Celebrating a Certain Kind of “Black Confederate”

Impressed Slaves Working on Fortifications

[Cross-Posted at the Atlantic]

One of the things that jumps out at you when you look closely at the profile of the African Americans celebrated by the Sons of Confederate Veterans as “black Confederate soldiers” is that they were all body servants.  The best examples include Aaron Perry, Weary Clyburn, and Silas Chandler.

  • They “followed” their masters to war
  • Identified closely with the Confederate cause
  • Rescued their master on the battlefield (dead or wounded) and brought body home
  • Were awarded pensions for their “service”
  • Remained life long friends with their former owners

I’ve suggested before that this narrative owes its popularity to its close connection to the mythology surrounding the loyal slave that took hold even before the war.  What is interesting, however, is that body servants were not representative of how the Confederacy utilized slave labor during the war.  In fact, we know that the number of slaves brought into the army with their masters as servants dropped by the middle of the war for a number of reasons.

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Silas Chandler on Voice of Russia Radio

Yesterday Myra Chandler Sampson and I spent about 45 minutes with Voice of America radio host, Ric Young, to discuss our recent Civil War Times article about Silas Chandler and related topics.  I thought the interview went well.  It was nice to have the opportunity to talk for an extended period of time and I was particularly interested in Myra’s reflections on a number of topics related to Civil War memory.  Have a listen.

I know I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating that I absolutely love the fact that Silas is pictured alone on the cover of the magazine.  That was a great move by the design staff.

Black Confederates on Russian Radio

Tomorrow at 12 noon [E.S.T.] Myra Chandler Sampson and I will be interviewed on the Voice of Russia radio to discuss our recent Civil War Times article about Silas Chandler and Black Confederates as well as other issues related to Civil War memory.  The interview will be about 45 minutes long and you should be able to listen live.  If not, I will make sure to make it available once it is archived.  Myra and I are looking forward to it.

A Good Year For Silas Chandler

I absolutely love this photo.  Pictured below are two generations of the Chandler-Sampson family taking the time over the holidays to learn about their famous ancestor.  The photo conveys the power of history and reinforces my firm belief that what we do as historians matters.  I am sure my co-author, Myra Chandler Sampson, agrees.  There is still time to pick up the most recent issue of Civil War Times at your local newsstand.  I think it is safe to say that 2011 was a good year for Silas Chandler.

A Challenge to the Southern Heritage Preservation Group

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.