I was surfing through the online Historical Times, looking at many splendid photographs of bygone times. Then I came upon various pictures during the American Civil War and was confounded by this photograph.
A Confederate solder named Andrew Chandler poses with his slave who is named Silas Chandler. This young black man was forced (or maybe) believed he was doing something right. It is mind boggling to me. He is actually made to support someone who is trying to keep all black people in a society of slavery.
I believe the young man had no choice in the matter and he would have suffered brutal retribution, of some kind, for not participating. However, I wonder also if both these men might have lived in a world that we cannot perceive. A world that was totally unthinkable to them, though not for the same reasons for each individual.
The white one may have had an apathetic acceptance of divine right, while the black man may have thought it all helpless in a different apathetic way. This was their world and it was the way of things. Radical change was undreamed of. How did these two very different viewpoints think?
I'm white, as I'm sure any reader might guess. As a white I often have a romantic image of the grey coats from westerns. I know they were not the hard done by rebels, but we like stories of unbreakable rebel spirit. We think of them as gallant losers. When I look at this picture, it often makes me think that American history has two different presentations of her remarkable history.
The Hollywood one and the real one. Sadly, in that order. When I look at the Black man's face; I imagine a quite and reserved man who seems resigned to the way of things. Then I look at the young white man's face and there seems to be a confident look that has total belief in the cause he is championing.
It is a very compelling photo indeed and to the white me, it captures a mixture of feelings and emotions. One of them guilt! I still think of the grays as the champion underdogs, fighting against great odds. I always seem to dismiss the deeper side of the Confederate cause which this picture brings, so wickedly, to the fore.
I feel sorry for the pair of them and the world they lived in, but I'm not perfect, and we are all prejudice and tribal. We just think the others are wrong and we are right. The world is still a very muddled place. I hope, however, it is a little better than the world these two men lived in.