The Lost Chandler Brother

The iconic image of Andrew and Silas Chandler has fueled some of the most outlandish claims about the service of thousands of black Confederate soldiers as well as the continued loyalty of slaves to their masters and the Confederate war effort.  In the case of Andrew and Silas the image of the two men seated and armed has been used as a centerpiece of a narrative that assumes a close friendship between the two that began before the war and lasted well into the postwar era.  None of these claims can be supported by the available evidence.  One of the claims that can be found on countless websites suggests that Andrew assisted Silas in procuring a pension in the 1870s.  Silas did indeed apply for a pension, but not until 1916 and it is not clear that it was approved.  Most importantly, the pension that Silas received was for his presence in the army as a slave and not a soldier.

If you look closely at the pension you will notice another interesting piece of information.  The pension indicates that Silas served both Andrew and his brother, Benjamin S. Chandler.  Benjamin joined the Ninth Mississippi Cavalry in January 1864. According to his military service record, he surrendered to the Union army at Washington, Georgia, on May 10, 1865.

The story gets better.

The Ninth Mississippi Cavalry escorted President Jefferson Davis once the capital was abandoned in early April 1865.  According to the available evidence, Benjamin’s regiment separated from Jefferson Davis’s group near Washington, Georgia, on May 7, 1865, and were ordered to turn themselves in. They did so and on the same day that Davis was captured.  Not surprisingly, there is no evidence to assist us in understanding Silas’s experience while he was with Benjamin.  I am sure this will not prevent certain groups and individuals from assuming what they will about Silas’s strong feelings of loyalty and fidelity to the cause.  What they will overlook, however, is that the only reason Silas was with Davis was because a member of the family that owned him was present.

So, what if anything does this additional piece of information add to our understanding of the Andrew-Silas narrative?  At first glance not much, but let me suggest that the addition of Benjamin to the picture serves to remind us of one fundamental fact of slavery.  Andrew and Silas were not equals when they left for war in 1861.  Whatever their understanding of one another entailed, in the end, Silas’s presence was a function of his instrumental value as a slave.  In short, he was there to serve and he performed that essential function when and where it was necessary.

The more I dig into Silas’s life the more I come to admire him.  The plantation was, at times, a dangerous place, but Silas managed to survive the most harrowing four years of his life (1861-1865) as a slave of the Chandler family.

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55 comments… add one
  • linda jackson Jul 11, 2011 @ 4:45

    my name is linda my mother and grandparents were born in westpoint. i have heard that we have a great great uncle name Andrew Chanlder. my grand father name was jim Chanlder.i am really not sure,but i belive that there was not to many black chanlders in westpoint,that was not related. big popa had a sister name Mary.if this ring a bell please call me at 1314-6644697 thank you Linda Jackson

  • Drew Dodenhoff Jun 9, 2011 @ 10:49

    Mr. Levin,
    I look forward to reading the article that you co-authored with Mrs. Sampson. From our recent emails she has confirmed the the two Chandler Boys, slave owner and slave had an amicable relationship in the post war years. As a historian you must be aware that as a story is told over the years that many parts get “embellished” and sometimes gets totally messed. I don’t think there was any effort by Andrew Martin’s family to cover up or “white wash” the story. I think some facts were either accidently changed or omitted. Is it critically different that Silas was 24 not only 17 years old? It is interesting to learn that he had a wife and child. Did it change the story in any significant way? Only, it gives those that want a reason why Silas did not escape as he went back and forth.

    Could it be that Silas had a fealty toward Andrew Martin and his brother? I know other families that tell of their former slaves after the war staying and working on the same farms for their former masters. It was what they knew how to do. They had an interdependence with the farm owner and the farm owner could depend on them.

    Is it that much different that the application for a “pension” was for a servent or a soldier? It was a pension set up specifically to aid the indigent former slaves that were from the state of Mississippi that had performed some duties during the Civil War.

    Is there a conspiracy by the Confederate Veterans organizations to try to rewrite history by recognizing some of the slaves or free men of color that served in some way on the Confederate side?

    I had never really thought about the whole situation until reading the article last week in the NYT about the Antiques Roadshow controversy.

