Zachariah Chandler was born in Bedford, New Hampshire, on 10th December, 1813. After working as a schoolteacher he moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he started his own successful dry goods business.
In July, 1861, Chandler was a member of a group of politicians, including Benjamin Wade, Lyman Trumbull and James Grimes, who witnessed the Battle of Bull Run. The battle was a disaster for the Union forces and at one stage Chandler came close to being captured by the Confederate Army. After arriving back in Washington, Chandler was one of those who led the attack on the incompetence of the leadership of the Union Army. Chandler was also highly critical of President Andrew Johnson and voted for his impeachment in 1868.
In 1875 President Ulysses S. Grant appointed Chandler as his Secretary of the Interior. He left office but soon afterwards was re-elected to the Senate and served from 22nd February, 1879 until his death in Chicago on 1st November, 1879.