I am not a big bluegrass music fan so a great deal of it related to the Civil War goes unnoticed by me. Luckily, I have readers who are kind enough to email me with references to the Civil War that they have come across. This post is the result of just such an email from a reader in Toronto. The song tells the story of slaves escaping to the Union lines to join the army. It was written and performed by The Steeldrivers. Enjoy.
Regular readers of this blog know that I have a deep respect for the work of the National Park Service. Not only do they do an outstanding job of preserving the physical landscapes of many of our most important Civil War sites, but they help us to better understand what took place there and what it means. For any number of reasons that job has proven to be incredibly difficult over the past two decades. Still, no one is perfect and as a historical institution they are bound to make mistakes. Unfortunately, this is one of those instances that must be pointed out given how widely the subject has been misunderstood and even intentionally distorted.
As you can see this is the famous image of Andrew and Silas Chandler, which is often used to buttress arguments concerning the existence of black Confederate soldiers. It is one of the most popular images that can be found on the many websites on the topic. In this case the image is part of an exhibit at the Corinth Interpretive Center at Shiloh. Before proceeding, I should point out that I am currently co-writing an article with the great-granddaughter of Silas Chandler, which we hope to publish in a magazine in the coming year. The brief description under the image could not be more misleading. First and foremost, not once is the visitor told that Silas was a slave and not a soldier. According to the 1880 U.S. Census, Silas was born on January 1, 1837, while Andrew was born on April 3, 1844, which placed them seven years apart rather than two. It is often suggested that the two boys were childhood friends; however, there is no evidence to suggest such a relationship. That is not to suggest that the two were not acquainted with one another and it certainly should not prevent us from looking into how this master-slave relationship was shaped by the hardship of war. Finally, Silas did receive a pension for his participation in the war, but it was not as a Confederate veterans. Like other slaves Silas received a pension under the “Application of Indigent Servants of Soldiers and Sailors of the Late Confederacy.” The application clearly indicates servants were not recognized as a Confederate soldiers, but were entitled to a pension owing to his service to his master.
Unfortunately, this year’s picks are based on a slightly shorter list of books than in the past owing to the amount of time I spent over the summer revising my book manuscript on the battle of the Crater. However, that didn’t prevent me from reading a fairly large number of books that are worth acknowledging at the end of another year. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to read, comment, and consider what I have to say. I have no plans to quit blogging. In fact, the popularity of this site continues to grow and continues to open up new opportunities for me that I could not have imagined just a few short years ago. The coming year promises to be another good one on both the professional and personal fronts. I hope all of you are enjoying the Holiday Season.
Best Civil War Blog: This was one of the easiest choices that I’ve had to make in this category since starting this list. While there are plenty of good Civil War blogs to choose from only a select few stand out to me as important resources for both scholars and general enthusiasts. John Hennessy’s Mysteries and Conundrums is hands down the most important Civil War blog in our little corner of the blogosphere. M&C is the group blog of the staff at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and while Hennessy is the most visible writer other contributors include Noel Harrison, Mac Wycoff, and Eric Mink. Their blog offers a behind-the-scenes look at the complex process involved in interpreting some of America’s most sacred and controversial historic sites. The site offers interested readers a primer on how public history is done and it does so by engaging the public as an integral part of the process. No other website or even published study has taught me more over the past year about the history of the Fredericksburg area, public history, and Civil War memory. Thanks to John and the rest of the staff for inviting us inside, showing us how it is done, and for providing a blueprint that other historic sites can employ.
First of all, apologies to South Carolina for the ridiculous national coverage of tonight’s Secession Gala in Charleston. The coverage reinforces a number of assumptions about regional identification and race that are likely a thing of the past. Tonight’s episode of Hardball with Chris Matthews is a perfect example of this coverage, which somehow managed to surpass the nuttiness of a recent episode of the Ed Show that featured Al Sharpton. Matthews decided to interview Thomas Hiter of the SCV and columnist, Eugene Robinson. All three were equally appalling. Robinson decided to describe the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter as an “act of terrorism.” Hiter did the usual dance around the issue of slavery and Matthews through out the hardball question of the night: “Was John Brown a good guy or bad guy?” As far as I can tell none of these guys understands the history of secession and the Civil War. To give you a sense of how bad this is, I actually think that Hiter won more points on the history. And just think how easy it would be to find two guests, who could actually engage in an intellectual discussion.