Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Marie Virginie Trahan Ternant Avegno's Civil War


New Orleans on the Mississippi River

In 1860 New Orleans was the sixth largest American city with a population of about 170,000, most of whom were identified as "Creole" from French, Spanish and African cultures. The city's history was unusual in that it had been a French colony rather than a British or Spanish outpost. 150 years after its founding the city was still French in language, culture and sensibilities. 

Marie Virginie Ternant grew up in this house in the French Quarter
on Toulouse Street.

Residents like the Ternant family spoke French as their first language and spent time in Paris, sailing  rather easily across the Atlantic. The Ternants had the means to travel and to live well in both the French and American cities and rural Louisiana.

 Marie Virginie Trahan de Ternant Parlange
A portrait of the elder Virginie de Ternant hangs in her house.

Library of Congress
Parlange Plantation house, begun 1750
Pointe Coupee, Louisiana

Virginie's mother Marie Virginie Trahan de Ternant inherited the plantation from her first husband Claude Vincent de Ternant (1786-1842). Still in the family, the place is known as the Parlange Plantation after her second husband. When mother Virginie lived here before the Civil War she was the largest land owner in the area.

Marie Virginie Trahan Ternant Avegno (1838-1910)

Claude and Virginie's daughter, another Marie Virginie, was in her early 20s when the Civil War began. She'd married Italian-American attorney Anatole Avegno in 1857 and had two daughters, Virginie Amélie about 2 years old and infant Marie Valentine. 
Major Anatole Placido Avegno (1835-1862)

Soon after war was declared Anatole formed a company called the Avegno Zouaves, made up of men from a variety of ethnicities who dressed in the fashionable Zouave costume of fez and gathered pant legs.  

Library of Congress
A Zouave

Anatole was injured at the Battle of Shiloh in April, 1862.

On April 11th the Times-Picayune reported on Virginie's ordeal
 while waiting for news or her returned soldier.

Five days later

Daughters Amélie and Valentine towards the end of the war

Daughter Valentine died on March 11, 1866, perhaps of Yellow Fever during one of the many epidemics of the mosquito-borne disease. New Orleans was one of the unhealthiest cities in the United States due to the low-lying land and the busy port. Malaria, yellow fever and cholera were constant threats.

Virginie Avegno must have taken stock of the situation. Despite the war she still had enough 
family fortune to relocate to France. She and 8-year-old Amélie left for Paris in 1867.

Daughter Amelie Avegno (1859-1915) about the time she 
married Pierre Gautreau, 20 years older.

Amélie became a Parisian belle with her appearance her major goal. Cosmetics, expensive clothes and a slightly scandalous attitude won her the standard prize of a rich husband when she was in her late teens. Her mother, rebuilding her life after the Civil War, could consider herself a success.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection

John Singer Sargent painted this famous portrait of Amélie--- "Madame X," which shocked 
Paris when it was shown in 1884. Sargent left Paris. Amélie and her mother remained.

The Queen of Hearts

This blog is supposed to be about quilts and Civil War biographies, but I have no quilt to show for the Avegno family. I didn't expect to find any because New Orleans with its French heritage had few patchwork traditions until late in the 19th century, long after they left. The Avegnos did not take any patchwork quilts with them to France.

The best period bedding for those antebellum Louisiana plantations
like Greenwood pictured here would be a whole cloth quilt. The
whitework quilt, a form of Marseilles quilt, is a good choice;
the patchwork reproduction a bit of an anachronism.

Esther Searl of DeRidder, Louisiana and a quilt she made in 1915.
More typical of later Louisiana patchwork.

You might like to read Deborah Davis's Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X. You'll get quite a view of Madame Gautreau's Paris.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Washington Whirlwind #6: Columbian Puzzle


Washington Whirlwind #6
Columbian Puzzle by Denniele Bohannon

Columbian Puzzle recalls the District of Columbia where
the Lincolns lived for the four years of Civil War.
One puzzle:
Why does it have such a shape?

