Let me be perfectly clear that despite some problems I had with the final section of last night’s History Detectives episode about Silas and Andrew Chandler I am pleased with the overall production. Wes Cowan and the rest of the HD staff put to rest the question of whether Silas was a slave or a soldier and, with the help of Professor Mary Frances Berry, put to rest the controversy surrounding the recruitment of slaves as soldiers in the Confederate army. The points were clearly articulated and they were based on the best scholarship and a close reading of the relevant archival sources. As I’ve already stated, the show will not convince the diehard black Confederate myth makers nor should anyone criticize it because of this fact. The show was never meant for folks whose understanding of the past is based more on faith than critical thought and honest investigation.
But if we take one step back we can get any even clearer view of this particular show’s importance and lasting value. Notice that Wes Cowan never went about investigating this subject by doing a search on Google and consulting one of the thousands of websites on the subject. He didn’t get into a shouting match with folks who believe that they have a monopoly on their southern heritage/history. Cowan consulted with a respected scholar, utilized a database, and a few archival records. The conclusions are indisputable. So, why does this matter?
Silas Chandler was the black Confederate community’s best card. If anything demonstrated the existence of hundred, if not thousands, of loyal black Confederate soldiers it was the image of Silas and Andrew in uniform and armed. To deny it meant that you were delusional, a Yankee, northern liberal carpetbagger or worse. Here is what Ann DeWitt wrote not too long ago at the Southern Heritage Preservation Page:
What everyone should know is this. The bloggers, who are against acknowledging the hard work and dedication of African-American military service with the CSA, have drawn the family members of Silas Chandler into the debate. The goal is to prove that Silas Chandler unwillingly went to war with Andrew Chandler. Are the blogger’s motives sincere in protecting the family or are the blogger’s motives centered on promoting their own personal historian careers?
This is the same woman, who recently uncovered an entire regiment of black Confederate cooks. My only question for Ms. DeWitt is how quickly does she plan to include a link to the HD episode on her “educational” website? When will Dixie Oufitters remove their “Chandler Brothers” t-shirt from their catalog? And finally, what about the Sons of Confederate Veterans itself, which claims legitimacy as a historical organization. Will they instruct individual chapters to remove or revise the many websites published about Silas Chandler as part of their commitment to spreading “true history”? I won’t hold my breadth for any of these corrections, but that doesn’t really matter. The silence from the usual suspects speaks volumes.
The shell shock is probably fleeting, but perhaps they got a brief glimpse of what it is involved in serious research rather than the self-posturing and defensive tone that is all too often embraced as deep historical understanding. At least for now, if you are going to speak out on this particular case you better have done your research.
Again, their silence speaks volumes.
(Berry) First let me say I will not consider anything that Mary Frances Berry has to say about race. I observed her service while she was on the civil rights commission. Mary Frances Berry is a racist.She will use racism as a means to a end. (T-Shirts)Why should they? The t-shirt are not printed Chandler Brothers. The t-shirts are printed Chandler Boys. Both were Chandlers. Maybe some bias it your mistake? Buy more from Dixie Outfitters.
Thanks for the comment, James. It doesn’t really matter whether you choose to believe Professor Berry. Given what we know about the relevant history surrounding this story she really didn’t say anything controversial.
The shirts suggest that the two were life long friends and there is simply no evidence to substantiate such a claim.
I think Mr. Rudd is one of those folks who tend to prove the old addage that Kentucky is a state which seceded AFTER the Civil War.
I have seen South Carolina Compensation Claims made by slave owners requesting payment for the loss of services of slaves who had been “impressed into service” to work on the military fortifications for the Confederate Government and who died during that time. None of these documents indicate that the said slave was considered a member of the Confederate Army.
That’s right. They were clearly viewed as slaves. There is also no evidence that those engaged in the debate over the enlisting of slaves as soldiers viewed impressment as a precedent. It was a step in a new direction entirely for a slaveholding society.
Thanks to History Detective and Kevin Levin for helping get the truth out about Silas and Andrew. I am One of Silas’s Great grand daughters. My Grand father, George, lived with my family. As I was growing up, he told many stories about his father, Silas. These stores that I have recently heard have changed alot and been added to. I never believed that Silas was free and volunteered to join the army to fight so that he would not be free.
When this famous picture of Andrew and Silas appeared in the
Daily Times Leader in 1949, my Grandfather bought a big stack of them and sent one of them to all of his children and told the story about the two men. Again I want to give thanks to you for getting the story right.
You are very welcome. Keep a lookout for my co-authored article with Myra Chandler Sampson in Civil War Times which should hit newsstands around December-January. It will fill in some of the gaps left by History Detectives.
