward Chastain was born in North Carolina on May 10, 1805 at almost the same time his grandfather, Rev. John Chastain, died in South Carolina (John's will was recorded on July 31, 1805). Edward settled in Alabama just before the Civil War and became a loyal Unionist.

Edward's descent from Dr. Pierre Chastain is: 1. Pierre > 2. Peter, Jr. > 3. Rev. John > 4. Elijah > 5. James Edward.

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Edward's Family and Background
The Edward Chastain Family and the Civil War
The James Edward Chastain Family Association
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Edward's Family and Background

Edward Chastain
1805-1867

Edward moved with his father, Elijah, to Georgia. He married Sarah Shelton, and they had all their children there. The children of Edward and Sarah are:

  1. Martin Shelton (January 8, 1827-August 4, 1864) married Nancy Hamilton February 4, 1847
  2. Nancy Ann (March 10, 1829-c. 1904) married John Sterling Cantrell 1846
  3. Elizabeth P. (b. May 1831) married Thomas Bronson Cantrell October 24, 1849
  4. Artimissa Chastain (b. June 27, 1833) married Jason Cowart November 4, 1854
  5. Lydia Ann (August 18, 1834-November 11, 1911) married Thomas Jefferson Cowart October 11, 1851
  6. James K. Polk (June 3, 1839-May 15, 1901) married Martha Emaline Dykes May 10, 1860
  7. Theresa Emmaline (January 18, 1840-April 1884) married James Johnson Osborne February 1855
  8. David D. (August 11, 1841-February 22, 1866) unmarried
  9. Sarah E. (b. May 4, 1843) married Hiram M. Lambert October 7, 1867
  10. William Howell "Cobb" (May 29, 1851-April 13, 1923) married Clarissa Agileet Dodd 1871

Sarah Chastain with her husband Hiram Lambert and son Joseph
Sarah Chastain and Husband Hiram
In 1859 Edward moved his family to Thorn Hill, Marion County, Alabama, leaving some of his adult children in Georgia. Certainly Edward's younger, unmarried children went to Alabama with him (James, David, Sarah, and "Cobb"), but it appears some of his married children accompanied him as well, or moved into the area later.

Nancy died in Marion County. Her husband, John Sterling Cantrell, died in the Civil War just north of Marion County. Their last child was born in Georgia in 1860. Lydia also died in Marion County, as did her husband, Thomas Jefferson Cowart. The birthplaces of most of Lydia's children are unknown, but one child was born in Alabama in 1868. Theresa Emmaline and her husband, James Johnson Osborne, died in Tennessee, but they had children born in the Marion County, Alabama area from 1858-1866. Martin and Artimissa died in Georgia. Elizabeth's place of death and places of her children's birth are unknown.

Why did Edward move to Alabama? Don Umphrey wrote a book about his ancestor, John R. Phillips, who lived near Edward Chastain in Alabama (Umphrey, Don, Southerners in Blue, Quarry Press, 2002). He states on page 20,

One day in the spring of 1858, he was handed a tattered notice that told of land for sale at 12-1/2 cents per acre in Winston county (sic), Alabama. It was available through the Graduation Land Act, a federal program designed to encourage pioneers to move to undeveloped parts of the country. Prices of these lands kept decreasing until someone finally purchased them.

Phillips arrived in the fall of 1858. The same opportunity may have drawn Edward the next year. However, he may not have been the first in the family to respond to the offer of cheap land. His daughter, Theresa Emmaline, gave birth to Sarah Ann Osborne in Marion County Alabama on January 22, 1858. This was before John Phillips even heard about the program.

In fact, they were not the first Chastains in Marion County. Edward's grand-nephew, Edward Jordan Chastain, had lived in Marion County in the 1840s. He taught school near Stotsville and was married in Marion County to one of his students in December of 1847. However, by the time their first child was born in November, 1848 they were living across the county line in Mississippi, where they settled permanently. One of Edward Jordan's sons was James Garvin Chastain. Whether this family was in touch with our Edward is unknown.

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The Edward Chastain Family and the Civil War

Union Sympathies ~ The Naming of Sons ~ James K. Polk Chastain ~ David D. Chastain ~ Martin Sheldon Chastain ~ William Howell "Cobb" Chastain ~ Edward Chastain's Sons-in-Law ~ Cousins in the War

Union Sympathies

During the Civil War, many families were split, with members fighting on both sides. Chastains were no exception. Including alternate spellings and misspellings (Chastain, Chastaine, Chasteen, Chasteene, Chastian, Chastine, Chesteen, and Chestine), military rosters from the war list 128 Chastains in the Union Army and 355 Chastains in the Confederate Army. Most, if not all, were descendants of French immigrant Pierre Chastain.

