Saturday, January 12, 2019

Rebecca Everingham Wadley's Civil War #1

A quilting party in old-fashioned dress recreated nostalgically for a 
Union fundraising fair in 1864. 

The week before Fort Sumter Rebecca Barnard Everingham Wadley attended a quilting event near Monroe, Louisiana, recorded by her eldest daughter, 17-year-old Sarah:

Wednesday April 10th /’61 —
"Since I wrote last, we have had a great deal of rain.... Friday the rain 'held up' a little right after breakfast, Mother went over to Mrs. Adams to help them quilt."

The diarist Sarah Lois Wadley (1844-1920)

"Mother, Miss Mary (13-year-old sister Mary Millen Wadley) and I went over to Mrs. Marks this morning and spent an hour or two, Mrs. Marks is quilting a silk quilt, she showed it to us, it is very pretty indeed. It reminded me of Miss Valeria [Ridgill], when we were down there she showed us a quilt which she had begun, hers was made in little circles, each circle being composed of pieces which some friend had given her, in the centre was a white piece, with the donor’s name written on it."
Sarah is probably referring to hexagons, the little circles of friends' fabrics that Valeria had collected.
"Mrs. Marks looked very well today she bears her husbands absence with fortitude, maintaining sober cheerfulness all the time."
Sober cheerfulness may characterize the Wadley's Civil War. Sarah was an indefatigable chronicler of their story.
The Georgia project documented a quilt that descended
in Rebecca Wadley's family. More about the quilt next week.

While Rebecca and her husband William Morrill Wadley went "into town" Sarah was surprised to come upon a quilting party in an impromptu call.
Nov. 20th —1861
"I spent the day at Mrs. Friend’s Wednesday and enjoyed it very well. I had sent word that I was going but the boy did not carry the message and they were not expecting me, they thought it was one of the children knocking and bade me come in very carelessly. I was very much surprised at this but entered accordingly. Misses Nancy Neal Joe, and Phoebe Friend were sitting around a quilting frame, their tongues keeping time to the motion of their needles, all except Miss Nancy destitute of the expansive appendiges hoops, they greeted me warmly, however, and we soon resumed the animated conversation which I had interrupted...."

Godey's Lady's Book made a distinction between
"home dress" and public fashion in 1860.
This description of a quilting party en dishabille (casual dress) illustrates the importance of proper attire in receiving guests. Apparently, expansive hoops were a necessity to greet non-family.
"I was asked if I know how to quilt. I was obliged to confess my total ignorance of that female accomplishment, at the same professing my desire to learn. I was invited to take a seat at the quilting frame and immediately found to my great satisfaction that my quilting was unequaled in smallness of stitches, and the accuracy of the lines by any of my companions, though I must in candor say that while I was quilting one shell they had finished three! I always like novelty, and was very much pleased with my new accomplishment."

Sister Mary Millen Wadley Raoul
We can hope that Rebecca and daughter Sarah continued to quilt but Sarah never mentioned it again. Their sewing time during the war was taken up with making clothing for Confederate soldiers. Rebecca was president of the Monroe Aid Society and Sarah was apparently the secretary (Rebecca thought she should be more thorough in taking the minutes.)
August 28 1861.
"Mother and I sewed for the soldiers yesterday, we made three flannel shirts, with Emmeline’s help in the evening. [Emmeline was one of the Wadley slaves.] ...Mother and I are knitting woolen socks for the soldiers, Mother has begun her second pair, but I have not finished my first one yet, it is the second sock I ever knit."
Sarah apparently had few handwork skills when the war began, relying on Emmeline and other enslaved servants to carry out the household's plain sewing.

William O. Wadley (1841-1903)

A year after Fort Sumter the family was preparing brother William Oconius Wadley to join. Willie was about 21 years old. "Mother is busy making up Willie’s clothes... I sewed on his shirts yesterday, it is melancholy work, my heart sinks when I think of it, but I try to keep brave."

Willie survived the war; in fact the family was better off after the war than before. Rebecca's husband William Morrill Wadley actually thrived. Born in New Hampshire, his family histories indicate he was a blacksmith by trade and went to Savannah to work building Fort Pulaski with the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1830s. There he met Rebecca Everingham and married her in 1840.

William M. Wadley

He remained in the South, moving the family from Louisiana to Mississippi to Georgia as his engineering projects called. He was a natural engineer, designing and supervising bridges and later railways. He saw the future of railroads and helped shape it, spending his Civil War supervising Confederate rails---the infrastructure Union troops destroyed.

The Wadley transportation empire in 1883

After the war he led railroad reconstruction and became the "Railroad King of Georgia."

You can read Sarah L Wadley's diaries, which are in the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina,  on line or in book form. Here's a link to a transcript of the journals for the years 1859 -1865.

Rebecca's descendant Suzanne Wadley Rhodenbaugh published Sarah's Civil War, the 1859-1865 diary of Sarah Lois Wadley (Bluebird, 2012).

1 comment:

spotty dog said...

Thank you for such an interesting post. I often visit your blog as it always tells me more of the prople and quilts of the past.