It’s been a week of posts about Weary Clyburn and I suspect many of you would prefer that I move on to something else. Many of the usual suspects in the Southern heritage community believe that I am attacking the memory and good name of Ms. Mattie Rice. One person in particular compared my posts this week to the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church, which was initially confusing to me since I thought the individual in question was a member. I’ve always found topics like this, where there is a conflict between history and memory, to be ideal grist for this blog mill.
As I understand it, the problem for my detractors is that I don’t accept the narrative advanced by Ms. Rice, which essentially frames the story of her father as that of a slave who fought as a solider in the Confederate ranks. It’s true. Given my understanding of the history of slavery and the Confederacy and access to the relevant archival documents, it is my contention that this narrative is false. There is no wartime evidence that Weary Clyburn served as a soldier in the 12th South Carolina Infantry and postwar documents related to his pension clearly state that he was not a Confederate soldier. It is irrelevant whether Ms. Rice believed such a story. My responsibility as a historian does not begin and end with what any one individual happens to believe about the past. Continue reading “Weary Clyburn Didn’t Serve the Confederacy, He Survived It”→
Update: Just so we are all on the same page regarding the stupidity of the poster as well as the ignorance of the page’s approving readers here is a link to Silas’s pension. HE DID NOT AND COULD NOT APPLY FOR A CONFEDERATE SOLDIER’S PENSION. All you need to understand this is a functioning pair of eyes and the ability to read.
And once again we are reminded that it’s about heritage, not history. You would think that “restoring the honor” would at least involve honoring what we now know about this image and the two individuals in it. Once again, for those of you interested in this image and the story of Silas and Andrew Chandler I recommend the History Detectives episode as well as the article I co-authored with Myra Chandler Sampson.
Another reminder of why I teach as I begin the new school year. Thanks again, Virginia Flaggers.
The title of the Post article is a clear victory over the self-serving agendas of certain heritage groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy and a broader unwillingness and/or inability to engage in the most basic historical research. Continue reading “A Victory For the Good Guys”→
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”→
Looks like the story of Andrew and Silas Chandler is now the subject of a poem by Yusef Komunyakaa, which appears in the collection, Lines in Long Array: A Civil War Commemoration: Poems and Photographs, Past and Present. There is something satisfying about the story of Silas making it into such a collection and some of the stanzas are quite beautiful, but it is unfortunate that Komunyakaa makes so many mistakes. More to the point we are presented with the story of Silas as the loyal slave whose world is defined by service to Andrew and the Confederate cause. Continue reading ““I Am Silas””→