When the Civil War began, Edward supported the Union instead of the Confederacy. This was a dangerous position to hold anywhere in the South, and even though Northwest Alabama was a stronghold of Union sympathy some of Edward's neighbors paid dearly for supporting the Union. Later, his widow stated that her 'husband was a strong Union man and that was why we were torn up by the rebs.' She also indicated that their written records were destroyed during the war.

It is well known that there were many Union sympathizers in the South. Every state except South Carolina had at least one regiment in the Union forces. It is also known that there were pockets of strong Union support such as Northwest Alabama, East Tennessee, and Western Virginia. Because of its proximity to Union states, Western Virginia was able to "secede" from Virginia and become the new state of West Virginia, but Northwest Alabama and East Tennessee were surrounded by the Confederacy. There was talk of creating a Union state by combining these two districts, but it never happened.

Chastains have also known, at least as far back as 1981 when Mary Avilla Farnsworth-Milligan released her work, Chastain Kith and Kin, that Edward's family in Alabama was pro-Union, but Don Umphrey's 2002 work, Southerners in Blue paints a picture of Edward that is more than just sympathetic to the Union. It presents Edward as pro-active in supporting those who hid to avoid being drafted into the Confederate Army. He also cooperated in recruitment efforts for the Union Army. His home was a regular stop on the "underground railroad" that facilitated the hiding and movement of Alabama men on their way to join Union forces. At least once he paid a scout to lead a group of recruits safely to the Union camp, and he helped feed and support the families of local men who joined Union forces. When Edward had the opportunity, he traveled 100 miles to a Union facility in Glendale, Mississippi and took an oath of loyalty to the United States.

Umphrey's account is written as narrative rather than "an academic treatise bogged down with footnotes," so it is sometimes difficult to know what details are historical. Though his narrative is enjoyable, I would prefer a treatise bogged down with footnotes. However, the work is highly researched and is not fiction. The foundational document is a memoir written by Umphrey's ancestor, John R. Phillips, and much of the detail comes from Phillip's work. Umphrey assures us that all the incidents are true.

All the characters are real people, and all the names are actual names...In a few places the dialogue is intact as found in historical sources, but mostly I had to construct conversations as they may have occurred...Sometimes it was necessary to make assumptions relating to characterizations. There were also instances where history provided an event, but I had to hypothesize about some of the details leading up to it. (p. 12)

Edward Chastain is not a fully developed character in Umphrey's book, and the few mentions of Edward, though important, are not embellished, so I assume the statements made about him are taken from Phillip's memoir.

On May 17, 1867, two years after the war ended, Edward was killed by being thrown from a horse. Edward is buried at the Phillips family cemetery about a mile from the Thornhill Church of Christ in Thornhill, Alabama. To Civil War Index

The Naming of Sons

A clue to Edward's predilection toward the Union may be found in the names he chose for his sons. His youngest, William Howell, was nicknamed Cobb. Evidently, his namesake was the Georgia politician, William Howell Cobb. William Howell Cobb was Speaker of the House in the United States Congress, Governor of Georgia, and Secretary of the Treasury under President Buchanan. He was a leading Unionist in the South.

William Howell Chastain's birth in 1850 was before William Howell Cobb's Governorship and Cabinet position, so Cobb must have been a popular congressman (1843-1851) even before his rise in office. He became Speaker of the House on December 22, 1849, just five months before William Howell Chastain was born. However, though he was a Unionist, once South Carolina seceded after the 1860 election, Secretary Cobb resigned his cabinet post and went home to Georgia to urge secession. But parents don't name their children based on what the namesakes will do in the future!

A second son was James K. Polk Chastain. This is a familiar name. James K. Polk was President of the United States from 1845-1849. He was a Jacksonian throughout his political career, so much so that he was called "Young Hickory", in reflection of Andrew Jackson being "Old Hickory." Jacksonians were Unionist through and through. President Jackson stated, "The Federal Union--it must be preserved," and he threatened South Carolina with military force when they hinted at independence. However, James K. Polk Chastain was born in 1839 before Polk was president. At that time he had just completed five years as Speaker of the House (1835-1839).

