New England Block by Becky Brown
New England Block can remind us of Louisa May Alcott's and her fellow New Englanders' early enthusiasm for a War to end slavery. In May, 1861, she was a restless 28-year-old eager to contribute.
Louisa May Alcott
She lived with her family in a ramshackle house in Concord, Massachusetts, and kept in touch with an old friend Alfred Whitman, a neighbor who had moved to Kansas with his father to support the antislavery cause. Although she hated to sew, she spent April making shirts for soldiers.
May 19, 1861 Concord Massachusetts,Dear Alf
If I had not been sewing violently on patriotic blue shirts for the past month I should have written… I lay down my needle and take up my pen with great inward contentment, the first article being my abomination & the last my delight.
Of course the town is a high state of topsey turveyness, for every one is boiling over with excitement & when quiet
does get stirred up it is a sight to behold. Concord
Concord 100 years ago
All the young men & boys drill with all their might, the women & girls sew & prepare for nurses, the old folks settle the fate of the Nation in groves of newspapers, & the children make the streets hideous with distracted drums & fifes. Everyone wears cockades wherever one can be stuck,
A selection of Civil War era cockades
The Union examples tend to be red white and blue.
The Confederate cockades seem to have been just one color, red, white or blue.
Flags flap over head like parti colored birds of prey, patriotic balmorals, cravats, handkerchiefs & hats are all the rig, & if we keep on at our present rate everything in heaven & earth will soon be confined to red white & blue…
Concord was not alone in it's excitement over the patriotic colors.
Diarists and letter writers North and South reported on cockades as a sign of loyalty.
The New England Block has several names. This name was assigned by a 1930s pattern company called Needlecraft Supply.The oldest name seems to be 4X Star. The original (BlockBase #1802a) was based on a grid of 5, but a slightly narrower center strip works better for an 8 inch block.
Cutting Instructions for an 8" Finished Block
A Cut 4 light and 4 medium squares 2-1/4"
B Cut 4 dark and 4 light squares 2-5/8". Cut each in half with a diagonal to make 2 triangles. You need 8 triangles of each
C Cut 4 medium and 4 light rectangles 1-1/2" x 2-1/4".
D Cut 1 medium square 1-1/2"
Click here to see a sale at Cowan's Auctions of cockades and Civil War jewelry.
If you are inclined to sew a cockade for a re-enactor you might find these pictures from an old millinery book useful. It's all in the pleating and gathering.
This would be a good year to read Alcott's Civil War story Little Women again. Click here:
UPDATE May 24, 2011
A commenter asked about the source for the quote above
It's on page 64 of The Selected Letters of Louisa May Alcott, edited by Joel Myerson and Daniel Shealy. This is the most comprehensive volume of LMA's letters although there are other versions, including a 19th century volume avaliable to read on line