Looking For Silas Chandler

Update: Thanks to TF Smith for the following comment, which I decided to add to the post.  He offers some very interesting observations about this image that are worth serious consideration. Your thoughts are much appreciated.

Actually, this was obviously a posed studio portrait, and there’s probably a case to be made the weapons – or at least most of them – were props. As examples, the individual I take to be AM Chandler has two revolvers, one (possibly an 1861 model Army or Navy Colt) stuck in his belt and another (fairly small) in his left hand, plus the weird machete/gladio-like edged weapon – only the large revolver looks like anything one would go to war with in 1861.  The weapons that the individual I take to be Silas Chandler has an even weirder assortment of weaponry:  the long gun, which appears may be a shotgun, rather than a rifle; some sort of pistol (pepperbox?) stuck into his shirt; and the large knife – again, not exactly standard equipment for your typical CSA infantryman, in 1861 or any other time.  Given the studio element of the photo, the possibility that some or all the weapons are props is quite possible, which raises the question of whether the uniforms were as well. It is entirely possible the photo was, to be frank, a joke. . .

Last Sunday evening I had a wonderful talk with Ms. Myra Sampson, who is the great granddaughter of Silas Chandler.  We talked for about an hour about her family’s history and quite a bit about Silas, who as you all know is one of the most visible “black Confederates” on the Internet.  You may remember that Ms. Sampson left a very thoughtful comment on a post about the well known image of the “Chandler boys” that was recently featured on Antiques Roadshow.  Her concern about the image and the chance to learn more about her ancestor led to a private email exchange, which ultimately led to the phone conversation.

Ms. Sampson is committed to challenging the distorted history about Silas that can be found on multiple websites and more specifically by the Sons of Confederate Veterans who placed an Iron Cross on his grave marking Silas as a Confederate soldier.  Even without my communication with Ms. Sampson there is reason to doubt what has become the standard story, but based on what I’ve learned over the past few weeks it is clear to me that little of the SCV’s story holds up.  I am convinced that the best way to tackle the mythology of black Confederates is not simply by making sweeping generalizations, but by challenging individual stories head on.  That has been my approach in cases involving Weary Clyburn, John Venable, and Bill Yopp to name just a few.  Most of the accounts of black Confederate soldiers revolve around a small number of individual names, which reflects the overall weakness of the argument.  Again, Silas is one of the most visible, in large part, because of the image of him with Andrew Chandler.  One of the things that I wanted to talk with Ms. Sampson about is the possibility of writing an essay about Silas Chandler for one of the popular Civil War magazines.  I’ve already had an editor express interest in the story.  It would be an effective way of sharing a more complete history of the man as well as to demonstrate how these stories so easily evolve into myth and distortion. Over the past few years Ms. Sampson has worked hard to collect historical documents in hoping to set the record straight about her famous ancestor.  I am hoping to help her in that endeavor.

One of the things that I’ve become interested in over the past few years is how African American families remember the Civil War and other aspects of the American past.  Ms. Sampson was very gracious in sharing her own personal story with me.  Much of it broadened my understanding of black historical memory while other aspects fell into line with other interviews that I have conducted over the past few years.  I will share just a few facts that are relevant to this story.  Ms. Sampson grew up in West Point, Mississippi in the years before the Civil Rights Movement.  She attended an all-black Presbyterian High School and was taught by both black and white teachers.  Interestingly, the history textbooks used were new editions in contrast with the older editions that were used in the nearby white public schools.  The amount of attention given to black history is unknown.  While her family did not share stories about the Civil War or slavery, Ms. Sampson does remember hearing quite a bit about Silas.  These stories came directly from her grandfather, George, who was Silas’s son.  It is commendable that Ms. Sampson has not relied simply on oral stories, but has worked in local archives to provide a richer history of her great grandfather.

Silas Chandler

A short biographical sketch of Silas at the 37t Texas website offers the standard story that can be found on numerous SCV websites.  It’s not so much a history of Silas, but a history of the “Chandler Boys” and their collective experience in the Civil War. Rarely do these websites consider these men on their own terms.  A few excerpts will suffice to make this clear.

37th Texas: “Enlisting in the Palo Alto Confederates in 1861 from his home in Palo Alto, Mississippi, at age 15 Andrew Martin Chandler was mustered into Co. F of Blythe’s Mississippi Infantry, 44th Mississippi Infantry. He participated in several campaigns with his childhood playmate, friend and former slave,  17 year-old Silas Chandler.”

Silas was born a slave on January 1, 1837 in Virginia on the Chandler family homestead plantation.  Andrew Martin Chandler was born April 3 , 1844 on the homestead plantation in Clay County Mississippi.  Much of this story hinges on the false belief that Andrew and Silas were childhood playmates and left for the war as close friends.  All of the Chandlers moved to Mississippi and all bought plantations in Clay County in 1839.  At that time Silas was 2 years old.  There is no record of Silas’s parents.  It is possible that they were sold by the Chandlers before they moved to Mississippi.  Given the age difference between the two it is difficult to believe that they were childhood playmates.

37th Texas: [includes the following from a 1950 typed transcript of handwritten notes from an interview with Andrew Martin Chandler conducted in 1912] “While there, he told me of another Silas Chandler that served with him in the Army. This Silas was a former slave owned by his parents, who was papered out just before the war. Even though he was granted his freedom, he insisted on going off to war with Andrew, partially because of their friendship, and partially because since Silas was a little older, he felt that he needed to protect Andrew.”

