Emancipation as an “Honorable Discharge”

We are likely to see more of these black Confederate stories throughout Black History Month.  This one is a perfect example of the confusion and inconsistency that often accompanies these stories.  You can clearly discern both the narrative of a slave and a soldier at work here with no sense that they are mutually exclusive.  Mary Crockett presents her great-grandfather, Richard Quarls, as both a Civil War veteran and as a slave.  The reporter tells us that although he was forced into the army as a slave he wore the Confederate uniform.  The uniform is typically referenced as evidence that the individual in question was considered something other than a slave.  In addition, his pension is shown, which leads one to believe that he served in a Confederate unit as a soldier as opposed to being attached to a soldier/officer as a servant.  In this case the pension that Quarls received was for his work as a slave and not as a soldier.  Once again we can thank the Sons of Confederate Veterans for distorting this story for their own purposes by placing a marker that suggests that Quarls was a soldier.  Ms. Crockett is absolutely right when she points out that her family’s history is complex.  It’s also an important story and at this point in time we should try to get right.

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36 comments… add one
  • Arleigh Birchler Sep 8, 2012 @ 7:38

    Just re-read all the posts in this thread. I am glad that I took the time to do so. Taken together they seem to present many issues surrounding that horrible horrible institution, and the War that was related to it. I still believe that explaining away all of the actions of a large group of people on the basis that they were slaves, terribly abused and horrifically treated until they were reduced to a sub-human level of existence and ability for individual thought is very much akin to explaining it all away on the basis that they were genetically inferior and sub-human by nature. My words are not meant to inflame, or to promote either side in the War, or in our memory of the War. They are about my own experience with human beings, and how they deal with very adverse circumstances.

  • Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar Sep 7, 2012 @ 18:02

    Offering a thought long after the fact, both temporally and historically.
    Consider the issue of slavery as an institution, with individual stories as varied as the personalities. Why did planters not free their slaves?
    The slaves were the only liquid asset many a planter owned, whether it is moral or not. Let’s say that a planter decided to free all his slaves. If he was debt free, as were few, that was often done. But to free slaves, assets pledged to secure loans from Northern and British Banks, these loving humanitarians would have called their notes, very unlikely to have been repaid under the economic circumstances.
    Exaggeration? I think not, because notables such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington freed slaves at theirown deaths. In fact, only due to the charity of a compassionate banker was Jefferson able to keep Monticello inspite of tremendous debts. That is a part of the economics and finances of that “peculiar institution.”
    In the 1850’s the British Parliament ended slavery in the British Empire. Similar bills were introduced into Congress, providing compensation to the slaveholders. Some Abolishionist Members of Congress, as well as Northern bankers, would not hear of this.
    Thus, the terrible discourse expanded with the issues of extention of slavery into the territories and the advent of the Transcontinental Railroad.
    Proponents of the Northern Route(s) feared being placed in an uncometitive position if slave labor could be used to construct the advantageous clear weather Southern Route through the New Mexico territory and the Gadsden Purchase (made for just that purpose.) Let’s not forget that British money stood ready to finance the Transcontinental Railrod, whereever it was built. Then there were the Compromise of 1850, the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Fugitive Slave Laws. Certainly, the Dred Scot Decision did not help.
    A young lawyer from Illinois, whose first large case was representing the Illinois Central Railroad, came to lead the British backed 1860 Republican National ticket.
    Finally, there was the desire of the European Colonial Powers to reassert their hegemony over North America. Britain, France, Germany, and The Netherlands all had troops stationed in Maximillian’s Mexico, awaiting the conflict certain to come.
    Indeed, British underhandedness probably financed both the Abolishionists, the Ripon Society, and the Fire Eaters, assuring there would be armed conflict.
    I know this tome will fall upon the deaf ears of those who find it to their advantage to preserve the fiction of an American Civil War fought mainly to free slaves. There has never been so altruistic a venture, nor will there ever be.
    I personally find it amusing that if the STARS AND BARS are placed in a public display, all hell breaks loose from the politically correct. But use the Bonnie Blue Flag or any of the National Flags, nothing is said.
    By the way, this is researched material, assembled under appropriate scholastic standards.

    • Kevin Levin Sep 8, 2012 @ 2:36

      In the 1850′s the British Parliament ended slavery in the British Empire.

