Washington Post Reports on the Chandler Tintype Donation

chandlerReporter Mike Ruane wrote about the unusual photograph of Andrew Martin Chandler of the 44th Mississippi Infantry and family slave Silas in today’s Post. The image was donated to the Library of Congress by Tom Liljenquist, who learned about the image from my book, African American Faces of the Civil War. The image originally appeared on a 2009 segment of PBS Antiques Roadshow.

The Antiques Roadshow segment was brought to my attention by Richert Salondaka, with whom I became acquainted when my wife, Anne, and I lived in Northern California back in the late 1980s and early 90s. I remember Richert noting that this has got to be in my book! he was right. I tracked down the owner of the photograph, and eventually obtained permission to publish it in African American Faces.

Since then, the photo has appeared on PBS History Detectives, and it continues to be the subject of conversation about slavery and the Confederacy.

Now it is in the Library of Congress—and it belongs to the American people.

An excerpt from Ruane’s story:

Liljenquist bought the photograph from descendants of Andrew Chandler on Aug. 15 and immediately gave it over to the library. “I owned it for about 10 minutes,” he said last week.

He declined to say how much it cost or identify the owner. But five years ago, on the “Antiques Roadshow” television program, the picture was said to be worth $30,000 to $40,000.

In an interview at the library, he said the photo captured “two remarkable young men … (who) look very sincere, maybe a little bit scared, maybe not.”

Read the full story.

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Confederate Soldier, Family Slave Now in the Library of Congress

Chandler-Silas-AndrewOne of the most unique Civil War images to surface in recent years is now part of the Liljenquist Family Collection at the Library of Congress. According to Tom Liljenquist, the sixth-plate tintype of Sgt. Andrew Martin Chandler of the 44th Mississippi Infantry and his family slave, Silas, was delivered to the Library this afternoon.

Liljenquist, accompanied by Chandler Battaile Jr., a descendent of Sgt. Chandler, were met by senior staff and other Library employees to receive the photo about 3 pm today.

The image has been a focus of attention since it was shown on PBS in a 2009 episode of Antiques Roadshow, and again in a 2011 segment of History Detectives. The photo has been put forth by some as proof that Silas was a “Black Confederate” who fought for the South, while others have provided primary research that establishes Silas was no more than a slave who served two of his master’s soldier sons during the war.

The Chandler story has been the subject of numerous books and articles. Battaile has requested that the version included in my 2012 book, African American Faces of the Civil War, be posted with the image on the Library’s site along with the image. I wrote another version that appeared as part of the New York Times Disunion series, “A Slave’s Service in the Confederate Army.”

The image included here was taken from a scan that I made from the original tintype with permission of Chandler Battaile Jr. in 2009.

Back to Back Book Events

african-american-faces-of-the-civil-war-200DPITwo weeks, two book talks! Now, catching my breath to acknowledge those who organized and attended.

On June 5, I discussed African American Faces of the Civil War to a great group gathered at the Ft. Taber Community Center in New Bedford, Mass. Sponsored by the New Bedford Historical Society, the attendees included Carl Cruz, great-great-grand-nephew of Sgt. William H. Carney of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry. I had met Carl at the National Gallery of Art at last year’s opening of the Shaw Memorial exhibit. The New Bedford Civil War Round Table also sponsored the event, and I’m grateful to the many folks who turned out. I am also indebted to organizer Lee Blake, and John Centeio for his kindness.

On June 13, I spoke to another great group at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., just outside Albany. Organizer Matt George of the Capital District Civil War Round Table. The event was co-sponsored by the Underground Railroad History Project. Special thanks to the three young re-enactors who attended, dressed in their uniforms.

I am grateful for the invitations, and happy to have had the opportunity to tell the stories and share the photos of men of color who participated in our Civil War.

Book Talk at the Atlanta Cyclorama

Derek Williams and MomThoroughly enjoyed visiting Atlanta Cyclorama yesterday to talk about African American Faces of the Civil War! I could not have felt more welcomed at the home of the historic painting, and am deeply in debt to everyone involved for their support and enthusiasm.

Anthony Knight made all the arrangements, and kept me up to date on developments and details prior to my arrival. He was the perfect host. Monica Prothro made sure the facilities were set up. Beverly Williams was at her post at the bookstore. Derek Williams (pictured here with my mom, Carol, who came along to see her son speak about the book for the first time) gave us an abbreviated but highly engaging tour of the painting.

Mom and I were spoiled: The event included a table of wonderful hors d’oeuvres from Epicurean Drama Events.

My biggest thanks for all who attended, including Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs Director Camille Russell Love, Got Proof! My Genealogical Journey Through the Use of Documentation author Michael N. Henderson, Michael K. Shaffer of the Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center, James A. Yancey Jr. of the Georgia Civil War Commission, Metro Atlanta chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society President Emma Davis Hamilton, Executive Director Rob Williams of The Sable Arm in Acts of Valor, and my Marla San Miguel (we were at the University of Georgia together, and it was great to catch up!).

Book sales were strong, and I am thankful for everyone’s support. Among the books I signed was one for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

It was a wonderful day, and I only wished my stay could have been longer.

On “The Noxious Institution of Slavery”

These words were written by James F. O’Brien of the Forty-eighth Massachusetts Infantry a week before the Irish-born lieutenant colonel was killed in action while leading a 200-man storming party on a “Forlorn Hope” against the formidable defenses of Port Hudson on May 27, 1863.

O’Brien stated, “I say that the crime of rebellion which has caused thousands of our citizens to fill bloody graves is but partially atoned for in the sweeping array of the noxious institution of slavery. The policy of our government with respect to that institution is just, and wise, as any thinking man who has an opportunity of practically witnessing its effect will acknowledge. Slave labor feeds our enemy in the field, digs his ditches, and builds his fortifications. Every slave liberated by our arms is a diminishment of rebel power. Every slave who wields a spade or musket in our cause is so much added to our strength. This is my belief with respect to the Emancipation policy of the Government.”

His photograph is now available on my Flickr Photostream:
On "The Noxious Institution of Slavery"