    From what I’ve read recently, there were thousands of slaves that went along with their masters to war. This is not unique to the CSA, but to warriors for centuries.
    From what I’ve read there were units formed in Louisiana manned by free men of color and slaves. But, because they were Louisiana militia they were not true Confederate soldiers. Did they not serve the Confederate Cause, even for a short period of time?

    I know it is hard for the great grandchildren of slaves to comprehend that there forefathers felt any fealty or friendship with the children of their owners. Is it not possible that little children raised on a farm in rural Mississippi could actually have a close relationship while one is the slave owner’s child and the other the child of a slave? Of course it was. The same kind of relationships occur to this day when the maid or yard man’s child plays with the employer’s children. The big difference is two hundred years ago it was a slave child. Now it is probably the child of a newly arrived immigrant.

    Do you by chance have a copy of the Citation that was presented when the Iron Cross was presented?

    • Kevin Levin Jun 9, 2011 @ 11:01

      Mr. Dodenhoff,

      The available postwar evidence makes it difficult, if not impossible, to say anything much about their relationship. I have chosen not to speculate on it given that fact. I am aware of the oral stories that have been passed down, but as you note they have a tendency to get distorted and often contradict one another. This case is particularly interesting. The descendants of Silas are not all in agreement over how the history ought to be remembered.

      Yes, it is significant that Silas was seven years older and married given the stories that get bandied about by people who seem to be completely unaware of the basic facts of the story. I can’t speak to Silas’s feelings toward Andrew because there is no record. Thousands of slaves went off to war with their masters, many of them escaped at one point or another. The reasons that individual slaves chose to escape or stay with their masters are complicated and deserve individual attention.

      The Louisiana Native Guard organized early, but was not accepted into Confederate service. There is evidence that a few managed to join individual units, but they are an exception to the rule and reflect the racial complexities in that area.

      I do not have a copy of the citation.

    • Andy Hall Jun 9, 2011 @ 11:42

      There were addressed to Kevin, but I’m gonna butt in anyways.

      Is it that much different that the application for a “pension” was for a servant or a soldier? It was a pension set up specifically to aid the indigent former slaves that were from the state of Mississippi that had performed some duties during the Civil War.

      Yes, it is very different. The roles of enslaved servant and soldier were different enough in 1861-65 that Mississippi enacted separate pension programs to cover each. (Note that there were not separate pension programs for former enlisted men and officers; that speaks volumes about the gulf that, even fifty years on, separated Andrew and Silas, regardless of how much affinity they may have had for each other personally.

      Is there a conspiracy by the Confederate Veterans organizations to try to rewrite history by recognizing some of the slaves or free men of color that served in some way on the Confederate side?

      I wouldn’t call it a conspiracy, because I think most (though not all) advocates of it are sincere but almost entirely ignorant of the historical context, don’t fully understand the documents (e.g. pension records) they cite, accept any scrap of information that supports their claims as gospel, and dismiss anyone who challenge them as “deniers” with an obvious bias and agenda. The alleged existence of large numbers of African Americans in the Confederate ranks, as soldiers, motivated by patriotism and commitment to the Confederate cause, is simply an updating of the generations-old “faithful slave” narrative. It fits in very well with heritage groups’ (including but not limited to the SCV) narrative of the war, and rewrites the position and status of African Americans in the Confederacy. It is a way, in my opinion, of avoiding a serious discussion about the very ugly realities of slaveholding, and the role that institution played in both the South as a whole, and the Confederate war effort in particular.

      As I said earlier, if we’re going to talk about Andrew Chandler and Silas Chandler in any sort of meaningful way, we need to get beyond the vague notion that they both “served,” and be very clear about who each man served, and how each man served. Those are very different things, and it does their memories no credit at all to conflate them.

      • Kevin Levin Jun 9, 2011 @ 11:43

        Thanks for following up, Andy.

        • Drew Dodenhoff Jun 9, 2011 @ 12:26

          Mr Hall,

          On a different thread Silas Chandler’s great granddaugther, Mrs. Myra Chandler Sampson, said that she had documents that confirmed that Silas and Andrew Martin had an amicable relationship in their post war years. Unfortunately, some later white Chandlers during the civil rights era seemed to have been less than friendly with Silas Chandlers progeny.