Please look on the date of the petition signed by the descendants of Silas and you will see that this was started long before my first blog on cwmemory. On my first blog I stated that the overwhelming majority of the descendants of Silas Chandler had signed a petition to removed that cross and flag from Silas’ grave. We had solicited assistance from many organizations, but it was Kevin who offered to help. Because of Kevin and The History Detective, our family is now more united than ever because now we all know what the mojority of us already knew. I am asking you and Kevin Weeks to remove all myths concerning Silas Chandler from your sights and any other place you have them written.
Do you know if Silas was married at the time when the photo was taken with Andrew?
If not, when was Silas married?
Thank you for your assistance.
It’s a good question, but keep in mind that slave marriages were not acknowledged by law.
I understand, but I was wondering if Silas was married when the photo was taken. I was hoping Mrs. Sampson might have some information on that.
It’s a good question. I would like to know as well, but nothing she has shared with me sheds any light on it.
“Please look on the date of the petition signed by the descendants of Silas”
OK. It’s 2008.
The Cross was placed at Silas’s grave in 1994. Why did it take 14 years to raise a petition?
Who has control over the cemetery and gravesite?…and allowed the Cross to be placed there? I am sure the UDC and SCV are well aware of the proprieties of setting markers in cemeteries (they’ve placed hundreds of them over the decades). They need permission from the organization that owns/controls the property. Who gave them permission?
Why is it that you seem to find fault with everyone but the SCV. You ask questions of everyone, but the SCV. You question the motivation of everyone, but the SCV. I sense a pattern here.
“Wes Cowan and the rest of the HD staff put to rest the question of whether Silas was a slave or a soldier…”
False dichotomy. The two are not mutually exclusive. Slaves have been soldiers since ancient times. Besides, the question for most of us isn’t whether Silas was a soldier, but whether he served the Confederacy in any capacity. You set up a false standard (“soldier”) and try to use it to prove that because blacks weren’t official soldiers, they were nothing; they were slaves, and that equals nothing, judging by your attitude.
You and the History Detectives have your opinion, to which you are entitled, and people who disagree with you have theirs, to which they are entitled.
BTW, I didn’t watch the program. I don’t care what Silas’s status was. I’m not one of those who believes there HAS to have been blacks in the CS Army to legitimize it and its cause; I think they’re both legitimate with or without blacks. I do think whoever served, white/black, free/slave, soldier/supporter ought to have their contribution acknowledge.
Just as you are more focused on how the war is “remembered” than on the war itself, I’m more focused on the motives and activities of critics of the Confederacy and the South, such as yourself, than on the war itself.
It was not a false dichotomy to white southerners nor to the Confederate government. That is a bizarre claim to make. Silas did not served the Confederacy. He served his master. That was the nature of the debate surrounding the government’s attempt to forcibly impress tens of thousands of slaves to dig trenches for the army. Slave owners objected throughout the war because it violated their rights as property holders. You clearly do not understand the relevant questions nor do you have any grasp of the history.
No one has ever said that slaves “were nothing.”
What the HD presented the other night and what is included in my co-authored article with Myra Chandler Sampson is not simply opinion. All of us have made a case based on a reading of the available evidence and our understanding of recent scholarship. That’s called an argument. You have said nothing about the quality of the argument by suggesting it is simply opinion. I suggest that if you are interested in this particular subject that you should educate yourself.
I don’t care what Silas’s status was.
That about sums it up. My interest in this subject has nothing to do with claiming that the Confederate government was or was not legitimate. Again, that is part of your world.
Just as you are more focused on how the war is “remembered” than on the war itself…
Yes, I am interested in how the war is remembered, but the claims about Silas’s history that I have made here and in my forthcoming Civil War Times essay have nothing to do with memory. They are based on my understanding of the available archival material. Of course, I could be wrong, but that would have to be shown through a counter-interpretation.
I’m more focused on the motives and activities of critics of the Confederacy and the South, such as yourself, than on the war itself.
Best of luck with your little crusade.
Connie, nice to see you again.
When John Lewis Gaddis in “The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past” and Marc Bloch, ” The Historian’s Craft,” wrote about proper research methodology, they outlined the science of history and the legitimacy of historical fact through cross examination. There has not been anything presented on this site that fails cross examination. I can’t speak for the forthcoming article because I have not read it, but I expect much of the same. This makes the argument of opinion null. Kevin is not writing counterfactuals and it is not opinion.
I think Connie has made her position clear in the last comment. She is not really interested in history. That should not come as a surprise to anyone.