      So much for your scholastic standards. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Sherree Feb 3, 2011 @ 8:56


    To the point of your post:

    This is sad. The photograph is heartbreaking. The use of the photograph by the SCV to further its agenda is unconscionable.

  • EarthTone Feb 3, 2011 @ 8:17

    Question: Why do so many black families go along with the “Black Confederate soldier” narrative?

    Here’s one view on that:
    Bravery, Not Slavery: Why Some Black Folks Want to Believe in Black Confederate Soldiers


    “Simply put, there is no honor or glory in acknowledging that a long deceased relative was near a battlefield solely to do menial work as act of submission and service to a slave master. People would much rather believe that their ancestors were called to fight – which would be a recognition of their manhood, of their worthiness to do battle, and of their willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice.

    But here’s the rub: if these slaves were in fact recognized for their manhood and worthiness – then why were they slaves in the first place? The reality is, black men were seen as degraded, to use a common term of the era, and subservient. Loyalty, not the capacity for courage, was most valued in a slave. After all, a bondsman who was intrepid enough to flee for his freedom – and perhaps fight for the Union – was of no use to a slavemaster on the battlefield.

    But people of today want to see their ancestors through their own eyes, and they want to see those ancestors as brave and courageous. This focus on “bravery not slavery” dovetails perfectly with the “heritage not hate” narrative of groups like the Sons of Confederates Veterans. By maintaining an unspoken rule to avoid the unspeakable – the horrors of slavery and the contradiction of a slave fighting for a slave nation – both sides get to honor their ancestors without pondering the issues this “service” raises.”

    • Sherree Feb 4, 2011 @ 7:16

      Everyone should read this post. (I could not link to it from here, but went to your site, ET.) This is Black History Month. It is not White History Month. Every month is white history month, to a certain degree, so please listen to what others have to say. I think that the post “Bravery, not Slavery” goes to the heart of the matter. And–I will add–that it is not up to the SCV to define who Richard Quarles was or why he was indeed a brave man.

  • Commodore Perry Feb 2, 2011 @ 8:36

    So the obvious question here is whether there is more to the story. Did Quarls simply shoot in defense of his owners? In defense of his own life? Or did he go on from there to actually fight after that point in time? What I think is interesting is that long before the SCV got involved, Quarls was noted by the KKK in a positive light; this goes way beyond distorting pension records as “service” rendered. So maybe this is one case not to indict the SCV until more is known.

    • Edwin Thompson Feb 2, 2011 @ 9:49

      Odd comment. Slaves were not allowed to be educated and were beaten or even lynched for almost anything. You don’t have to be a psychologist to know that Mr. Quarles was trying to stay alive – he knew nothing else. Mr. Quarls was not thinking when all this was going on, and to question what he was thinking is an insult. Sadly, it is a human tragedy which we have seen throughout history. Some Jews in concentration camps assisted the Germans in killing other Jews. They didn’t support the Nazi’s, they were not mass murderers, they were trying to stay alive. God bless them all.

      • Commodore Perry Feb 2, 2011 @ 14:12

        ” Slaves were not allowed to be educated and were beaten or even lynched for almost anything.”

        That’s a blanket statement which obviously was not true in 100% of cases.

        “… he knew nothing else. Mr. Quarls was not thinking when all this was going on, and to question what he was thinking is an insult.”

        Frankly, I think that to say Mr. Quarls couldn’t have been smart enough to know anything else or that he wasn’t thinking at all is insulting, unless you have done research on him to the point where you know that to be true.

        “You don’t have to be a psychologist to know that Mr. Quarles was trying to stay alive”

        Of course, but a friendly visit from the KKK implies his actions were chalked up to more than just survival. So I want to know- was there more to the story than the news clip showed and what was it?

        • Edwin Thompson Feb 2, 2011 @ 16:17

          huh – no comment on Jews in concentration camps? The Germans stripped them of free will and identity – and the American slave culture stripped black men, woman, and children the same way. We have no right to judge their thoughts or motives while living under such insane conditions.

          • Andy Hall Feb 2, 2011 @ 17:01

            In my experience, Nazi/Confederate analogies generally inflame discussions more than they enlighten. Let it go.