          It would be interesting to know if Silas had left any remarks of his slave years or if he only mentioned after the war. Mrs Sampson said her grandfather, George Washington Chandler, shared stories of Silas with her. It would be interesting what she could add to the story of the Chandler Boys.

          The story of the Chandler Boys is about three individuals. (Now we understand AM’s younger brother was also “served” by Silas.) Maybe two generations ago when our families started telling the story of the two that went off to war in 1861 they were unknowingly participants in the unwritten conspiracy to promote the “faithful slave” narrative. But my father’s and now my generation are just repeating what we have heard and read. (My grandmother wrote the story and included it in one of her genealogy books.) I had no reason to doubt it because in the 90s when the Confederate Veterans group honored Silas, some of his family members attended and to the best of my knowledge corroborated the story.
          They, like I did not find the need to verify all the details.

          I, like so many southerners were raised with the “War was fought for States Rights” story. Now there is no doubt in my mind that the issue of slavery was a key cause to the Secession of most of the Condfederate states, if not all.

          It is too bad that the founding father’s couldn’t have had the courage to eliminate slavery when they established the country. But they didn’t. It took a war that cost millions of lives to correct their incompetence.

          You could read the Articles of Secession for the individual states to the “deniers” and not convince them. Even though from what I have read all articles include some reference to retaining or maintaining the institution of slavery as a reason to secede.

          On the other hand, I am puzzled why President Lincoln would not speak out against slavery. He seemed to want to emphasize, “the preservation of the Union” and not muddy the waters with slavery.

          It look forward to the PBS program to see if they have found anything that shows my family lore of the Chandler Boys is grossly inaccurate.


          • Andy Hall Jun 9, 2011 @ 13:18

            I can’t speak to the relationship between Andrew Chandler and Silas Chandler directly, as I don’t know the documentation. But more generally, one thing I’ve often seen is modern folks looking at a friendly, amicable relationship between former slaves and former masters, and not recognizing the still-wide social divide that separated them, even decades after the war. Friendly relationships can often be superficial, and it’s a mistake to read too much into a photograph or a short note in the absence of real evidence one way or another.

            If you look at pictures of Confederate reunions, for example, you’ll frequently see African American men in the pictures. This is commonly taken as “evidence” that these men were soldiers, but if you dig into contemporary accounts of those same events, the old black men were depicted differently, described differently, and often treated differently than the old white soldiers. There were deep and abiding social and cultural barriers that remained all those decades later, that even a shared experience in the war could not overcome. Friendly? Yes. Friends? Sometimes, yes. Peers? Nope.

            I am puzzled why President Lincoln would not speak out against slavery. He seemed to want to emphasize, “the preservation of the Union” and not muddy the waters with slavery.

            Lincoln never made any secret about his personal revulsion to the institution of slavery; at the same time, he harbored the same sorts of prejudices about African Americans that most whites did, North and South. Those things are not incompatible; one can believe that African Americans are inherently inferior to whites, and still think chattel bondage is immoral and wrong.

            Lincoln and the Republican party were adamantly and publicly opposed as policy to any expansion of slavery into the new territories, and that’s why his election n November 1860 pushed South Carolina and other states over the edge and into secession. But Lincoln’s primary goal even then was to restore the Union; it was only after a year or more of fighting that he, and an increasing number of Northerners, began to seen that the cause of the Union and the cause of emancipation could not be separated.

            • Richard Jun 9, 2011 @ 18:06

              Hi Andy

              I have access to the Confederate Veteran magazine and have reviewed 8 years so far. Interesting reading. I have not seen the word soldier used so far, usually its “faithful servant”, “body servant” or “war servant”. Even when they send invitations for these men to attend reunions or join veteran organizations they are called servants. When former masters pay for funerals or act as pall-bearers they still refer to them as servants. You even see former slaves and former slave masters putting ads in the magazine looking for each other. Complex stuff. The Stockholm syndrome comes to mind.

              Listed below is a story about an enslaved man who was present at three different conflicts. They do use the word veteran in his case.

              BY C. M. DOUGLAS, OF COLUMBIA, S. C., PRESS.

