Barry Sheehy – Silence, an American Tragedy

The statue of Silence, a remarkable work of art sculpted in the 1870s by Robert Reid of the Montreal Marble Works, was recently desecrated in Savannah’s beautiful and historic Laurel Grove Cemetery. It was a shameful act, done at night without courage or, thus far, consequence. It saddened me beyond words; it broke my heart. I know from history that the burning of books and the destruction of statues are a prelude to violence and nihilism. It marks the end of order.
This beautiful and historically unique statue played an important role in the writing of my books about Montreal, Montreal: City of Secrets, which documented the close ties between Montreal and the Confederacy during the Civil War and Savannah, Savannah: Immortal City and the second book Savannah: Brokers, Bankers and Bay Lane provided the most thorough analysis to date of the inner workings of Savannah’s Slave Trade. It was a work not universally welcomed. It ultimately resulted in my returning to Canada after living in Savannah for more than 20 years. But Savannah remains today my favorite place in the whole world.
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I wrote my Savannah and Montreal books after taking a sabbatical, having lived through the attack on the World Trade Center in New York. “Silence” played a pivotal role in my Savannah and Montreal books. The picture of Silence holding her finger to her lips signalled not just quiet but also mystery — a secret waiting to be told. The minute I saw the statue I was captivated by its haunting beauty and mystery. I asked my wonderful research team about its origins. I was flabbergasted when they returned days later with the news the statue had been crafted in Montreal by noted artist Robert Reid. Savannah was my adopted home; Montreal was the city of my birth. The circle was closing.
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In writing my history of Savannah during the Civil War — the greatest and bloodiest conflict in American history — I encountered this beautiful, redeeming statue in Laurel Grove — it changed the course of my writing and my thinking. In one gracious pose with her finger to her pursed lips she captured the valor, courage, carnage, and tragedy of this most terrible of struggles.
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The Civil War cannot be willed away, burned away, or torn down — nor should it be. You cannot erase this transformative struggle which, next to the Revolution, made America. This bloody struggle of brother against brother must be embraced as a tragic but true part of American history. It happened. And its causes and effects are too important to be settled by the mindless tearing down of statues, Taliban style. Surely America is better than this.
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Take the time to study the facts and learn the truth which is more complex and nuanced than can be articulated with the mindless vandalism of works of art — which by itself is a singular sin against society.
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SILENCE
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The Statue of “Silence,” an angel holding her finger to her lips calling for quiet as she watches over her Confederate dead at Laurel Grove, is poignant. If you take the time to study the boys buried here, you will see a true cross section of southern society. Most did not own slaves.
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The Angel’s whisper signalled not just Silence but something yet to be discovered.
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The first mystery uncovered was that Silence was sculpted in Canada at the Montreal Marble Works by noted artist Robert Reid. Sourcing a major work of art from far away Montreal during the lean years of Reconstruction was akin to sourcing it from the far side of the moon. That alone was a story worth pursuing.
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Why Montreal? We discovered deep and unexpected links between Montreal and the Confederacy, including the beautiful city of Savannah.
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This was an historic journey like no other, out of which emerged a story of sedition, intrigue, violence, and greed which touched on the Lincoln assassination and revealed breathtaking corruption. It also marked the birth of the deep state.
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Do not tell me statues are not important.
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The statue of Silence shattered my calcified and simplistic American Civil War narrative of a battle between good and evil, as defined by slavery alone.
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This turned my world upside down — it was an epiphany.
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A last word from far away Cape Breton Island on the foggy North Atlantic: Embrace your history, good and bad, because without America there is no free world.
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Barry Sheehy

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Note: The author does not dwell on the damage done to the statue by the cowardly vandals. As it can be seen on the enclosed photograph, the monument has been smeared with red paint and defaced with a graffiti “Silent no more”. The angel’s forearms and his downturned torch have been broken off. The Left can only destroy.

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Barry Sheehy

Originally from Montreal, Canada, Barry Sheehy holds degrees from Loyola (Concordia) and McGill Universities, as well as the Canadian Armed Forces Decoration.  Mr. Sheehy’s lifelong passion for history has continued since his early years as an officer in the Canadian Armed forces.  After leaving the military, he entered the entrepreneurial world of business consulting where he acquired clients from New York to London and as far away as Dubai and Hong Kong.  Barry is the author or contributing author of several books and over fifty published papers and articles.  Barry’s ongoing interest in history eventually focused his attention America’s most complete, surviving, antebellum Southern city, Savannah, Georgia.  He was particularly interested in the city’s wartime experience. After many years of exhaustive research, Sheehy began the task of final development, aided by an all-volunteer team of skilled professionals in 2005.  With rigorous cross checking from both previously published works and newly discovered original materials, Sheehy has written the most extensive historical study of Civil War Savannah ever undertaken, including “Savannah: Immortal City” and “Savannah: Brokers, Bankers, and Bay Lane.” His latest book “Montreal, City of Secrets” appeared in September 2017.

See Barrysheehy.com

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