Washington, often called Washington City in the 19th century, lies within the almost rectangular District of Columbia. This district, once 100 square miles (10 miles by 10), was created from parts of Maryland & Virginia on either side of the Potomac to become the U.S. Capitol. In 1846 Virginia reclaimed its land donation west of the Potomac, which explains the missing area of the original square Territory of Columbia. The yellow star is the White House in Washington City.

The flat roof of the Executive Mansion with a parapet, a protective
railing, was the play space for the Taft & Lincoln boys.

Columbian Puzzle also recalls the Lincoln's youngest son.
There was something wrong.

Thomas Lincoln (1853-1871)
He may be 3 or 4 in this photograph.

Their youngest was born when Mary Todd Lincoln was about 35. They'd lost 3-year-old Edward to disease a few years earlier and this last child was much indulged and well-loved.

Columbian Puzzle by Jeanne Arnieri

His nickname was Tad, supposedly given shortly after birth by his father who noted his unusually large head and thought he looked like a tadpole. We special education teachers say, "Uh-Oh." He may have been hydrocephalic, a condition that puts pressure on the brain from an abnormality in the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid. Today a shunt would be inserted to relieve the pressure. 

His mother indicated she suffered from giving birth to Tad with his large head, later seeking cures in European spas for never named gynecological problems. She alluded to this last child's birth as the cause of her "headaches" and water-cure visits.

Tad at about 16

Tad's brain fluid problem seems to have eventually eased, but there is evidence of other cranio-facial abnormalities and learning problems that may have been the result of pre- and post-natal hydrocephalus. Portraits also show him with a cleft lip, a common abnormality with about 1 of every 1,600 American infants born today having lip and palate anomalies, more common in boys than girls. Today plastic surgery repairs both lip and palate (roof of the mouth) problems. 

Tad at 18

A cleft lip can cause speech pronunciation problems, which afflicted Tad. White House observers noted his unintelligible speech. The cleft palate was a more serious problem with teeth growing in askew  causing chewing and swallowing problems (also recorded by White House observers who noted he required a special easy-to-ingest diet.) A cleft palate can allow food to enter sinus passages and airways causing infection. Tad died at 18 of some kind of a lung problem, the kind of thing one might worry about with a boy whose food processing was a problem. 

Columbian Puzzle by Becky Brown

We have noted Tad's mischievousness, which might be more clinically described as hyperactivity and an attention deficit disorder, commonly accompanied by learning disabilities. Tad did not learn to read until he was 13 years old, a milestone noted by his mother in 1866. 
"Taddie ...Can now read....he did not know his letters when he came here."
(Beyond learning his letters did he ever actually learn to read?)

Lincoln and Tad looking at a catalog, photographed by
the Brady Studios.

Columbian Puzzle by Elsie Ridgley

His reading and other academic deficiencies were the despair of White House tutors who noted his inability to pay attention. There was also the problem of parental indulgence with his father preferring to watch him play rather than suffer with lessons.

John M. Hutchinson, a speech pathologist by training and Lincoln historian, addresses the puzzle of Tad Lincoln's speech and related problems here:
"Given the is probable that Tad Lincoln had a complex speech and language disorder that today would have necessitated early and extensive intervention by a speech/language pathologist to address, at a minimum, a delay in language development and the developmental articulation problem."
The Block

The Columbian Puzzles: "Why is the District of Columbia such an odd shape?" is more easily explained than Tad Lincoln's learning and physical problems.

During the years after 1880 when the Drunkard's Path block with its curved pieces was popular the pattern industry publishing under the name Clara Stone gave an alternative variation---all straight line piecing. It's BlockBase+ #2196.

Turkey red and white solids, inscribed 1896

Columbian Puzzle by Elsie Ridgley who is doing two sets.

Elsie's Blocks 1-6 in Mary Lincoln's favorite color.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Anna McNeill Whistler's Civil War


Anna Matilda McNeill Whistler (1804-1881)

When the Civil War began Anna was a widow. Husband George, a railroad engineer working for Russia's Tsar, had died of cholera there in 1849.