A third son was Martin Shelton. Shelton was the maiden name of Martin's mother, so the two names appear not to belong to a single namesake. Martin was a fairly common name, but not in the Chastain family. A search of known Chastains shows that there were 5 Martin Chastains before 1840, and they were all of family lines distant from Edward's. In fact one of those was a Martin Van Buren Chastain, born in 1836, named for Martin Van Buren, President from 1837 to 1841. Martin Shelton Chastain was likely named for the same person, however, he was born in 1827 ten years before Van Buren was President. From 1821-1829 Van Buren was a U.S. Senator from New York. A Jacksonian, he emerged as the principal northern leader for Andrew Jackson. Jackson made him Secretary of State and later chose him as Vice-President. Van Buren succeeded Jackson as President.

The naming of his sons in such a way reinforces the likelihood that Edward was a Jacksonian, and pro-Union, prior to his moving to Alabama. To Civil War Index

James K. Polk in the 1st Alabama

Edward had four sons, at least three of whom were in the fight. Pierre Chastain and His Descendants, (henceforth PCD) contains an error: Volume 2, page 139, states that James K. Polk Chastain "was a Confederate soldier in Company K. 1st Alabama Cavalry." The information is correct except that the 1st Alabama Cavalry was Union, not Confederate.

James K. Polk Chastain enlisted as a Corporal in the 1st Alabama (Union) in July of 1862. He was promoted to Sergeant less than three months later. He was a prisoner of war in November of 1862 and evidently was returned as part of a prisoner exchange. James K. Polk was captured by the Confederates at the battle of Vincent's Crossroads, Mississippi on October 26, 1863 and was released in Savannah on November 20, 1864 as Sherman's army approached the city. There is no evidence that he rejoined the 1st Alabama at this time. He is next found in the hospital at Annapolis, Maryland on December 4, 1864, by which time Sherman had not yet taken Savannah. He was mustered out July 19, 1865.

A naming-of-sons exercise with James K. Polk Chastain produces similar results to that of his father above, demonstrating that his pro-Union activity arose from personal conviction rather than simply his following his father and friends. In the years just after the war, he gave his sons distinctive names. John Sheridan Chastain was likely named for General Philip Henry Sheridan, a high ranking General of the Union army during the war. For whom might Ulysses G. Chastain have been named? Ulysses Grant was President (Republican) when Ulysses Chastain was born. Edward Colfax Chastain was likely named for Schuyler Colfax, who was Republican Vice-President under Ulysses Grant when Edward Colfax Chastain was born. He had been Speaker of the House from 1863-1869. Sheridan, Ulysses, and Colfax are very uncommon names in the Chastain family.

On May 10, 1860, two years before his enlistment, James K. Polk had married Martha Emeline Dykes. A few years after the war, James K. Polk Chastain and Emeline moved to Missouri. He married a second wife, Mary Bets "Mollie" Skeets. Apparently he was married to both wives at the same time. James K. Polk Chastain died May 15, 1901 in Ponce deLeon, Stone County, Missouri. He was 61 years old. To Civil War Index

David D. Chastain in the 1st Alabama

James K. Polk's younger brother, David D. Chastain, enlisted in the 1st Alabama (Union) in January 1864. The 1st Alabama was an important component of Sherman's march through Atlanta, Savannah, and the Carolinas, serving as scouts in the march to Atlanta and as Sherman's personal escort in the march to Savannah. It seems that all three of Edward's sons were involved in this march through Georgia.

At his website regarding the 1st Alabama Calvary, Richard Nelson Current states:

From April to September 1864 the First Alabama then took part in William T. Sherman's campaign for Atlanta, acting as scouts (whose value Sherman himself acknowledged) and as rear guards for the supply line. And from September to December the Alabamians joined in the march from Atlanta to the sea...

During January - March 1865 Spencer led the Third Cavalry Brigade as Sherman's army moved from Savannah up though the Carolinas...After advancing into North Carolina, Spencer's brigade fought off another Confederate attack in what developed into the battle of Monroe's Cross Roads. One morning at reveille his men awoke to find the enemy charging their camp from opposite directions - under the lead of two of the most famous rebel cavalry commanders, Wade Hampton and Joseph Wheeler. The rebels overran almost the entire camp before Spencer's men, "By desperate fighting behind trees," succeeded in driving them off. For two and a half hours the Federals stood up against repeated charges, until finally "the enemy retreated in confusion," leaving behind more than a hundred of their men killed, a larger number wounded, and a few dozen captured. "Our loss... was 18 killed, 70 wounded, and 105 missing."

