Virginia Flaggers Interpret Image of Silas and Andrew Chandler

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.

[This posting was no doubt prompted by the news that the famous image of Andrew and Silas has been donated to the Library of Congress.]

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.

Chandler Brothers, Virginia FlaggersAnother reminder of why I teach as I begin the new school year. Thanks again, Virginia Flaggers.

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

Purchase your copy today!

18 comments… add one
  • Connie Chastain Sep 6, 2014 @ 10:41

    I don’t understand why you’re giving so much blog-space to the Virginia Flaggers, since you think they are such idiots.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 6, 2014 @ 10:44

      It’s not just that they are “idiots” but that the post shows just how irresponsible and disrespectful of the very people they claim to defend. That post is demeaning to the memory of both Silas and Andrew Chandler because it is filled with nothing but outright false claims.

      • Connie Chastain Sep 6, 2014 @ 11:14

        But if you think they are idiots, what does their (according to you) irresponsibility and disrespect matter? Seems to me you’re trying to have it both ways. Either what they say/think/do matters, or it doesn’t.

        • Kevin Levin Sep 6, 2014 @ 11:17

          You really have nothing interesting to say. I chose to point out their stupidity – nothing more, nothing less. This is your final comment unless you have something to contribute about the content of the post. I suggest you explore this further in a blog post on your site. That is all.

  • M.D. Blough Aug 30, 2014 @ 15:07

    One of the silliest is the assumption of anything based on how Silas Chandler was dressed. Do they actually think that a master serving in the Confederate army would go to the trouble of obtaining civilian clothes for a slave when the easiest course of conduct would be simply to dress him in cast off clothing from soldiers? There certainly was little risk that anyone would mistake the slave for a soldier. Also, it would make it far less likely that a slave seeking to escape would be able to disappear into the general population of slaves and/or free(d) blacks.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Aug 29, 2014 @ 9:32

    I would think that if Silas actually did fight in battle, he would have mentioned it in his pension somehwere. Just my thought.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 29, 2014 @ 10:06

      It is likely that Silas was on or near a battlefield, but as you know this would not have changed his legal status. Slaves endured many hardships as a result of being owned by another and one of them was having to experience the dangers of camp life and perhaps even battle.

  • John Tucker Aug 29, 2014 @ 3:47

    Then there is the Silas Chandler myth which was disproven by his family:

    However, I have a sneaky feeling that however compelling this article may be, it will be far from the last word on Silas Chandler, let alone on the tales of African Americans, enslaved and free, who flocked to serve the Confederacy as soldiers and who embraced the goals of the Confederacy. In fact, I take that as a sure bet after reading this post, including the comments section, where someone who sounds a bit like a proslavery apologist declares that slavery was no more than an “unfortunate circumstance.”



    Silas Chandler was the black Confederate community’s best card. If anything demonstrated the existence of hundred, if not thousands, of loyal black Confederate soldiers it was the image of Silas and Andrew in uniform and armed. To deny it meant that you were delusional, a Yankee, northern liberal carpetbagger or worse. Here is what Ann DeWitt wrote not too long ago at the Southern Heritage Preservation Page:
    What everyone should know is this. The bloggers, who are against acknowledging the hard work and dedication of African-American military service with the CSA, have drawn the family members of Silas Chandler into the debate. The goal is to prove that Silas Chandler unwillingly went to war with Andrew Chandler. Are the blogger’s motives sincere in protecting the family or are the blogger’s motives centered on promoting their own personal historian careers?
    This is the same woman, who recently uncovered an entire regiment of black Confederate cooks. My only question for Ms. DeWitt is how quickly does she plan to include a link to the HD episode on her “educational” website? When will Dixie Oufitters remove their “Chandler Brothers” t-shirt from their catalog? And finally, what about the Sons of Confederate Veterans itself, which claims legitimacy as a historical organization. Will they instruct individual chapters to remove or revise the many websites published about Silas Chandler as part of their commitment to spreading “true history”? I won’t hold my breadth for any of these corrections, but that doesn’t really matter. The silence from the usual suspects speaks volumes.
    The shell shock is probably fleeting, but perhaps they got a brief glimpse of what it is involved in serious research rather than the self-posturing and defensive tone that is all too often embraced as deep historical understanding. At least for now, if you are going to speak out on this particular case you better have done your research.
    Again, their silence speaks volumes.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 29, 2014 @ 3:52

      Then there is the Silas Chandler myth which was disproven by his family.

