Eli Chandler, soldier and Indian fighter, was born in South Carolina about 1798. After sojourning in Madison County, Tennessee, where at least three of his children were born, he immigrated to Texas in 1835. During the Texas Revolution he served as a private in Capt. Sterling C. Robertson's ranger company, mustered into service on January 17, 1836. He reenlisted for a period of three months on June 30, but his unit cannot now be determined. The General Land Office reckoned his period of service from July 15 until November 15, 1836. On January 16, 1839, he played a conspicuous role in "Bryant's Defeat," a fight between settlers led by Capt. Benjamin Franklin Bryant and Ethan Allen Stroud and a band of Anadarko Indians led by Chief José María. This fight took place near the falls of the Brazos River in what is now Falls County.
On March 29, 1841, Chandler was elected captain of a forty-five-man company of Robertson County Minute Men, which he led against the Indians in the battle of Pecan Creek in what is now Cooke County on April 21, 1841. On April 9, 1842, Alexander Somervell authorized Chandler to raise a company for the invasion of Mexico, and on May 13, 1842, Chandler's became the first company to report for the Somervell expedition. He apparently did not lead this unit to the Rio Grande, however, for on December 10, 1842, Sam Houston commissioned Chandler and Thomas I. Smith to raise a company of volunteers to remove the archives of the Republic of Texas from Austin to Houston. Although Houston admonished the two not to "be thwarted in the undertaking," the citizens of Austin prevented the removal of the nation's papers by force (see ARCHIVES WAR).
In 1843 Chandler was elected adjutant of the Snively expedition but disagreed violently with the battalion's commander, Jacob Snively. When the expedition broke up in frustration on June 28, 1843, Chandler was chosen leader of one faction, seventy-six men calling themselves the "Home Boys," which he led back to the Arkansas River in hopes of intercepting a Mexican convoy bound for Santa Fe. On July 9, after being disarmed by United States dragoons under Capt. Philip St. George Cooke, Chandler led his fragment back toward Austin.
During the Mexican War Chandler raised and commanded Company K of Col. John C. Hays's First Regiment, Texas Mounted Riflemen, and served in the Monterrey campaign. His son, Eli Chandler, Jr., served as a private in the company. In 1850 Chandler was farming in Robertson County with his thirty-five-year-old wife, Mary, a native of North Carolina, and their three young daughters. His estate was then valued at $2,220.