Robert Hall Chilton (February 25, 1815 – February 18, 1879) was an officer in the U.S. Army and then a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He served as Chief of Staff for the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee for much of the war.
Chilton was born in Loudoun County, Virginia, to a prominent family. He was the son of William and Sarah (Powell) Chilton. He secured an appointment to the United States Military Academy and graduated 48th out of 57 cadets in the Class of 1837. Brevetted as a second lieutenant, he served in various administrative posts. On September 25, 1845, he married Laura Ann Thomson Mason (1829–1911) in New York City. The couple would have three children—Laura Mason, Emily Virginia, and Robert Lee Chilton. He was assigned to a regiment of dragoons for western frontier duty and fought in a series of skirmishes with Osage Indians. He served in Kansas, Texas, and the Indian Territory.
Chilton fought in the Mexican-American War, winning the brevet rank of major for gallantry in action at the Battle of Buena Vista. Under severe Mexican fire, he picked up the wounded Colonel Jefferson Davis and carried him to safety. Chilton was promoted to captain of the 1st U.S. Dragoons. He was assigned in 1854 to administrative duty as a paymaster with the rank of major, serving in various posts in Washington, D.C., New York City, Detroit, Michigan, and San Antonio, Texas.
Chilton was in Texas when he received word of the bombardment of Fort Sumter. He resigned his commission in the U.S. Army on April 29, 1861, and traveled home to Virginia. He enrolled in the Confederate service as an adjutant general with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He served on the staff of fellow Virginian Robert E. Lee, rising to Chief of Staff. He did not pen the famous Lost Order during the Maryland Campaign. The identity of the writer of the lost order McClellan received from the field is yet to be identified. (See "Special Order 191-Ruse of War") Although nominated for brigadier general in October 1862 and despite firm support from General Lee, Chilton's appointment was not officially confirmed by the Confederate Congress until February 16, 1864, most likely due to repeated clashes with the Confederate Senate and with fellow officers, most notably John B. Magruder.
Following the Gettysburg Campaign, he served as Inspector General for the Army of Northern Virginia for the rest of the war, with his headquarters in Richmond, Virginia. He rarely led troops in the field, with the exception of a successful attack in May 1864 when he led a small force of Virginia troops in routing Federal troops from the Army of the James that were raiding the important Richmond & Petersburg Railroad.
Following the cessation of hostilities in early 1865, Chilton returned to civilian life. He moved to Columbus, Georgia, where he became president of a local manufacturing company. He died of apoplexy in Columbus in 1879. He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.
The Major Robert H. Chilton monument in Chilton Park in Dodge City, Kansas, was unveiled May 28, 1931.
- Evans, Clement A., Confederate Military History, Volume III, Atlanta, 1899.
- Heitman, Francis, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army 1789-1903. Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1903.
- Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders, Louisiana State University Press, 1959, ISBN 0-8071-0823-5.
- Burial Register, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia.
- Photo gallery of Chilton
- Robert H. Chilton at Find a Grave Retrieved on 2009-04-28
- Chilton biography
- Robert H. Chilton Collection, Library of the Museum of the Confederacy, Richmond, Virginia.