The story of Silas Chandler is one of the most popular black Confederate stories out there on the Web. You can find it featured on the website of the 37th Texas, the Petersburg Express, on blogs, and you can even purchase a t-shirt of Silas and Andrew at Dixie Outfitters. A few weeks ago the famous image of “the Chander Brothers” was featured on Antiques Roadshow and not surprising my post on it received a great deal of attention. There is no evidence that Silas served in Confederate ranks, though that apparently did not prevent the United Daughters of the Confederacy from decorating his grave with an Iron Cross and Confederate battle flag. Yesterday a descendant of Silas Chandler left the following comment on the blog:
I am the Great Granddaughter of Silas Chandler. The lies being told about Silas fighting in the confederate army keep growing. And that is what they are “LIES”. The majority of the decendents of Silas are also disgusted about all of the lies told about our ancester. Silas was a slave, and did what he had to do in order to survive. I am a Black Chandler who grew up in West Point, Mississippi where it was unheard of to even look at or even speak to a white Chandler. I have a letter signed by the majority of the decendents of Silas demanding the Iron Cross and Confederate flag be removed from Silas’ grave. Signing this letter is the Granddaughter of Silas who is 107 years old and still lives in Long Island, New York. I grew up with my Grandfather, who was the son of Silas. He told us all about Silas and how he saved his money and hid it in the barn and bought his freedom. He also bought the land where he built his house. That record is in the Clay County court house as of this day.
I contacted Myrna Chandler Sampson to see if she might be interested in sharing the letter with the general public, which thankfully she has agreed to do:
To: Descendants of Silas Chandler
From: Myra Chandler Sampson, Great Granddaughter of Silas Chandler
Sara Chandler Wims, Great Granddaughter of Silas Chandler
George Duckett, Great Grandson of Silas Chandler
Re: Confederate flag on Silas Chandlers’ Grave
It has come to our attention that a confederate flag has been placed on our Great Grandfather Silas Chandler’s grave along with the confederate iron cross in Greenwood cemetery in West Point, Mississippi. The confederate flag and the iron cross are symbols of oppression. They represent the worst of this country: Slavery, Civil War, lynching, segregation, Ku Klux Klan, and terrorism. Many hate groups fly the confederate flag along side the Nazi flag.
Silas Chandler was NOT GIVEN his freedom as many of us have been lead to believe. Our Grandfather, George W. Chandler who was the son of Silas, often told us the story of how his father, Silas saved his pennies. He hid them in the shed where he buried them because slaves were not allowed to own money. With these saved pennies, he proudly bought his freedom from the Chandler family who owned him.
Once Silas Chandler gained his freedom he instilled his love of freedom in his son George W. Chandler. George W. Chandler became an avid collector of firearms to protect his family from any and all oppressors.
In a cynical attempt to further their political objectives, the descendants of Silas’ oppressors have decided to place an iron cross and a confederate flag on Silas’ grave. This is equivalent to the descendents of the Gestapo placing a swastika on the grave of a Holocaust victim. The placing of the confederate flag on Silas’ grave is a gross affront to the memory of Silas, and nothing more than an attempt to rewrite history.
We are soliciting your signature on the enclosed petition to have the flag and iron cross permanently removed from his grave. Please sign and return it in the self-addressed stamped envelope provided. If you know of any descendants of Silas Chandler that did not receive this letter, Please inform us at ____.
I also asked Ms. Sampson about the endorsement of the story included on the 37th Texas site by Harold Chandler:
Yes, I am aware of that website. I am also aware of the endorsement by Harold Chandler. Harold is my nephew. He endorsed this poster without consulting any family member outside of his immediate family and he did not sign the letter that I sent. There were several members of our family who did not sign the letter. . Yes, our family is split on the controversy. The family was not consulted about placing the iron cross on Silas’ grave. A few family members made that decision and were involved in the ceremony. An overwhelming majority of the family as indicated by the signatures on the letter were outraged by the actions of these few family members. Back to the history. The history that I know about Silas was taught to me by my Grandfather, who was the son of Silas.. When I was a small child, the White Chandler family in West Point, Miss. had a family reunion and invited my Grandfather so that he could tell them the history of Silas. That was the only time to my knowledge that the two Chandler families acknowledged each other. He told them the same history that he taught me. All of the things that I am now reading is new fantasies. The dates and most of the things do not even make sense or add up. It is just history being rewritten.My Grandfather, George W. Chandler, son of Silas was listed on the Mississippi Sovereign Commission as one of the Negroes for the whites to keep an eye on. Members of the white Chandler were members of the Sovereign commission. I have documentation to prove this.
Once again, I greatly appreciate Ms. Sampson’s willingness to share her family’s story with all of us.