It’s 1913, in the middle of the night, and a group of UNC workers have just brought a heavy load to McCorkle Place in a rented Mule-Haul.
It’s the statue of a Confederate soldier.
Quietly they place it on a pedestal, facing North, his rifle ready. The workers steal off into the night, leaving Silent Sam to greet the rising sun.
When the citizenry woke up, they found the new statue and knew that it simply represented the students who had fought for the Confederacy.
This of course is not what happened. In the UNC library you can find a 20-page speech by James Carr, the man who raised money for the statue. He read these words when he dedicated Silent Sam.
Unlike the writers of the impassioned letters and recent op-ed in the Chapel Hill News, James Carr knew that the statue did not simply honor students who had served during the war. Yet some people are aghast at a recent proposal to put a new plaque on the statue, a plaque which would “thoroughly explain the context in which the monument was erected.” This plaque would discuss race.
People opposed to the plaque claim that the statue has nothing to do with race. History, they believe, shows that the statue simply honors war veterans.
Why don’t we let James Carr himself settle the matter? He raised the money for the statue. He dedicated it. Who better than Carr to explain the history behind Silent Sam.
I propose that the plaque have the following sentences from pp 9-B and 9-C of James Carr’s dedication speech:
“The present generation, I am persuaded, scarcely takes note of what the Confederate soldier meant to the welfare of the Anglo Saxon race during the four years immediately succeeding the war, when the facts are, their courage and steadfastness saved the very life of the Anglo Saxon race in the South – when the ‘bottom rail was on top’ all over the Southern states – and today, as a consequence, the purist strain of the Anglo Saxon is to be found in the 13 Southern States – Praise God.”
“I trust that I may be pardoned for one allusion, howbeit it is rather personal. One hundred yards from where we stand, less than ninety days perhaps after my return from Appomattox, I horse-whipped a negro wench, until her skirts hung in shreds, because upon the streets of this quiet village she had publicly insulted and maligned a Southern lady, and then rushed for protection to these University buildings where was stationed 100 Federal soldiers. I performed the pleasing duty in the immediate presence of the entire garrison, and for thirty nights afterwards slept with double-barreled shotgun under my head.”
Of course Silent Sam was intended to honor Confederate soldiers. But that’s not all it was meant to do The words “succeeding the war” refer to Reconstruction, not the war itself. The words “Anglo Saxon race” are self-explanatory.
George Entenman lives in Chapel Hill.