There has not been anything presented on this site that fails cross examination.
I beg to differ and point to the whole silly “posture” thing from the other day as direct evidence that this site does, indeed, engage in the very same things it criticizes people on the other side for doing – shoddy, speculative, unsupported “history” that relies on interpretation beyond what the evidence supports, and that is perfectly willing to accept and repeat unverified family lore from certain descendents of a Chandler when they happen to agree with Kevin’s position.
I’ll wait for the upcoming Civil War Magazine article but I want to know if it too is guilty of this, and if it’s anything like the blog I’m afraid it will be.
If the last time I brought this up is any evidence, it will only cause me to be accused of being “obsessed” about Silas’s posture or something. But I’m also not the one who devoted an entire blog post to his posture in the first place.
Once again, you seem to be hung up on a trivial matter. My interpretation of the image is just that – an interpretation. To suggest that it reflects the veracity of the claims that I’ve made about Silas and Andrew is silly. Do you have anything to add to the study of Silas and Andrew and the broader subject of “black Confederates”? I suspect not.
If I am not mistaken, he actually said it was an interpretation in the blog itself. If not, everyone trained in history knows that interpretation of pictures, videos, and song is interpretation. There is not any research done, therefore you cannot cross examine.
To be clear, Lewis is poking at the only part of my coverage of this story that he has the ability to do. He suggests that I am obsessed with the image. It only took me 5 minutes to post it and cut and paste the commentary from the earlier post. He seems to have spend much more time worrying about it. I hope he can move on at some point before he slides off the deep end. 🙂
That seems to be the guiding factor for certain groups. They view history as opinion that can be changed with each individual person without the acknowledgement of reality.
Most of these people are attracted to certain narratives of the past. Either they are suspicious of analysis as well as the folks who analyze or they are just plain ignorant.
Rob. Please. Here’s what he said.
“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.”
Sampson is giving Silas no more understanding and awareness than a dog; Kevin Levin “understands exactly what she means,” and presumably agrees with it. He certainly voices no disagreement with it, and featuring it on his blog without disagreement implies agreement. (Silas is not “hunched over.”)
The last sentence is his opinion. There are historical accounts of young slaves and young masters growing up together developing very strong bonds of friendship. So, going by history, it can just as easily and truthfully be said that the image is of two childhood friends going off to war together and that the future of the boy hinges on the slave next to him. But of course, saying that doesn’t evilize Southern whites, which is the whole point of studying the “memory” of the Civil War and slavery….
First, let me say once again that my view of the image is nothing more than my opinion/interpretation. I have never suggested otherwise so perhaps we can move on from this.
So, going by history, it can just as easily and truthfully be said that the image is of two childhood friends going off to war together and that the future of the boy hinges on the slave next to him.
What evidence do you have that the two were childhood friends given their age difference and what we know about the culture of slavery on a large plantation? Your second point reflects your admission that you don’t really care as to whether Silas was a slave or not. I would assume that if they were indeed best friends that Andrew would understand if Silas would rather stay home and take care of his family and not put himself in harm’s way. We could speculate about this apart from the fact that he was a legal extension of Andrew, but that would take us beyond the realm of responsible history. Causation matters here, Connie. Silas is being taken into harm’s way because of Andrew and not the other way around. That you can’t grasp that reflects just how warped your understanding of history is.
If you read closely enough you would understand that Myra Chandler Sampson was not reducing her ancestor to that of a dog.
There are historical accounts of young slaves and young masters growing up together developing very strong bonds of friendship
Yes, we know that there are scores of such accounts written by whites to secure themselves in the belief that slavery was benign and that their slaves were content. Perhaps you can point us to antebellum accounts authored by slaves that paint such a wonderful and mutually beneficial relationship between slave and master. I am not interested in the WPA accounts because they were written decades after the fact and by former slaves who would have been very, very young during the years in question. Let’s examine the accounts of mature slaves, who considered their masters to be their close friends.
You’ve been given your quota for the day, Connie. From here you can copy and paste my comments and your reaction to the site of your choice. I can only take so much crazy in one day. Thanks for stopping by.
Kevin understands exactly what she means. What she means being, that Silas’ posture indicates an inferiority between the two. That’s what she means. That’s what she says. That is what she is pointing out. Therefore, Kevin understands that is what she means. Perhaps he is presumably in agreement with it. I don’t know I didn’t ask him. That is mainly because I saw this as interpretation. Which can change. I suggest you read follow up conversations instead of cherry picking quotes like you do your sources. I also do not think that Kevin would be in disagreement about the Master-Slave relationship. he has commented numerous times how it is intention to better understand that. You have literally taken one or two accounts, and assume it is the narrative for the whole of the South. But I digress. Again, I said it is interpretation. It is his opinion. Just as others would have opinions over the other things in the picture and so on. You really need to get with the program.
