The Legacy of Silas and Lucy Chandler

The loyal slave/black Confederate narrative is an insidious myth. As I argue in Searching for Black Confederates, it reduces African Americans to caricatures and has long treated them as a means to an end in the development and reinforcement of a Lost Cause narrative that for a long time helped to maintain legal segregation and a culture of white supremacy. The stories of individual body servants or camp slaves mattered little beyond what would reinforce the racial assumptions of a population trying to make sense of overwhelming defeat, the end of slavery, and a commitment to re-establishing white supremacy.

The Lost Cause narrative offers very little insight into the lives of former camp slaves like Silas Chandler [featured on the cover of the book] and his wife Lucy, who survived slavery and a war that if successful would have kept them enslaved indefinitely. We learn nothing about the challenges, triumphs and the joys they experienced as free men and women.

What we do know is that their lives after the war undercut every assumption of the slaveholding class that justified their bondage. Silas and Lucy remained in West Point, Mississippi after the war and even owned land. As a trained carpenter Silas helped to construct an African-American church as well as a number of prominent public buildings.

They raised a family beginning with their first child who was born in the middle of the war while Silas accompanied Andrew Chandler and later his brother Benjamin until the final days of the war.

Their children went on to successful careers as doctors and educators and leaders of their respective communities.

This post was prompted by a twitter thread from the current resident of a D.C. home that was once owned by one of the grandchildren of Silas and Lucy Chandler.

These are the stories that are overshadowed and pushed further away from our collective memory every time someone makes a claim about loyal slaves and black Confederate soldiers.

This is the legacy of Silas and Lucy Chandler.

About the author: Thank you for taking the time to read this post. What next? Scroll down and join the discussion in the comments section. Looking for more Civil War content? You can follow me on Twitter. Check out my forthcoming book, Searching For Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth, which is the first book-length analysis of the black Confederate myth ever published. Pre-order your copy today.

7 comments… add one
  • Robert Colton Aug 30, 2019 @ 5:14

    Excellent

  • Beverly Wright Aug 30, 2019 @ 5:27

    Thank goodness for this post, and thank you Dr. Levin and Mr. Chingos for providing it to us. Not too long ago (months) an officer in a women’s Confederate advocacy group was continuing to state in a public forum that the enslaved could not handle being freed and the other tropes that go along with that. I won’t get on my soapbox about the nasty, pervasive ways that kind of paternalism invades our society today, but my social media demonstrates it daily.

  • Diane Hyra Aug 30, 2019 @ 5:34

    Fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing all of this!

  • lloyd1927 Aug 30, 2019 @ 16:36

    If this “marriage” occurred during slavery, we cannot assume that Lucy was a willing “bride.”

    • Kevin Levin Aug 31, 2019 @ 1:48

      I am not sure I understand your point.

  • CliosFanBoy Sep 3, 2019 @ 11:45

    does that building still stand in DC??

    • Kevin Levin Sep 3, 2019 @ 12:21

      I believe so.

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