Could This Man Be Silas Chandler?

Update: Here is another sketch set during Davis’s flight from Richmond that depicts camp slaves on foot and as teamsters.

Recently I went through some old email correspondence related to my research on black Confederates. All the way back in 2011 Andy Hall emailed a link to two sketches that appeared in the Illustrated London Times from 1865. The first sketch depicts Jefferson Davis “signing acts of government” while on the run following the abandonment of Richmond in early April 1865. In the second sketch Davis “bids farewell to his escort two days before his capture.”

In both images you can clearly see African Americans, which I suspect were still present with the army as camp slaves.

Silas Chandler

I am interested primarily in the second sketch. Popular memory of Silas Chandler remains tightly intertwined with Andrew Chandler, owing to the famous photograph of the two that was likely taken at the beginning of the war. Websites are full of undocumented accounts that suggest that the two were close friends before the war and that they functioned as equals during the war. Again, none of this is supported by the evidence. In fact, the emphasis on Silas’s connection to Andrew obscures a more interesting and revealing story.

In the final year of the war, Andrew Chandler’s injury, which he sustained at Chickamauga, kept him from the army. But Silas rejoined the war effort–this time as a servant/camp slave to Andrew’s brother, Benjamin S. Chandler. In January 1864, Chandler joined the 9th Mississippi Cavalry, the same unit that escorted President Davis to safety after Richmond was abandoned. Records show that on May 7, 1865, Benjamin Chandler’s unit separated from Davis’s group near Washington, Georgia. Davis was captured shortly thereafter.

Could this man be Silas Chandler?

9 comments add yours

  1. I supposed it could be Silas.
    I find most interesting in studying both illustrations is that the the carbines of the mounted escorts can be readily seen. The three blacks in the sketches are not armed in any way even the one who could be Silas who is dressed in soldierly garb (kepi and bedroll). You would think that all the soldiers protecting Davis at this critical time would at least be armed. My conclusion is that the man who could be Silas is not a Confederate soldier.

    • I have no idea whether the scene was sketched by an observer. I have my doubts. In the end it doesn’t really matter whether it is Silas. What I find interesting is that camp slaves remained with the army until the very end. We know that Silas was with Davis until the end.

  2. Kevin,
    Your comment about whether the illustrator was a witness to the event or not leads me to the question, of the thousands of sketches and illustrations done during the Civil War is there any which shows “black confederates” in actual combat? You would think there would be some based on the numbers of black soldiers who fought for the Confederacy. As you point out the artist doesn’t have to witness an event in order to sketch it, and I think that the Confederates would mention that they had blacks in their armies to the European Press for political and PR reasons.
    If their are any illustrations showing “Black Confederates” in action the Neo-confederates would have them all over the internet.
    Keep up the good work.

    • There are none. I have seen a number of sketches of slaves performing various roles in camp and in the construction of earthworks. There is a very well-known sketch of a Confederate officer forcing two or three slaves to man a cannon. Finally, during the 1864/65 debate over enlistment a number of cartoons were published depicting Confederate slaves in various capacities.

  3. Silas could be any one of the Black men (or none of them) seen in this illustration. I don’t imagine the picture was sketched from life; and wouldn’t that have meant the Illustrated London News would have had a man in the field to draw this and then get back to England for this to appear in the July newspaper? I suppose that’s possible.

    • Silas could be any one of the Black men (or none of them) seen in this illustration.

      Of course. I wasn’t seriously suggesting otherwise for the reasons you mentioned. What I find interesting is that the illustrator includes them at all and as I mentioned earlier it serves as a reminder that slaves were present with the army until the very end.

      • The presence of slavery/servitude months after the 13th Amendment was passed by Congress is what stands out to me in this illustration. Talk about defending the cause until the very end.

        • Yes, but it had not been ratified and I suspect the Confederacy cared little about it as long as they could field an army.

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