No service record exists for Silas in the 44th Mississippi Infantry.  The Confederate Army files at the Tombigbee Regional Library in West Point show that Andrew Chandler enlisted on August 16, 1861 at the age of sixteen years and took his slave Silas with him.  The available evidence demonstrates that Silas was a slave at that time and ran messages and packages back and forth from the plantation to Andrew. The record shows Andrew participated in battles at Shiloh and Murfreesboro, Tennessee and Chickamauga, Georgia.   Again, there are no service record for Silas.  It is well documented that Silas made many trips back and forth from from Andrew in the Army to the plantation in Mississippi.  There is  absolutely no evidence that he ever fought while present with the army.

37th Texas: “Andrew gave Silas land adjoining one of the the Chandler plantations on which Silas built a church for the Black population of Palo Alto…. Andrew and Silas returned to Palo Alto, remained fast friends, lived close by each other and, in 1878, Andrew signed the papers which resulted in Silas receiving a Mississippi Confederate Veteran Pension.”

The white Chandlers claim that the family gave Silas land adjoining theirs.  Land records in the Chancery Clerk’s office in West Point indicates that Silas and Lucy (wife) purchased some land and paid off their debt prior to the due date.  Silas applied for a pension in July 1916, but there is no record that he ever received one.  There was a Silas Chandler that received a pension in 1833 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  This, of course, was for the Revolutionary War.  Given the sloppiness that can be found in many of these accounts it is likely that our Silas Chandler is being confused with this individual.  I did not discuss the construction of a church by Silas with Ms. Sampson, but we did talk a bit about his career as a carpenter following the war.  Interestingly,  Silas helped to construct a new courthouse in West Point, Mississippi after the war and during his own life Silas’s son, George, also worked on the building.  I find it ironic that a former slave and the son of a slave would end up working on what became a symbol of white supremacy during the Jim Crow Era.

37th Texas: “Andrew’s Great-grandson, Andrew Chandler Battaile, still lives in Mississippi, while Silas’ Great–grandson, Bobbie Chandler, lives the Northeast. About eight years ago, the two men reunited and restored the family relationship.”

It should come as no surprise that there is much more to the story.  This version of the story was essentially reaffirmed by the Chandler descendant who appeared on the Antiques Roadshow.  According to Ms. Sampson the story is simply not true.  While there are indeed a few white and black Chandlers who have reunited the history of family relations has been one of separation.  There has been nothing close to a family reunion.  These stories function more to satisfy our own desire for reunion and a narrative of the war that steers clear of the tough issues of race and slavery.  Silas himself was severely wounded at one point during the postwar era when he defended his family from a white vigilante group called “the Raiders.”

The Photograph

I was most interested in talking with Ms. Sampson about her thoughts concerning the photograph of Silas and Andrew Chandler.  Ms. Sampson shared that she owned a German Shepherd dog, which I thought was a strange thing to share until she added that posture is very important when handling this particular breed.  It should come as no surprise that a firm posture is essential to reinforcing the authority of the owner over the dog.  Looking at the image of Silas and Andrew I understand exactly what she means.  I never noticed it before, but Silas is clearly hunched over; remember he is seven years older than Andrew.  The image is not one of two childhood friends going off to war, but of a slave whose future now hinges on the boy next to him.

I am looking forward to the opportunity to work with Myra Sampson and the rest of the family in helping them to share the rich history of their ancestor with the rest of the Civil War community.  Silas Chandler along with the countless other slaves and black workers who spent time in the Confederate army deserve to have their stories told.  They deserve to be understood on their own terms rather than as pawns in the agendas of organizations who are committed to distorting the past for their own selfish purposes.

54 comments… add one

  • Jonathan Dresner Mar 28, 2010

    Was the officer-sidearm connection as strong back then as it is now? The photograph shows Silas with a long gun, and Andrew with a revolver: they could be status markers.

  • TF Smith Mar 28, 2010

    AM Chandler would have been 17 in 1861; pretty young to be an officer, elected or otherwise.

    Actually, this was obviously a posed studio portrait, and there’s probably a case to be made the weapons – or at least most of them – were props. As examples, the individual I take to be AM Chandler has two revolvers, one (possibly an 1861 model Army or Navy Colt) stuck in his belt and another (fairly small) in his left hand, plus the weird machete/gladio-like edged weapon – only the large revolver looks like anything one would go to war with in 1861.

    The weapons that the individual I take to be Silas Chandler has an even weirder assortment of weaponry: the long gun, which appears may be a shotgun, rather than a rifle; some sort of pistol (pepperbox?) stuck into his shirt; and the large knife – again, not exactly standard equipment for your typical CSA infantryman, in 1861 or any other time.

    Given the studio element of the photo, the possibility that some or all the weapons are props is quite possible, which raises the question of whether the uniforms were as well. It is entirely possible the photo was, to be frank, a joke. . .

    Given the vast amount of actual scholarship that has been done in the the past few years on slavery and Reconstruction – Stephanie Camp’s “Closer to Freedom” and Hannah Rosen’s “Terror in the Heart of Freedom” as fairly random examples I just pulled off my shelves – there’s really not any reason other than racism that the “black confederate” meme gets played…

    • Kevin Levin Mar 29, 2010

      TF,

      Thanks so much for the comment.

    • Jonathan Dresner Mar 29, 2010

      You’re probably right about the staging, but I was wondering whether the staging was (intentional or not) reflective of the same dynamic that Kevin noted in the postures.

