Discussion Black Confederates Were Real People. The Unknowable Icon

Rhea Cole

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Sergeant Andrew Chandler 44th MS.jpeg


BLACK CONFEDERATES WERE REAL PEOPLE, The Unknown Icon'

This image from the Library of Congress is iconic. Young Andrew Chandler joined the Palo Alto Guards & soon found himself a member of the 44th Mississippi Infantry attached to the Army of Tennessee. Like all 17 year olds, he quickly went to a photographer to have his "image floated'. Intending the image to be sent home, Andrew brought his body servant Silas with him. (Until after the war, he was not known by Silas Chandler.) Compared with images floated at the same time, the three pistols, giant knives & very long shotgun were the photographer's props that appear in numerous images.

knife 44th Mississippi.jpeg


The men of the 44th Mississippi had been presented with large double edged knives made by a local blacksmith. The image above is of one of the few examples of those knives that Andrew Chandler & his comrades marched off to war strapped onto their belts. This one exists because the owner sent it home. One of the first lessons that the callow soldiers of 1861 learned was that giant knives, pistols & Don Quijote breast plates were decorator items that belonged on a wall, not on the sweat soaked person of a soldier marching in the hot sun. Abandoned campsites & ditches along the line of march were littered with anything that wasn't absolutely necessary. Almost all of these knives were simply thrown away.

flag 44th Missippi.jpeg

This tattered flag was captured from the 44th Mississippi at the Battle of Nashville in 1864.

Andrew looks a little startled in the photo. Well he might be. The privileged life of the white son of a prosperous man who owned thirty-five slaves & had an estate worth $40,000 at his death in 1854 was about to come to an abrupt end. The relic in the image above is the bookend for the other end of the 44th story. The 44th's record reads like an abbreviated history of the Army of Tennessee. Like all the original regiments of 1861, "almost nobody came home whole."

Two year old Silas had been carried by his mother overland from Virginia to Mississippi. As the accounts of both slave drivers & the female slaves themselves document, his mother would have been subject to repeated sexual assault along the way. Silas must have been an exceptional individual. At the age twenty two when his image was floated, he was a skilled carpenter. That probably meant that he was literate, at least at a rudimentary level. Carpenters need to have more than basic math skills. As such, Silas was worth a premium price of as much as 25% more than a prime buck. Andrew Chandler was taking what amounted, in modern terms, a Mercedes with him to war.

While subject to the vicious physical beatings believed necessary to keep slaves in their place, it is unlikely Silas had experienced much of it. The recommended punishment on deep south plantations was staking out the spread eagled naked slave face down & beating them 50 times with a cow hide strap. A pregnant woman was afforded a hollow in the ground to protect her valuable baby. By way of establishing a comparison, during Nelson's time the Royal Navy's normal punishment was six to twelve lashes. 50 lashes was reserved for offenses of the worst kind or the whim of brutal captains. Disabling a valuable carpenter with fifty lashes would have been bad business. Never the less, Silas had no illusions as to his fate if he fell afoul of the rules. Be that as it may sitting next to his obviously tense master, Silas looks relaxed & at ease.

We do not actually have much personal data on Silas or what he thought about becoming a camp slave. What we do know is that after Chickamauga Silas became Andrew's brother's man for the rest of the war. The post war relationship between Silas Chandler & the white Chandlers is unknown. Silas' present day status as a poster boy for the Black Confederate advocates would astound both him & his owner. The world in which they lived was very different than the ones depicted on the many websites that cite Silas's photographer prop shotgun as proof that slaves in large numbers were enlisted in the Confederate Army.

In his address to the Missouri legislature in March 1861, Mississippi commissioner Luther J. Glenn made his state's reasons for going to war unmistakably clear.

"(Lincoln's) ... purposes, objects, & motives (were crystal clear)... hostility to the South, the extinction of slavery, & the ultimate elevation of the negro to civil, political, & social equality with the white man... (causing Mississippi) to dissolve he connexion with the General Government."
Commissioner Luther J. Glenn.


Alabama commissioner Stephen F. Hale made the position of his state's government in language that leaves no doubt as to their reasons for seceding.

"... amalgam or extermination... (were the South's choices)... all the horrors of a San Domingo servile insurrection (with white Southerners) degraded to a position of equality with free negroes... (Southern) sons & daughters... associating free negroes upon terms of political & social equality."
"(Southern citizens would suffer)... assassinations & her wives & daughters to pollution & violation to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans."
Commissioner Stephen F. Hale


Is this why young Andrew Chandler believed he was going off to war, to protect Southern womanhood from "...pollution & violation to gratify the lust,,," of Silas? We don't know. All we know is that he marched into the recruiting office & signed his name on the line to do just that. As to Silas, he really had no choice, his God ordained master ordered him to put on a suit of new clothes & do his camp chores for him. Apparently, like the good craftsman he was, Silas performed his camp duties for the entire war. In 1865 Silas became Silas Chandler, taking his former master's name would have been a show of respect. According to Freedman's Bureau records, about 80% of newly freed people chose names unrelated to their former masters. At that point Silas Chandler goes off & lives his own life.

