Saturday, August 27, 2011

35 Star of the West

Star of the West
By Becky Brown

Star of the West can symbolize the Frémonts. Jessie and John C. Frémont were a mid-19th century power couple.
Jessie Benton Frémont
Their marriage was a political partnership, an idea ahead of its time. Jessie's father was an important Senator, so she had many influential friends and relatives. John was known for his western explorations, for his Presidential run as the first Republican candidate in 1856 and for his arrogance in the face of authority.

Frémont was a western explorer and
 a founder of the state of California

During the summer of 1861 General Frémont  became commander of the Union Army in Missouri, a difficult job in a state torn by conflicting loyalties. On August 30th he declared martial law, describing Missouri as disorganized and infested by murderers and marauders under a helpless civil authority,  He stated that armed rebels would be court-martialed, shot and their property confiscated. Furthermore, their slaves "are hereby declared freemen."

Most Missouri slaves like Winnie, whose portrait was recorded
 during the WPA projects, remained in slavery throughout the war.

Frémont 's Missouri emancipation proclamation displeased President Lincoln. The Commander-in-Chief sent a letter by special messenger on September 2nd, warning Frémont that "liberating slaves of traitorous owners will alarm our Southern Union friends and turn them against us." The idea of confiscated slaves as "contraband" was one thing, confiscated slaves as free men another.

Frémont  publicly refused to rescind his order. Jessie went to Washington to argue their case for emancipation with Lincoln. She later wrote of their encounter, recounting her argument that Frémont's move would win the Union international friends.
 "The President said 'You are quite a female politician.' I felt the sneering tone and saw there was a foregone decision against all listening. Then the President spoke more rapidly and unrestrainedly: 'The General ought not to have done it... the General should never have dragged the negro into the war. It is a war for a great national object and the negro has nothing to do with it.' "
Lincoln recalled the testy meeting for his secretary.

“She sought an audience with me at midnight and taxed me so violently with many things that I had to exercise all the awkward tact I have to avoid quarreling with her."

Jessie was remarkably out of place, a wife deputized to discuss policy with the President. The meeting went badly and so did Frémont's subsequent career. Lincoln removed him from the Missouri command in November. The War remained an official fight for the Union, not a fight against slavery....for the time being.

In this cartoon a pouting John C. Frémont holding an African-American doll sports a head wound inscribed "Lincoln."  The Doctor tells a worried Mrs. Columbia that it's only "a case of Sore Head."
Star of the West (#1128 in BlockBase) is an old block with many other names, among them Clay's Choice and Harry's Star. Both names, according to Ruth Finley in her 1929 book, were tributes to Henry Clay, an earlier politician who also ran unsuccessfully for President.

Cutting an 8" Finished Block

A Cut 8 background squares 2-1/2".
B Cut 4 medium, 2 dark and 2  background squares 2-7/8". Cut each in half diagonally

You need 8 medium, 4 dark and 4 background triangles.


The Frémonts returned to California where
Jessie was photographed on her porch
at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

Read more about the Frémonts and events of the summer and fall of 1861 at this blog post:   

Read Jessie's letters:
The Letters of Jessie Benton Frémont, Pamela Herr & Mary Lee Spence (editors), University of Illinois Press, 1993.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

34 Rosebud

Rosebud by Becky Brown
The block can remind us of the Confederacy's famous spy
Rose Greenhow

On August 23rd, 1861 Union troops arrested 48-year-old Rose O'Neal Greenhow, Washington hostess, socialite and widow of a State Department employee. Born in Maryland, she was daughter of a planter murdered by one of his slaves when Rose was three. As young women she and sister Ellen went to live with Aunt Maria Hill who ran a polite boarding house known as the Old Brick Capitol.

The girls made good marriages. Ellen wed James Madison Cutts, nephew of Dolley Madison. Their daughter Adele grew up to marry Senator Stephen A. Douglas. Rose's husband Robert Greenhow introduced her to Washington society and taught her the value of diplomacy, observation and conversation. Well-connected and passionate about the Confederate cause, she charmed many Union politicians.

In her autobiography Rose described her July activities in Union Washington.

... the 'grand army' was in motion, and I learned from a reliable source (having received a copy of the order to M'Dowell) that the order for a forward movement had gone forth. .... Officers and orderlies on horse were seen flying from place to place; the tramp of armed men was heard on every side - martial music filled the air; in short, a mighty host was marshalling, with all the 'pomp and circumstance of glorious war.' 'On to Richmond!' was the war-cry. The heroes girded on their armour with the enthusiasm of the Crusaders of old, and vowed to flesh their maiden swords in the blood of Beauregard or Lee. And many a knight, inspired by beauty's smiles, swore to lay at the feet of her he loved best the head of Jeff Davis at least."