    • Chris Meekins Mar 29, 2010

      Lots of men at Roanoke Island (February 1862) were armed with over sized knives or “Yankee stickers” as I have seen them called. Actually combat soon relieved the men of any notion of utility for those knives. If memory serves, one Confederate soldier wounded in the river battle at Elizabeth City died after several months in the household of Christopher Wilson Hollowell at his Bayside plantation in Pasquotank County. My understanding is that Hollowell’s descendants still have that soldier’s/ sailor’s “Yankee sticker” in their care.
      I am not sure but you may see some images of these in Greg Mast’s book.

  • David Woodbury Mar 29, 2010

    Kevin, you’re really on to something here. You’re right that the pro-Black Confed crowd relies on only a handful of anecdotal stories and a short list of names. Taking them head-on, name by name, is a good way to go, though ultimately it comes down to a question of what someone chooses to believe. The myths used as underpinning for dearly held wishful thinking (like the wishful thinking that slavery was somehow incidental to the sectional discord) are not abandoned upon the presentation of mere evidence.

    If it were that simple, the “birthers,” for example, would have accepted the presentation of Obama’s birth certificate, and the corroboration of the governor of Hawaii that the original document was authentic and on file.

    But this will make a great article for one of the glossies. Please do follow through on that.

    David

    • Kevin Levin Mar 29, 2010

      David,

      Thanks for the vote of confidence. You are absolutely right that none of this is likely to change the hard liners in the SCV camp and other folks. They are not my primary audience or even secondary for that matter. I want a solid piece of research on one of the more high profile “black Confederates” to be available to a wide audience. I am working with the family to make this possible, but I understand their concern about handing over family related documents to a complete stranger. Most of my readers probably have little doubt that I can do a first rate job with this, but for a family that has been dealing with the intentional distortion of history on such a large scale I can understand their concern.

      • JM Rudy Mar 29, 2010

        I understand their reticence over handing over the documents, but that’s why we have photocopiers and scanners. If it’s a question of what you’ll “do” with the information and your intentions, I think your blog stands as evidence that it’s in good hands with pure intentions.

        I’m excited at the prospect of getting some good, well-researched black history onto the CW newsstand. I’m anxiously awaiting the article.

        • Kevin Levin Mar 29, 2010

          JM,

          It’s definitely more of the latter, which I understand. Thanks so much for the vote of confidence. There have been a couple of articles on the subject in North and South, but they tend to take a broad overview of the subject rather than focus on individual case studies. That is what is needed.

      • Bob Huddleston Mar 29, 2010

        One thing publication will bring out of the woodwork is dozens of pained letters tot he editor from the SCV! Remember when Tom Lowry offered a reward in CW News for an authentic BC?

  • Ed Mar 29, 2010

    Silas has what certainly appears to be a sergeant’s stripe on his left leg. If he had been a sergeant I’m sure he would be in the muster rolls. He probably could wear the stripe because the Confederate soldiers would know he wasn’t one.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 29, 2010

      Ed,

      Thanks for the comment. I hadn’t noticed that. If that is the case than perhaps it is more evidence that both the weapons and uniforms are props. Very interesting.

  • Chris Paysinger Mar 29, 2010

    This may have already been addressed and I missed it…the “knives” appear to be “D-guard Bowie knives.” If I am correct, they were indeed common in the very early part of the war, especially in the Western Theatre.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 29, 2010

      Thanks for your input. All of this is very helpful to me.

  • matttyrrell Mar 29, 2010

    The “claiming” of graves of former slaves by the various Confederate memory organizations is an attempt for reconciling the atrocity that the Confederacy is most associated with. When states’ rights, tariffs and “northern aggression” fall short, what is one who is descended from members of this rebellion to think of his family, and by extension, him/herself? The sources quoted in Mr. Levin’s post and countless other primary and secondary soldiers show that the Confederacy itself did not officially consider these men soldiers; the obsession some of us have with our family history leads to historical leaps of faith. This is an attempt to somehow bandage the psychological wound that a reasonable, open-minded 20th century american would suffer from if that individual becomes too wrapped up in what ancestors did (and how it reflects upon him/herself). This is merely the latest in the SCV’s attempt at distancing memory of the Confederacy from the memory of racism.

  • Charles.lovejoy Mar 29, 2010

    I would suggest some reads like “God, Dr Buzzared and the Bolito Man” by Cornella Walker Bailey. She talks about growing up a Salt Water Geechee on Sapelo Island Georgia. She talks about many things passed down to her from her Gheechee ancesters. Some of it deals with the “slave times” and ‘The Civil war times” how their historians the Griots ( African) are keepers of this history, what the Griots have to say.

  • IR Vick Mar 29, 2010

    I hope you can get the family to work with you on this. This would be a boon to CW history.

  • Emmanuel Dabney Mar 29, 2010

    Well, I was asked to leave a comment so I will leave a little something.

    First, as Chris Paysinger pointed out Bowie knives are not uncommon during the first year or so of the war. Other images of Confederates with Bowie knives include:

    http://www.armyoftennesseerelics.com/miscellaneous_relics.html
    http://news.webshots.com/album/506796962zSNltK
    Tons more http://www.historicalshop.com/sitecontents/confederate/images.htm

    Even more in the Confederate Faces and More Confederate Faces books.

    The question of the uniform: I do not visualize NCO stripes but rather folds in the fabric. I guess that is just a matter of what each individual sees. In light of that I will say that at least in one case the wearing of Commissioned Officers’ insignia was not tolerated. Ervin L. Jordan in Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press) relays a story of a black Richmonder who bought a Lieutenant’s uniform and wore it until forced to remove the insignia off the uniform. See Chapter 10 for the story.

    Use of prop weapons: It is difficult to say to what degree these items are props though it is possible. We just quite frankly do not know enough about most Southern photographers in the period to have records of their prop usage.