Among the missing at the battle of Monroe's Crossroads, North Carolina was David Chastain who became a prisoner of war in that battle. In 1883, Jerome J. Hinds, former Captain of Company A, 1st Regiment Cavalry, in a sworn deposition said that he was well acquainted with David D. Chasteen (sic) who was in active service from his enlistment to the date of his capture. He indicated that up to the date of his capture David was a healthy able bodied man and ever ready soldier and the severe treatment received by him while in the hands of the enemy completely destroyed his health rendering him totally unfit for military duty. On returning to his Regiment, David was discharged June 12, 1865 and went to his home where he lingered until February 22, 1866 when he died of complications from military service.

Umphrey expresses confusion concerning David's service in the Union Army. In his appendix regarding the families named in his book, Umphrey states:

The [Phillips] cemetery also contains the grave of D. D. Chastain, a son of Edward and Sarah. His marker indicates that D. D. served in the First Alabama Calvary, but records indicate that the only Chastain in the regiment was James. It's possible that James and D. D. is the same person.

Though reasonable, Umphrey's assumption was incorrect. Edward had two sons in the 1st Alabama Calvary, James K. Polk Chastain and David D. Chastain. The error is very understandable, however, as military records list David as David D. Chestaine instead of Chastain. James K. Polk Chastain is absent from the cemetery because he moved away from the area and was buried in Missouri. Umphrey happily accepted the revised information. In correspondence with Chastain Central, Umphrey wrote:

Thanks for clearing up the identity of D. D. Chastain for me. It never occurred to me that they may have spelled his name wrong (but it makes perfect sense that they would based on the many other misspelled names that I've seen in those records). --Correspondence of April 25, 2005.

Jan Curtis, a John R. Phillips descendent-in-law, in correspondence of January 16, 2008, shared with us additional information on the Phillips Cemetery. There are four Chastains buried in the Phillips family cemetery about a mile away from the Thornhill Church of Christ cemetery, where many Chastains are buried:

Edward Chastain, b: 5/10/1806 d: 5/17/1867
David D. Chastain Co A, 1st AL Cav (no dates given)
Sarah Chastain (wife of Edward) b: 6/11/1810, d: 7/17/1891
Chastain Infant, William Thomas, son of Wm & M.H., b: 9//7/1899, d: 12/9/1899 To Civil War Index

Martin Sheldon Chastain in the Confederacy

Meanwhile, Edward's older son, Martin Shelton Chastain, who had remained in Georgia, served in the Georgia 52nd Regiment Volunteer Infantry, Company E of the Confederate Army. In Sarah's 1886 deposition, she said that she had heard Martin was in Confederate forces, but indicated it was against the wishes of her and her husband. The Georgia 52nd served in the west, defending Vicksburg, Mississippi for example, but the 52nd was moved east to confront Sherman's army in the Atlanta campaign, along with many other units. The 52nd was in North Georgia from May to September, 1864 and participated in a number of battles: Rocky Face Ridge, Resaca, New Hope Church, Dallas, Kennesaw Mountain, Peach Tree Creek, Atlanta, Ezra Church, the Atlanta Siege (July-Sept 1864), and Jonesboro. It is possible that David and Martin unknowingly fired on each other, but we really do not know whether the Georgia 52nd ever engaged the 1st Alabama.

Martin contracted measles, apparently during the Atlanta campaign and traveled home while he was still recovering. Shortly after he arrived, he died at his uncle's home in Acworth, Cobb County, Georgia on August 4, 1864 (PCD, volume 2, page 136). Disease was often rampant in military camps on both sides and resulted in a high number of deaths. Since the Georgia 52nd was in North Georgia, perhaps Martin's journey home was a short one. To Civil War Index

William Howell "Cobb" Chastain

Edward's youngest son, William Howell "Cobb" Chastain, was just over 10 1/2 years old when Alabama seceded from the Union, so he was too young to fight in the army. However, by the time of Lee's surrender on April 9, 1865, Cobb was almost 15. There is no tradition or documentation in the Chastain family that Cobb was in the military, but a W. H. Chastine is listed in the Confederate 22nd Regiment, Alabama Infantry. It is possible that Cobb was drafted in the last years or months of the war. To Civil War Index

Edward Chastain's Sons-in-Law

Umphrey mentions that Edward already had a son, James, and two sons-in-law in the 1st Alabama Cavalry (p. 98). The timeline of the statement is September of 1863 when a large Union recruitment was organized in the area. Indeed, James was in the 1st Alabama at that time, and David did not enlist until a few months later in January of 1864.

