‘I’ve got heritage too’

Eric Chandler, of Duluth, writes today’s guest post, which was originally posted on his blog, Shmotown.

I was in Moorhead, Minnesota at Concordia College to hear my son play piano in the All-State Jazz Band. But it was the All-State Symphonic Band that hit me hard. They played a piece called “The Frozen Cathedral” by John Mackey. It was a work commissioned by a man who wanted to memorialize his dead son. His son loved the high country of Alaska near Denali National Park. It was a stirring piece. You could imagine being surrounded in pillars of ice and stone. It was sad and somehow rose to an ending filled with both misery and incredible joy.

I looked at the crowd of young high school faces that played this beautiful music while Nazis and white supremacists marched openly in the streets of my country. The contrast was stark.

You know the science fiction movies where aliens come to earth? The aliens try to understand our ways. They’re confused by all the good and evil at the same time. I always thought that paradox was melodramatic. Until this concert.

White supremacists marched in the streets of Charlottesville and chanted “blood and soil.” This is a slogan of a racist ideology espoused by Nazis. I listen to people waving the Confederate battle flag say that the flag isn’t about racism. It’s about their heritage. Well, I’m going to talk about my heritage a little bit. I’m going to talk about where my blood is in the soil.

Lt Col Charles P. Chandler died about 100 miles to the east of Charlottesville in a battle called Malvern Hill in 1862. The letter promoting him to full colonel arrived the next day. No Chandler ever seems to make it to colonel, but that’s a story for another time.

His cousin, Lt Col Charles L. Chandler died about 60 miles to the east of Charlottesville in the Battle of the North Anna River. He was ordered to charge a heavily defended rebel position in May, 1864. He had his arm shot off in a muddy ditch during a thunderstorm. He was 24 years old and had already been fighting for three straight years.

Hannah Chandler Ropes was a Civil War nurse from New Gloucester, Maine, the town that my family helped start in the late 1700’s. She went to Kansas in 1855 as an abolitionist to try to keep Kansas from becoming a slave state. To defend herself from pro-slavery raiders from Missouri, she slept with “loaded pistols and a bowie-knife upon my table at night, (and) three Sharp’s rifles, loaded, standing in the room.” Later, she worked with Louisa May Alcott tending to the wounded Union soldiers at a hospital in Georgetown. She died of typhoid pneumonia in 1863 about 120 miles from Charlottesville. She’s buried in Maine a few yards away from my grandparents.

The first arrival, Edmund Chandler came to this continent around 1630. He was “tail-end Charlie” of the separatists that were booted out of England to Holland. He sorted out affairs in Leiden while the rest of the group crossed the ocean to start the Plymouth Colony. He followed later so he could practice his religion freely.

A century and a half later, one of his descendants was in the Battle of Machias, the first naval engagement of the Revolutionary War. Judah Chandler joined about 50 militiamen who commandeered two ships. They chased down and captured the armed British sloop Margaretta. Throughout the war, privateers operating out of Machias were a constant pain in the British Royal Navy’s ass.

My grandfather, Raymond Jackson, won the Bronze Star for planning the assault on Kesternich in Germany during the breakout after the Battle of the Bulge. He received a battlefield promotion to major. He and the 311th Timberwolves, 78th Lightning Division, were the first American infantry regiment to cross the Remagen Bridge over the Rhine River into Nazi Germany.

Do any of these actions confer glory on me? No. I could be reading these stories about anybody. But it just so happens that they are my family members. So, I naturally wonder if the same things flow through all of those veins. Through my veins.

My family got here early to pursue religious freedom. My family fought tyranny in the Revolutionary War. My family fought and died to preserve the Union and eliminate slavery. My family fought the tyranny that wore swastikas. I swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic. I served for over 20 years. I went overseas seven different times to fight the enemies of our way of life. I tried to do my part, like my ancestors.

I believe in the Constitution and in free speech. This means I’m free to express my opinion about my domestic enemies chanting Nazi slogans and waving Confederate battle flags in my country. They are unacceptable. They are a cancer.