          • Arleigh Birchler Feb 2, 2011 @ 17:04

            “After the Darkness: Reflections on the Holocaust” Elie Wiesel
            “American Slavery, American Freedom” Edmund S. Morgan
            “Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America” Ira Berlin

      • Will Stoutamire Feb 2, 2011 @ 14:17

        While I have little doubt the SCV has twisted this individual’s “service”, I would be intrigued to know the story behind his being honored by the KKK. They aren’t exactly an organization to give any sort of honor to a black man.

        Now that I think about it, perhaps it was their attempt to continue promoting the “loyal slave” narrative…

        • Kevin Levin Feb 2, 2011 @ 14:18

          I couldn’t agree more. I would love to know what is behind this story.

          • Edwin Thompson Feb 3, 2011 @ 6:05

            This thread is about Black Confederates. Somehow, people on this thread felt the need to understand why this man was representing the Confederates States of America. I will say it again – We cannot judge a person’s actions when his free will has been removed. Did German Jews build V2 rockets to safeguard the Third Reich? That question doesn’t require a response.

            In recent history, both the Germans and Americans have identified a group of people as being sub human. That is in the historical record, spoken by Germans and Americans alike. They targeted different people, but the concepts were the same. You can argue what happened in Kosovo was different. In that case, it was nationalism which resulted in genocide. However, I never read anything about the Serbs considering the Muslim peoples as being sub human. Southern States were not acting like nationalist – they were acting to protect a system that enslaved other people that they considered less than human.

            Southerners who want to preserve their heritage should not rally around Southern Antebellum culture. This culture fought the civil to preserve the concept that some people were inferior (merely by birth) to other people. This Southern Antebellum culture does not bring pride to the USA, it brings shame. The Catholic Church is not bragging about its periods of inquisitions (and there were many). They have apologized: and it took a long time for the Church to come to grips with this history; for many of us, too long. Southern culture needs to travel down that same path.

            The American culture has a rich heritage which can be found in the diversity of our people. From the south, we have seen some of the greatest writers the world has known (Mark Twain, Carson McCullers, Tennessee Williams, etc), music (from Jazz and the blues), and food (don’t get me started!). All of these contributions can found around the globe, even in the most remote corners. But you have to leave the southern USA to find that out. As Americans, we need to come to an understanding who we are. Southern heritage is not alone as some Southerners like to think – it is intertwined with American culture from the north, west, and even Mexico (I hope there are no Texans on this thread – they like their own designation). And without the rest of America, the wonderful things found in Southern culture would not have blossomed.

            To wrap this up – On other threads, it was asked if the symbolism of the confederate flag can be rehabilitated. No. Unless you believe the swastika can be rehabilitated. But we will all agree that the swastika cannot be rehabilitated. So let’s stop rallying around a shameful period of American history in which 100’s of thousand white Southern men felt it their duty to protect a system that dehumanized a group of people simply because they were of African decent. Let’s be proud of our American heritage, and admit to our shortcomings.

            • Sherree Feb 3, 2011 @ 7:45


              I agree with much of what you have said. However, racism never was, and is not now, a problem exclusive to the south, and this is important to remember because much of racism outside of the south is propped up by a false sense of history in other areas of the nation. In other words, the reasoning seems to go that racism is a southern problem, and thus, the rest of the nation does not have to come to terms with its racist past. The racist underpinning of the neo Confederate view of the past is obvious to all but to those who hold that view.

              Consider this quote from a post on the blog of one of Kevin’s contributors:

              “It would be hard to tell whence this extraordinary interest in the negro has come. It does not arise from his beauty, for no writer on aesthetics has ever pretended to find either beauty or grace in the shambling African. It cannot be because of his illustrious or romantic history, as a race or as a nation; for classic literature is extremely barren of the records of orators, statesmen, philosophers or warriors of negro origin. It cannot be because of any physical affinity between the white race and the black, for the black has always been declared unsavory, and naturally beset by laziness and vermin. And lastly, it cannot be because of the sympathy of the whites with a weak, down-trodden and enslaved race; for the negro of Africa (from which the American negro was taken,) is weaker to-day, and more oppressed, and nearer a barbarian and cannibal, than his American cousin has ever been. And yet no Anglican Duchess, nor American Greeley, is ever heard wailing over the sorrows of the sons of Ashantee.”

