Portraying Silas and Andrew Chandler

Portraying Silas and Andrew Chandler

For those of you in the Boston area I will be speaking tonight at the North Worcester Civil War Round Table in Leominster. My topic is Silas Chandler and the myth of black Confederate soldiers.

Nice attempt at recreating the famous tintype of Silas and Andrew Chandler.  They almost pull it off except for the fact that the individual portraying Silas isn’t slightly hunched over in a subservient position.  The original image tells us quite a bit about the culture of slavery and antebellum race relations.  Myra Chandler Sampson (great granddaughter of Silas) shared her thoughts about the image a while back during our first phone conversation.  What follows appeared in that subsequent post.

“I was most interested in talking with Ms. Sampson about her thoughts concerning the photograph of Silas and Andrew Chandler.  Ms. Sampson mentioned that she owned a German Shepherd dog, which I thought was a strange thing to share until she added that posture is very important when handling this particular breed.  It should come as no surprise that a firm posture is essential to reinforcing the authority of the owner over the dog.  Looking at the image of Silas and Andrew I understand exactly what she means.  I never noticed it before, but Silas is clearly hunched over; remember he is seven years older than Andrew.  The image is not one of two childhood friends going off to war, but of a slave whose future now hinges on the boy next to him.”

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6 comments… add one
  • BorderRuffian Oct 14, 2011 @ 8:51

    “The original image tells us quite a bit about the culture of slavery and antebellum race relations [“subservient,” “owner over the dog,” etc].

    By placing a shot gun in one hand of a slave and a bowie knife in the other?


    • Kevin Levin Oct 14, 2011 @ 8:54


      You do realize that the reference to a dog was made by Myra Chandler Sampson. Perhaps you should inquire into her reasons for such a comparison. By the way, according to HD Silas’s weapons were props.

  • Ed Oct 11, 2011 @ 17:08

    I want to thank Kevin for his presentation tonight, it was great! Now I know why he is asked to speak at so many conferences. The talk was very informative and he gave everyone something to think about when you hear the term “Black Confederates”. If you have a chance to hear one of his presentation, do yourself a favor and attend.


    • Kevin Levin Oct 11, 2011 @ 18:09

      Hi Ed,

      Thanks again for the invitation. I had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed the lively discussion. I appreciate the kind words.

  • Leonard_K_Tunstall Oct 11, 2011 @ 14:05

    Hello Sir. I admire all the thought you put into this subject but I think you are reaching way too far on this one. You’re breaking your own rule of only drawing the conclusions that the history supports.

    I don’t see anything supporting a “hunched over” Silas in the original photograph. I also can’t buy your conclusion that this somehow secretly signifies Silas is being portrayed as subserviant (and if that was the photos’s intent, then why is Silas carrying the rifle thus making him more heavily armed than Andrew?)

    Silas is shorter in height then Andrew, but that’s about it. Look at how Andrew’s arm overlaps in front of Silas’s arm. This shows Silas is actually leaning slightly backwards from Andrew – the exact opposite of hunching forward.

    I also have what I think is a fair question for you, sir. In your other blogs you question (correct I.M.O.) how valid all these stories are coming from Andrew Chandler’s descendents about how the boys were supposed to be best friends. However when Myra Chandler Sampson says anything about her ancestor such as wacky claim about Silas being hunched over you present it as fact. I’m sure she’s a nice lady and entiteled to her opinion, but it’s kind of a double standard to dismiss anything the white Chandler descendents say as unverified but take her word on anything about her ancestor as gospel truth!

    • Kevin Levin Oct 11, 2011 @ 17:02

      Thanks for the comment. I certainly do not intend to present this as fact since it depends on one’s interpretation. You are entitled to your preferred interpretation.

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