              One of the best known freedmen in Columbia, S. C., is old William Rose, who has been messenger for the Governor’s office under every Democratic administration since 1876.
              His history is worthy a space in the VETERAN. He is now eighty years of age, but is still active and vigorous enough to be at his post of duty every day, and nothing delights him more than to take part in any Confederate demonstration.
              William Rose was born in Charleston in 1813, and was a slave of the Barrett family of that city. He was brought to Columbia when only twelve years old, and was taught the trades of carpenter and tinner. In his younger days he went out to the Florida War as a drummer in Capt. Elmore’s company, the Richland Volunteers, an organization which is still in existence, and which has made a proud record for itself in three wars.
              Subsequently he went through the Mexican War as a servant for Capt. (afterwards Col.) Butler, of the famous Palmetto Regiment. But the service in which he takes the greatest pride was that in the days of the Confederacy. He was the body servant of that distinguished Carolinian, Gen. Maxey Gregg, and as soon as he heard that his beloved master had fallen on the field at Fredricksburg he rushed to his side as fast as a horse could take him, and remained with him until the end came. His description of the death of Gen. Gregg, of his reconciliation with Stonewall Jackson, and his heroic last message to the Governor of South Carolina are pathetic in the extreme and are never related by the old man without emotion.
              William saw Cleveland inaugurated, and was present at the unveiling of the soldiers’ monument at Richmond, and at the recent grand Confederate reunion at Birmingham.
              From the latter he returned laden with badges which he cherishes as souvenirs of theoccasion.
              For sixty years he has been identified with the Richland Volunteers, and they never parade without him. About two years ago he presented a gold medal to the company, which is now shot for as an annual prize. He never forgets Memorial Day, and no 10th of May has passed by since the close of the war without some tribute from him is placed on the Gregg monument at Elmwood. Recently he has been given a small pension by the United States for services in the Florida War.
              Old ” Uncle” William is of a class fast passing away. They will not have successors, but all the world may witness benefactors in Southern whites until the last of them crosses the ” dark river.”

              Confederate Veteran August 1894.

              • Andy Hall Jun 9, 2011 @ 19:02

                Interesting. I’ve seen newspaper accounts that sometimes loosely use the word “veteran,” or even “soldier,” but when you read the piece it’s really clear what these men’s role was.

                In many ways these men and their families, after emancipation, had terribly difficult decisions to make, about what they would do, where they would go, and so on. A great many settled into lives not too much different than their previous ones. White Southerners interpreted this as the old trope of how “loyal” their former slaves were, and how well that reflected on them as former masters, but I suspect the African Americans themselves had a very different perspective on it.

                Last year I profiled a black man named Crock Davis, who’d been a cook and body servant for the Hill brothers in the 8th Texas Cavalry. Davis attended several regiment reunions, accompanying his former masters. Interesting enough, when his attendance at the 1913 reunion got written up in the paper, his name was given as Crock Hill. He lived in the same town as his former masters, one of whom happened to run that year for president of the organization. Now one can look at the photo from that reunion, and say, “look — there’s a black man right there at the reunion with his fellow veterans,” or one can look at all the complex relationships that must have been going on between those men.

                Just curious, do you have access to the full Confederate Veteran magazine? Google books has a few volumes, but it’s spotty.

              • Andy Hall Jun 9, 2011 @ 19:39

                One additional note: the closing line, “old ‘Uncle’ William is of a class fast passing away,” is a very common construct in accounts like that. The phrase “old time Negro” or similar turns up a lot, and seems to refer not so much to his status decades before, but to his willingness to conform to certain expected roles in the present, reaffirming their respective stations in the Jim Crow South.

              • Ddop32 Apr 13, 2013 @ 11:19

                South Carolina War Hero William Rose;

                I just attended a historical lecture on Maxcy Gregg. In this lecture, William Rose was mentioned dozens of times. He was in 3 wars, and he claimed 4. First, he was THE ONLY black man to receive a pension by the U.S. for the Seminole War. He was also in the Mexican War and War Between the States as a Confederate. He was a Red Shirt for Wade Hampton. Being as he was a black Red Shirt, he considered this his 4th war. He was so well respected, that even when Hampton hater Ben Tillman took office, he kept him on the State House staff for years. He stayed by Gen. Gregg until he passed from wounds received in battle. Gregg bestowed to Rose his gold pocket watch. His Militia Unit (current day SC Guard) promised him a memorial upon his death. His grave was recently located, and petitions will be made for some kind of memorial. An SC paper (The State..i think) even ran an article that when the Spanish-American War started, his militia unit had to force the 80-something yr old ‘Uncle Willy’ off the train in full uniform. There needs to be more education about this great American, Southerner, & Son of the Palmetto.

