Silent Sam Was My Friend


December 26, 2019

Silent Sam was my best friend when I was a student at the University of North Carolina. I had silent conversations with Sam daily as I walked past him twice on most days for four years. He offered encouragement to me when I was having a difficult time with a course. “If you think your algebra is tough, I walked in an open field up Cemetery Ridge in the face of blistering fire from a hundred rifles. Your algebra problem is nothing. Buck up. Hang in.”

I took great inspiration from Sam and I believe the current assault on Southern statuary is misplaced, like the Vietnam protests when the dissidents assaulted the warriors not the war. Now the current protestors are assaulting the statues of the warriors, not statues of the politicians who sought to promote and protect slavery or mistreatment of blacks.

In my lifetime, I have never heard a southerner say, “I’m so proud of my grandfather because he had lots of slaves.”

I have often heard something like, “My grandfather survived the assault on Cemetery Ridge” or “was killed in the Gettysburg cornfield” or “Granddaddy fought in the Battle of Antietam.”

I believe most southerners do not celebrate slavery, or Jim Crow, or encourage white racism, but cherish the bravery, sacrifice and struggles of the soldiers who fought in the War Between the States. I doubt if anyone celebrates any southern politicians of the period. That’s where the current protestors should focus their attention, not on the soldiers the politicos sent. There may be some statues of them that would be more appropriate targets.

I understand the anger over slavery and the mistreatment of black people even to this day, but when protestors assail the statue of a southern hero, they are not protesting maltreatment of blacks or historical slavery, they are impugning the memories of our courageous ancestors – not the institution of slavery. Thus, they spark the outrage that follows the nonsensical take down of a Confederate boy’s statue.

To this day I’m still furious at the empty-headed fool filmed kicking the fallen Silent Sam in the head. If I had been there, I would have thrashed him with my walking stick.

Bud Shapard

Pisgah Forest


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