The Chandler Boys … Mystery Solved?

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.

UPDATE:

Here’s a transcript of the show; at Civil War Memory Kevin Levin has much the same reaction as I do.

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4 thoughts on “The Chandler Boys … Mystery Solved?

  1. Brooks
    About two days ago Antique Road Show actually took on the same topic. Some guy had a photograph of Chandler and “master” – I think it was the famous one.

    I was only half paying attention, but it appeared that they were going over the same terrain. Odd coincidence?

    • What you saw was a repeat of the original show that created all this fuss for Mr. Cowan and gave him the opportunity to display his basic research skills for all to see on last night’s episode of … wait for it … History Detectives!

  2. Brooks-A lot of it didn’t even need an internet connection to do, although web searching can speed things up. Ira Berlin’s classic “Slaves Without Masters” has a chapter on state laws and social pressure restricting and, in some states, ultimately forbidding manumission. He has the information about Mississippi removing existing loopholes and banning manumission in 1857 (p. 139, part of fn. 2). Arkansas went even further, passing a law that took effect on January 1 1860, that gave the small number of free flacks (682) the options that, by the effective date of the act, they had to become slaves by either choosing a master, being sold into slavery if they had not found a master, or leaving the state. By the effective date of the act, only 144 free blacks, mostly elderly, remained in the state. What those who try to put a romantic spin on this overlook is the enormous social pressure, not just legal, on slaveowners not to consider manumission even where it still could be done (or by the subterfuge of sending them to a free state or territory). As positions hardened as the split neared, the proponents of doctrine slavery as a positive good, who were in political and social control, would not tolerate the challenge to that doctrine represented by free blacks. They especially feared the influence their presence would have on the enslaved.

  3. I am Andrew Chandler Dodenhoff, one of the great grandsons of Andrew Martin Chandler. My source for the inaccurate account of Silas going to war at 17 was my grandmother’s type written account. I never sought to verify her account. The specific dates, ages, etc. are not important. It is the story of two young men that went to war and survived to live out their lives back in their home town.

    So now we have learned a few new details to the story. Silas was close to 26 not 16; he had a wife and child; he also went as a servant to war with Andrew Martin’s brother ( again a teenager) and he wasn’t a “soldier”.

    His age is inconsequential. The fact that he had a wife and eventually had a child during the time period supports why he didn’t runaway on his many trips back to Palo Alto. I have never heard anyone in our family claim he was “enlisted.” It has always been that he went to war to watch out for AMC.

    The important things remain the same. Silas was held in high esteem by AM and his family. He was a trusted servant. We all credit Silas’ tenacity in aiding in saving AM from losing his leg to a quick amputation. ( My dad said AM had a serious limp). Apparently, Silas could not have been “given his papers.” According to Mrs. Blought, it appears there were some “loopholes in the law until 1857.” So has it “proven” that Silas was not one of those that benefited from that loophole? It doesn’t matter, it’s not that important part of the story.

    Silas’ great-grand-daughter is adamant that Silas couldn’t have been given his papers because of the MS law. Well if the law prevented manumission then he couldn’t have saved his pennys and bought his freedom. So seems their family lore needs some revising. It is more likely he was given his freedom when President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Prolamation freeing all people held as slaves in the states fighting against the Union.

    Silas Chandler is still a hero to me and my family. The errors in fact were not an attempt to change history, but had evolved as the story was passed down the generations. Some of my generation have had the privilege to know some of Silas’ extended family and enjoyed knowing there was a mutual respect. I’m personally sorry to read that during the civil rights era in Mississippi that there had been friction and bad feelings. To me the Chandler Boys is still a great story of two young men born in Virginia, but living in Mississippi, who went off to war together and remained devoted for the rest of their lives.

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