Skip to main content
Go to accessibility options


    Missouri Volunteer Cavalry Officer John L. Chandler Archive of Letters and Diaries. A group of letters, documents, and diaries belonging to and related to the service of Lieutenant Colonel Chandler of the 7th Regiment Missouri Volunteer Cavalry. The five diaries cover the years 1861 through 1864, with one identified as being previously owned by a Confederate prisoner and then taken over by Chandler. The letters and documents include accounts of the Battle of Prairie Grove written by Chandler for publication, Chandler's letter of promotion to Colonel, his Muster-Out Roll, and more.

    John L. Chandler enlisted as a Lieutenant Colonel with the 7th Missouri Cavalry, which was formed from numerous companies being consolidated in February and March of 1862. That spring, the 7th Missouri was stationed in Johnson County, Kansas and the surrounding area. By September of 1862, they were deployed to Springfield to join with General Totten's division of the Army of the Frontier. Chandler and his regiment participated in such engagements as the Battle of Prairie Grove and numerous clashes against bushwhackers and guerillas under William Quantrill.

    Chandler's 1861 diary was first owned by an R. Fritts, who signed the front of the diary. This soldier kept the diary, 3" x 4.75", and made entries from January 1 through May 1, before being taken up by Chandler who makes his first entry on August 24, 1861: "In camp at Murrays - Capt. Bennight took a man named Medlock from Louis Prairie prisoner & brot him in. This book was in his posession. " Chandler continued to keep a diary throughout the rest of his service in the war, recording his company's movements, various events, and even visits home.

    The 7th Missouri Cavalry saw a great deal of action through the spring and early summer of 1862, with frequent run-ins with Confederate guerilla fighters, or "bushwhackers". In his 1862 diary, 3.25" x 5", Chandler has recorded multiple entries of these engagements. On May 27, 1862 he wrote: "Sent a detachment under Capt Miller of 86 men to the other side of the river on Str. W.H. Russell to serve the country...heard from Capt. Hawks command that yesterday he had an affair with a band of guerillas in which Capt Hawks was badly wounded in his arm. Orderly Sergt Wood was killed. Our men killed two and wounded one rebel and took 11 horses & several guns." Then on June 4: "A great battle was fought in the neighborhood of Richmond on Saturday and Sunday at a place called Fair usual our army was whipped the first day but beat the rebels the next." A little more than a week later, the 7th Missouri had a number of encounters with guerillas under Quantrill's leadership. Chandler has recorded on June 13 and then again on June 15: "Heard from Spellman that he had an affair with the bushwhackers in which 2 or 3 of them had been shot...Capt Spellman came back today & brought three prisoners. He had a running fight with the rebels in which he killed several of them."

    Chandler and the 7th MO also participated in the Battle of Prairie Grove (December 7, 1862), which effectively secured the northern part of Arkansas for the Union. Two days following the battle, Chandler wrote to the editors of the Missouri Republican, who published his version of the events that had taken place at the battle. Dated December 9, 1862 and written from the battlefield, Chandler's letter reads, in part: "You will doubtless have received many accounts of the battle of the 7th inst which will be hereafter known in our military annals as the Battle of Prairie Grove. It is hardly possible to gain anything like an accurate idea of a great battle except from hearing the statements of different persons who describe what took place within their own sphere of observation...Three batteries opened a terrible fire of grape and canister, before which no mortals could stand. At this critical moment when our infantry seemed almost exhausted with their efforts and the ammunition of some of the regiment almost certainly exhausted, and when it seemed if the enemy should return to make a resolute charge with all their force we might be forced to retire form the field, a discharge of artillery followed by infantry vollies was heard at the right at a distance of perhaps two miles which was soon ascertained to be the Division of Gen. Blunt attacking the enemy's left. This imparted renewed vigor to our exhausted troops and they made the [illegible] sing with their cheers. Steadily and measuringly from noon until darkness closed the scene, hour after hour did our batteries continue to pour their terrible fire into the solid masses of the enemy. When night came on we held the ground and our exhausted troops [illegible] on the field of battle. It may seem that I do injustice to Division of Gen. Blunt in giving them so little space in my account but the engagement was in effect so far as the two portions of our army were concerned - distinct and separate battles and must be described separately by those who saw each. It is enough to say that had Gen. Blunt not arrived on the field I should have been obliged to recount a defeat instead of a victory."

    There is also a copy of a letter, in Chandler's hand, that he later wrote to the Missouri Republican about the same battle, dated December 22, 1862, who felt that the Battle of Prairie Grove was an immensely important victory for the Union, who gained greater control of the Mississippi River. It reads, in part: "The Army of the Frontier has become an army of occupation. Very few battles of this war have had such important results as that fought on this the 7th instant. The defeat of Hindman's Army was decisive, and has resulted in the entire abandonment of North Eastern Arkansas and the Indian Nation lying north of the Arkansas River. It entirely relieves Michigan of all danger of invasion, if proper provision is made holding this portion of the state..." [Three pages of a bifolium, 7.75" x 9.75"].

    John L. Chandler's archive provides a full and well-rounded picture of the cavalryman's experience during the Civil War, with his diaries spanning the years of the entire war. The supplementary materials also add information and insight into Chandler's service, including the controversy he was entrenched in regarding his role in the loss of Little Rock, which is addressed multiple times in letters following the war. This lot would be a very fine addition to any collector's Civil War materials, with reports on guerilla warfare and the fighting that took place out West.

    Condition: Letters range from good to very fine, with usual mail folds and creasing. Varying amounts of toning and foxing, but letters and diaries are very legible. Some weaknesses have occurred at folds. Diaries are all soundly bound. Overall, a very fine group.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2018
    18th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 8
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 997

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $250,000 (minimum $19), plus 20% of any amount between $250,000 and $2,500,000, plus 12% of any amount over $2,500,000 per lot.

    Sold on Apr 18, 2018 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2022 May 1 Spring Luxury Accessories Signature® Auction .

    Learn about consigning with us

    The department director has the heart of a true and highly knowledgeable collector with the business acumen of someone who has been not only successful but has decades of an impeccable track record
    David Greenburg,
    Chicago, IL
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search