It looks like the latest issue of Civil War Times magazine is now available at your local newsstand. As I mentioned last week the issue features my co-written essay with Myra Chandler Sampson on Silas Chandler. We intended the piece to challenge some of the more popular assumptions surrounding Silas’s relationship to Andrew as well as his Civil War experience. Admittedly, the evidence that we were able to marshal is limited, which makes any attempt at a robust interpretation problematic.
I am not surprised to learn that the good folks at the Southern Heritage Preservation Page are upset with the piece. Apparently, Gary Adams, who is the groups executive chairman, picked it up and he had this to say:
I picked up the latest issue of Civil War Times and found a story by one of many of you favorite writer this time credited to Kevin Levine and Myra Sampson (a descendant of Andrew Chandler)…. This is same magazine and author who had comments to his previous story censured and sent directed to the author. This resulted in discussions for boycotts of both the magazine and advertisers but we argued against that but I will admit we may have to reconsider that decision. The question remains whether or not the poor research is on purpose or attributed to a lack of talent. Here it argues Silas was a servant not a soldier. What I found strange was they fail to mention the family was and is tore with the same argument.
Now I have no idea what Mr. Adams is referring to in regards to comments from a previous CWT article nor do I have any advice on whether it might be worthwhile to boycott the magazine and sponsors.
What I will offer Mr. Adams and the rest of this group is the opportunity to write a response to the specific claims made in this article that will be published on this blog. You can’t beat that. Historical interpretations are always in need of revision based on the gathering of additional sources or a counter-interpretation of existing evidence. This would be a wonderful opportunity to bring together the collective knowledge and wisdom of the entire group against their number one enemy. Best of all, they get to do it on this very blog. I look forward to reading and learning from their research on Silas.
Civil War Times (February 2012)
I just received my author copies of the latest issue of Civil War Times, which should hit newsstands any day now. As you can see Silas Chandler made the cover. I love the fact that he is pictured alone and out from behind the shadow of Andrew Chandler. It’s powerful. Kudos to whoever made this decision. What Myra Chandler Sampson and I tried to do in this short article was tell as much of the story from Silas’s perspective as possible rather than the mythical story that has come to dominate popular memory. That narrative’s treatment of Silas as a loyal slave and/or soldier is little more than a self-serving attempt to ignore or minimize the place of slavery and race in the Confederate war. He has a much more interesting story to tell if we are only willing to listen.
Myra and I want to thank Dana Shoaf and the rest of the editorial staff for their hard work and for their agreeing to take on this manuscript. I have no doubt that their inboxes will be flooded in a matter of weeks. I can already anticipate the reaction. This is my third feature article in CWT in the last year and I have nothing but the highest praise for the work they do. Finally, congratulations to Civil War Times on this their 50th anniversary. Included in this issue are articles by Harold Holzer, Scott Patchan, and Jacqueline G. Campbell. They also published an essay by Glenn Tucker on James Longstreet that originally appeared in their very first issue, which I think is a great idea.
Civil War Times magazine
Yesterday I had a chance to read through the final version of the Silas Chandler article for the 50th anniversary of Civil War Times magazine, which will be published in a few weeks. Other than a few minor changes we are all set. The layout looks great, which is a testament to the hard work and talent of the editorial staff. Some of the detail had to be cut owing to space, but I am confident that readers will appreciate the extent to which it compliments and builds on the recent airing of the History Detectives episode on Silas and Andrew. Included is a very helpful sidebar by Mike Musick that provides an overview of how to research this subject at the National Archives.
Of all the things that I’ve written and published over the past few years this particular article has given me the most satisfaction. It’s been a real pleasure meeting and having the opportunity to work with Myra Chandler Sampson. This article would not have been possible without the hard work she put into collecting material related to her great great grandfather. Most importantly, we had a chance to correct one of the most popular and misunderstood stories from the Civil War era. You can’t beat that. Thanks again to Dana Shoaf and the rest of the staff at CWT for all their support.
Those of you interested in how the evolution of digital technology has transformed the writing and publication of history will want to check out Writing History in the Digital Age, which is an open-review collection of essays edited by Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzki. This is an interesting experiment. You have access to a fairly large number of essays and comments can be added to each paragraph. This open review process will continue until Nov. 14 when the editors will select those essays that will be included in the volume.
Click to continue
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.