          • Myra Chandler Sampson Jun 9, 2011 @ 19:42

            “Silas and Andrew did have friendly contact after the war and I have several documents that show that.”

            I would like to clearify that statement.
            I have two documents; Silas Chandler’s pension application, signed by Andrew and a 1950 newspaper article written by BS Chandler, son of Andrew. My Grandfather told the same story that is in the newspaper article

            Silas’s pension application states that all applications must be filed with the Chancery Clerk on or before the first Monday in September, 1916. Silas filed his application on July 17th, 1916. The seal was applied and approved and allowed on September 12, 1916. A.M. Chandler signed it on September 13, 1916. Andrew signed it after it was approved and after the deadline. I have no explanation for this.

            As to the fact that some of Silas descendants attended the Iron Cross ceremony, an overwhelming majority of his descendants including some of those who attended the ceremony signed the petition to remove the Iron Cross from Silas’ grave.

      • Kevin Levin Jun 9, 2011 @ 11:56

        One way to get at this crucial difference between who Silas and Andrew served is to ask what would happen if they had left the army without permission. In the case of Andrew it would have been a violation of the terms of service that a citizen volunteer or draftee owed to the military. Silas was legally bound to Andrew and would have been subjected to punishment at his discretion.

        • Drew Dodenhoff Jun 9, 2011 @ 12:33

          Mr Levin,
          I’m not arguing with you. I had never questioned who Silas was serving.
          From everything I have read you are correct that the CSA did not enlist slaves or free men of color during the early years of the war.

          Some articles imply that the slaves served alongside their masters. Did they carry weapons and fire on the Union soldiers? I have no way of confirming or denying.


          • Kevin Levin Jun 9, 2011 @ 12:35

            I am in no way arguing with you. I truly appreciate you taking the time to comment and I hope the additional information has helped.

            • drew dodenhoff Jun 11, 2011 @ 14:51

              Dear Mrs. Sampson
              Sorry, I misread your statement. I thought you had several documents. Sure wish we had more written information on the lives of the Chandlers.
              I know very little about them. One time as a child (I’m 63 now) I was visiting my granmother in West Point and another lady was telling about knowing Silas Chandler. I guess my grandmother had told her I was named after Andrew Martin. In Mississippi I’m called Andrew Chandler, they were always big on saying both first and middle names.

              I understand that many of your kin were not interested in your Great grandfather getting anything from a Confederate Veterans group. My family was proud that he was being honored. As I mentioned before he has always been held in high esteem by my family.

              I hope you have some luck in finding more details of your family history. I’m sure you family in the present and particularly, in the future will appreciate your endeavors, to find the story and facts surrounding you family.

              I have been working off and on clearing up mysteries in my Mother’s family history. Some how or other one of her great-grandfathers just disappeared!

  • Ed Norris May 4, 2011 @ 4:28

    That chapter of law is much clearer than the form Mississippi used by former slaves applying for a pension. The state developed a special form for former slaves and I guess it was laziness or an oversight to leave in the part about being a “Confederate soldier or sailor” in their affidavit.

    “Chapter 12

    AN ACT for the relief of certain soldiers and sailors and servants of officers, soldiers and sailors of the late war between the States.

    Section 1. Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Mississippi, That there shall be paid out of the State Treasury, on the warrant of the Auditor, the sum of thirty dollars annually, to each of the following bona fide residents of this State, to-wit: To every soldier or sailor, and to the servants of the officers, soldiers and sailors of the late Confederate States of America, who enlisted from the State of Mississippi, and who lost a leg, or an arm, in the service of said Confederate States. To every such soldier or sailor, or servant of the officers, soldiers and sailors of the late Confederacy who is now, or may hereafter be, otherwise incapacitated for manual labor by reason of a wound received in said service; and, to the widow, remaining unmarried, of any soldier or sailor who lost his life in said service, while a citizen of this State.”