    • Kevin Levin Mar 29, 2010

      Thanks for the comment as well as for the links. It’s very helpful.

    • Ed Mar 30, 2010

      No way is the “stripe” a fold in the pants. It is consistent in width and coloring. Look at the other folds and shade lines, you’ll see changes in width and color as you follow the line.

  • Ken Noe Mar 29, 2010

    Hey, thanks for the Facebook plug of the new book! It’s much appreciated. In regard to the topic at hand, and your proposed article, I hope you find pages 41-44 useful. That’s where I deconstruct the myth of another iconic, photographed so-called “black Confederate,” “Henry Comer.”

    • Kevin Levin Mar 29, 2010

      I noticed that as I was flipping through. I just finished the introduction and I think you are spot on in concluding that the “Why They Fought” debate is played out.

  • Tim Abbott Mar 29, 2010

    Regarding the uniforms. I found another site that purports to show another private soldier of the 44th Miss in a uniform that looks very much like it has a wide trouser stripe. http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~greenwolf/thomas/thomas-biog.htm

    Although 1.5″ was the regulation width in the Union army for a Sgt., there was a great deal of nonstandard variation in confederate uniforms and it would be wrong to conclude that the presence of a stripe necessarily indicates NCO rank – especially in an early war uniform. (But see below.)

    I also note that Alexander’s uniform is a different pattern than Silas’ – it has a darker cuff with buttons, for example. His kepi is also quite interesting, in that it appears to have a strip of vertical braid in front more typical of the French kepi, certain Zouave regiments, confederate officers and even the Washington Artillery.

    If this is indeed an early war uniform, I am also surprised that both men are wearing what look like waist length shell jackets as were typical of cavalry or artillery only in this period. The frock coat was the standard until later in the war when cloth was at a premium.

    The 44th Mississippi was organized from the former 1st Battalion Mississippi Infantry (Blythe’s) in June of 1863. Blythe’s was mustered for one year in August 1861 and subsequently given regimental status.
    http://books.google.com/books?id=B6ErnFi8J9kC&pg=PA226&dq=Blythe%27s+battalion+Mississippi+infantry&cd=3#v=onepage&q=Blythe%27s%20battalion%20Mississippi%20infantry&f=false

    If the surviving service record for Andrew M Chandler is only for the 44th Mississippi as per the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System database, that would lend support to the theory that this is a photograph taken later in the war.

    • Ed Mar 30, 2010

      Nice picture of the 44th Miss. private. I think his stripe matches Silas’ stripe and demonstrates why my sergeant assumption is probably wrong.

  • heidic Mar 30, 2010

    I think it is very important that more African Americans become interested in or take part in America’s Civil War memory. African Americans were left with a very different thread of memory after the war, and their memory, was sadly, removed from the public consciousness. From what I have gathered, many African Americans, being so overwhlemed with the white memory of reconciliation, rather than that of emancipation, feel as though the Civil War was not their war. One can only hope that as the nation continues along with its sesquicentennial of the war, the public historical memory of the war comes to include the black experience and memory. I give props to Chandler’s ancestors for taking part in the memory of their ancestor and sharing their experiences.

  • TF Smith Mar 30, 2010

    Thanks for the kind words, Kevin.

    Not to put to fine a point on it, but here’s a B&W photo of another group of people in uniform – without any other information than what is discernable in the photograph, what judgments could be made about it?

    http://www.concertina.com/worrall/anglo-in-united-states/images/anglous-fig26-W400H300.png

    Here’s another one that could give rise to some interesting interpretations:

    http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/schools/wjhs/mediactr/englishpathfinder/eyes/img/garvey2.gif

    Best

  • Lee White Mar 31, 2010

    In regards to the uniform, I think it fits, and although it was common to see prop weapons, uniforms are another matter, plus given the circumstances I dont think they would be putting a prop uniform on a slave to later be given to someone else. Also, in regards to shell jackets, there is plenty of evidence of shell jackets being worn by infantrymen early in the war, and also of artillery and cavalry units with frock coats.

    Lee

  • Emmanuel Dabney Apr 1, 2010

    I looked up Andrew Chandler in the Civil War Database (civilwardata.com) and it says Chandler enlisted 8/8/1861. He was wounded and captured at Shiloh. He then was imprisoned at Camp Chase, Ohio from April 1862 to Sept. 1862. A year later he was wounded at Chickamauga and took the oath of allegiance in Columbus, Mississippi on June 20, 1865. He was a sergeant by the time he mustered out of service. He died on May 7, 1920 in West Point, MS. The database used the following sources to compile their information:
    – Index to Compiled Confederate Military Service Records
    – Confederate Veteran Magazine

    • Kevin Levin Apr 1, 2010

      That is what I understand to be the basic narrative of Andrew Chandler’s service in the war. Thanks

  • Drew Dodenhoff Jun 2, 2011

    Dear Sir,
    The Census entries for Silas and Lucy Chandler in 1880 and 1910 do not show a George Chandler as a son. In 1880 William T 17, Charlie W 13, Robert E 7 and Ada 3. No George. Who is George that Silas’ Great Great Grandaughter refers?

    Do you find any record of his Manumission (sp)? If he paid for his own freedom it seems that he would certainly wanted it recorded. If he had not been freed before the war. Why would he need to pay for his freedom after the war. That was granted by the Emancipation Proclamation.

    I feel some of his kin are missing the point that Silas served alongside Andrew Martin, not that he was “enlisted” in the CSA. I’ll take the side that he helped save Andrew from losing his leg.