              This excerpt is from the New York Times in 1862, prior to the shift in public opinion of white northerners that led to a broader understanding by many white men and women of the north that African American men and women were men and women.

              Yes, we do all need to face our history. The belief in white supremacy was a national phenomenon that resulted not only in Jim Crow, terror, and lynching in the south, but in discrimination throughout the nation, and in the decimation of the lives and culture of men and women of the Plains Nations as white northerners and white southerners reunited yet again and moved west. “The only good Indian is a dead Indian” is quite a succinct expression of the belief by a white man who wore a US army uniform that other human beings were not human and were expendable.

              • Edwin Thompson Feb 3, 2011 @ 8:18

                Thanks Sherree. My comments are directed at American culture and the reason behind the civil war. There are people that look back on the antebellum age as a romantic time period to be remembered as a fine time period. It was not. Even Rhode Island because wealthy off the slave trade. But when I vacation in Newport, people recognize this fact without being proud. Let’s remember American history for what it was, not what we romanticize. Ed

                • Sherree Feb 3, 2011 @ 9:49


                  I think–and hope–that you can see that I agree with you. I find nothing romantic about the antebellum south, either. I am not quite certain that all white northerners have come to terms with the past, however. I haven’t been north in a long time. Yet I, like everyone else, am aware that Professor Henry Louis Gates was arrested in Cambridge, Massachusetts for attempting to get into his own home. President Obama handled that situation very diplomatically. It was, nevertheless, outrageous. None of this mitigates in any way the use, by the SCV, of the photograph that Kevin posted to attempt to turn the clock back and reinvigorate the faithful slave narrative.

                  • Edwin Thompson Feb 3, 2011 @ 10:52

                    I know – but not all Americans have come to terms with American history either – especially the civil war. Germans struggle with their history. And most Asians, South Americans and Middle Eastern immigrants could care less. They typically don’t have descendants from that time period. Mr. Gates – don’t worry about him. I think he’s actually a white guy with a tan (at least per his DNA analysis – it was on his show). Now Opra – she’s of African descent – and that woman is a class act (that’s what my wife told me, and I don’t argue with her). In short, we are all brothers and sisters.

                    • Sherree Feb 3, 2011 @ 12:42


                      Again, I enjoyed the conversation. Thank you. I am not certain that I completely understand your last response, however, so I won’t assume that I do. I do agree, however, that we are all brothers and sisters. Glad you are aboard (as Kevin termed it) !

            • Commodore Perry Feb 3, 2011 @ 12:15

              “We have no right to judge their thoughts or motives while living under such insane conditions.”

              I thought that part of the debate over black Confederates was based on the belief that free blacks and slaves were people too, just as capable of cognitive, rational, logical, introspective, and even emotional thought as anyone else. Such a basis is essential to even considering whether a black man could have enlisted and served the CSA willingly, which in turn is what causes us to research this question for its truthful answer. Without the basis, the debate is moot and we may as well just arbitrarily decide that Southern blacks did not have the capacities of other human beings, much like whites all across America at the time believed.

              To say that a black Southerner could not have enlisted or served willingly due to the CSA’s laws and/or society’s conditions is one thing, hopefully based on research (and I’m not making this claim myself). But to say that any one of them could not be understood in the due process of research and truth-finding, unless you can prove for certain that the evidence just doesn’t exist for such research, is not only to spit on the work and purpose of historians, it also perpetuates a deprivation of black Southerners’ humanity, as if they didn’t experience enough of that while they were alive. Singing Kumbaya now that the war is over and people are (mostly) aware of racial equality doesn’t do anyone looking for truth any good.

              I hope that those in places to do this research, like Kevin and other professionals, find out more about Mr. Quarls because not only is his case quite interesting, but making baseless claims that he was or wasn’t something or another thing is exactly the kind of poor standard about which many in the CW blogosphere are quick to accuse others. As I said earlier, who knows, maybe this will be the exception to the rule; hopefully, nobody is afraid to find out.