  • David Rhoads May 3, 2011 @ 17:42

    The language at the bottom of the pension application–“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I was a Confederate soldier, sailor or servant of such Confederate soldier or sailor (as the case may be)”–is boilerplate. It includes the three options–soldier, sailor and servant–because those were the three cases (along with widows) established by Mississippi’s pension legislation from its inception in 1888 for disabled veterans and servants and again several years later when it was expanded to include indigent veterans, servants and widows. See page 30 of Laws of the State of Mississippi, Passed at a Regular Session of the Mississippi Legislature, Held in the City of Jackson, Commencing Jan’y 3, 1888, and Ending March 8, 1888, Chapter 12, “An act for the relief of certain soldiers and sailors and servants of officers, soldiers and sailors of the late war between the States,” which you can view on Google Books if you are so inclined. The grouping of the three options together is simply a function of the legislation, not some sort of suggestion that servants–i.e., slaves–could have been soldiers.

    You can read more about Mississippi’s black Confederate pensioners, including some explication, if not a complete clarification, of the servant application form’s “actual service” language in “Looking for Bob: Black Confederate Pensioners After the Civil War” by James G. Hollandsworth, Jr., in The Journal of Mississippi History, Vol. 69, 2007, pp. 259-324.

    To get back to the application at hand, one need only review questions 7 through 14, concerning the applicant’s status as a servant–not a soldier or sailor–and the specifics of the military service of the applicant’s owner to resolve the question of the applicant’s status during the war. Indeed, in this application the applicant asserts that he was a servant–not a soldier or a sailor–from “Aig. [sic] 8, 1861 to close of war”. By his own testimony, then, he was a servant for the entirety of his wartime experience. To suggest otherwise is nothing more than deliberate obfuscation.

    • Ed Norris May 4, 2011 @ 2:39


      Thanks for the information. I’m only going to comment on your last sentence, “To suggest otherwise is nothing more than deliberate obfuscation.”

      I fill out many forms in which I do not need to answer every line, IRS Form 1040 is a great example that most will be familiar with. There is a line for farm income (line 18). I’m not a farmer thus I do not need to fill in that line, but farmers use the same form and fill in that line. Trust me, no obfuscation was intended in my questions or statements.


      • Kevin Levin May 4, 2011 @ 2:41


        I appreciate the questions. I am not an expert on pension applications so anything that forces me to think more critically about these documents is much appreciated. In the end, it clarified a number of things for me.

      • David Rhoads May 4, 2011 @ 4:07


        Perhaps I misread the situation, but when you said “And we don’t know if he applied as a soldier, sailor, or servant, just that he confirmed that he was one of these” it appeared to me as though you were deliberately ignoring the plain replies by the applicant to the questions in the body of the application in order to focus instead on what you perceived as an ambiguity in the boilerplate language at the bottom of the form. In the case of this particular application, there doesn’t seem to me to be any question at all about how Silas Chandler characterized his wartime service in applying for a pension: he was a servant, not a soldier or a sailor.

    • Ed Norris May 4, 2011 @ 10:27
  • Ed May 3, 2011 @ 17:25

    I found some transcribed pension applications at

    As an example, the application for Taylor Richard Chapman (third in the list) has wording which is slightly different; “I do solemnly Swear or affirm that I was a Confederate soldier, sailor, or servant, that I was honorably discharged or paroled or did not desert from the Confederate service, that I reside in the State, that I am indigent and infirm by reason of service while int he Confederate army or navy that I am not able to earn a support and have no relatives able whose legal and moral duty to support me. And I do not own property, real or in my own name or that of my wife to the value of four hundred dollars, that I have not conveyed any of my property to anyone with a view of drawing a pension. So help me God.”

    Notice it does not include “of such Confederate soldier or sailor (as the case may be)” after the word servant. Could a free white man have served as a servant in the Confederate military?


  • Ed May 3, 2011 @ 17:09


    Again, there is no doubt that the pension was for slaves that participated in the Civil War.

    I’m questioning why Mississippi would refer to the slaves as possible Confederate soldiers or Confederate sailors in their pension application. This doesn’t make sense if they only served as Servants to Confederate soldiers or sailors (which is the third option on the list of three).

    I also wonder what they meant by “actual service”. Would a Confederate soldier or sailor bring their slave with them and not have them do something for them? Is washing and cooking “actual service”?