George Washington Whistler (1800-1849)

Anna returned to the United States with her two surviving sons. In 1853 she was living in Scarsdale, New York. Born in North Carolina, she had sons attending New York schools. James was an ill-suited cadet at West Point, following in his father's career path; William was considering a medical career at Columbia. Anna was pious enough to wish they'd become clergymen but she seemed happy with their eventual career choices.

She wrote about quilting for charity with the Scarsdale quilting circle there in the early 1850s, meeting in the parlors at Jane O'Neil Hill Popham's home.

Scarsdale Public Library Collection
Jane O'Neil Hill Popham (1784-1882) with granddaughters
at her home The Locusts, still standing.

The Pophams' parlors in the 1930s

By 1856 son Jemie who'd been dismissed from West Point decided to study art in Paris. Willie was studying in Philadelphia and Anna moved there to be with her well-loved youngest.

Philadelphia's Arch Street where Anna spent the late 1850s.

Willie graduated from the Pennsylvania Medical School in 1860 and married second cousin Florida "Ida" Bayard King (1840-1863) born in Georgia. Mother Anna then traveled to Europe to visit James and stepchildren Deborah Whistler Haden and George Whistler. Both James and Deborah's husband Francis Seymour Haden were artists experimenting with printmaking forms, particularly etchings.

Deborah Delano Whistler Haden (1825-1908),
Anna's stepdaughter with whom she maintained
family relations despite son James's hatred of his half-sister's husband.
When the Civil War commenced in 1861 Anna and her sons' allegiance followed her Carolina heritage and that of Ida's. William and Ida went to Richmond, Virginia where he found a post in the Confederate medical troops becoming an Assistant Surgeon. 

"Ida has made Willie a thorough secessionist," wrote Anna when she visited. In her early 20s Ida fell victim to smallpox and died in March, 1863 despite her mother-in-law's care. Anna found herself alone in Richmond behind the blockade. Willie was serving in the field and her other children were in Europe.

William McNeill Whistler (1836-1900)

Determined to get to England Anna booked passage on the Confederate
blockade runner Advance, which sailed from the Cape Fear River to the
West Indies and then to England nearly 20 times before being 
captured by the Union. Anna arrived in 1863.

A few months before the Civil War ended an exhausted Dr. William Whistler scheduled a voyage to England, anxious to see his family. Traveling from Charleston up to Wilmington and then to New York before he could find passage William carried dispatches from the Confederacy to contacts in England, but delivered them only weeks before Appomattox.

Flamboyant artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834- 1903)
by William Merrit Chase

Doting mother Anna always indulged both sons. One might guess she'd spoiled James who was the art world's pugnacious, self-centered Prima Donna in his time but James seems to have had such a difficult personality we can only classify him today as some kind of sociopath (a narcissist who could really paint.) He needed to be the center of attention and saw any interference as betrayal, picking huge fights with art critics and fellow artists such as sister Deborah's husband. With someone as self-absorbed as James the family could only stand back and hope for periods of peace.

Anna Whistler in her life-long mourning
with a required widow's cap. The variety
in this type of necessary head gear is

The Whistlers, James, William, Deborah and Anna remained in England, seeing no home in America after Confederate defeat.

"My Brother," 1896, lithograph by James Whistler.
William practiced medicine in England and remarried a Greek heiress.
Helen "Nellie" Euphrosyne Ionides (1849-1917)

Many Confederates sought European refuge with plans to continue the war or turn a profit on what they'd learned and earned during it. The Whistler brothers were hired by torpedo specialist Henry Doty, to sell arms to South American countries warring against Spain. Willie's request for a passport was rejected but James sailed for Chile and Peru as a sort of secret agent. After failing in their arms deals the South American plot was over with James (not suitable for any secret work) getting into fist fights with several people including Doty. James returned to his art work and William spent his post-war years as a noted laryngologist.

William's Obituary in 1900
Anna must have often wondered how her parenting had resulted in two
such different sons.

In 1872 James painted his mother, wearing a
widow's cap in his characteristic monochrome palette.
The portrait, rather controversial at first due to color & composition
 (note the cropped picture frame at right), 
became an American icon in the pantheon of mother worship.

