By HOLLY KOZELSKY
Bulletin Staff Writer
You might look twice when you pass the Patrick County Courthouse during Saturday’s Confederate Memorial Day observation, because the man in grey holding the Confederate flag will be black.
And he’s there to set things straight.
H.K. Edgerton of Asheville, N.C., is the keynote speaker of the Confederate Memorial Day observation sponsored by the Wharton-Stuart Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. The event begins at 1:30 p.m. and will be followed by an old-fashioned Southern pig pickin’.
Edgerton said that people today don’t have any idea why the Civil War was fought, and they perpetuate the misconceptions that they haven’t questioned.
He said that on Saturday he will give his interpretation of the causes and effects of the Civil War, the role of blacks during that war and "the cultural genocide that’s (now) taking place in the Southern homeland … against all things Southern."
In the years leading up to the Civil War, the South was trying to protect itself from a federal government "that was out of control," he said.
Edgerton said that to understand the causes of the Civil War, one must understand how the governmental system of that time differed from now. In the late 19th century, the state governments had much greater control, rights and powers than they do now, he said. They were nearly free-standing entities loosely united as the United States.
Chris Washburn, camp commander of the Wharton-Stuart Camp, said "people can’t put it in perspective now. You have to put yourself in their mindset. First, you were a Virginian, then you were an American. Most Southerners believed that (the Civil War) was an invasion of their state."
Edgerton said "The South felt like the federal government was intruding where it had no place to go. Religion was on the table — how we worshipped God. As a region, we were quite different from the North."
Other factors that prompted the Southern states to separate from the Union included the belief that "the federal government had no business with the kinds of powers it had, the unfair taxes that the Southland of America was having to pay and the lack of those resources being sent back into the South," he said.
"The North broke its contracts (with the government), and all the South wanted to do was go it’s own way," he added.
"Slavery was not on the table" as a motive for Lincoln’s attack on the South, he said. Instead, "Lincoln simply knew that the North needed the South to fund all these industrial complexes — it couldn’t have the South doing business with Europe."
The institution of slavery was horrible, Edgerton said, but it could not be eliminated abruptly without throwing the region into ruin and disarray. He said also that in the 19th century and before, the New England states were active in the slave trade, and the slave traders’ boats were constructed there.
Blacks played important roles both in the war as well as keeping agriculture and trade viable in the homeland, Edgerton said.
"You cannot take the flag and use it against me," he said. "Black folks earned that place of honor. When they talk about Black History Month, people generally don’t talk about black people who played important roles during the Civil War," he said.
"Nothing is written down here (about the Civil War) that comes even close to the truth — it’s deplorable to know what the United States has done to its people," he said. Students today are scrutinizing history’s myths and asking analytical questions, and they deserve to learn the full truths of history, he added.
Edgerton said also that most people don’t realize the beneficial role that the Ku Klux Klan played during the 12 years after the Civil War in reconstruction of destroyed areas and protection for Southern families and communities from invading carpetbaggers.
Carpetbagging contines to plague the South, he said.
"Too many Yankees have moved into the South and taken positions" on school boards and governmental boards "and (are) leading the way for cultural genocide in the Southland of America," he said. "We welcome them in and the only thing they do is destroy all things Southern. The black folks don’t want any part of it."
"I certainly do appreciate the Sons of the Confederate Veterans for inviting me last year and asking me to come back. I hope to see more black faces there" this time, he said.
Washburn said that the SCV invited Edgerton to speak because he was inspired by Edgerton’s message when he heard him speak at other events.
"He breaks it (history) down to where people can understand it," Washburn said.
H.K. Edgerton is chairman of the board of advisors emeritus at the Southern Legal Resource Center, a non-profit group that specializes in courtroom defenses of Confederate symbols, such as the wearing of the Confederate flag design at the workplace or at schools.
He is widely recognized for his "Walk Across Dixie for Southern Heritage," when he marched 1,300 miles from Asheville to Austin, Texas, in 2002 to carry a message of "heritage not hate."
April has been Confederate History and Heritage Month since the Patrick County Board of Supervisors made such a proclamation in 2003, said Washburn.
Confederate Memorial Day was originated by a South Carolina Confederate widow in 1864 and has been observed in other states since 1865.
The day is about "remembering the Confederate dead and the sacrifices they made," said Washburn. The Stuart-Hairston Camp of the SCV in Martinsville is helping the Wharton-Stuart Camp with the event.
After Edgerton speaks on Saturday, historian Tom Perry of Ararat will talk about the typical Patrick County Civil War soldier and a wreath-laying ceremony will be held at the Confederate monument.
After the hour-long ceremony, a pig-picking will be held at DeHart Park, Washburn said. The bluegrass band Marcie Home and Next Step will perform, and a soldiers’ encampment will show how Civil War soldiers lived.