When In Doubt, Bring in H.K. Edgerton

Update: More details are emerging about this meeting: “Passions ran high, at one point erupting in a spontaneous chorus of “Dixie” led by a black man, H.K. Edgerton, who called Union soldiers rapists and wielded his large Confederate flag like a conductor’s baton as the audience sang.” Oh, brother.

H.K. Edgerton

H.K. Edgerton

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection held a meeting last night on a proposal to add a monument to Union soldiers on the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park.  This story has been in the news for some time, but it’s still not clear to me why there is an issue with adding a monument to a battlefield. Most monument controversies are about their removal.

Speaking out against the addition of the monument, along with the Sons of Confederate Veterans, was none other than H.K. Edgerton, who we haven’t heard much from of late.

“There is no place in the south land of America to memorialize Yankee soldiers,” Edgerton said. “This is an army that came here raping, robbing, stealing, killing and murdering our people. The kinds of things that happened here under the sanction of Abraham Lincoln were for these men to commit total warfare against innocent men, women and children who could not defend themselves.”

What the commission made of a black man carrying a Confederate flag is anyone’s guess. Probably a good thing H.K. didn’t show up in full uniform.

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33 thoughts on “When In Doubt, Bring in H.K. Edgerton

  1. Brooks D. Simpson

    He must be kidding, because you can’t tell me he doesn’t know that among the regiments that fought at Olustee were Afdrican-American units.

    Or maybe he doesn’t know. But I wonder what role that fact may play in this ridiculous uproar.

    Some people will say anything.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      I’ve actually never heard H.K. make a clear and composed statement about the history of the war.

      Reply
    2. Neil Hamilton

      Kevin,

      It’s refreshing to know that stupidity is an equal opportunity employer, that it is no respecter of race, gender, class, religion, or heritage.

      Sincerely,
      Neil Hmilton

      Reply
  2. JMRudy

    “…commit total warfare against innocent men, women and children who could not defend themselves.”

    Looks like H.K. accidentally crafted an almost pitch-perfect definition of slavery… ;-)

    Reply
  3. Jon Morrison

    Please. Every time something like this is brought up it puts me into two mindsets. First, the Union didn’t come ANYWHERE close to committing the type of warfare that they claim on the Confederacy. They make Sherman & the Federal army out to be like Attila the Hun, when they weren’t even in the same ballpark. Sherman issued orders against doing such things & there are instances of Union troops being punished for these atrocities. Second, the Confederate army had their own problems with civilians. The front line troops were rarely doing it (mostly because they weren’t in Federal territory to have a chance-but sometimes did, like with the rounding up of blacks during the Gettysburg campaign & the burning of Chambersburg in 1864), but the rear echelon folks certainly were. Unionists all throughout the Confederacy were subjected to these same atrocities. And the 1862 Partisan Ranger Act opened a Pandora’s Box of guerrillas & other partisans who didn’t follow the rules of warfare & caused untold grief to the Confederate cause-to the point that Robert E. Lee spoke against it & the act was repealed. Confederate cavalry was likewise terrible on civilians-to the point that he said, ‘If God Almighty had yet in store another plague worse than all others which he intended to have let loose on the Egyptians in case the Pharaoh still hardened his heart, I am sure it must have been a regiment or so of half-armed, half-disciplined Confederate cavalry.’ He wasn’t the only one to say such things. So H.K.’s little speech sounds a little like the pot calling the kettle black.

    Reply
    1. Bryan

      Letter from Union Lieutenant Thomas J. Myers: Feb 26, 1865
      “Camp near Camden, S. C.

      My dear wife–I have no time for particulars. We have had a glorious time in this State. Unrestricted license to burn and plunder was the order of the day. The chivalry [meaning the Honourable & Chivalrous people of the South] have been stripped of most of their valuables. Gold watches, silver pitchers, cups, spoons, forks, &c., are as common in camp as blackberries.

      The terms of plunder are as follows: Each company is required to exhibit the results of its operations at any given place–one-fifth and first choice falls to the share of the commander-in-chief and staff; one-fifth to the corps commanders and staff; one-fifth to field officers of regiments, and two-fifths to the company.