Read Anna's letters in the Atlantic Monthly, Volume 136.
She also left a diary of their exciting years in Russia.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Kentucky Classic #3: Kentucky Carnation for Eliza Hoskins Farris

Kentucky Classic #3: Kentucky Carnation by
Elsie Ridgley. Elsie is doing the block-by-block set
rather than the medallion. Many of her fabrics are William
Morris reproductions.

Kentucky Classic #3: Kentucky Carnation
A wild carnation recalls Elizabeth Chaney Vass Hoskins Farris (1822-1912.)

Collection of the Kentucky Historical Society

Eliza Hoskins Farris was a skilled seamstress, famous for her quilts in her home state of Kentucky. During the Civil War she lived with her parents who farmed a large acreage near Bryantsville in Garrard County. Her single blessedness and the family's 19 enslaved farm workers and house servants gave her leisure time to make elaborate show quilts, which received a good deal of press attention from the time she was in her thirties, press attention she was skillful at managing.

See a post on her show quilts here:

Becky Collis's Kentucky Carnation
She is arranging the design elements into a medallion format.

Across the road from Eliza's family farm was Richard Robinson's place with a large house commandeered for a Union post at the Civil War's beginning. "Camp Dick Robinson" was a post that recruited, trained and temporarily lodged Union troops, the first Union recruiting post in Kentucky, which never joined the Confederacy.

Despite the fact that the recruiting post was not a hospital Eliza enjoyed a post-Civil-War reputation as a nurse, the "Angel of the Camp," a "Lady Remembered Kindly by Many East Tennessee Union Soldiers."  In the first months of the war young soldiers caught the measles (many sent back home to recover) but when they were staying at the post they were nursed by Eliza and probably her sisters and sisters-in-law.

Post-Civil-War histories revered the unofficial hospital nurse
 corps primarily organized by the Union's Sanitary Commision.

Eliza's image as a compassionate farm girl, the "Angel of the Hospital," continues into the 21st century despite the fact that she wasn't a girl but a 39-year-old woman at the beginning of the war who had little to do with the recruits moving through the neighborhood after the initial measles epidemic.

Her reputation as an important Civil War nurse might have been polished to support her 1909 pension application, citing her nursing activities. Congress thought little of her application, rejecting her request despite a good deal of gushing publicity about her service as the "Florence Nightingale of Camp Dick Robinson." Senator William O'Connell Bradley, born in Garrard County, was her enthusiastic sponsor. After Congress declined her request (probably due to little evidence of any such service) Bradley established a fund from his fellow senators, raising a gift of $1,050 for her. The woman knew the value of public relations.

Every other month here we are giving you two sets with
Becky Brown's design for a medallion set. Rather elaborate carnation
blocks go over the seams in the 25" square corner blocks here.

Becky Collis's blocks 1 & 3.

The Block

This floral is common in the group of Kentucky Classic appliques. This pink flower with a pinked edge certainly looks like a carnation, perhaps a Dianthus Armeria that grows wild in Kentucky.

Almira Lincoln Phelps's 1833 description of Dianthus wild and exotic

Since we appliqued an herbarium last year we learned a little about botany---but not as much as a mid-19th-century schoolgirl who'd probably recognize the floral as a Dianthus. The pink bloom with a pinked edge is quite small---about the size of a thumbnail.

Pinked edge. 
Pink gave its name to Dianthus and then to a color.

Our design is drawn from a masterpiece by Sarah E. Nelson Edwards and has five petals. Some Kentucky versions have six.

Becky Brown's basted parts

Sallie's quilt was on the cover of the Spring, 1983
issue of Lady's Circle Patchwork Quilts.
More about her in Block #9

Carnations were common in these Kentucky classics, but Sallie's is a step above.

Quilt with carnations in the rotating center block 
and scattered along the edges.

For the medallion that Becky Brown is making you will need to enlarge the pattern 180% or so and stitch 4 corners with the outer rose and leaf waiting to be stitched over the finished seams. She's added more petals to the pink.

Art Institute of Chicago
More pinks in a quilt about which nothing is known.

But I'd bet on Kentucky.