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Confederate Monument ("Silent Sam")

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Silent Sam

Erected in 1913, in remembrance of "the sons of the University who died for their beloved Southland 1861-1865," the Confederate monument known as Silent Sam stands on McCorkle place, the University's upper quad, facing Franklin Street. The monument was given to the University by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1909. More than 1000 University men fought in the Civil War. At least 40% of the students enlisted, a record not equaled by any other institution, North or South. Sam is silent because he carries no ammunition and cannot fire his gun.

He has long been the subject of a controversy that draws upon antagonisms that run deeply and are in many ways as complex as the causes of the Civil War itself. The chairman of the Monument Committee, Mrs. H.A. London, stated at the dedication, "In honoring the memory of our Confederate heroes, we must not be misunderstood as having in our hearts any hatred to those who wore the Blue, but we do not wish to forget what has been done for us by those who wore the Gray." Impressions of this monument are varied, ranging from the belief that it is a symbol of ongoing racial oppression to the belief that Sam is a symbol of regional pride, and cover most of the territory in between. The monument was recently graced with graffiti antagonistic to the memorial, calling for an end to war and other forms of violence, signaling a new chapter in the debate over the meanings and message of this public monument.

Nowadays, many students view Silent Sam as simply another place to sit on a warm spring afternoon, but the controversies that have surrounded him over the years invite those of us who have not seen to come and take a look, and those of us who have, perhaps to come and take another, and to remember the issues that have demanded the attention of Chapel Hill's citizens throughout the years.

For updated information and resources, visit:

Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina

A Guide to Researching Campus Monuments and Buildings: “Silent Sam” Confederate Monument

A Guide to Resources about UNC’s Confederate Monuments

UNC History Department’s Resources on the Confederate Memorial at UNC (aka “Silent Sam” Statue)



The Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill

All Text and Photos © 2004.