This past week I requested that the famous image of Andrew and Silas Chandler grace the cover of my forthcoming book, Searching For Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth, which will be published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2019. This should come as no surprise. Silas and Andrew have long been the face of this mythical narrative. The image has been misinterpreted by a cross section of the historical community, from National Park Service staff to Confederate heritage groups. Continue reading
Correction: America Through Time is an imprint of Fonthill Media, not The History Press. Arcadia Publishing & The History Press distributes these titles for Fonthill.
A few weeks ago I briefly mentioned the forthcoming release of Phillip T. Tucker’s book Blacks in Gray Uniforms: A New Look at the South’s Most Forgotten Combat Troops 1861-1865. I expressed concern over the use of the iconic image of Andrew and Silas Chandler as the book’s cover art since Silas never served as a soldier during the war and that it did not bode well for the rest of the book. Continue reading
Today I woke up to learn that historian Phillip Thomas Tucker is slated to publish a book on black Confederate soldiers next month with America Through Time publishing, a division of Arcadia and The History Press. This is any author’s worst nightmare. Here I spent years trying to complete a book manuscript on the subject only to be beaten to the punch by another author. Well, having read the book description I am not too concerned. Continue reading
I have to admit to being slow in fully embracing the new world of podcasts. It’s only been in the last year that I have learned to appreciate this particular format. One of my favorite new podcasts is Uncivil, which explores different aspects of Civil War memory and other unusual or obscure narratives from the period. The hosts are quite entertaining and the guests are always thoughtful.
Last month I helped out with a new episode, titled “The Portrait,” on the black Confederate myth. Only a few minutes were used from our hour-long interview, but much of it was integrated into the overall narrative. The episode focuses on a former member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, who was once seduced by this narrative and Myra Chandler Sampson, a descendant of Silas Chandler. The episode is not yet listed on their webpage, but you can click through in the “subscribe” section and listen on Spotify, iTunes, and the other providers listed.
The producers did an excellent job overall and I thank them for the opportunity to participate.
Update: Here is another clip in which Ms. Berry shares that thousands of black men fought as soldiers with the Confederate army. The full segment can now be viewed (begin at 10:30 mark), which does a better job of handling the history of James and Charles Dearman.
We all remember the debacle that took place on The Antiques Roadshow back in 2010 when appraiser Wes Cowan attempted to interpret the famous tintype of Silas and Andrew Chandler. Thankfully, PBS corrected the problem a few years later on an episode of History Detectives.
Unfortunately, it looks like PBS has once again found a way to butcher the history of African Americans and the Confederacy in their new series, Genealogy Roadshow. In this short video Kenyatta D. Berry suggests that “many African Americans were forced into fighting for the Confederate army.” This certainly would have been news to actual Confederate soldiers and civilian leaders. Continue reading
This morning BuzzFeed published an extensive and thoughtful essay about Silas Chandler and his place in the black Confederate narrative by Adam Serwer. Serwer carefully explores the available sources related to Silas’s time in the war, but he also does an excellent job of untangling the many myths that have surfaced in connection with the famous photograph of Andrew and Silas. Just as interesting are the interviews that Serwer conducted with the descendants of both Andrew and Silas and their competing understanding of the history of the relationship between these two men and, perhaps more importantly, what that relationship means in 2016.
I have been in contact with Adam for some time and shared a number of sources with him for this essay. You will see numerous links to this website and and other essays published over the past few years. This is as comprehensive an account that you will find online and it raises all kinds of important questions. For me, it is a reminder of why the black Confederate narrative deserves attention from historians and why it needs to be challenged at every turn.
Update: Here is another sketch set during Davis’s flight from Richmond that depicts camp slaves on foot and as teamsters.
Recently I went through some old email correspondence related to my research on black Confederates. All the way back in 2011 Andy Hall emailed a link to two sketches that appeared in the Illustrated London Times from 1865. The first sketch depicts Jefferson Davis “signing acts of government” while on the run following the abandonment of Richmond in early April 1865. In the second sketch Davis “bids farewell to his escort two days before his capture.” Continue reading
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