Next in the Lovettsville Historical Society’s 2024 Lecture Series:

“My Old Carpetbagger”

Presented by Taylor Chamberlin

Sunday, June 9, 2024, at 2:00 p.m.

St. James United Church of Christ,
10 East Broad Way, Lovettsville VA

On Sunday, June 9, local author Taylor Chamberlin will discuss his new book My Old Carpetbagger, which uses his great-grandparents to reveal new aspects about local and national history. 

Simon Elliot Chamberlin met his teenage bride-to-be, Waterford Quaker Edith Matthews, while serving as the US Army Provost Marshall at Point of Rocks at the end of the Civil War. Born in Vermont, and an intimate friend of its powerful Senator Justin Morrill, he left home at an early age to establish a career as jeweler in the Midwest, before returning to Upstate New York in 1861.

As an officer in the 118th N.Y. Infantry and 25th N.Y. Cavalry, he spent most of his time in and around Northern Virginia and Washington, including helping save the Capital during Jubal Early’s 1864 raid, and in various encounters with Mosby’s partisans. Assigned to replace Cole’s Maryland Cavalry and the Loudoun Rangers along the Potomac border in 1865, the 25th N.Y. Cavalry became enmeshed in the chaotic events at war’s end. 

In compiling this account of his forebear’s military service, the author uncovered a side of the war so dark it made him wonder how the North prevailed.

Inspired by tales of Loudoun Unionists and the postwar plight of his fiancé’s family, Chamberlin returned North to recruit veterans to the Republican cause and oppose Andrew Johnson’s lenient policies towards the South. After brief stints in the Freedmen’s Bureau and the U.S. Cavalry, he and Edith settled on her family farm (Clifton) outside Waterford, where, as founder of the Catoctin Farmers Club and employee of the fledgling U.S. Agriculture Department, he introduced changes to Loudoun’s rural economy.

Despite frequent disputes with John Mosby (Grant’s guru on Southern politics) and William Mahone’s Readjuster Party, Chamberlin remained active in local, state and national politics throughout Reconstruction, rising to chair Virginia’s Republican Party during Rutherford Hayes’s presidential campaign, and assisting future president James Garfield to organize veterans against pro-Southern and racist policies of the Democratic Party.

As special agent for the Treasury Department, he helped Hayes remove Chester Arthur from the New York Customshouse and later exposed massive fraud in the sugar trade. In the days before Civil Service Reform, his high profile as a political activist, coupled with a stubborn personality, made him a frequent target for removal from office, including during Cleveland’s two terms. His inclusion on horseback at the head of Union veterans during McKinley’s two inaugural parades signaled a return from exile on their farm. Turning in his special agent’s badge for a desk job, left more time for civic affairs and lobbying for recognition of his old regiment’s role in saving the Capital. Confined to Clifton with crippling rheumatism, he died there in 1908, followed a year later by his wife.

Chamberlin’s presentation will be held at St. James United Church of Christ, 10 East Broad Way, in Lovettsville. The program will be followed, as is customary, by questions and discussion.

The program will not be live-streamed, but a video recording of the event will be posted on the Lovettsville Historical Society website.

Admission is free, but donations and are welcome to defray expenses of the program and to support the activities of the Lovettsville Historical Society.

For more information, visit or email

(For those wishing to learn more about Edith’s side of the family, which traces its local roots to the Taylors of Taylorstown, the author will speak at the Waterford Foundation/s Old School Auditorium at 2 PM on June 2.)