I was browsing some web pages and came across a very interesting link to a website that seems tailored (no pun intended) to Civil War reenactors/enthusiasts, with an interest in uniforms. This photograph of a young black man was taken in Richmond in April 1865. He is wearing what was called a sack coat. The description that accompanies the image offers a few interpretations.
Picture 10: A very distinct image taken in occupied Richmond, Virginia, April 1865, depicts a group of black freedman, some of them wearing Confederate uniforms. Those wearing the uniforms may have acquired them from government store houses at the fall of Richmond, or they may have been serving in Confederate Army in some capacity. It is possible that may have been in the Confederate “Black Brigade,” formed in the last months of the war, that consisted of two or three battalions of infantry. In any case, one of the freedmen wears a Confederate military sack coat and matching fabric pants. The coat has four brass military buttons, but no exterior breast pocket. It is similar to the Brooke coat in that the bottom edge extends almost down to the cuff. The stand collar has no contrasting facing. What is certain about this coat is that it represents the type used by the Army of Northern Virginia at the close of the war. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.
I would love for this to be a photograph of a soldier. The few black recruits that marched through the streets of Richmond at the tail end of the war are an incredibly elusive bunch, which I suspect will remain so. More than likely the uniform was acquired following the evacuation of Richmond. I am no expert, but that uniform looks to be in pretty good condition.