Note

The ubiquitous image of Andrew & Silas has graced hundreds, perhaps thousands of books & articles written about the Civil War. It is worth your while to pause & take a long look at the floated image. There is no processing, no touching up, no photoshop, no nothing to a floated image. Sunlight bounced off the boys & was focused flopped left to right onto chemicals on a metal plate. There is nothing more immediate than a floated image.

Why, exactly, anybody conversant with civil war soldier images would look at this one & conclude that Silas was a soldier baffles me. Silas is holding the same knife & preposterously long shotgun as hundreds of white boys. The pepperbox pistol tucked into his jacket is a nice touch. On top of it all, Silas' service as a body man camp steward is amply documented. You gotta wonder, if this is the poster boy for Black Confederate combatants...well, you can draw your own conclusions.

I am a blacksmith. At a friend's request, I made a replica of the 44th's knives. I used dimensions taken directly from a surviving example. It is straight forward blacksmith work, not fancy knife smithery. A member of our local forge, who is a very skilled knife smith, did the grip & guard. The man I made it for recreated the scabbard. I wore it during one of our weekend battery programs at Stones River Battlefield. I was extremely happy to stow the thing into the back of my car on Sunday afternoon. The constant tug of that much weight on my belt gave me a nasty backache. At that time I wore a tool belt all the time, there is something about that dead weight hanging there all day that made me miserable. I suppose I would have been one of the first to toss the thing into a ditch.

"the horrors of Santo Domingo" often referenced by orators in 1861 referred to the fate of white Frenchmen in Haiti. During the Napoleonic wars, the slaves on the French half of the Island of Santo Domingo rose up. Napoleon reassigned the regiments that had been intended for the occupation of New Orleans to suppress the servile uprising. A combination of well organized implacably hostile attacks by the self-liberated slaves & yellow fever exterminated Napoleon's regiments & virtually every white or vaguely white person of any age on the island. No longer needing the farm produce of the Mississippi valley to feed the slaves & soldiers of Santo Domingo, Napoleon sold Louisiana to Thomas Jefferson. The fate of the French slaveholders haunted the nightmares of every Southerner.
 
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Why, exactly, anybody conversant with civil war soldier images would look at this one & conclude that Silas was a soldier baffles me.

Rhea, This is probably not the right forum for this post I'd guess it needs to be with the other Black Confederate posts. Silas was apparently not baffled by his "service", no matter what we of the 21st century might feel about it. In the 1910 census, the question was asked if the person being interviewed was a "Veteran of the Union or Confederate Armies or Navies". A "CA" (for Confederate Army) is written in box #30 indicating (by his own admission) Silas considered himself a Confederate Soldier.
 

Rhea Cole

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Rhea, This is probably not the right forum for this post I'd guess it needs to be with the other Black Confederate posts. Silas was apparently not baffled by his "service", no matter what we of the 21st century might feel about it. In the 1910 census, the question was asked if the person being interviewed was a "Veteran of the Union or Confederate Armies or Navies". A "CA" (for Confederate Army) is written in box #30 indicating (by his own admission) Silas considered himself a Confederate Soldier.
There was no, actually I was just a body servant & camp steward box to check. What, exactly, were Silas' options? My statement is crystal clear. Based on the the evidence of both the floated image & his service, there is absolutely no, zero, none, evidence that he was a combatant as has been alleged repeatedly. To my knowledge, there are no extant records of what Silas said on any subject. I, for one, don't extrapolate personal beliefs & views from what somebody checked on a government form. I do my best to stick to what we can confirm they actually said. Anything else would just be me projecting my ideas onto them.
Actually, this post does not belong in the Black Confederate thread. This is a biography of a real man. It belongs exactly where it is.
 
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Rhea Cole

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Yes we do, His pension should certainly be part of his biography, don't you agree? Also noted, should be the fact that Andrew was a witness on his application.

https://civilwartalk.com/threads/co...ck-and-mulatto-men.142783/page-9#post-1761416
Yes, fact is that when Silas Chandler was a very old man, he had a choice between checking a box that would provide him with a pension & a box that would. Like any sensible person, he checked the get the pension box. In that very real sense, Chandler's pension is a part of his biography.
 