    Supposedly he had a church on property “given” to him by Andrew Martin Chandler. Did you find any record of his serving as a Minister. Many times Ministers labored in other professions to earn money and preached on the weekends.

    Regards,
    Andrew Chandler Dodenhoff

    • Andy Hall Jun 2, 2011

      I feel some of his kin are missing the point that Silas served alongside Andrew Martin, not that he was “enlisted” in the CSA. I’ll take the side that he helped save Andrew from losing his leg.

      There’s that vaguely-defined word “served” again. It’s used, as here, to gloss over distinctions, well understood at the time, between the role of Silas and a servant to his master, and that of Andrew, as a soldier.

      So long as one stays clear on exactly whose service each man was in at the time, then you and Kevin likely agree on more than you realize.

    • Kevin Levin Jun 2, 2011

      Mr. Dodenhoff,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. This is, indeed, a fascinating story. I do not have any evidence that Silas paid for his freedom before the end of the war. Keep in mind that he also served as a body servant to Andrew’s brother in 1864. It is important to keep in mind that he was present with both brothers as a slave and not as an enlisted soldier. I also believe that Silas assisted Andrew following his leg wound, but we ought not to be so quick in assuming a motive given that we have no personal record from Silas.

      We need to be very careful how we apply the concept of “service” to Silas’s time with the Confederate army.

    • Myra Chandler Sampson Jun 2, 2011

      The Manumission law of 1842 made it illegal to manumit a slave in the state of Mississippi and a few other border States. Before that, the only slaves that were manumitted were old or sick. There were no battles fought near West Point, so there were no Union troops to deliver the news or enforce the new Executive order. Who were to tell the slaves in West Point, Mississippi that they were free? That is why African Americans in Texas celebrate Juneteenth. Slaves did not learn that they were free until June 19th, 1865, two and a half years after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was signed on January 1, 1863. One theory is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. It is quite certain that Silas was legally free when he purchased his freedom, however, he didn’t know it.

  • Myra Chandler Sampson Jun 2, 2011

    George was born to Silas and Lucy Chandler on August 5, 1877. His birth name was Ada. When he reached adulthood, he changed it to George Washington Chandler. If you knew my grandfather, you would understand why he chose such a big and important name. If he is questioning his lineage to Silas, he has a loosing battle. All of his other questions will soon be answered.

  • Margaret D. Blough Jun 3, 2011

    Mrs. Sampson: Thank you for the information. Thank you for your work with Kevin. It is unfortunate and tragic that so much of the literature about enslaved people and freed men, women and children both during slavery and during Reconstruction comes solely through white commentators. The opportunity you are providing for some of those individuals to have their own voice is a significant addition to our understanding of their lives and I thank you.

    There is also the point that the white Southern reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation was unbridled fury. Even if an enslaved person knew of the EP, implementing it on a personal level was another matter. Even enslaved people who were in proximity to Union armies because they were taken along with Confederate armies, either by an owner/owner family member or as an impressed laborer, had the ties of home. According to Mr. Dodenhoff’s account, Silas Chandler had a wife and, by 1863, a baby son at home. His escaping definitely would mean totally losing contact with them and opening them to retaliation. If an enslaved person could purchase his or her freedom according to state laws and have proof of free status that would satisfy white civilian and military authorities in Confederate controlled territories during the period between the EP and the end of the war, then that would be the most prudent thing to do.

    To talk about choice for an enslaved person or a free/freed black in the rebel states misrepresents the period. The white power structure not only didn’t care what people of color thought, the white power structure thought they knew best what was best for them. Any choice exercised by an enslaved person or a free/freed black in the rebel states in the face of white oppression was fraught with risk, including the risk of being killed.

  • Drew Dodenhoff Jun 3, 2011

    Dear Mrs. Sampson, Thanks for clearing up the question concerning your grandfather’s name.

    I can understand your concern about the story being told that your great – grandfather “served” in the Confederacy. I was never told that “he enlisted,” but that he went to war alongside AM as his servant.

    Many of Andrew Martin Chandler’s descendants have been told the stories of the close relationship of AM and Silas Chandler. The young (16) CSA enlistee and his slave that went to war together. (I always thought that Silas was only 17, but now I know he was close to 24, married and had a child.) I wonder how those facts got left out of the family lore.
    Some have been told that Silas had been “granted his papers before they went off to war.” Obviously, this must be an incorrect statement based on the info you provided.

    Others have been told that AM went to the state capital in 1871 to vouch for Silas’ “service” during the war so he could get his MS pension. Again, none of us had questioned the “family lore.”
    I went through my genealogy files today and found a copy of a letter in which AM asked his mother to send a pair of socks and as much butter as she could with Silas. Also for her to get some cloth for a winter coat and Silas would bring the brass buttons. There is no doubt that Silas was a dependable link for the family to their son. One statement was, ” he hoped Silas wouldn’t be caught.” I guess the Union forces must have been between West Point and Shiloh.

    I can’t speak for any other kin other than my immediate family, but we have always felt a deep respect for the memory of Silas Chandler. Just my opinion, but I personally don’t think he looks slumped over in the photo. I just think that AM is much taller. It would be nice to have a photo of them standing up side by side. Are there any photos of Silas in his old age? I’ve misplaced the copy of a photo of AM in his later years. From what I know many of the “studio” photos were staged with braces to hold the subjects steady for several seconds while the photo was taken.

    I look forward to finding out more “facts” about the man you and I have grown to admire over so many years.

