What’s Wrong with This Picture?

Many of you have heard about H. K. Edgerton, an African American heritage activist.  Some people celebrate him, some people ridicule him, some people attack him.  Frankly, I don’t care.  What Mr. Edgerton believes and what he wants to do is up to him, and, no, I have no problem with his charging fees to appear at various functions.  If someone’s willing to pay, that’s their business, and I’m sure they get what they pay for.

But there is something about Mr. Edgerton that causes me to scratch my head.  It’s this …

… and this …

… and this …

You see, H. K. Edgerton often portrays a Confederate artillery sergeant.

I’m unaware of any African Americans who actually served in the Confederate army as sergeants in the artillery.  Yes, I have heard one Confederate heritage enthusiast claim that there was an entire regiment of black Confederate cooks, but this is a little different.

Has anyone come across evidence of African Americans in Confederate military service with the rank of sergeant in the artillery?

Of course, one could point out that this is not the only uniform Mr. Edgerton uses, and they would be right.  Indeed, in the other images I’ve seen, I haven’t seen him give himself rank. Have you?

Moreover, one could argue that this is a case where Mr. Edgerton is in fact portraying a black slave (perhaps an officer’s servant) who appropriated the shell jacket in the aftermath of a battle in which its original wearer sacrificed all for the cause.  But I haven’t seen that case made.

Even Dixie Outfitters features Mr. Edgerton in his sergeant’s artillery shell jacket.  It also draws upon that image for a rather confused t-shirt image:

Here we have a black Confederate artillery non-commissioned officer marching as an infantryman.  Whatever.

So, what are we to make of this?

I confess I do not know.  But I know it could be worse.  Take this image of Mr. Edgerton … note any other non-standard issue items of apparel?

I thought you could.

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18 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with This Picture?

  1. “Has anyone come across evidence of African Americans in Confederate military service with the rank of sergeant in the artillery?”

    No.

    I have found a few accounts of the unit(s) organized by Majors Turner and Pegram describing black NCOs but these were infantry. Blue would be the appropriate trim.

  2. Steve Perry/”Uncle Steve Eberhart” wore a gray coat with red artillery trim when he appeared at Confederate reunions, but he’d been a servant to an actual Confederate artilleryman during the war, and so there was a connection there. But Perry/Eberhart never claimed rank or status as a soldier.

  3. “Gun after gun was silenced and abandoned…every embrasure within
    range of a thousand yards was silent,” Colonel Ripley proudly wrote
    of their efforts, adding that Berdan’s men also suppressed Rebel
    small-arms fire. “The rebel infantry,” he wrote, “which at first
    responded with a vigorous fire, found that exposure of a head meant
    grave danger, if not death.”
    As Ripley stated, deadly shots from the sharpshooters made manning
    the Confederate defenses dangerous work. In response, it seems some
    Southern troops then resorted to a desperate tactic. “They forced
    their negroes to load their cannon,” an officer in the 1st U.S.S.S.
    sadly noted. “They shot them if they would not load the cannon, and
    we shot them if they did.”
    Killers in Green Coats
    Civil War Times,February 20, 2008

  4. Facebook keeps suggesting that I befriend “Sergeant” Edgerton. I have opted not too. Although I have to admit, I would like to hear him speak one day in person – I am more interested in the crowd response than anything else.

  5. As long as he stands and fights by our side, he can wear any kind of Confederate uniform he wishes. My only regret is that there are no more of all races willing to stand by us and do what is right. I don’t think he meant to be reenacting, just showing solidarity.

  6. Mr. Lovejoy,

    As I have stated in many of the reenactments I participated in to those who were always harping about authenticity, “All the real authentics are dead and buried and have been for the last 150 years.”

  7. Let’s say that Mr. Edgerton was Asian-American. Would we have the same reaction? Isn’t this just pretend–like cross-dressing for Halloween? I know the symbolism goes a lot deeper than that, as it should, but perhaps Mr. E. just likes the pretty colors and looks of this costume and flag more than the one belonging to the Union??? And since he does get paid . . . perhaps that’s additional motivation to wear the Confederate uniform. I mean a vegetarian might wear a cow costume in front of an Arby’s roast beef shop if the pay was good enough . . .

  8. there are acounts of black confederates written by union soldiers here is one from stones river tennessee “We moved upon the enemy’s works at first we wrere hardly ment with bullets but with in a few minutes it seemed the firey gates of hell opend up I saw a number of negro soldiers that belonged to the enemy! and I can say with the upmost certainty that they fought like hell” PVT Nithanle Goodwin 28th Ohio U.S.A

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