Southern Pride in the Deep North

Civil War Monument in Dowagiac, Michigan

Looks like trouble in the Deep South North over the display of the Confederate flag in a public high school.  Earlier this week, school officials in Dowagiac, Michigan banned students from wearing clothing that displayed the Confederate flag.  Tensions between black and white students have continued to mount since the decision.  A number of students have been suspended and police now patrol the school grounds owing to the number of threats that have been made both online and at the school.  The whole thing is utterly ridiculous and, in the end, it looks like school officials are to blame for allowing the is to get out of hand.

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Charlie Sheen Gives Civil War Midterm Exam

Well, not really.  But if anyone out there is looking to integrate some of the more bizarre Charlie Sheen quotes into your Civil War midterm exam you may want to check Professor Nicolas Proctor’s test.  From the NoLeftTurns: The Ashbrook Center Blog

For my American Civil War midterm, the extra credit was a set of Charlie Sheen quotations. Students could match up to ten of them to appropriate Civil War leaders in particular circumstances. They then had to provide a brief explanation for each match. So, for example, a good answer for #10 would be: “Grant after the fall of Forts Henry and Donalson.” Similarly, a good answer for #5 could be “Forrest while raiding in central Tennessee.”

  1. I will deploy my ordinance to the ground.
  2. I don’t sleep; I wait.
  3. “Can’t” is the cancer of “happen.”
  4. I’m a high priest Vatican warlock.
  5. I have one speed; I have one gear: GO!
  6. They’re the best at what they do. I’m the best at what I do, and it is ON!
  7. I think my passion is misinterpreted as anger sometimes. And I don’t think people are ready for the message that I’m delivering, and delivering with a sense of violent love.
  8. I’m here and I’m ready. They’re not. Bring it.
  9. That we are to stand by the President right or wrong is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.
  10. I’m bi-winning. I win here. I win there.
  11. Life comes down to a few moments. This is one of them.
  12. Boom, crush. Night, losers. Winning, duh.
  13. Fame is empowering. My mistake was that I thought I would instinctively know how to handle it. But there’s no manual, no training course.
  14. Here’s the good news. If I realize that I’m insane, then I’m okay with it. I’m not dangerous insane.
  15. I have defeated this earthworm with my words. Imagine what I would have done with my fire breathing fists.

How Web 2.0 Rescued Silas Chandler’s Memory

Impressed Slaves Working on Confederate Earthworks

At the beginning of Tuesday night’s History Detectives episode Wes Cowan offered the following assessment of his Antiques Road Show appraisal of the now famous tintype of Silas and Andrew Chandler:

Guys, I can’t tell you how exciting this is for me. After the Roadshow episode aired there were a lot of questions that were raised about the story.  Viewers wrote in droves to question whether the African American in the picture was a slave or a free man and whether so-called black Confederates were a myth. It’s a story and a debate that I also find fascinating.

I was one of those viewers, but I chose to speak out on this blog.  Of course, I had been writing about Silas and the broader mythology of black Confederate soldiers for some time, but this particular episode probably did more to push me over the edge than anything else.  Here was a chance on national television to debunk many of the wild claims made about the role of African Americans in the Confederacy and essentially a family’s story was allowed to pass as history.

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No Mention of Silas Chandler

Battle of Chickamauga (Sept. 1863)

Thanks to Andy Hall for passing along the following items from Confederate Veteran.  The first is Andrew M. Chandler’s obituary from the July 1920 issue.  It includes a reference to his severe wounding at Chickamauga, but there is no reference to Silas.  Let’s just be clear about the nature of the story, which sits at the center of the mythology that surrounds these two.  Here is the standard Internet account:

During the fighting at Chickamauga, Andrew Chandler suffered a great wound to the leg which the surgeons were ready to amputate off. But Silas pulled out a gold coin that the boys were saving to buy some whiskey. Bribing the doctors to let Chandler go, he then carried the injured boy on his back to the nearest train. They rode all the way to Atlanta in a box car. Once there, the hospital doctors saved the boy’s leg and life.

Remember, Silas and Andrew supposedly remained life long friends.  I should point out that I have little doubt that Silas escorted Andrew home following his wounding and he may have saved his life.  What we don’t have, however, is any evidence to support the specifics of this account.  But if it were true one would expect some acknowledgment from Andrew.  Well, perhaps not in an obituary that was likely written by a family member.  What about an account written by Andrew himself about his experience at Chickamauga for Confederate Veteran?  Keep in mind that this publication is littered with references to loyal former body servants/slaves, who rescued and saved their masters on the field of battle.  To be fair, Andrew doesn’t mention his wounding at all; rather, he uses the opportunity to share the experience of battle.

This is a story that has been passed down between the families, but there is no evidence to support the specifics of the account.  Family stories can be incredibly valuable in the search for historical truth, but they can just as easily hinder that process.  I will leave you with the words of Chandler Battaile, great-great-grandson of Andrew M. Chandler, which helped to close out the History Detectives investigation.

I think it’s interesting to understand the place of stories in family histories. Obviously, the story that we’ve shared is one that is very comfortable, and comforting to believe. But without documentary evidence, it is a story. Our families’ histories have been, and will always be, deeply intertwined and evolving with the times.

Indeed.

It’s Not a Good Day For the Black Confederate Myth Makers

Andrew and Silas Chandler

Let me be perfectly clear that despite some problems I had with the final section of last night’s History Detectives episode about Silas and Andrew Chandler I am pleased with the overall production.  Wes Cowan and the rest of the HD staff put to rest the question of whether Silas was a slave or a soldier and, with the help of Professor Mary Frances Berry, put to rest the controversy surrounding the recruitment of slaves as soldiers in the Confederate army.   The points were clearly articulated and they were based on the best scholarship and a close reading of the relevant archival sources.  As I’ve already stated, the show will not convince the diehard black Confederate myth makers nor should anyone criticize it because of this fact. The show was never meant for folks whose understanding of the past is based more on faith than critical thought and honest investigation.

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