    Regards,
    Drew Dodenhoff

    • Kevin Levin Jun 3, 2011

      Mr. Dodenhoff,

      Thanks for the comment. I am sure Ms. Sampson will respond shortly. For now let me add the following.

      1. The age difference between Andrew and Silas makes it unlikely that the two were close friends. Andrew’s father died in 1854, which meant that he likely took on increased responsibilities for managing a large plantation with his brothers. I have yet to see any evidence of emancipation papers before the end of the war. Silas also served B.S. Chandler during the final year of the war.

      2. Silas applied for a pension in 1916 (three years before his death) that was granted to former slaves. This is an important point given that many people operate under the impression that these were the same pensions granted to former Confederate soldiers. They were not.

      3. I went through the very same letter you reference this morning. The letter clearly reflects Silas’s instrumental value to the family. His job as liaison included bringing supplies from home to camp.

      Thanks again for the comment.

  • Myra Chandler Sampson Jun 4, 2011

    Margaret D. Blough

    Thank you for your kind words. Many African Americans find it too painful to discuss the Civil War or slavery. I know friends who do not like to hear or say the word Slave. You may find interesting reading in a book, “Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome” by Joy Degruy Leary, Ph.D, It is bone chilling how much I can relate to in this book, however that is no excuse, we really do need to get more involved.

    Drew Dodenhoff

    I appreciate you being open minded and wanting to learn the truth about our ancestors. We do agree on some things We agree that AM enlisted and carried Silas alongside as his servant. We agree that Silas made many trips from the battlefield to the plantation in Palo Alto delivering messages and packages. We agree that Silas probably helped Andrew when he injured his leg. I also agree that Silas and Andrew had a close “MASTER-SLAVE” relationship. After all, Silas was born on the Chandler plantation and we do not know who raised him or what happened to his parents or if he had siblings. I mean no offense, But when I think of the relationship between SiIas and Andrew, I think of my relationship with my German Shepherd that I love dearly. We are great friends. I would do almost anything for him and I am sure that he would lay down his life for me, however, he is still a dog. No matter how close Andrew and Silas were, Silas was still a slave.

    The only other picture that I have of Silas is of him and Lucy on their wedding day.
    Have you ever heard any information about Silas’ parents?

    • Richard Jun 7, 2011

      Your description of the master-slave relationship really hits the nail on the head for me. I have been spending alot of time reading the Confederate Veteran Magazine and trying to reconcile in my mind the concept of a “faithful servant”.

  • Drew Dodenhoff Jun 4, 2011

    Dear Mrs. Sampson,
    Regretably, I know very little about the Chandler history. My grandmother was the youngest daughter of Andrew Martin by his second wife. For many years I didn’t know that she had any siblings. My grandfather moved his family to South Carolina around 1913-14 and they were there until the late 1920s. When he died my grandmother and her children moved back to Mississippi. Within a couple years they moved to New Orleans where my father found employment after the depression.
    My father never spoke much about his Chandler family, more about his Dodenhoff kin in South Carolina.
    I’ve only been to West Point a few times in my life in the late 50s and 60s to visit my grandmother and in 2001 to bury my father.
    It was not until his death that I went to West Point and was told of how the several Chandlers all moved to Mississippi from Virginia. I’ve wanted to find out the story behind that move. What made several brothers and sisters to uproot their families and move to Mississippi?
    I’ll try to see if any of the genealogical documents I have record anything about Silas’ parents.
    I think of Andrew Martin and Silas as the two young men in the photo, not as “Pomp” my dad’s grandad. So I hope you don’t mind me calling your great grandad by his first name.
    Regards,
    Drew

    • Myra Chandler Sampson Jun 7, 2011

      You wanted to know what made several brothers and sisters uproot their families and move to Mississippi? I have been researching the Chandlers since the Confederates placed that Iron Cross and Confederate flag on My greatgrandfather’s grave. I don’t blame the Chandlers for this, since only one white Chandler attended the ceremony and he was not from West Point. Willis and Rebecca Hill Chandler and their five sons and two daughters left Halifax County, VA for Mississippi in 1839. They came to Mississippi as a result of the signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek between the Federal Government and the Choctaw Indians. This was the first removal treaty carried into effect under the Indian Removal Act. The treaty ceded 11 million acres through the heart of Mississippi (Choctaw Nation.) White settlers from all over the country came to claim land. The Indians were marched off to Oklahoma without their horses and many of them died in route. They died from exposure, starvation and disease, This history is fo fascinating, the more I learn, the more I am amazed.
      Silas and Andrew did have friendly contact after the war and I have several documents that show that.

      • Andy Hall Jun 7, 2011

        I am sooooo looking forward to that article when it’s out.

        • Kevin Levin Jun 7, 2011

          I sent a draft off to the editor earlier today. Unfortunately, a magazine article doesn’t allow for the kind of detail that you are probably looking for. It hopefully lays out the broader narrative of Silas and some of the most common interpretive mistakes.

  • Drew Dodenhoff Jun 5, 2011

    Dear Mrs. Sampson,
    I haven’t found any mention of Silas Chandler’s parents. Unfortunately, the genealogical information that I have is not as detailed with narrative only birth, marriage and death dates for my immediate ancestors. (As I mentioned before, I was not aware of Silas’ age and marital status as a young man.) I didn’t know that Andrew Martin’s brother served in the CSA. Plainly, I know very little about the Chandlers of West Point.

