No Mention of Silas Chandler

Battle of Chickamauga (Sept. 1863)

Thanks to Andy Hall for passing along the following items from Confederate Veteran.  The first is Andrew M. Chandler’s obituary from the July 1920 issue.  It includes a reference to his severe wounding at Chickamauga, but there is no reference to Silas.  Let’s just be clear about the nature of the story, which sits at the center of the mythology that surrounds these two.  Here is the standard Internet account:

During the fighting at Chickamauga, Andrew Chandler suffered a great wound to the leg which the surgeons were ready to amputate off. But Silas pulled out a gold coin that the boys were saving to buy some whiskey. Bribing the doctors to let Chandler go, he then carried the injured boy on his back to the nearest train. They rode all the way to Atlanta in a box car. Once there, the hospital doctors saved the boy’s leg and life.

Remember, Silas and Andrew supposedly remained life long friends.  I should point out that I have little doubt that Silas escorted Andrew home following his wounding and he may have saved his life.  What we don’t have, however, is any evidence to support the specifics of this account.  But if it were true one would expect some acknowledgment from Andrew.  Well, perhaps not in an obituary that was likely written by a family member.  What about an account written by Andrew himself about his experience at Chickamauga for Confederate Veteran?  Keep in mind that this publication is littered with references to loyal former body servants/slaves, who rescued and saved their masters on the field of battle.  To be fair, Andrew doesn’t mention his wounding at all; rather, he uses the opportunity to share the experience of battle.

This is a story that has been passed down between the families, but there is no evidence to support the specifics of the account.  Family stories can be incredibly valuable in the search for historical truth, but they can just as easily hinder that process.  I will leave you with the words of Chandler Battaile, great-great-grandson of Andrew M. Chandler, which helped to close out the History Detectives investigation.

I think it’s interesting to understand the place of stories in family histories. Obviously, the story that we’ve shared is one that is very comfortable, and comforting to believe. But without documentary evidence, it is a story. Our families’ histories have been, and will always be, deeply intertwined and evolving with the times.


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“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

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10 comments… add one
  • Myra Chandler Sampson Oct 13, 2011 @ 6:47

    In the biography of Andrew M. Chandler, there is no mention of Silas

    Clay County MSGenWeb: Andrew M. Chandler

    • Kevin Levin Oct 13, 2011 @ 6:56

      It would be interesting to see that article. I would love to know who wrote it as well as his connection or lack thereof to Andrew and Silas.

      • Myra Chandler Sampson Oct 13, 2011 @ 15:40

        This is the web site
        Clay County MSGenWeb: Andrew M. Chandler

        • Kevin Levin Oct 13, 2011 @ 15:58

          I believe you included a copy of that web page in the packet.

  • BorderRuffian Oct 13, 2011 @ 5:17

    There was an article about Andrew and Silas in a 1909 edition of the West Point (MS) Leader (don’t know the exact date). It was written when both Andrew and Silas were alive and I believe included the now famous photo. Do you have that article?

    • Kevin Levin Oct 13, 2011 @ 5:59

      I have not seen it. I do have a West Point article, but it is from a bit later. Do you have a specific reference for it (URL)? Excellent find, BR.

      • BorderRuffian Oct 13, 2011 @ 7:51

        This is from the Sept. 16, 1994, edition of the Washington Times.
        The way it is described it may be only the photo with a caption-

        “A Mississippi slave will be honored tomorrow as a hero of the Confederacy
        It is not clear whether Silas carried a weapon for the South, which would have been rare. But a photograph in the 1909 West Point (Miss.) Times Leader shows the two men in Confederate uniforms, each holding a long knife. Silas has his other hand on a rifle that rests on both men’s knees.

        The headline over the picture says ‘Master, Slave Fight Side by Side.’ The caption said the photo was taken ‘in the days of the Civil War.’ “

        • Kevin Levin Oct 13, 2011 @ 7:59

          Thanks for the reference as well as the reminder of the good work the SCV did in butchering the memory of Silas Chandler. The SCV should have honored Silas for surviving slavery and a war that, if successful, would have meant continued bondage for him and the rest of his family.

    • Andy Hall Oct 13, 2011 @ 6:02

      That would be interesting to see. It may corroborate some of the traditional account of Andrew Chandler’s wounding, but I’ll bet medium-sized money that it’s framed, like so many other accounts of that period, as another “faithful slave” narrative.

      Here’s an interesting question to chew on — suppose the newspaper story, written decades after the events, repeats some of the claims that are debunked by the contemporary documentary records, like the alleged transfer of the church? Does that nullify the validity of such documents, or merely show that the warm-and-fuzzy narrative passed down in the family was established early on?

      • Kevin Levin Oct 13, 2011 @ 6:18

        I agree on both counts and good question as well. It would be nice to have access to an account that involved Silas, but even if it did we would have to inquire as to whether he was in a position to disagree. After all, this is about the time that he applied for his pension as a slave, which suggests that the family had hit hard financial times. More than likely the article’s content – like the vast majority of accounts from this period – did not include the input of their former slaves.

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