  • Lisa May 3, 2011 @ 17:03

    Andy is correct. The oath is printed that way in the legislation regarding pensions. It is on EVERY pension application printed in 1916, including those of former Confederate soldiers and sailors.

    I have a copy of a Confederate soldier pension as well as the laws, word for word, from the Annotated Mississippi Code , 1917.

    It reads, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I was a Confederate soldier, sailor or servant of such Confederate soldier or sailor (as the case may be)…..”

    I assure you that even though servant is an option, the man in questions was not and could’ve never been a “servant.” Why would that not apply to former slaves being soldiers as well? It’s just the way the law was written to save time and space for whoever was writing the law.

  • Ed Norris May 3, 2011 @ 11:25

    The argument has been could a slave serve in the Confederate military as a soldier or sailor. Mississippi certainly thought slaves could have been soldiers or sailors. Otherwise why that language? Why ask if they were wounded in “active service”? Was it to cover March 13, 1865 until the end of the war? Some other reason?

    I hope you cover the language being used in your book. As you can see, it leaves questions open.


    • Kevin Levin May 3, 2011 @ 11:46

      You said: “Mississippi certainly thought slaves could have been soldiers or sailors.” I do think that we need a clarification of the language, but this doesn’t negate the fact that the application clearly states that the pension is for former slaves. If you are suggesting that the oath suggests otherwise than we clearly have a contradiction within the document itself. I just don’t see that given what we know about these pension. Again, consider the link to the Hollandworth essay that I passed on earlier today.

  • Woodrowfan May 3, 2011 @ 9:35

    the phrase” actual service” sounds like legalese to me. I suggest we ask a lawyer why “actual service” and not just “service.”

    • Andy Hall May 3, 2011 @ 9:44

      Not a lawyer, but I would think it’s meant to distinguish men who were on active duty as opposed to those who (for whatever reason) were not.

      • Ed Norris May 3, 2011 @ 10:17

        When is a slave on “active duty” as oppose to when not on “active duty”?

  • Ed Norris May 3, 2011 @ 9:13

    I didn’t quote the whole sentence because the pertinent language is “I was a Confederate soldier, sailor”. If slaves could not serve in the military there would be no need for such language; it would have just stated ““I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I was a servant of a Confederate soldier or sailor …”

    The statement definitely applies to the pensioner (Silas) and not a witness. Directly under the oath are the words “Signature of Pensioner” and Silas has his name typed with an “X” in the middle. There is a witness statement, for the Chancery Clerk, under Silas’ mark.

    Interesting language indeed.


    • Kevin Levin May 3, 2011 @ 9:30

      I always assumed the oath was for the witness, but I could be wrong. That said, it does not change the fact that Silas applied for a pension for his “service” as a servant/slave.

      • Ed Norris May 3, 2011 @ 10:10

        As Andy pointed out the statement is “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I was a Confederate soldier, sailor or servant of such Confederate soldier or sailor (as the case may be). . . . ”

        You cannot assume he applied as a servant/slave. If there was a check-box and Silas checked “Servant of such Confederate Soldier or Sailor” then we would know for sure. But we don’t know if he would have checked Confederate Soldier or Confederate Sailor? We just know he confirmed he was one of these: Confederate soldier, sailor or servant of such Confederate soldier or sailor

        I don’t doubt that he was a slave, he applied for a pension as a former one. But the question is can a slave serve in the Confederate military, if not why the use of that language in the pension application? And, I’m not buying standard format language as I’m guessing Mississippi didn’t asking their non-slave soldiers and sailors if they were a “servant of such Confederate soldier or sailor” on their pension application.


        • Kevin Levin May 3, 2011 @ 10:26


          Of course we can assume he applied as a slave. That is what the application is for. There are some interesting questions about the language, but there should be no doubt that Silas applied for a pension as a slave. If slaves applied for pensions as soldiers then I assume they would be located in a separate pension file. I don’t know of any slaves that would have applied for a soldier’s pension.

          • Ed Norris May 3, 2011 @ 10:55

            We don’t need to assume he applied as a slave, we know he did. Maybe all slaves’ (be it soldier, sailor, or servant) pension records were placed in the same file. I’m guessing there was no government rule or law that stated like answers needed their own files; how deep we you need to go in the separation? And we don’t know if he applied as a soldier, sailor, or servant, just that he confirmed that he was one of these.


