Esau Pierce is the leader of 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles, a group of Confederate soldiers who help Bass Reeves and his master George Reeves fight the Union forces, in Paramount+’s Western series ‘Lawmen: Bass Reeves.’ Bass’ paths cross with Esau’s once again in the fifth episode of the show as the deputy marshal is asked to hand a prisoner over to a Texas Ranger. Bass encounters Esau at the end of his journey, only to realize that the Ranger he is looking for is Esau. The former Confederate soldier and current Texas Ranger is not based on a real person but the character does help the show connect to reality subtly!
A Fictional Character Representing a Real Group
Esau Pierce is a fictional character conceived by series creator Chad Feehan and his team of writers. He does not have an exact real-life counterpart who fought in the Civil War for the Confederate forces. Having said that, Esau’s group 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles is an actual regiment that fought for the South. The regiment was based in Fort Wayne, which is located in present-day Oklahoma. In reality, as the show depicts, the soldiers of the military unit employed guerilla tactics to attack the Union Army. They celebrated a majority of their success under the leadership of Brigadier-General Stand Watie.
The group dealt with thousands of Union soldiers from northern-held Indian Territory to Kansas and Missouri. Although the regiment was involved in the Battle of Pea Ridge, Esau doesn’t have anything to do with Watie. Feehan replaces the leader of the military unit with his outrightly fictitious character to introduce the latter and establish his presence and significance in Bass’ life. Even though Esau’s bravery and fighting methods do remind us of the riflemen of the regiment, Feehan didn’t base the character on any of those soldiers for the sake of the liberties fiction granted to him.
Esau vs. Bass
Esau is an essential character as far as the tension in the narrative is concerned. He represents the ugly side of the law, which is extremely different from the law Bass embraces. When he sacrifices his life and time with his family to fulfill his duties as a lawman, Esau uses his badge to his advantage, which may make the former reconsider his identity as a deputy marshal. Bass may realize that his uncompromising adherence to the written word of the law may not be the best way to approach the same when lawmen like Esau use the same to unleash cruelty against fellow black men.
At the end of the fifth episode of the show, Bass confronts the need to hand over his prisoner Jackson Cole, who killed a plantation owner for burning his slaves down, to Esau. He may find doing the same difficult after knowing that what Cole did is justice irrespective of how the law sees it. Esau’s presence and viciousness may influence Bass’ conflicting emotions and understandings concerning the best way to be a lawman. The black man may even start to resent the law that allows men like Esau to kill men like Cole, likely making him consider relinquishing his badge.
Although Esau is not based on a real lawman like Bass, he can be seen as a fictional counterpart of all the real-life officers who took advantage of their position and authority to spread hatred and cause harm, especially to the black community of the time.
What About Barry Pepper’s Character?
While creating the character Esau, Feehan was inspired by what Barry Pepper, who plays the former in the show, could bring to the portrayal. “I’ve always adored Barry as an actor, and had the idea of Esau Pierce very loose in my head when I met with Barry, and sort of began to craft Esau around things that I believed that Barry could do as an actor. And, you know, Berry has a very earthy quality to him, and it’s something that Esau has as well,” the creator told CinemaBlend. Therefore, the actor also deserves credit as far as Esau’s characteristics are concerned.