An elegant quilt from Patricia Smith's collection, pictured in the catalog Calico & Chintz.
"One chilly night it was taken from a plantation mansion by a Union officer---a Captain Tory from Foxboro, Massachusetts. Along with the story of its wartime acquisition, the spread was handed down for generations within the same family."Another quilt that should have been buried with the silver but wasn't, appropriated during the Civil War. Can we find out more about Captain Tory?
Tory is not a common name but what if it was Torrey? I quickly found a Captain William H. Torrey from Foxboro/Foxborough (you can spell it either way) who had a distinguished Civil War record, particularly with the 55th Massachusetts Infantry, also known as the 55th Massachusetts Colored. He was later promoted to Major for "gallant and meritorious services."
In five years of Civil War Torrey saw a good deal of the South, but this quilt with its medallion center and chintz border has the look of South Carolina, a location that matches the family tale. The 55th Massachusetts was in South Carolina from 1863 to the end of the War.
Captain Torrey's camp on Morris Island, South Carolina.
His family held onto this photograph until 1938.
It was recently sold on eBay.
"The 55th Massachusetts Colored Regiment singing
John Brown's March in the streets of Charleston,
February 21, 1865" from Harper's Weekly.
Unidentified soldier from the Association of Officers of the
55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment Carte de Visite
Album, Massachusetts Historical Society
The album has no photo of Torrey.
Borders pieced of small squares are uncommon style in
pre-Civil War Carolina quilts.
When he joined the Union Army William Haviland Torrey (1840-1916) was a 21-year-old mechanic from Foxboro. After the war he married Azelia Frances Sweetser (1847-1941) who must have cared for the quilt until her death in her nineties in 1941. Their only daughter Helen died in 1924. The Torrey home at 75 Carpenter Street still stands.
Piece of embroidery attributed to Azelia Torrey
Azelia was described as a milliner and hat designer in a town famous for its straw hat manufactories. Major Torrey was a respected citizen, postmaster and selectman in Foxborough and honored as Deputy Parade Marshal during the the city's Centennial Parade in 1878.
Did he steal the quilt or rescue it?