A Fitting Conclusion to the Silas Chandler Story

Andrew and Silas Chandler
Andrew and Silas Chandler

[Hat-tip to Andy Hall]

As many of you know, over the past few years I’ve maintained a sharp interest in the story of Silas Chandler. The famous image of Silas seated next to his owner, Andrew Chandler, remains one of the most iconic images of our Civil War. Around it revolved a divisive and often confused debate about race relations in the Confederacy and the existence of black Confederate soldiers. The original tintype remained in the hands of Andrew Chandler Battaile Jr., a descendant of Andrew’s. While there is no doubt that Mr. Battaile cared deeply about preserving the original artifact there can also be no doubt that he did not fully understand the story represented in the image. Yesterday he donated the tintype to the Library of Congress. Continue reading “A Fitting Conclusion to the Silas Chandler Story”

John A. Andrew’s Abolitionism Through Whiggish Eyes

I am making my way through and thoroughly enjoying Henry Greenleaf Pearson’s, The Life of John A. Andrew, which was published in 1904. It’s nice not having to compete with multiple biographies of the Massachusetts governor and in this case Pearson’s biography is a different kind of beast altogether. It’s been a while since I read one published at the beginning of the twentieth century. Like many biographies published at this time this one has a strong Whiggish bent to it. Continue reading “John A. Andrew’s Abolitionism Through Whiggish Eyes”

A Black Confederate For the Intellectually Challenged

This is the first black Confederate headstone dedication that I’ve come across in quite some time. There is nothing particularly unusual about this story except for the fact that there is no attempt to hide the fact that the individual in question is clearly not a soldier.

It couldn’t be any clearer. Continue reading “A Black Confederate For the Intellectually Challenged”

Why the Civil War Matters (according to Ta-Nehisi Coates)

Update: Check out this insightful interview of Coates by Bill Moyers.

Somehow I am going to find a way next year to use Ta-Nehisi Coates’s brilliant essay on reparations in both my U.S. History survey and Civil War courses. My classes covers a good chunk of the history discussed in the essay. It’s not that I expect or even want my students to agree with Coates’s conclusions; in fact, part of the goal of any lesson would be for students to critically analyze the connections made between claim and evidence. Even more important than the argument itself, I want my students to experience what I believe to be one of the best examples of what it means to struggle with the past and why history ultimately matters. Continue reading “Why the Civil War Matters (according to Ta-Nehisi Coates)”

“So Foundational to the Country”

Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates

The consequences of 250 years of enslavement, of war upon black families and black people, were profound. Like homeownership today, slave ownership was aspirational, attracting not just those who owned slaves but those who wished to. Much as homeowners today might discuss the addition of a patio or the painting of a living room, slaveholders traded tips on the best methods for breeding workers, exacting labor, and doling out punishment. Just as a homeowner today might subscribe to a magazine like This Old House, slaveholders had journals such as De Bow’s Review, which recommended the best practices for wringing profits from slaves. By the dawn of the Civil War, the enslavement of black America was thought to be so foundational to the country that those who sought to end it were branded heretics worthy of death. Imagine what would happen if a president today came out in favor of taking all American homes from their owners: the reaction might well be violent.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations” in the Atlantic