At midnight Rose sent a woman messenger to General Beauregard at Manassas with a note about Union plans twined into her hair. Confederate commanders were grateful for the intelligence, replying:

"Let them come: we are ready for them. We rely upon you for precise information. Be particular as to description and destination of forces, quantity of artillery, &c."

A reconstructed letter from Rose,
written on mourning stationery, using a code.
After her arrest it was assembled from bits of paper
in her grate. National Archives.

Illustration from Harper's Weekly

The Confederacy won the first battle of Manassas and many credit (or blame) Rose Greenhow. Never one to hide her Confederate loyalties, Rose was soon placed under house arrest. Although forbidden to leave her home she continued to pass information.

The Old Capitol Prison
Capitol building turned boarding house turned jail

She was then imprisoned with her youngest daughter Rose in the same building she'd spent her adolescence. The Old Capitol Boarding House was now the Old Capitol Prison. (Today the site is the Supreme Court building in Washington.)

Rose and daughter in prison by Matthew Brady

Held for almost two years without being charged or tried, she managed to spy from prison. In May, 1863 she was exiled to Richmond, where she was welcomed as a hero.

President Jefferson Davis appointed her an unofficial ambassador to Europe a few months later. There she met with England's Prime Minister and France's Emperor, hoping in vain to persuade them to recognize the Confederate States of America.  She published her autobiography in London.
Portrait from her autobiography

In 1864 Rose returned to America with her publishing profits in gold coins tied around her neck. The blockade running ship carrying her into Wilmington, North Carolina ran aground in the Cape Fear River. Rose was launched in a lifeboat that capsized. Weighted down by dispatches for Jefferson Davis and her fortune, she drowned on October 1, 1864.

Rose's last moments depicted in an early 20th-century book.

Rosebud (#1273 in BlockBase) was given that name by the Ladies' Art Company about 1900.

Cutting an 8" Finished Block
A Cut 4 dark squares and 6 light squares 2-1/8". Cut each in half diagonally.

You need 8 dark triangles and 13 light triangles.

B Cut 2 dark squares 4-7/8". Cut each in half diagonally. 
You need 4 triangles.

C Cut 2 pink or red  squares 3-5/8". Cut each in half diagonally.

You need 4 triangles.

Read Rose Greenhow's memoir My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolitionist Rule at Washington by clicking here and downloading a copy from the University of North Carolina's Documents of the American South.

See the National Archives records where the items confiscated at her arrest have been stored.
Read more about her fascinating life story here

And see an interesting facebook page here:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

33 Indiana Puzzle

Indiana Puzzle
By Becky Brown

Indiana Puzzle can recall the political situation in that state where a surprising number of men and women expressed oposition to the War, hatred of Lincoln and a desire to join the Secessionist states.

What to do with female traitors? asked Harper's Weekly.
"Make them wear a very unfashionable uniform as for example the above."

A few weeks ago we read about Mary Kemper Vermilion, who thought magazine subscriptions too frivolous during wartime. She took her politics just as seriously.The Vermilions were long-time abolitionists and strong believers in the Union cause.

When William first went off to fight he left her with his parents in Indiana, where she stayed for six months, rather unhappy to be living in a rather dysfunctional family, as we might say. (Her father-in-law seems to have had psychotic episodes.) She also found the neighbors' political ideas very upsetting. In January, 1863 she wrote to William,

"Indiana, they say, is on the verge of revolution. Day before yesterday they had wild times at Indianapolis. The secesh tried to get possession of the arsenal, but were prevented by the Governor who called out the militia. ...The democrats...don't propose YET to join Jeff Davis's Confederacy, but to form a Southwestern confederacy of their own."

The Copperhead Party in a political cartoon

These Democrats opposed to the war favored an immediate truce with the Confederacy. Mary and her fellow Republicans called them Copperheads, poisonous snakes in the grass. But the Copperheads took the label for a compliment, finding that copper pennies of the day featured the head of Liberty. Many wore Liberty-head copper pennies as jewelry to show their loyalty to the Peace Democrat cause.

A Liberty-head penny with a hole drilled in it.
Jewelry for a Southern sympathizer?

Mary returned to her home in Iowa hoping to encounter, "No more copperheads," but found political opposition there too. She and her father went to a Union rally and heard a Republican threaten the copperheads, warning them
"they couldn't sport their...copperhead beast pins near here....I don't know how many came up to look at your likeness in my breastpin. They said that was the kind of pin to wear, a soldier's likeness."