I gave Connie her quota for the day. She needs to take this to her site or SHPG, where validation and the embrace of a community that shares her zeal awaits.
Yea. I guess it becomes hard to continuously moderate comment after comment. One of my blog posts has 124 comments. Granted a large percentage are my retorts.
Of course, the down side of her quota is that I can’t actually see the SHPG anymore. Sad days.
I can’t either, but I take it as a sign of just how defensive or insecure they are that they don’t write for general consumption. Ann DeWitt (who published under the name, Royal Diadem) went underground after her Confederate cooks fiasco. I can certainly understand that. The morality play approach to history gets old after a while.
“I gave Connie her quota for the day.”
You have a quota for minorities like Confederate Southern Americans? Quotas, really Kevin? Sounds like Massachusetts liberal affirmative action BS to me! 😉
I just spit out my coffee on my cat. Thanks, Andy. “Jebediah, come back.”
Slaves have been soldiers since ancient times.
That may be true, but it is irrelevant to the topic at hand. In the American Civil War, the policy regarding the arming of slaves was clear; for example, CSA Sec of War James Seddon said in November 1863, “Our position with the North and before the world will not allow the employment as armed soldiers of negroes.” The use of armed slaves in the CSA was not allowed early 1865, just before Lee surrendered at Appomattox.
These are the relevant facts that should be referenced in our discussions.
Besides, the question for most of us isn’t whether Silas was a soldier, but whether he served the Confederacy in any capacity.
?? OK, assuming that was your question: we now know that Silas was a slave who was acting out of subordination to his master. That is: he was not serving the Confederacy; he was serving his master. So, I guess the controversy in this case is over.
I do think whoever served, white/black, free/slave, soldier/supporter ought to have their contribution acknowledge.
I think we all agree with that. The question, which requires historical interpretation is, exactly what was the nature of Silas Chandler’s “contribution”? In what context do we explain his circumstances and situation?
At its base meaning, a “Black Confederate” is simply a black person who lived in the Confederate states. But some use the term to mean “Black Confederate loyalist,” as in, black men who fought for the Confederate cause, on their own volition.
Meanwhile, others have suggested that when talking about servants such as Silas Chandler, the term “Confederate slave” should be used. This reflects that these men “served” the Confederacy not out of loyalty to the Confederate state, but out of bondage to their masters. (If my recollection is correct, 97% of African descent people in the Confederate states were slaves.)
It seems to me that Silas Chandler is properly acknowledged as a “Confederate slave,” as defined above. Wouldn’t you agree with that?
Connie has already stated that she isn’t interested in Silas’s status, but as you rightly note that lies at the center of the question of who or what he served. As you rightly note, this is exactly what is now settled. There is no debate given his legal status. It doesn’t really matter whether she agrees because we know the answer.
They aren’t silent any more. 🙂
These people are beyond ridiculous.
Some are also beyond help. 🙂
Ms. DeWitt claims that various bloggers are “against acknowledging the hard work and dedication of African-American military service with the CSA.”
I’m just against mischaracterizing it. Take, for example, that regiment of black cooks Ms. DeWitt celebrated … was she protecting the reputation of Confederate cuisine or was she interested in advancing her credentials as a professional researcher?
If it happened to be the latter, then we have a wonderful example of a counterproductive effort.
“..was she protecting the reputation of Confederate cuisine..”
Don’t be dissing the ham biscuits and Goober peas, Dr Simpson!
Thems fightin’ words!
Often people defend what is not being attacked. 🙂
What exactly is the “Black Confederate Myth” ?
See this entry from the Encyclopedia Virginia for a thorough overview of this subject: http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/Black_Confederates
“Only a few black men were ever accepted into Confederate service as soldiers, and none did any significant fighting.”
First, if there were a few black men that served then there were black Confederates ! So were is the myth ? Are you saying there were no black Confederates ?
No one has ever suggested that no black men found their way into Confederate ranks. The fact that a few managed to enlist before the fall of the Confederate government demonstrates this to be the case. The myth is that anywhere between 1,000 and 100,000 slaves and free blacks fought loyally as soldiers. That is the myth. The narrative is meant to draw a wedge between the Confederate government and the preservation of slavery and white supremacy.
“The myth is that anywhere between 1,000 and 100,000 slaves and free blacks fought loyally as soldiers.”
