Update: Looks like the post has been removed. I am going to chalk this up to another example of simply not knowing how to respond to my critique.
To say that I am excited for the New Year and the publication of my book, Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth (UNC Press) would be an understatement. The book certainly is not intended as the last word on the subject, but I do hope it helps people think through this subject and some of the popular historical figures that often emerge.
No one is more central to this story than Silas Chandler. I have written extensively about Silas and Andrew on this blog for the past ten years and both men appear throughout the book. The famous tintype of the two will grace the cover as well. Thankfully, there appears to be more understanding of the history of this relationship in recent years thanks to a PBS History Detectives episode that appeared in 2011.
Unfortunately, not everyone has stayed up to date on the Chandler saga. Consider Lani Burnette’s Facebook page, Black Confederates and Other Minorites in the War of Northern Aggression, which yesterday featured the famous photograph of Silas and Chandler along with Lani’s “analysis.”
Where to begin. We should start by noting that Silas’s legal status is never once referenced. He was born a slave to the Chandler family in Virginia and eventually moved to Mississippi. There are plenty of other problems, but here are just a few:
- There is no evidence that the two were childhood friends.
- The weapons in this photograph were likely studio props. In fact, Silas’s uniform may also have been a prop.
- There is no evidence that Silas saved Andrew’s leg in a hospital.
- As to why Silas never ran away, the author never mentions that he had a wife and newborn baby back in Mississippi.
Like most of the stories I explore in my book, we know very little about their relationship. What is shared in the historical record almost always comes through the pen of the slaveowner, but this does not prevent Burnette and others from drawing conclusions that have no basis in the available evidence. When Andrew Chandler came around to writing his own account of the war for Confederate Veteran magazine he made no mention of Silas. The story of Silas saving Andrew’s leg supposedly took place at Chickamauga.
The lack of curiosity about this story is reflected in the photograph of Andrew Battaile, Jr. and Bobbie Chandler, who appeared in the PBS episode cited above. Both of them were disappointed by the findings at the end of the investigation. In other words, neither person would find anything of value in Burnette’s profile.
Let’s end with a taste of the comments, which referenced my own work on this subject.
I think this says it all. In just a few months I won’t have to write posts like this. My response will simply be: “READ THE BOOK.”