      Officers are not allowed to join these expeditions without disguising themselves as privates. One of our corps commanders borrowed a suit of rough clothes from one of my men, and was successful in this place. He got a large quantity of silver (among other things an old-time milk pitcher) and a very fine gold watch from a Mrs DeSaussure, at this place. DeSaussure was one of the F. F. V.s of South Carolina, and was made to fork over liberally.. Officers over the rank of Captain are not made to put their plunder in the estimate for general distribution. This is very unfair, and for that reason, in order to protect themselves, subordinate officers and privates keep back every thing that they can carry about their persons, such as rings, earrings, breast pins, &c., of which, if I ever get home, I have about a quart. I am not joking–I have at least a quart of jewelry for you and all the girls, and some No. 1 diamond rings and pins among them.

      General Sherman has silver and gold enough to start a bank. His share in gold watches alone at Columbia was two hundred and seventy-five. But I said I could not go into particulars. All the general officers and many besides had valuables of every description, down to embroidered ladies’ pocket handkerchiefs. I have my share of them, too. We took gold and silver enough from the damned rebels to have redeemed their infernal currency twice over. This, (the currency), whenever we came across it, we burned, as we considered it utterly worthless.

      I wish all the jewelry this army has could be carried to the “Old Bay State”. It would deck her out in glorious style; but, alas! it will be scattered all over the North and Middle States. The damned niggers, as a general rule, prefer to stay at home, particularly after they found out that we only wanted the able-bodied men, (and to tell the truth, the youngest and best-looking women). Sometimes we took off whole families and plantations of niggers, by way of repaying secessionists. But the useless part of them we soon manage to lose; [one very effective was to "shoot at their bobbing heads as they swam rivers" after the army units crossed over], sometimes in crossing rivers, sometimes in other ways.

      I shall write to you again from Wilmington, Goldsboro’, or some other place in North Carolina. The order to march has arrived, and I must close hurriedly. Love to grandmother and aunt Charlotte. Take care of yourself and children. Don’t show this letter out of the family.

      Reply
      1. Jimmy Dick

        This letter has been severely questioned as to its authenticity. There was no Lt. Myers with Sherman’s army. It just popped up out of the blue all of a sudden and describes events which no one else describes. This is just another lie created to support the Lost Cause lie.

        Reply
        1. Jimmy Dick

          I think this letter may be a great tool to use to demonstrate to my students what a fake piece of documentation is. They’ve been asking for examples of false history and deceptive websites. Lost Cause heritage is one of the best examples of trash on the Internet and should make a great learning tool.

          Reply
  4. Will Stoutamire

    I’d love to see HK’s response to the well-documented killing of USCT captured and wounded after Olustee.

    It seems to me that only those men, quite literally, “could not defend themselves.”

    Reply
  5. Boyd Harris

    Currently writing a chapter of my dissertation on commemoration at Olustee. There is nothing better than when your dissertation writes itself.

    Reply
  6. Ann

    Actually, I attended this meeting. The issue is that the Sons of the Union say there is no monument to the Union. That simply is not true. Or it is?
    I will explain. The large 100 year old monument that exists now reads:
    “The Battle of Olustee was Fought on this Ground February 20th 1864
    Between 5,000 Confederate Troops Commanded by General Joseph E. Finegan and 6,000 Federal Troops under General Truman Seymour.
    The Federals were defeated with a loss of 2,000 men. The Confederate loss was less than 1,000.”
    Seems pretty balanced/factual, benign, to me.
    However the Sons of the Union insist there is no monument remembering the Union.
    Well then, there is no monument to the Confederates either.
    It is apples and apples.
    The existing monument either remembers both, or neither. Because it reads even, equal.
    Those who are opposed say that it is enough. It is a battlefield, men died there. Let them rest in peace. I concur. If you want more history, then add an exhibit to the exhibit center. But do not disturb the ground where men died.
    The monument is equal, fair, balanced, enough. Add to the visitors center if you want more. The press is making it more than there is. It is irresponsible.

