“Ex-Slaves” Attend Confederate Veterans Reunion

Yesterday I gave a talk on the myth of the black Confederate solider at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. It was my first visit and I highly recommend that you do as well. Thanks to Wayne Motts for the invitation to speak and for taking the time to take me and my wife on a personal tour of the collection. I got to handle some incredible objects, including William Quantrill’s revolver. We had a great crowd for the talk and they asked some excellent questions.

While walking through the exhibit I came across an image of African American men in attendance at a U.C.V. reunion in Tampa in 1927. There is nothing unusual about this image, though unfortunately, the museum labeled it, “Reunion of African-American veterans of the Confederate Army, 1927.” I took a quick pic of it and put it out of my mind until Wayne showed me the original image. At first we didn’t see it it but then someone noticed that at least one of the ribbons clearly states “Ex-Slave.” Continue reading ““Ex-Slaves” Attend Confederate Veterans Reunion”

In the Studio With Andrew and Silas Chandler

There are only a handful of images of Confederate soldiers and officers with their slaves or camp servants. The famous tintype of Andrew and Silas Chandler is the most famous, but it is also one of the most unusual images. The photograph of the two was likely taken in August 1861 right around the time Andrew enlisted as a private in the Palo Alto Guards, which became Company F of the 44th Mississippi Infantry, Army of Tennessee.

Most photographs of master and slave show the former sitting with the slave standing behind and just slightly out of focus. Andrew and Silas sit side by side. Both occupy center stage. More importantly, both men are armed. Andrew wears a typical private’s jacket and holds a pinfire pistol while a revolver is nestled in his belt. Tucked into what appears to be Silas’s Short or Shell jacket is a pepperbox, which leaves his large left hand free to grip a rifle across his lap. To complete this unusual scene, both men wield large bowie knives in their right hands.

It is likely that the weapons are studio props. Continue reading “In the Studio With Andrew and Silas Chandler”

What a Slave Census Can Tell Us

Thought I would end the work week with a little crowd-sourcing related to my Silas Chandler biography. Right now I am analyzing the journey from Virginia to northeast Mississippi that was made by Gilderoy “Roy” Chandler and Louisa Garner, along with fourteen slaves in 1839. One of those slaves was Silas. I am relying a great deal on secondary sources such as Joan Cashin’s A Family Venture: Men and Women on the Southern Frontier and Charles Sydnor’s helpful, but dated book, Slavery in Mississippi to fill in some of the unknowns. Continue reading “What a Slave Census Can Tell Us”

Walter Johnson Offers ‘A Better Way to Think About Slavery’

For the past few days I’ve been reading about the expansion of slavery into the southwestern states during the 1830s and 40s. Silas Chandler was two years old when his master, Roy Chandler, moved from Virginia to Mississippi in 1839. This was right in the middle of a severe economic downturn owing to runaway speculation as well as dangerous banking policies (or lack thereof) on the state and federal levels. It all came temporarily crashing down and the Chandler family found itself right in the middle of it. Right now all I have are a lot of questions about the family’s history in Virginia, why they moved to Mississippi, and the challenges of getting settled at such an uncertain moment.

I am relying on a number of books to help fill in the big picture, including Ira Berlin’s, Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves, Joshua Rothman’s Flush Times and Fever Dreams: A Story of Capitalism and Slavery in the Age of Jackson, Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism and Walther Johnson’s River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom. From here I will look more closely at Palo Alto and the local region in which they lived.  Continue reading “Walter Johnson Offers ‘A Better Way to Think About Slavery’”

Why Did a Video about the Civil War and Slavery Go Viral?

Yesterday I posted a video of a West Point history professor briefly discussing the central role that slavery played in the coming of the Civil War. While I suggested that there is nothing surprising in this video, Professor Ty Seidule does address a number of widely misunderstood topics related to the central issue such as why non-slaveholding whites supported the Confederacy.

The video appeared following a column by Steven Metz, director of research at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, in which he calls for the U.S. military to ‘Disavow the glorification of Confederate symbolism.’ Professor Seidule is interviewed in this article, which likely explains the statement I highlighted in yesterday’s post about the U.S. army’s role in defeating the Confederacy. Continue reading “Why Did a Video about the Civil War and Slavery Go Viral?”