Joined
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Yes, fact is that when Silas Chandler was a very old man, he had a choice between checking a box that would provide him with a pension & a box that would. Like any sensible person, he checked the get the pension box. In that very real sense, Chandler's pension is a part of his biography.

We're talking about the 1910 census. Silas didn't apply for a pension until July 1916. I seriously doubt Silas "checked the box". The box was checked by the census recorder asking the questions. Since your post is in the correct Forum now, you'll probably get several replies.
 

Rhea Cole

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We're talking about the 1910 census. Silas didn't apply for a pension until July 1916. I seriously doubt Silas "checked the box". The box was checked by the census recorder asking the questions. Since your post is in the correct Forum now, you'll probably get several replies.
Then let me rephrase it, Silas Chandler, in his late dotage was assisted in filling out his pension request by a kind clerk at the pension office. His choices were blue, you don't get a pension, gray, you get a pension. The kindly clerk checked gray, so he received his pension. Excuse me, but does any of this have anything significant to say about his status as a body servant & camp steward serving his master who was in the Confederate Army? Who ever checked his pension box, the man was not the combatant that has been asserted over & over again. That is just a simple fact of history. Nothing to argue about there.
 

Rhea Cole

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This is why this posting should not be in the Black Confederate thread. This is a biography of a black man who was in some way associated with the Confederate Army.
 

ami

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This is why this posting should not be in the Black Confederate thread. This is a biography of a black man who was in some way associated with the Confederate Army.
This thread has been relocated to the correct forum. If you have a question about why this was moved you may contact @CivilWarTalk ...
 

19thGeorgia

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there is absolutely no, zero, none, evidence that he was a combatant as has been alleged repeatedly.
the man was not the combatant that has been asserted over & over again.
I'm not ready to say he was or was not...

"Silas accompanied his master straight to the battlefront"

West Point, MS newspaper, 1949. There's no mention of this article in Levin's book. That's convenient.
AndrewSilas.jpg
 
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Rhea Cole

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I'm not ready to say he was or was not...

"Silas accompanied his master straight to the battlefront"

West Point, MS newspaper, 1949. There's no mention of this article in Levin's book. That's convenient.
View attachment 337270
If it is not convenient, what is it? I don't understand what it is you are alluding to. Silas was his body man, exactly where was he expected to go when his master was ordered to the front? Like the good servant he was, Silas no doubt had the camp set up & something hot on the fire as thousands of photos from the depict. Unfortunately, we don't have one of Silas at his work.
 

19thGeorgia

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If it is not convenient, what is it? I don't understand what it is you are alluding to. Silas was his body man, exactly where was he expected to go when his master was ordered to the front? Like the good servant he was, Silas no doubt had the camp set up & something hot on the fire as thousands of photos from the depict. Unfortunately, we don't have one of Silas at his work.
It says to the battlefront.💥
 

Andersonh1

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Then let me rephrase it, Silas Chandler, in his late dotage was assisted in filling out his pension request by a kind clerk at the pension office. His choices were blue, you don't get a pension, gray, you get a pension. The kindly clerk checked gray, so he received his pension.

This is a complete fabrication. There is no evidence at all that this scenario played out as you describe it. Do you have a source?
 

unionblue

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RobertP

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The bottom line is, did Silas Chandler have a choice in following his master to whatever one wants to call the front?
He very well may have. The OP describes him as a skilled carpenter worth 25% more than your average “buck”. Remember, Andrew’s father was actually Silas’ master, and surely a valuable asset he wanted to hang on to. But Silas wanted to go to war with Andrew and countered that he would protect his son. At that the old man relented. Sounds reasonable to me.

There’s a lot of editorializing going on in the OP despite Mr. Cole stating, “I do my best to stick to what we can confirm they actually said. Anything else would just be me projecting my ideas onto them.” “Projecting” being the key word here.
 

unionblue

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He very well may have. The OP describes him as a skilled carpenter worth 25% more than your average “buck”. Remember, Andrew’s father was actually Silas’ master, and surely a valuable asset he wanted to hang on to. But Silas wanted to go to war with Andrew and countered that he would protect his son. At that the old man relented. Sounds reasonable to me.

There’s a lot of editorializing going on in the OP despite Mr. Cole stating, “I do my best to stick to what we can confirm they actually said. Anything else would just be me projecting my ideas onto them.” “Projecting” being the key word here.

@RobertP ,

I agree with the projecting but I feel it leans more to one side than the other in trying to promote a modern day agenda.

By-the-way, good to hear from you. Seems like it's been a while.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

RobertP

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@RobertP ,

I agree with the projecting but I feel it leans more to one side than the other in trying to promote a modern day agenda.

By-the-way, good to hear from you. Seems like it's been a while.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
You too, UB. I took some time off but am now tanned, rested and ready to roll! :smile coffee:
 
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