    I can never share the same feelings the way you do not having had family members as slaves. I hope that somewhere in your family story there are indications that Silas and Andrew Martin after the end of the Civil War and as one free man to another maintained a cordial or friendly relationship. As I mentioned before my family had always been told of the life long friendship between these two men. It started as slave and master, but evolved to two men that shared years together in battle. As a career Naval Officer, the bond I have with my former squadron mates and ship mates, enlisted and officer alike is one that those that have not served cannot understand.

    Regards,
    Drew

  • Drew Dodenhoff Jun 7, 2011

    Dear Mrs. Sampson,
    Thank you. I wasn’t aware of circumstances that led the Chandlers to move from VA to MS en masse. I became aware that Clay County had been carved out of an Indian Territory when I was in West Point for my father’s funeral a number of years back.
    You are fortunate to have copies of correspondence from so far back. I only have two items. (One in Andrew Martin’s hand, but temorarily misfiled. It was a summary of his time in the Confederacy that he prepared for a newspaper article. The other is the copy of a letter from AM to his mother that Mr. Levin and I have.)

    I have spent most of my time researching my Mother’s family in New Orleans. She had a very infamous character in her mother’s family. Because of the scandal he was involved in all my mom’s generation were forbidden to talk about “family history.” As if the scandal would just disappear. Her grandfather and great-uncle actually forbid their sons from marrying because they wanted to end the family name!! Many alleged historians have continued to gum up the history of this individual because they repeat things they have read, but not verified for facts. Seem like you have a similar quest trying to clear up inaccurate accounts of your grandfather’s life story.

    So isn’t it fortunate the we have Chandler great – grandfathers that we are proud of. My grandmother Mary Ivy Chandler Dodenhoff did a lot of genealogy, but she was into dates, not the “story” behind the person. She did include the family lore about the two young men going off to war, but didn’t mention that her uncle went, as well. Of course that must have been a couple years later because he was four years younger than Andrew Martin is one can trust the Census of 1860.

    Regards,
    Drew

  • Andrew Chandler Dodenhoff Jul 29, 2011

    In response to the inquiry concerning the land that Silas Chandler bought/was given to build a church. While talking to the funeral director at my father’s funeral in West Point. (His first name was Rush.) He told me the story. “AM gave Silas some land across from AM’s house in Palo Alto to build a church. The original church burned down and another was built on the same spot.” Whether there is still a church there or not, I don’t know. Allegedly Andrew Martin and other “white” Chandlers are buried in a plot that has a fence around it. The parishioners of “Silas’” church are buried around the Chandler Plot. I just assumed that Silas had become a minister. Maybe he was just a very devoted person who used his skills as a carpenter to build the church on the land that he purchased/was given.

  • Ryan Cox Sep 3, 2011

    You might be interested to know that in Canton, Mississippi there is a monument dedicated to all of the local blacks that contributed to the confederate cause. I believe it was placed in the 1920′s. This would have been in a time that there existed no need to “create” a false impression of black contributions to the CSA.

    My ancestor fought for the South as a reservist at sixteen years of age. He did so in order to defend his home in northern Mississippi because he had heard of the burning of farmsteads by Union troops in Tennessee. Unfortunately, his resistance to Federal occupation was necessitated even after the war in order to protect his constitutional rights. I possess many family stories that relate to the reign of terror perpetrated by the Union forces during “Reconstruction”. One incident recounts that a black tenant on my family’s farm was beaten by Union soldiers in an attempt to gain information on the whereabouts of former CSA soldier Daniel F. Rogers; my great-great-grandfather. My great-grandmother witnessed this beating in the 1870′s when she was Just a child. She also witnessed first-hand other actions by Union soldiers (constant home invasions and theft) that left her with vivid nightmares into her adulthood.

    It irks me that the history of the southern cause is being sullied in a “very” obvious attempt to curry votes for left wing agendas. I present Mr. Woodbury’s post as a typical example. Among educated southerners, there is no issue with openly deploring the horrors of the institution of slavery. However, I find the sanctimonious arrogance of anti-South revisionists failing to ever mention the culpability of the North in the institution of slavery. Indentured servants, the use of child labor in the sweat shops of the Northeast and the deadly work conditions for children used in coal extraction from the mines of Appalachia continued well after “1865″. I also note a significant disconnect from those that tout the honorable efforts of the Union forces to free enslaved persons in the South when they fail to see that these same soldiers then moved West to continue a war of extermination and relocation against the American Indian for the next thirty-plus years. History has reported that Custer was a murderous scalper and that Phil Sheridan was famously quoted, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian”; these are men to look up to?

    I have been asked many times why I don’t let the family history go and stop defending the “Lost Cause” — I would if it didn’t involve a cowardly surrendering of the noble efforts of my ancestor to defend his homeland against a “scorched earth” invasion that continues to have negative ramifications today. There are still a few of us Southerners that refuse to surrender the truth of the War Between the States. If the North had only been as generous to the South as it was to Japan and Germany after WWll, maybe the acrimony wouldn’t have been passed down through the generations. I feel it is my honorable duty to resist the efforts of some to rewrite history in order to perpetuate a program of cultural genocide against the South for political reasons.

    There are volumes of documents that support the integrity of the South in its war effort. They can withstand academic challenges by the hypocritical politically motivated authorities(?). It only starts with the recognition that West Virginia was admitted to the Union as a “slave state” in 1863? That Brown University was founded by slave traders, that New Jersey was the last State holding enslaved persons in “1866″… (way after Appomattox), that U.S. Grant’s wife owned slaves and was ordered to free them in “1865″, that I was sitting peacefully in an integrated elementary school in the middle of a cotton field in Leflore County, Mississippi in the late 1960′s reading about the bus burnings in Pontiac, Michigan and Boston, Massachusetts?