    Reply
    1. Kevin Levin Post author

      Fair enough, but will an additional monument cause undue harm to anything on the battlefield or beyond. Thanks for the comment.

      Reply
      1. Ann

        If there already exists a fair, equal appropriate monument to both, why dig up ground where men spilled their blood? Have some respect. It is irresponsible to do anything other than to leave that place alone. People visit that site because their ancestors died there. Currently it is a place of reverence to all men who died. It is a place of peace. The Monument is fair and equal. Let all their spirits rest.

        Reply
    2. Andy Hall

      The existing monument either remembers both, or neither. Because it reads even, equal.

      Oh? The Florida SCV Division Commander, Jim Davis, claimed the same thing, saying that “the 1912 monument is dedicated to the memory of the men who fought for the Union and the Confederacy.”

      Not true. Both you and he fail to mention the actual dedication on the back of the 1912 monument:

      To the men who fought and
      Triumphed here in defense
      of their homes and firesides.
      This monument is erected
      by the United Daughters
      of the Confederacy aided
      by the State of Florida.
      In commemoration of their
      devotion to the cause of
      Liberty and State Sovereignty
      MCMXII

      That doesn’t read “even, equal” to me.

      So my question is, did you not know this, or are you willfully misrepresenting the facts as Davis apparently did?

      Reply
        1. Patrick Young

          The rededication on the monument amplifies the point:

          “This monument at Ocean Pond is rededicated to these southern units that fought here on February 20, 1864. Done this February 20, 1994 the 130th anniversary of the battle.

          1st Fla. Inf. Bn. 2nd Fla. Inf. Bn. 6th Fla. Inf. Bn. Madison Conscripts 2nd Fla. Cav. 5th Fla. Cav. Bn. Gambles Arty.

          1st Ga. Regulars 6th Ga. Inf. 19th Ga. Inf. 23rd Ga. Inf. 27th Ga. Inf. 28th Ga. Inf.

          32nd Ga. Inf. 64th Ga. Inf. 4th Ga. Cav. 28th Ga. Arty Bn. Chatham Arty. Guerard’s Btry.”
          No mention is made of Union troops.

          I suspect that the references to the size of the Federal force and the casualties was less to commemorate the Federal size and more to show the Confederate achievement at the battle. It is essentially a Confederate victory monument.

          Reply
          1. Patrick Young

            Ann contention that the Confederate monument honors both sides equally put me in mind of the 69th (Irish) Pennsylvania monument at the High Water Mark at Gettysburg. It’s main inscription after the unit’s full designation, reads:

            “This position
            was held by the 69th PA. Vols.,
            July 2nd and 3rd 1863.
            Late on the afternoon of the 2nd, this
            regiment assisted in repulsing a desperate
            attack made by Wright’s Ga. Brigade.
            About 1 o’clock, p.m. of the 3rd, these lines
            were subjected to an artillery fire from
            nearly 150 guns, lasting over one hour after
            which, Pickett’s division charged this position,
            was repulsed, and nearly annihilated. The
            contest on the left and centre of this
            regiment, for a time being hand-to-hand. Of the
            regimental commanders attacking, but one
            remained unhurt. Genl. Garnett was killed,
            Genl. Kemper desperately wounded, and
            Genl. Armistead, after crossing the stonewall
            above the right of this command – 2 companies
            of which changed front to oppose him – fell
            mortally wounded.
            A number of Confederate flags were picked
            up on this front after the battle. ”

            The inscription mentions five Confederate generals and no Union generals at all. Does this make it a Confederate monument? Not at all. In a very 19th Century way, the men of the 69th were honoring themselves by showing the magnitude of their opponents. They had fought great and famous men and triumphed.

            Reply
      1. george r payne

        First Sherman burned and pillaged not only in the East, he also did the same in the West and bragged about to Grant. Second we here in Florida do not need carpetbaggers coming in again and telling us how our state should behave. You Yankees need to stay in the North and polish your PC books and leave we Southerners alone.