A gold pin with a Union soldier's portrait,
 possibly a mourning pin

Here was the war fought in terms of jewelry. Mary proudly wore a portrait of her husband in uniform and the "secesh" in the Indiana, Iowa and other Northern states wore breastpins, watch fobs and necklaces of copper jewelry.

Pennies were soldered to
 pin backs, fobs and loops

We tend to look back at the war as North and South, puzzled at the shadings of political position. To remember the Indiana secessionists we can stitch an Indiana Puzzle, a block given that name by pattern designer Carlie Sexton in the 1920s. It's an old design that became popular in the 1880s. Make it up in copper-colored prints and it will be particuarly appropriate, representing the copper penny worn by some to flaunt their stand against the war.

Cutting an 8" Finished Block

See the templates on a PDF by clicking here:
NEW LINK as of 9/1/2011 
A Using the template cut 2 dark blue and 2 medium blue shapes A.
B Using the template cut 2 light copper-colored and 2 medium copper-colored quarter circles.

Indiana Puzzle is BlockBase #1450.

Read the Vermilion letters in Love Amid the Turmoil: The Civil War Letters of William and Mary Vermilion, Donald C. Elder III (editor), The University of Iowa Press, 2003. See more information by clicking here:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

32 Carolina Lily

Note from BB. There is something wrong with the program Blogger this summer. No matter how many times I rearrange the paragraphs in this post to make a coherent narrative the program rearranges them in random order. Sorry for the strange order. Scroll around to get the measurements you need.

Carolina Lily
By Becky Brown

Early in the War the women of the South, like the women of the North, organized Soldiers' Aid Societies. Emma Holmes of Charleston, South Carolina recalled a large meeting in late July of 1861.

"This afternoon the Ladies Charleston Volunteer Aid Society held a meeting at the S.C. Hall.  192 ladies were there and nearly $1000 collected from subscriptions and donations...12 Managers [will] cut out the work and distribute it. The ladies all seemed to enjoy seeing their friends as well as the purpose for which they came."

John P Marszalek has edited The Diary of Miss Emma Holmes 1861-1866. See more about it at LSU Press.
Although the picture on the cover shows an older woman, Emma was in her twenties during the war, a young and passionate Secesh.

Emma's Charleston house (the three-story building with a three-story piazza) survived the fire and the War. It was demolished about 1920. This picture from the Library of Congress was taken twenty years at the turn of the 20th century. The piazzas (stacked, covered porches) are a characteristic of Charleston's architecture.

Emma reported on the various meetings she attended. In August the Ladies Society for Clothing the Troops in Active Service reported:

"2301 flannel shirts and drawers have been completed, two or three companies going on have been supplied, and the rest sent to the quarter-master."

 In October friends visited to make socks and slippers. 

"Out of the eleven ladies gathered, eight were knitting stockings, & grandmother showed us a pair of slippers sent her from London just after she was married, when it was the fashion for the ladies to make their own for drawing room wear."

Emma Holmes was 23 in 1861, one of 11 children of widowed Eliza Holmes. The family lived in Charleston on the income of a leased plantation until the end of 1861 when an enormous fire burned the city. They moved to Camden where she continued her diary throughout the War.

BlockBase has several patterns named after South Carolina and Charleston with which we could recall the Ladies' Charleston Volunteer Aid Society, but today's quilters think first of the Carolina Lily, a design that would be a challenge at 8".

The pattern for this week echoes the usual triple Carolina Lily. We can think of it as one bloom in a vase.
It's a variation of BlockBase #732, published in the Ladies Home Journal in 1909 as Flower Pot. The flowers in the quilt pattern are traditionally red, pink or yellow, but it's gold here to symbolize the botanical Carolina Lily (Lilium michauxii) a wild flower that grows throughout the Carolinas.

 In the west we call these spotted wildflowers Tiger Lilies.

Cutting an 8" Finished Block
A - Cut 2 light strips 6-1/8" x 2-7/8"
B - Cut 1 light square 4-1/2". Cut into 4 triangles with 2 diagonal cuts. You need 2 light triangles.
C - Cut 1 light square 2-7/8".
D - Cut 1 dark and 1 light square 3-1/8". Cut each in half with a diagonal cut. You need 1 dark and 1 light triangle.
E - Cut diamonds from strips cut 2-1/4" x 5-3/8". Trim 45 degree angles. Or use the template on the PDF. Click here:

The diamond is supposed to finish to 2-3/8" on all four sides.
With seam allowances the side is 3-1/8" long

You need 2 gold and 2 light green diamonds. 
F - Cut 1 dark square 4-1/8". Cut in half with a diagonal cut. You need 1 dark triangle.