On July 4, 1894 in Butler, Pennsylvania, a crowd gathered in Diamond Square for the dedication of the Silent Defender’s Monument. There to accept the monument was Captain George W. Fleeger, who spoke these words: “This monument which we to-day dedicate is to the memory of all who gave up their lives for our country during the war; it matters not whether they served in a Butler county organization or in an organization outside the county, whether they fell amid the smoke and storm of battle, or whether with fevered brow and parched tongue they gave up their lives in the hospital: this monument is for them, for all who died for our country.” Captain Fleeger is referring to the Civil War, which came to a close only twenty-nine years earlier and saw over 600,000 casualties and even more left with only memories of those who were lost.
Previous attempts by patriotic citizens to create a monument dedicated to these soldiers never succeeded due to a lack of organization. Yet, on September 15, 1892, Colonel John M. Sullivan called forth a meeting of citizens and soldiers to again discuss the creation of a monument dedicated to the soldiers who fought and died in the Civil War. This meeting led to the establishment of the Butler County Soldiers’ Memorial Association which provided a more organized framework. Charles Duffy was one of the first to suggest the idea of building a monument and persisted despite the failed attempts of the past. Duffy was a Second Lieutenant of Company G, 14th Militia Regiment, and due to his involvement, was appointed to the board of directors of the monument association as its treasurer. The board also consisted of G.D. Swain and I.J. McCandless who held the positions of chairman and secretary, respectively.
The association began to allocate funds for the construction of the monument, and received donations primarily from the Butler American Legion Post 117 along with other Legion Posts. By December 1893, they had raised $3500, enough to begin accepting bids for the monument's construction.
Campell-Horigan Granite Company received the contract to build the monument, which resulted in the construction of a forty-eight-and-a-half-feet tall monument made from barre granite. A soldier stands atop of the pillar which led to rumors that the soldier was Richard Butler, the man that Butler County is named after. However, the figure is simply an unknown solider has been used in various monuments. There are reliefs on each side of the monument that commemorate the four divisions of the military. The reliefs consist of crossed rifles (Infantry Division) on the front, crossed swords (Cavalry Division) on the left, crossed cannons (Artillery Division) on the right, and an anchor and rope (Navy) on the rear. The words “Our Silent Defenders” are embossed on the front of the monument’s twelve-square-feet base. There are four plaques on the base of the pillar that are dedicated to soldiers who were involved in wars other than the Civil War. The plaque from the original dedication and the plaques from re-dedications on May 30, 1980 and May 30, 1984 honor soldiers that served in the Civil War, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. The latest plaque was designed by Steve Zavacky, a post commander of Lyndora American Legion Post 778. Zavacky’s plaque commemorates the soldiers who fought in the Lebanon Civil War, the invasion of Grenada, the invasion of Panama, and the Persian Gulf War. This plaque was added during the latest re-dedication on May 31, 1993.
The Silent Defender’s Monument is a standing memory to all of those brave souls who have served in wars dedicated to defending the United States and the idea of freedom. Its purpose is to serve as a constant reminder of the great accomplishments and the even greater sacrifices that were made on behalf of our country.
During the dedication ceremony, G.D. Swain spoke on the impact that the monument will have on the future generations of Butler County. Swain said “…When this generation shall have passed away, and the children of another generation shall ask their parents what means this monument? Then will they relate to them the heroic valor, the untold suffering and the true devotion of those which this monument represents. They will also tell them of the bitter anguish, the fervent prayers, the scalding tears of wives and mothers, all endured that the government might live…” These words speak to us, current and future generations, we are reminded to never forget the brave men and women who serve in our armed forces and to always be thankful of their sacrifices.