        Reply
        1. Patrick Young

          George Payne, the notion of Floridians as White Southerners is simply not founded in fact. At the start of the war, Florida had a population of154,000, 92,000 of whom were free white or black and 61,000 slave. So we begin with the fact that nearly four-in-ten Floridians had more in common with the U.S. Colored Troops at Olustee than they did with the white Confederate force.

          Before the development of air conditioning and air travel, the population of Florida was one of the slowest rising in the country. By 1920 the population of Florida still hadn’t broken a million. It doubled to over 2 million 1950 and by 1970, following the influx of Latinos from Cuba and elsewhere and the relocation of Northern-born to the state, it approached 7 million. By then, very few Floridians could trace their roots to the Civil War Era white population. The state’s population is now estimated at 19 million. It is largely non-Southern in origin.

          40% of Floridians are Black, Hispanic, or Asian American. There is virtually zero interest among these demographic groups in “Confederate Heritage.”

          As someone on the receiving end of ads from Florida’s (Republican) governor urging New Yorkers to relocate to the Sunshine State, I can assure you that Florida’s official policy is anything but “Yankees need to stay in the North.”

          Reply
          1. Paul Taylor

            It can also be noted that when the Civil War started, the overwhelming majority of white, head of household “Floridians” had been born in another slave state, primarily Georgia or South Carolina. In Clay County (Jacksonville), only 19 percent were Florida natives.

            Reply
            1. Andy Hall

              My Marion County, Florida Confederate ancestors were originally from South Carolina, by way of Alabama. I’m sure old-timers who settled Ocala in the 1830s thought they were carpetbaggers, too. It’s all relative.

              Reply
  7. Boyd Harris

    Below are the Legislative Acts that I found in the Florida Park Service Files.

    “Acts, 1899, ch. 4815.
    Authorizes governor to appoint a commission of 5 men to erect monument on Olustee battle field, and markers on battle field. Appropriates $2500. Monument to be erected to Federal and Confederate.”

    “Acts, 1901, ch. 5053.
    Amends foregoing, so that monument is to erected only to Confederates.”

    “Acts, 1915, ch. 6824
    Monument dedicated October 23, 1912.”

    This was a summary of the acts passed by the state legislature. The state gave money for the monument, but the site was overseen by the UDC until 1949 when the State Board of Historic Memorials took over. I have not found anything yet on why the State legislature changed its mind on the monument, but am looking.

    I also have several memos and letters from the early 1990s about the rededication. They are between the Florida Park Service and the volunteer group, Citizens for the Support of Olustee Battlefield. In all of them the CSO refers to the monument as the “Confederate monument.” No idea if any of them are still members or a part of this current debate over commemoration. If so, the cliche about a short memory probably applies.

    Reply
  8. an

    Actually I was there, at the monument, last Monday, in Lake City, before the meeting. Here is the actual text on the current Monument erected in 1912 by the Commission established by Florida Law:

    “The Battle of Olustee was Fought on this Ground February 20th 1864

    Between 5,000 Confederate Troops Commanded by General Joseph E. Finegan and 6,000 Federal Troops under General Truman Seymour.

    The Federals were defeated with a loss of 2,000 men. The Confederate loss was less than 1,000.”

    I have transcribed it EXACTLY, and have a picture of the inscription. Happy to send the picture if there is a way!

    Reply
  9. Will Stoutamire

    Not to resurrect an older post, but this was too interesting to pass up. I’ve been doing some work lately for a local historic lighthouse, which was the landing site for the Union’s attempted March 1865 raid on St. Marks, Florida (just south of Tallahassee). While combing through the ORs, I stumbled across this reference from US Brig. Gen. Asboth (Pensacola) to potential late-war recruitment of north Florida blacks into the Confederate army.

    You know, some of the people HK just claimed to speak for in ***Lake City***…

    “April 17, 1865
    Absalom Capors (colored), from ***Lake City***, E. Fla, states . . . the rebels are collecting all able-bodied negroes and forcing them into the military service. Four hundred were taken from Tallahassee when I [he] left, many of them handcuffed.”

    I wonder what Mr. Capors, who had apparently just escaped to Union lines, would think of HK’s recent shenanigans in Lake City.

    Reply

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