      Not entirely true. The story of Silas Chandler actually divided the family for quite some time. As you may know I came into contact with Myra Chandler Sampson a few years ago and we eventually organized her research materials into a feature story for Civil War Times, which is linked to in the post.

      I am well aware of Ann DeWitt because I was the first blogger to write about her and challenge some of the most inaccurate assertions made on her website.

      • John Tucker Aug 29, 2014 @ 4:58

        Thank you Kevin for you insight. Must make sure that the entire story is told not so as not to be seen inaccurate or withholding facts.

  • John Tucker Aug 29, 2014 @ 3:47

    First and most important, people who try to press this agend apply the word “soldier” to any person associated with the army, black or white, free or slave, regardless of their position or role. This misleads the reader, because it ignores most basic differences – social, cultural and legal – that were fundamental to the South in the 1860s. That’s simply not the way white Southerners, military and civilians alike, viewed their world. It was a hugely different world, and it does not improve our understanding of it to elide these very basic elements.

    Yes there are numerous accounts in the press, mostly early in the war, of African Americans volunteering, or organizing, or drilling, but these accounts usually have a few things in common. They almost never (1) specifically designate the company or regiment, (2) never identify the officers in command, and (3) they’re almost always offered at second- or third-hand. There’s no way to follow-up or corroborate them. These supposed African American units seem to disappear from the Confederate press after an initial mention. Where are the descriptions in Southern newspapers of these units, in field, with the regular army? These units comprised of African American men invariably disappear after some brief item in the paper.

    More important, where are the Confederate military reports, dispatches and memoranda that describe these units? Or, if you believe that Confederate companies and regiments were racially integrated, where are the letters and diaries that mention these men as fellow enlisted soldiers? There are virtually none, although there are plenty that talk about black servants around camp, including anecdotes where those men picked up a weapon in a tight spot. But even then, such incidents are described specifically because they’re unusual, underscoring that they are not fellow soldiers, as the soldiers themselves viewed them.

    Confederate pension records are not definitive in determining a man’s wartime status, decades before. As you probably know, what we generally term “Confederate” pensions were issued by individual states, each of which established its own criteria and review process. Some states, like Mississippi, established separate programs specifically for former slaves/servants, while others seem to have allowed men who clearly were slaves and body servants to a receive pensions under the same program as enlisted soldiers. (The famous Holt Collier of Mississippi applied first as a servant, then as a soldier, then as a servant again.) I’ve even outlined a case, Richard Quarls, where a former slave was awarded a pension based on the service record of his former master, Pvt. J. Richard Quarles. Pension records can be helpful, but in and of themselves, they’re unreliable to definitively establishing a man’s role forty, fifty, sixty years previous.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 29, 2014 @ 4:09

      There are plenty of Union accounts that are quoted from time to time without any follow up, but what often goes unnoticed is that there are no Confederate wartime accounts that point out the presence of blacks serving as soldiers in Confederate ranks. You would think that during the height of the debate throughout the Confederacy in 1864-65 regarding slave enlistment that this would come up.

      The only thing I would add is that many former Confederate states offered pensions to former servants and this is, in fact, what Silas Chandler took advantage of later in life.

  • Neil Hamilton Aug 28, 2014 @ 20:11


    You can lead Southern Heritage advocates to historical knowledge, but you can’t always make them THINK.

    Neil Hamilton

  • Al Mackey Aug 28, 2014 @ 19:37

    Not content to simply be dumb, they’ve taken to lying now, Kevin.

    The latest is, “Pension records were altered in the 1930’s.”

    • Kevin Levin Aug 29, 2014 @ 1:05

      It really is hilarious to watch the discussion evolve. These folks will reach for anything to save face and/or reinforce what they need to believe.

  • Kevin Dally Aug 28, 2014 @ 14:33

    A Black Slave in the Confederate Ranks, no more, no less.

    • Kevin Levin Aug 28, 2014 @ 15:13

      Most slaves remained on the home front. Silas Chandler’s owner brought him with him into the ranks until he was eventually freed.

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