              • Arleigh Birchler Feb 3, 2011 @ 13:45


                You quite elequently said what I have been trying to say. To make any claim about how all slaves and freedmen felt, and what their motivations were, is to consider them less then human. Each one had their own history, their own situration, and their own mind. I do not believe in either the wonderful, joyful life of a plantation slave as in Gone With the Wind, nor do I believe that every slave was whipped, tortured, and raped. If they were anything like people today, many of them would prefer security to freedom. Some would undertake the danger of trying to run away to a place where they would not be slaves. Others would feel protective of their masters. They were not all the same, any more then people today are.

      • Justin Howard Feb 3, 2011 @ 6:48

        Slaves were “beaten or even lynched for almost anything”?
        Wow, as if the institution of American slavery wasn’t sad enough on its own without someone grossly exaggerating the barbarity of it! To give the impression that slave owners would “lynch” their investments willy-nilly is idiotic.
        The distinction has to be drawn between slave labor camps (as in concentration camps), and plantation slavery. This is apples and oranges. Nazi’s treated their slaves (political prisoners) as a disposable and non renewable source of subhuman labor that they sought to erradicate in the end. Plantation slave owners in stark contrast invested in slave laborers and provided for them to maximize a profitable return on the investment. It was an economic system (horrific as it was) and can not be construed as cruelty for cruelty sake. Plantation slaves were not worked to death and incinerated. Quit equating the holocaust with American slavery. It is no where near the same.

        • Edwin Thompson Feb 3, 2011 @ 7:46

          And we’re off and running – this will take time

  • Marianne Davis Feb 2, 2011 @ 7:03

    Tonight I will be attending the Harpers Ferry Civil War Forum, of which I know almost nothing. The speaker and topic are described as:

    The Speaker:

    Jim Glymph lives in the Avon Bend subdivision on the Shenandoah River in Jefferson County. He is a retired Department of the Army data administrator and Northern Virginia Community College associate professor of Information Technology. Although his career was computer-oriented, The War for Southern Independence has been his passion for sixty years. Currently, he is the editor of the Jefferson County Historical Society magazine, president of the Old Charles Town Library board, member of the Henry Kyd Douglas Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, member of General Adam Stephens Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution and an avid relic hunter.

    The Subject

    In 1912, almost fifty years after The War, the Federal Government allowed the cornerstone to be laid for a memorial to Confederate dead in Arlington National Cemetery. Unveiled in 1914, surrounded by Confederate soldier and family member graves, it is a monument of intense power and symbolism. The presentation, accompanied by numerous photographs, will include the politics leading up to the approval and location, the ceremony, a history of the sculptor, the monument and the analysis of its symbolism.

    I am hopeful that the speaker’s bio will not determine his analysis of the African-American figures on the memorial, but I am not betting any of my own money on that. Anyone want to join my in the Q&A period?

    • Kevin Levin Feb 2, 2011 @ 7:08

      Be sure to let us know how it goes.

    • Andy Hall Feb 2, 2011 @ 7:17

      Might want to have a look at the original commemorative booklet and its explanation of the monument before you go:


    • Arleigh Birchler Feb 2, 2011 @ 7:20

      Would love to, but it is a bit far to drive.

    • JMRudy Feb 2, 2011 @ 13:48


      Double check your date on the meeting. This link seems to point toward next Wednesday as the HFCWRT date:

      • Marianne Davis Feb 3, 2011 @ 4:50

        You’re right of course, JMRudy, it is NEXT Wednesday. I have trouble with little details like the difference between days and dates . . . In any case, thanks to all for their suggestions. I have the commemorative booklet, Andy, but I was wondering if anyone has a line on any notes that Moses Ezekiel, the sculptor, may have sent over from Rome. There is always the chance of course that the speaker won’t introduce any of this nonsense. Even ideologues can have discipline, huh?

        • Andy Hall Feb 3, 2011 @ 5:46

          No idea about Ezekiel’s notes. I bought a copy of the book on Ezekiel, but there’s nothing new at all in there about the Arlington monument. (Neat little book, though.)

  • Arleigh Birchler Feb 2, 2011 @ 3:53

    Interesting story. I doubt that I have ever watched an entire “bit” on Fox News before. In the cause of not becoming emotional I will not say any more then this about my feelings concerning this “news” organization.

    • Kevin Levin Feb 2, 2011 @ 3:56

      I certainly have no interest getting into a discussion about FOX News. What I will say is that you are unlikely to find any major news network getting this story right.

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