This is my country. My flesh has mixed with the soil of this continent for almost 400 years. My family helped build and defend a form of government that allows us to lurch forward to a better world. One where we are all created equal. That’s my heritage.

Dear white supremacists and Nazis: Stop waving the flags and chanting the slogans of my nation’s defeated enemies. I hope you go away and turn your life around. Failing that, I hope you realize the full extent of your moral bankruptcy, like a whisper in your ear, as you take your last breath.

  • Erik Petersen

    He’s holding back a little, he should tell us what he really feels.

  • John

    Well written, and well said.

    This, to me, is the take home:

    “Dear white supremacists and Nazis: Stop waving the flags and chanting the slogans of my nation’s defeated enemies.”

    Thank you for your family’s service to country.

    • Eric Chandler

      You’re welcome!

    • Eric Chandler

      And thank you for reading!

  • kevins

    Eric…my dad crossed the Remagen bridge early on. I think there were still Germans shooting from the other side. He was 9th infantry, 39th battalion. He was also at Huertgen Forest before that. Think he and Raymond crossed paths?

    • >>He was also at Huertgen Forest before that.<<

      Holy cats! He was lucky to get out of that alive.

    • Eric Chandler

      I believe the 311th Regiment of the 78th Infantry Division was attached to the 9th Armored. Maybe you mean 9th Armored Division? Probably not since you know the Battalion. In any case, if he actually drove over the bridge, it was within the first ten days, because after that, aerial bombardment brought the span down. I guess it’s possible!

      • kevins

        Nope it was the 9th infantry, First Army. The 9th armored was also in the area. He walked over the bridge with other infantry. He says it wasn’t nice.

    • Eric Chandler

      I was lucky enough to visit Remagen in 2010. Pretty amazing to stand there and look across the river.

      • kevins


  • kevins

    To the point of the post, my dad (see below) will be buried in McNairy County Tennessee with mom, but only because of her, and not for any prideful love of the culture of the South, especially the flag and what it means. He did not fight for the Confederate flag and finds it strange and painful that it is plastered on semi truck radiators, t-shirts, and most strikingly, neo-nazis. Enough said.

    • kevins

      Added…dad is a second generation German American from southern Indiana.

  • Ralphy

    My father was 1st in his family born in the USA. He served as a medic in Patton’s 3rd Army, and was among the first to come across Nazi concentration camps.

    My mother’s family goes back to the Mayflower and has ancestry in the Continental Congress. Members of her family served the US in every war from the Revolutionary to Vietnam.

    Both worked hard for social justice as private citizens. Both looked at the fetish surrounding the Confederacy as sick and ill informed.
    The idolatry and symbolism of these memorials to traitors to the country is stomach turning and heartbreaking.

  • Powerful stuff. Thank you for sharing.

  • Susanne

    Great article! Thank you for sharing this and hope you contribute to MPR again!

  • Robert Johnson

    In 2001, the Taliban destroyed the stone Buddhas at Bamiyan because the Buddhas were offensive, religious losers, and no longer relevant.

    In 2017, ISIS destroyed most of the Roman theater at Palmyra because the theater was offensive, made by historical losers, and a reminder of the slavery and belligerence of the Romans.

    Another day…same story.

  • Robert Johnson

    Dear Democrats,

    Stop waving flags and telling us that you are an American political party.

    In 1860-1861, the Confederacy was gestated and birthed in slavery. The government of the Confederacy was populated by Democrats EXCLUSIVELY. The Confederacy was born out of sedition, treasonous acts ,and the enslavement of human beings–all perpetrated by Democrats.

    During this period, many US Senators and Congressmen resigned from the federal government to serve in the treasonous government of the Confederacy. These folks were all Democrats.

    The Democrat party thrived in the Confederacy, and even in defeat, resurrected itself in segregation, Jim Crow & the KKK that grew out of it.

    There is no honor in belonging to this party. It is offensive. The Democrat Party should be banned.