Well, the History Detectives show on Silas and Andrew Chandler has come and gone, and it looks as if the folks who like to claim that there were many black Confederate soldiers are not happy. Sampling their responses from the usual sources yields a rather predictable pattern of outbursts and whining. However, I haven’t heard anything challenging the evidence presented.
The short summary: Silas was a slave; he was not a soldier; he was Andrew’s servant; some family accounts of the relationships in the family after the war require modification.
I doubt this is going to change many minds about the larger issue of the role played by slaves in the Confederate army, although it seems to me that it will be harder to make certain claims about Silas Chandler in the face of the show’s findings. However, the research itself concerning Silas Chandler’s status during the Civil War was the sort of thing anyone armed with a laptop and an internet connection could do.
Here’s a transcript of the show; at Civil War Memory Kevin Levin has much the same reaction as I do.
Y’all might want to take a look at Ethan Rafuse’s new book, a biography of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.
I came across this rather interesting blog entry presented by someone with whom I doubt I have much in common. The general gist of it seems to be that what you see depends on where you stand, and that all history is basically an expression of that fact. Of course, the author talks of “Southerners” (as well as “Northerners”) as some sort of monolithic construct, so that only two versions of the Civil War exist for the author (both white versions, it seems to me). Oh, there’s the usual potshots at academics and political correctness, but the fact in the end is that this fellow believes that all historical knowledge is really nothing more than a set of beliefs that’s determined by where one lives.
The folks who argue this make a telling concession that I don’t think they intend to make: their version of history is no better than anyone else’s version of history. It’s all relative (and it all depends on one’s relatives). If that’s true, then it stands to reason that there is no conspiracy to conceal the “truth,” because there is none; and there’s no need to deride political correctness, because that’s simply another perspective that is equally valid, given the author’s assumptions about historical relativity.
That sort of claim effectively undermines the claims of Confederate heritage advocates who claim they know the truth. I’m sure we’ll see that tonight when we hear the reaction to the History Detectives show on Silas and Andrew Chandler. Already I’m hearing people who dare dissent from the myth of black Confederates being called “Deniers” with a capital D. You’ll understand the inference.
You can’t have it both ways, folks.