September 26, 2011

Better Know an Officer: Henry A. Hambright

Location: 226 N Prince St, Lancaster, PA 17603, USA
Henry A. Hambright, presumably as Captain of the Jackson Rifles
Robert Diem Collection, USAMHI

Name:  Henry Augustus Hambright
Rank:  Colonel, Captain in Regular Army, later Brevet Brigadier General of Volunteers
Born:  March 24, 1819, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Died:  February 19, 1893, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Buried in Lancaster Cemetery.
Pre-war Life:  1st Lieut. in Co. G, 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry, during Mexican War; public works contractor; supervisor of operations in Lancaster for the Pennsylvania Railroad; Captain of the Jackson Rifles militia company
Post-war Life:  Major in U.S. Army, various posts including Texas and Louisiana.  Retired in 1879. 
Political Affiliation:  Democrat
Key Events: Battles of Perryville and Chickamauaga. Wounded at Battle of Buzzard's Roost. 

Grave site of Henry A. Hambright, Lancaster Cemetery

While other Union Army leaders who called Lancaster home achieved greater rank and glory, Col. Henry A. Hambright represented--in the eyes of the average Lancasterian--the town's military leader.  A hero of the Mexican War and militia leader during the 1850s, Henry A. Hambright led the 79th Pennsylvania basically from when he raised it until it was mustered out in 1865, although he was seldom in command during 1864 and 1865 due to health problems.  With a father and uncle as officers in the War of 1812, the name Hambright stands out as the preeminent name in Lancaster's nineteenth century military tradition. 
Engraving of Hambright
Intelligencer, 2/20/1893

Although thoroughly affiliated with the Democratic Party, Hambright won near universal acclaim as a strict disciplinarian and talented drillmaster, all the while gaining respect for showing deep concern for the welfare of the men he commanded.  

Following in the footsteps of his father, Frederick Hambright, Henry worked as public works contractor, beginning as superintendent of grading on the Germantown & Norristown Railroad.  Other projects on which Hambright worked included the tide-water canal from Wrightsville and the Delaware division of the Pennsylvania canal.  He fought valiantly in numerous battles of the Mexican War, serving as 1st Lieutenant of Co. G, Second Pennsylvania Infantry.  One of his official reports was published in the December 28, 1847, Intelligencer and can be viewed at this link.  Later, he succeeded his father as Captain of the militia organization, the Jackson Rifles, which he led during the Three Months Campaign of 1861 as Co. K, 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers.  At the war's outbreak, Hambright's occupation was superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad's Lancaster operations, although the exact nature of the position is unclear.

Signature of Henry A. Hambright (WGK)

Printed below are accounts of presentations of a sword, officers' accouterments, and a horse to Colonel Hambright that show the high esteem in which Lancaster's citizens held the leader of the Lancaster County Regiment.  More broadly, through Hambright's tenure as colonel we can see how deep connections--emotional, political, social, material, etc.--ran between the 79th Pennsylvania and the city streets and verdant farms from which its men came.    

From the Daily Evening Express of September 7, 9, 10, and 11, 1861 (alternate link):

Obituaries in Weekly New Era (2/25/1893) and Daily Intelligencer (2/20/1893).

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