Silent Sam

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Silent Sam
Silent Sam.jpg
Silent Sam by sculptor John A. Wilson
Location University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Coordinates 35°54′50.22″N 79°3′8.55″W / 35.9139500°N 79.0523750°W / 35.9139500; -79.0523750Coordinates: 35°54′50.22″N 79°3′8.55″W / 35.9139500°N 79.0523750°W / 35.9139500; -79.0523750
Dedicated 1913

Silent Sam is a statue by John Wilson of a Confederate soldier, located on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[1] It is located on McCorkle Place, the university's upper quad; facing Franklin Street on the northern edge of campus.[2]

The statue was funded by the University Alumni and the United Daughters of the Confederacy. It was erected in 1913 as a memorial to the Confederate alumni who lost their lives in the American Civil War and all students who joined the Confederate States Army.[3] More than one thousand members of the university fought in the American Civil War in either the Northern or Southern armies, comprising at least 40% of the student body,[4] the University remained open through the entire war. This was due to President Swain's policy of dependency on men unfit for combat.[5] A bronze image on the front of the memorial depicts a young student dropping his books as he looks up to answer a call to duty, on the base of the statue, a woman meant to signify North Carolina is depicted advising students to fight for an important cause even if it means leaving their studies.[6] The statue was erected to commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War (1911).[7]

Silent Sam, John A. Wilson's Waban Studio, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts

The United Daughters of the Confederacy spent four years fundraising and hired Canadian sculptor John Wilson to create the statue. The statue cost the Daughters of the Confederacy $7,500 (converts to $185,443.94 in 2017).[8]

Similar to the sculpture Wilson created of an unarmed Union soldier Daniel A. Bean, Wilson created a "silent" statue by not including a cartridge box on the Confederate soldier's belt so he cannot fire his gun.[9] Like the Daniel A. Bean sculpture, Wilson used a northerner--Harold Langlois, a Boston man, as his model.[8]

Wilson created a series of similar statues called the "Silent Sentinels." All were created in the North and then displayed in the South. Like these other statues, Silent Sam is positioned to face north towards the Union, rather than towards the Confederacy.[8]


According to research by W. Fitzhugh Brundage, who is the William B. Umstead Professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the purpose of this statue was clearly stated at its 1913 dedication; in his dedication speech, industrialist Julian Carr praised Confederate soldiers both for their wartime valor and their defense "of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years after the war" when "their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South." The four years referred to the Ku Klux Klan's terrorizing of blacks and white Democrats who sought to change the white dominance in the south.[10] Carr also boasted to the crowd that "one hundred yards from where we stand" soon after the defeat of the Confederate army "I horse whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds because she had maligned and insulted a Southern lady."[11]

The Silent Sam statue has frequently been a source of controversy, it is seen by some as symbol of historical remembrance, while others view it as a sign of racial oppression. The monument has been a subject of controversy and a site of protest since the 1960s; in March 1965, a discussion about the monument's meaning and history occurred in the letters to the editor of the UNC student newspaper, the Daily Tar Heel.[12] In May 1967, poet John Beecher "debated" Silent Sam, reading to the statue from his book of poetry To Live and Die in Dixie.[13] Following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968, the monument was vandalized.[14] In the early 1970s, the monument was the site of several demonstrations by the Black Student Movement.[15]

Students gathered by the statue to speak out after Los Angeles police officers were found not guilty in the 1992 Rodney King trial;[16] in 1997, a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march focused on issues facing UNC housekeepers ended at the monument.[17] In July 2015, the statue was vandalized, the statue has been the focus of several protests, and many have called for its removal.[18] A UNC history professor, Dr. Harry Watson, reported in a Daily Tar Heel article that he believes the monument is an important part of the campus history, but that the belief about the statue promotes a false idea about the Civil War.

Protests in August 2017
Protests in August 2017

Following the Charlottesville incidents a crowd of several hundred people gathered in August 2017 around the statue to call for its removal.[19] University officials are evaluating state law to determine if that is possible.[20]


  1. ^ Light on the Hill: A History of the University of North Carolina At Chapel Hill By William D. Snider, p. 148
  2. ^ "The Civil War Years." The Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of University History. Retrieved on March 1, 2008.
  3. ^
  4. ^
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  7. ^ United Daughters of the Confederacy p. 66
  8. ^ a b c "UNC's Silent Sam and Honoring the Confederacy". We're History. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  9. ^ ."Silent Sam (Civil War Monument)." The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Virtual Tour. Retrieved on March 1, 2008.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "Timeline". A Guide to Resources on UNC's Confederate Monument. Retrieved 24 June 2016. 
  13. ^ "Timeline". A Guide to Resources on UNC's Confederate Monument. Retrieved 24 June 2016. 
  14. ^ "Timeline". A Guide to Resources on UNC's Confederate Monument. Retrieved 24 June 2016. 
  15. ^ "Timeline". A Guide to Resources on UNC's Confederate Monument. Retrieved 24 June 2016. 
  16. ^ "Silent Sam." The Weiss Urban Livability Program. Retrieved on March 1, 2008.
  17. ^ "Timeline". A Guide to Resources on UNC's Confederate Monument. Retrieved 24 June 2016. 
  18. ^ 'Silent Sam' Confederate Statue At UNC Vandalized
  19. ^ "Hundreds protest on UNC campus against Confederate statue". Washington Post. Retrieved 2017-08-24. 
  20. ^