Don Umphrey shared with us that his source is a statement made without elaboration in the memoir of his great-grandfather, John R. Phillips, written in 1922, more than 50 years after the war. Assuming Phillips is correct, who can these sons-in-law be? One of Edward's sons-in-law, Hiram Lambert, husband of Sarah Chastain, served in the 1st Alabama, but not until January of 1864. He and David Chastain joined at the same time. Six months later Hiram was in the hospital with typhoid fever. He was discharged June 28, 1865. However, he was not Edward's son-in-law at that time. He and Sarah were married October 7, 1867, after the war was over. Perhaps Phillips remembered him as Edward's son-in-law in retrospect.

Nancy Ann married John Sterling Cantrell, and they had a son born in Georgia in 1860, but they could have moved to Alabama within the next couple years, and Nancy is buried in Marion County. Pierre Chastain and His Descendants, volume 2, page 137, shows that Cantrell died in the Civil war, but does not state how, nor whether he served in either army. The records of the 1st Alabama list him as John S. Cantrell. However, they indicate that he enlisted in October of 1863, perhaps as part of the very recruitment Phillips describes. He became a prisoner of war on January 18, 1864 near Corinth, Mississippi and was killed by Confederates while a prisoner of war on June 18, 1864 in Franklin County, Alabama, not far from his home.

Lydia Ann married Thomas Jefferson Cowart. They lived in Alabama in the 1860s and were both buried in Marion County, but I do not find him in the 1st Alabama roster. There were several Thomas J Coward/Cowarts in the Georgia Confederate 52nd Regiment Volunteer Infantry, one or more of whom could have been Lydia's husband, Thomas Jefferson, though if so they must have moved to Marion County, Alabama by 1866. There is also a Jason Cowart in the Confederate 52nd Regiment Volunteer Infantry, Company E, the same company in which Martin Chastain served. Jason Cowart may have been the husband of Edward's daughter, Artimissa.

Theresa Emmaline married James Johnson Osborne, and they lived in Marion County by 1858, but I do not find him in the 1st Alabama roster.

Thus we see that two of Edward's sons, James and David, and two of his sons-in-law, John Sterling Cantrell and Hiram Lambert, served in the 1st Alabama Cavalry of the Union Army, but it remains unclear whom are the two sons-in-law mentioned by Phillips. To Civil War Index

Cousins and Other Relatives in the War

Many families in the South had members in both the Union and the Confederate Armies. Edward had two sons in the Union Army and one in the Confederate. Edward's own brother, Renny Marion Chastain, served in the Confederate Army, and his first cousin, Elijah Webb Chastain, a former US Congressman, was a confederate colonel. Edward's sons had at least six first cousins in the war, and there were probably many more as they had 20 sets of aunts and uncles on the Chastain side alone.

Confederate first cousins we know are: W. J. Chastain, Rainey Franklin Chastain, Edward Harold Chastain, John Milton Chastain (died of disease), William Jasper Chastain (not the same as W. J. above), and a double first cousin, George Washington Shelton. Cousin James Maxwell Chastain tried to join the Confederates at 15 years old, but was sent home. There were at least 2 husbands of first cousins in the Confederate Army: Green Berry Strawn (died of measles) and Ned Chastain.

We know of only one first cousin who served in the Union Army--Nathan P. Chastain (Missouri Calvary). A first cousin, once removed, Edward Jordan Chastain, who lived in Itawamba County, Mississippi, which abutted Marion County, Alabama, was a Confederate soldier and was wounded at Shiloh.

See also other Alabama Chastains and Chastangs in the Civil War. To Civil War Index

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The James Edward Chastain Family Association

A new informal association is being developed for descendants of Edward Chastain and Sarah Sheldon Chastain. The lines represented so far are: Martin, Artimissa, James K.P., Sarah, and William Howell. The committee chair is Larry Lambert, who descends from Hiram Lambert and Sarah Chastain Lambert, the youngest daughter of Edward and Sarah Chastain.

The group will begin as an email list, and there are already more than twenty individuals on this list representing several Edward Chastain lines. Goals for the group will depend on those who indicate an interest in becoming part of the group. Some possibilities are:

  1. Establishing an interactive mailing list
  2. Sharing of genealogical data
  3. Encouraging research into Edward's family and descendents
  4. Working together to gain access to and preserving the private cemetery where Edward, Sarah, and David are buried
  5. Promoting our new group to other Edward Chastain descendents
  6. Posting a comprehensive genealogy of Edward's descendents
  7. Presenting our research to the Chestnut Tree, to the PCFA genealogists, and to the Shelton family
  8. Establishing an Edward and Sarah Shelton Chastain Society
  9. Creating an Edward and Sarah website similar to chastaincentral.com

If you are interested, email Larry Lambert: larry_q_lambert@yahoo.com (larry_q_lambert@yahoo.com).

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