            • Kevin Levin May 3, 2011 @ 11:12

              You said: “And we don’t know if he applied as a soldier, sailor, or servant, just that he confirmed that he was one of these.”

              I don’t follow you here. He filled out a servants/slave pension. Doesn’t this tell us that he applied as a servant? What is the difference between “applied as” and “confirmed that”?

              Thanks, Ed.

    • Andy Hall May 3, 2011 @ 9:41

      the pertinent language is “I was a Confederate soldier, sailor”.

      You can make the case for anything if you only cite the language that supports your contention. Nonetheless, throughout the document, beginning with the introduction, “application of indigent servants,” it’s clear throughout that Silas Chandler applied as a former slave and body servant. He did not claim to have been an enlisted soldier in the pension application.

      The legal oath at the bottom — which is formally set off in quotes — appears to encompass all types of Confederate pensions, and presumably is mandated by the legislation authorizing the program.

  • Ed Norris May 3, 2011 @ 5:48

    “Service” may be generic, but what does “actual” mean in terms of “actual service”? A slave serves his master at all times, so why wasn’t that question have been “Were you ever wounded?” Mississippi wouldn’t have needed the additional words, “while in actual service.”

    And I just noticed in fine print toward the bottom it states, “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I was a Confederate soldier, sailor …” Why would that statement be required?

    Case closed!


    • Kevin Levin May 3, 2011 @ 5:56


      I believe the oath was for the witness and not for the applicant. It’s the witness’s signature that appears and not Silas’s. The application clearly states at the top that this is for a slave and not a soldier.

      The wording you point out is interesting, but does not negate the fact that this is a slave pension. Thanks for the comments, Ed.

    • David Rhoads May 3, 2011 @ 8:20

      The pertinent language you elide when you quote the fine print reads “or servant of such Confederate soldier or sailor (as the case may be)”. You are therefore left hanging your case on the ambiguous use of the word “actual”–a very slender reed–in what is in all other respects a straightforward application for a servant’s pension. So I’d agree: Case closed.

    • Andy Hall May 3, 2011 @ 9:28

      Seems like there’s some selective parsing on your part here, Ed. The line reads,

      I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I was a Confederate soldier, sailor or servant of such Confederate soldier or sailor (as the case may be). . . .

      Case closed, indeed.

  • David Rhoads May 3, 2011 @ 5:21

    “Service” is a generic term. Soldiers serve and servants serve but the nature of their service and their status while performing that service are not equivalent.

  • Ed Norris May 3, 2011 @ 5:06

    But it clearly states, “actual service.” It doesn’t state, “Were you ever wounded while serving your owner.”

    I think Kevin has found the smoking gun. 🙂


  • Ed Norris May 3, 2011 @ 4:26


    The slaves must have served in the Confederate forces, why else would the pension form state “Were you ever wounded while in actual service?”


    • Kevin Levin May 3, 2011 @ 4:30

      Hi Ed,

      The pension form clearly states that it is for slaves and not soldiers. I am not surprised at all that it asks whether the individual in question was wounded. After all, slaves were present in the army and would have, on occasion, experienced the dangers of the battlefield.

    • Andy Hall May 3, 2011 @ 4:52

      Ed, you’ll notice that there’s no query referring to the applicant’s enlistment, rank, or unit — it’s all phrased in terms of “in which your owner served.”

      Mississippi was one state that established a pension program specifically for former servants; not all did, but nonetheless awarded pensions to men who’d been in that capacity. Pension records can be helpful in providing detail, but are not determinative of a man’s role and status decades previously.

  • Andy Hall Apr 30, 2011 @ 14:01

    The Ninth Mississippi Cavalry escorted President Jefferson Davis once the capital was abandoned in early April 1865. According to the available evidence, Benjamin’s regiment separated from Jefferson Davis’s group near Washington, Georgia, on May 7, 1865, and were ordered to turn themselves in. They did so and on the same day that Davis was captured.

    I knew this would all come back to Jim Limber in the end.

    • Kevin Levin Apr 30, 2011 @ 14:09

      Now there is an interesting conversation to imagine.

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