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.
Dixie Outfitters t-shirt
Among the images that Civil War Times magazine has chosen to use for my co-authored article with Myra Chandler Sampson about Andrew and Silas Chandler includes the well-known t-shirt by Dixie Outfitters. We wanted to use something that reflects the story’s popularity as well as the mythology that surrounds the two. This one has got it all from the claim that Silas was a soldier to the assumption that they remained life long friends. There is absolutely no evidence for such a claim. Luckily, I own the shirt after one of my students purchased it for me as a gag gift and was able to make it available to the magazine’s editors.
I must assume that the shirt will be pulled by the company given what we now know about Silas’s legal status during the war as well as crucial elements of the broader story. Why am I confident that this will be done? Well, Dixie Outfitters claims on its website to be committed to the “truth of the War for Southern Independence.” We shall see.
The essay goes to press on Wednesday.
Impressed Slaves Working on Confederate Earthworks
At the beginning of Tuesday night’s History Detectives episode Wes Cowan offered the following assessment of his Antiques Road Show appraisal of the now famous tintype of Silas and Andrew Chandler:
Guys, I can’t tell you how exciting this is for me. After the Roadshow episode aired there were a lot of questions that were raised about the story. Viewers wrote in droves to question whether the African American in the picture was a slave or a free man and whether so-called black Confederates were a myth. It’s a story and a debate that I also find fascinating.
I was one of those viewers, but I chose to speak out on this blog. Of course, I had been writing about Silas and the broader mythology of black Confederate soldiers for some time, but this particular episode probably did more to push me over the edge than anything else. Here was a chance on national television to debunk many of the wild claims made about the role of African Americans in the Confederacy and essentially a family’s story was allowed to pass as history.
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