    All any proud Southerner seeks is for facts to be accurately recounted! The barely hidden political agenda of any person attempting to discredit proud confederate ancestors is the first sign that their screed will be historically inaccurate. We’re not racists because we are proud Southerners. Anyone playing that tune should consider the moral ethics of that position. The topic concerning the Chandlers may be a sincere fact- finding effort, but I have to be jaded in its purpose and integrity. I am sorry that Silas Chandler’s ancestor cannot take pride in her ancestor’s dedication to duty — misguided or not. As for me, I do not seek the approval of others by discrediting my ancestor’s efforts. My teenaged G-G-grandfather honorably attempted to resist an invasion by a conquering force of war-seeking looters and arsonists… hey, it is what it is!

    • Kevin Levin Sep 3, 2011

      Thanks for the comment. What does any of this have to do with the history of Silas Chandler? Do you have something to add to that specific subject?

  • Ed Oct 12, 2011

    After seeing the photograph again last night I noticed something about the weapons. Andrew’s knife is larger and the guns he has require more skill in hitting the target. Silas has a pepperbox and shotgun, neither requires the same level of skill. The pepperbox was created for the civilian market and close targets. So Andrew is displaying superior weapons which would reflect his position over Silas.

  • LISSA CAHNDLER Dec 18, 2011

    im am very much interested in learning about my family history. as a black african american, there is so much to learn. it still amazes me how my great ancestors fort the good fight of faith…i look foward in hearing & learning more about my ancestors….thank you

  • Eric Nov 16, 2012

    This article repeatedly inserts what it wants to be true, rather than leaving it at what we know to be true and admitting what we don’t know.

    Because of a seven year age difference they almost certainly weren’t friends? Seriously? People had/have loving marriages with decades between the two and kids and adults alike have friends with significant age differences all the time! I had friends friends who were ten years or more my senior when I was growing up and there was nothing unusual about that. To make such a conclusion, based on absolutely nothing, is just looking for ways to dispel a story that the author doesn’t want to be true. Legitimate scientists and historians look for the truth, not what they want to be true.

    Ditto for suggesting that Silas’ parents were sold, despite admitting that there is no evidence of this. It could be that they were sold, but it could also be that they died, that they abandoned him, that he was carried off by ravenous storks and was only found by the Chandlers, or any number of other possibilities. We don’t know what his parents’ story is because we have no record of them and to suggest only one possibility that helps to paint Andrew Chandler’s family in a bad light and establish bad blood between him and Silas is intentionally manipulative and has no place in legitimate historical research.

    There is no evidence he saw battle, but to emphasize this without acknowledging that this precisely because he had no official military record is, again, an attempt to manipulate the reader into favoring the story the author wants to be true. He may have seen battle or he may not have. We know he was with the unit, but we don’t know what his personal role was during times of combat because he had no service record. Honest and ethical historical reporting should be left there. There is no room in legitimate historical studies for advocating what someone wants to be the case.

    The article talks about how a story about donated land is disproved by county records, and then in the very next sentence talks about how unreliable those records are to discount a different piece of information. That’s called cherry picking and the only thing less professional than that is actually fabricating data.

    And because he slouches in a picture, he was clearly an unwilling participant with a boy he didn’t like? Really? This is what passes for a legitimate historical observation these days?

    Also, the comment about the weapons that was added to the article demonstrates that neither the comment’s author, nor the article’s author, have any appreciable knowledge of firearms (or blades) from this period. Either that or they are choosing to ignore knowledge they are in fact aware of to further a conclusion they want to be true and that was reached in advance. All of these weapons were in common use. Also, Andrew’s knife is a bowie with a hand guard, not a machete, or “gladio-like”. There are loads of them in Civil War museums and personal collections across the country. All of these weapons -knives and firearms – were common fare.

    The SCV is, without a doubt, guilty of pushing a version of history they want to be true. I have found some utterly untrue accounts through SCV sources, though other accounts have been absolutely confirmed. They are not a source that any historian worth a damn would cite, (not that they would be even if they had a flawless record, because they are not a historical source) but this Kevin Levin fellow has no room to criticize them. He does exactly what they do, just with the opposite bias. He has pre-arrived at conclusions, seeks out what he wants to be true, uses scant information to draw broad conclusions, manipulates readers towards the conclusion he wants them to draw with speculation and conjecture, and ignores evidence he doesn’t like. With a little creative editing and a different conclusion, this could be a SCV article!

    It could very well be that the version of history Mr. Levin wants to be true is, indeed, the truth. It could be that the version advocated by the White Chandler family and the SCV is the truth. The laws of probability tell me the truth is probably somewhere in between, but whatever the truth may be, we only have the evidence to make very limited concrete conclusions (I say, as if there is another kind). His combat record, his personal relationship with Andrew Chandler, the history of his parents, and the root cause for his bad posture in a photograph are not subjects which we can make such conclusions about and the way these issues have been treated by the SCV and Mr. Levin is unbecoming of anyone interested in pursuing real historical research.

    Unfortunately, though, it is perfectly becoming of the despicable partisan politics within the professional and amateur Civil War historian communities.

    • Kevin Levin Nov 16, 2012

      Eric,

      Thanks for taking the time time to comment. You are responding to a blog post from 2010. This post does not constitute the final word on Silas Chandler. It merely reports on a conversation I had with Silas’s great granddaughter. I have written extensively on this blog about Silas, including an essay co-written with Myra Chandler Sampson that was recently published in the magazine, Civil War Times. I suggest you read it.

      http://cwmemory.com/tag/silas-chandler/

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