Hey, ole Bruce Levine said *10,000* to 100,000.
Better go with that…
Well, a Harvard professor estimated it at 7,000 so perhaps we should go with that. What’s your point. Either way the numbers game is silly, but that’s business as usual for the myth makers who are all over the place when it comes to numbers.
There you go again with more double standards. You say you don’t want to play the numbers game even as you play it every opportunity you get – even tie it into how you define the elusive “myth.”
You remind me of the guy who insists he takes moral offense over dueling after having fought a dozen of them.
Hi Leonard. Perhaps you can show me examples of this double-standard. If you go back through my posts on this subject you will notice that my interest has much more to do with how free and enslaved blacks were mobilized by the Confederacy rather than trying to figure out how many black Confederates there were. The question itself makes little sense. You seem to get hung up on the most trivial matters. Happy hunting.
Ok I understand and agree with you on that, but isn’t your “Black Confederate Myth” title misleading ? When in fact there were some black Confederates ? Imho that is just as misleading as 10,000 or 1000,000 blacks served the Confederacy. Of course if you say it enough it will become true I suppose.
I don’t think it’s misleading at all given the visibility of the claims that are being made. I’ve gone out of my way to explain as carefully as possible as to the narrative that I am responding to. The myth is not simply about the numbers, but about what those numbers tell us about the relationship between slavery and the Confederacy. I don’t think anyone who reads my blog carefully enough is confused as to what I am referring to as a myth. Thanks for the questions.
“Myth” here is used (correctly) in the academic sense, in that it’s a theme that’s taken on a life and resonance all its own, irrespective of any factual basis for it. A myth is an idea or belief that is embraced by a group or community because it validates beliefs or attitudes held by that group. Whether based on reality or not, a myth grows and builds and perpetuates because it fills a place in its believers’ conception of the world and their past.
The story of John Henry is a good example. There’s much debate among historians and folklorists about actual historical events that inspired the tale and the song. But the importance of John Henry is less about the actual, flesh-and-blood man who lived and died a long time ago, than the idea of John Henry, and what that symbolizes.
The debate over black Confederates, as such, is over just how much reality underlies the myth. Advocates of black Confederates have been working for the last 20 years or more to shoehorn real people (e.g., Silas Chandler) into their conception of what a black Confederate ought to be: patriotic, loyal and true to the Southron cause. (As I’ve said before, the “black Confederate” is little more than the old “faithful slave” narrative, updated for a modern audience in a fresh, butternut uniform.) In doing that, they rarely dig into these mens’ stories in any detail, instead focusing on adding another name to a list. Because that’s what it’s all about — proving the existence of black Confederates, as opposed to trying to understand them an individuals, in all their complexities and conflicted situations.
Thanks, Andy. That pretty much sums it up.
“That pretty much sums it up” No Kevin it don’t.
However it is your blog and your “myth” so I will let you live it. As you said yourself ” No one has ever suggested that no black men found their way into Confederate ranks. The fact that a few managed to enlist before the fall of the Confederate government demonstrates this to be the case.” So the black Confederate myth isn’t a myth.
OK. Thanks for stopping by.
Also reminds me of the Robin Hood myth of Jesse James as the “noble robber” which he himself, & then the family promoted. You can get all caught up an idealized or romantic version of these people’s lives & not even realize how difficult their lives were & the choices they had to make. JJ’s mother even said that their slave Charlotte (“Aunt Charlotte” to the kids) “wouldn’t take her freedom” after the war but “chose” to stay with the family. Where was she supposed to go & what could she do??
Many thousands had no idea what to do with themselves & so they stayed where they at least they knew…
Mary Frances Berry sums it all up about as good as it can be summed up. I agree with what she stated.
There was absolutely nothing controversial about what she stated.
I wouldn’t say they’re silent. They’re repeating the same stuff, as expected from their Mobius strip of a cause.
I guess I haven’t looked around enough. Can you provide a few links?
I’d give you a couple of links Kevin, but I was banned last night. Sad Days. 🙁
Well, I have no doubt that they fit the pattern that I describe in the post.
It took them that long? That’s surprising.
I think it was my comment that when a slave says, “I followed my master to war,” does not mean he actually fought in the war
Really? 🙂 I just assumed if he is wearing a uniform he must be a soldier and if he failed to run away he was loyal to the end. Why do you have to go and think of multiple interpretations of what is so obvious? I don’t know where you find the patience to engage some of those folks.
Honestly, I don’t. I just have not had the experience that you Andy, Brooke, and others have had with them and decided I needed to learn for myself. It was definitely an enlightening experience.