William Chapman was a soldier who served with the Second United States Infantry.  He served the Regular army with distinction attaining the rank of Colonel (no small feat in the Regular Army.)  Graduating from West Point in the Class of 1828(?).  He served in the Mexican War and had been brevetted twice for heroism.  He had served in the years between the wars with the 5th U.S. on the frontier.  After arriving from Fort Bliss, TX in early 1862, he joined the 2nd U.S. as Major where he commanded the 2nd Brigade on the Peninsula, but fell ill due to dysentery and was replaced by Maj. Lovell.  He returned to the brigade in time for the battle of Malvern Hill at which he collapsed and was replaced again.  He returned to duty in July as a Lieutenant Colonel and then led the brigade through 2nd Manassas.  He was permanently removed due to illness following the battle.  He retired in August, 1863 to Green Bay WI and died in 1887 at the age of 78.


What follows is a photographic (and painted) record of a Regular soldier from his graduation from West Point to his post Civil War service, which is quite an accomplishment.  Photographic records of Regular soldiers are not in abundance.  So this is indeed a rare find.  It is an even more rare to find an image of a soldier in his Mexican War uniform (if anyone sees this and is in possession or knows where to find more photos of the Regulars during the Civil War or Mexican War, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Thanks.)
These images are courtesy of William Dunniway, Collodion Artist.



Lt. William Chapman Graduate of West Point, 1828(?)


Capt. William Chapman thought to be Capt. Moses Merrill. 5th US. Inf. Vera Cruz Mexico, April 1847


Col. William Chapman,
2nd U.S. Infantry

The following is an excerpt from a letter written by Lt. Col. Chapman to his son in 1862.

I was ordered on Thursday last to have the 2nd Infantry in readiness to move at a moment's notice with three days rations.  It was supposed our destination was Harper's Ferry or some point up the river.  The order however was countermanded as I learn unofficially.  It is now rumored that a movement will take place in a few days, but in what direction our regiment will move, I cannot imagine.  We have had a heavy snow today which lasted two or three hours, and which may cause a postponement of the contemplated movement for some days.  I have been in hopes that our difficulties would all have been settled without a battle in this neighborhood, but I now fear that a severe battle will be fought by the Army of the Potomac before long, which may tend to a settlement whichever Army is defeated.  I was in Georgetown today and dined with Ned and Fanny; they are all pretty well except your Aunt Fanny who has a very sore throat and has been quite alarmed lest it be diphtheria.  The Doctor thinks it nothing more than a sore throat from taking cold.

From extracts from Southern papers it appears that the Confederates are much dissatisfied with their commanders both in the Army and Navy.  In every case of defeat I see that the commanders have been severely blamed for their management of affairs, and the Confederate Government is loudly called upon to remove them from their positions.  It is reported tonight that General Huger, for some mishap has been arrested for treason and will be tried.  I fancy however that both services are alike in that particular, for every failure from whatever cause necessarily brings reproach and the condemnation of the commander by the whole newspaper press, success in every battle is essential to insure the approbation of the people and the government.

I have been detailed on a General Court Martial to convene tomorrow for the trial of Lieuts. Ellinwood and Goodrich, 2nd Inf. from which I infer that no very sudden movement of my Regt. is now contemplated.  I will endeavor to write again in a few days.  With love to your mother, sisters, Grandpa and Grandma and all our friends, I am

Very Affectionately,
Your Father,