There are only a handful of images of Confederate soldiers and officers with their slaves or camp servants. The famous tintype of Andrew and Silas Chandler is the most famous, but it is also one of the most unusual images. The photograph of the two was likely taken in August 1861 right around the time Andrew enlisted as a private in the Palo Alto Guards, which became Company F of the 44th Mississippi Infantry, Army of Tennessee.
Most photographs of master and slave show the former sitting with the slave standing behind and just slightly out of focus. Andrew and Silas sit side by side. Both occupy center stage. More importantly, both men are armed. Andrew wears a typical private’s jacket and holds a pinfire pistol while a revolver is nestled in his belt. Tucked into what appears to be Silas’s Short or Shell jacket is a pepperbox, which leaves his large left hand free to grip a rifle across his lap. To complete this unusual scene, both men wield large bowie knives in their right hands.
It is likely that the weapons are studio props.
There is something quite humorous about this image. It’s not that the two men are armed, it’s that they are armed to the hilt. We would do well to remember that Andrew was only 17 years of age in 1861. Silas was about 24 years of age. Andrew must have been anxious to capture those feelings of youthful exuberance and the anticipation of martial valor for his family. One can imagine a wide-eyed Andrew as he spotted the props and quickly found a way to include as many as possible. Perhaps that is why Silas is seated. Observing the image from this perspective, it’s hard not to chuckle.
What Silas made of this scene is more difficult to discern. He has always appeared to me to be seated just slightly slouched compared to Andrew. Did he share Andrew’s excitement? Was he disinterested or perhaps even embarrassed by this faux display of martial manhood?
What do you see?