Zachariah Chandler School in Detroit is no more. The building is completely vandalized. I drive by there every once in awhile to see if it has been torn down. As a former student of the school, I’m deeply saddened.
The school was named for Michigan Senator Zachariah Chandler. His importance to Michigan and our country cannot be stressed enough, but like so many “giants” of history- he is mostly forgotten. In The Civil War Monitor (Vol.4, No.4), author Fergus M. Bordewich wrote of Chandler in the excellent article The Radicals’ War. Here is part of what he wrote:
“On July 21, 1861, the unimaginable happened. After a day’s fighting at Bull Run, the Union army collapsed. Soldiers threw away their packs and guns and raced off on mules, in commandeered ambulances, or on foot, ignoring any shocked officers who were still left to give orders. Among the onlookers were tourists from Washington, who had come expecting to see the Rebels trounced, as well as several appalled members of Congress. One of them, Ohio Senator Benjamin Franklin Wade, jumped out of his carriage, and with the help of his friend Senator Zachariah Chandler of Michigan, pushed it over to form a barrier, bellowing at the fleeing soldiers, “Boys, let’s stop this damned runaway!”
Wade and Chandler couldn’t stop the panic. They too were eventually swept back to Washington in the demoralized throng. However, they would soon convert their disgust at the Federal debacle into a legislative weapon to drive forward the Union war effort. Over the next four years, their righteous rage would test constitutional doctrine, strain relations between Congress and the president, end careers of prominent military officers in the Union army, and leave a legacy that stretched forward to the Second World War.”
Zachariah Chandler and Benjamin Wade were part of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War. For Chandler it was a role well suited to him. He was a “scrapper.” Known as a “Radical Republican”- he wanted the war won and slavery ended immediately. He wasn’t going to tolerate any “non-fighting” Union officer. Although he and Lincoln shared the same goals- they often differed on how to achieve them.
The school was named for Chandler and the legacy he left. When the building was constructed in 1905 there were individuals in Michigan still living who knew Chandler. Of course, they have all passed on now. I hope Michigan and Detroit will see fit at some point in the future to remember him. Maybe another school could bear his name in honor of his work? We will see.
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