Saturday, August 8, 2020

Rebecca Lloyd Nicholson's Civil War

A pair of large mid-19th-century quilts was sold at Freeman's Auctions in 2014

One a star with a circle pieced or appliqued to the center---an interesting use 
of calicoes in the star points and chintzes in the circles.

Turkey reds and Prussian blues with chintz
indicate a date in the 1840s or '50s.

The border: a Turkey red stripe in the form of a Greek Key.

Similar stripe border
The red stripe might also be called a Pompeian design. 

Owen Jones's 1856 Grammar of Ornament showed many red and gold
stripes in the the style of friezes found in the ruins of Pompeii.

1799 Fashion 
Pompeian geometric stripes were quite the fashion everywhere for clothing & interiors.

Quiltmakers in Maryland in the 1840-1860 period were fond of them...
as in this undated chintz album from the Maryland Historical Society
signed by members of the Montell & Blair families. We might guess
it to be from about 1845-1855.

So it's no surprise to find that the pair of quilts are associated with a Maryland family, having descended "in the Nicholson/Lloyd family of Maryland. The Nicholson family lived in Baltimore and Chestertown, the Lloyd family, the Eastern Shore, by descent from Rebecca Lloyd Nicholson (Post) Shippen (1842-1926.)"

128" x 121"
The second is a medallion featuring a hawk of cut-out-chintz
that was also popular with quiltmakers along the Atlantic coast from about 1800-1850.
Border here is cut from the same hawk fabric.

The implication in the auction provenance (ownership history) is that Rebecca Nicholson Post Shippen was the maker.

Rebecca Lloyd Nicholson (Post) Shippen (1842-1926) 
Collection of the Maryland Historical Society.

Rebecca is about 20 here in 1862 or so, just the age to be making quilts---
but not the kind of quilts in the sale.

This quilt seems more like something one would make in 1820 or 1830,
too old-fashioned to be patchwork Rebecca and her friends would have stitched.

So what was Rebecca Nicholson stitching in the early days of the Civil War when she was 20?

Rebecca's sewing group The Brown Veil Club of Baltimore
 about 1862. She is standing on the right.

The young women, like many of their peers, sewed shirts for soldiers. In divided Baltimore the Brown Veil Club, also known as the Monument Street Girls, supplied Confederate men. Rebecca who lived at 209 West Monument Street must have been a fiery supporter of the South; she was friends with the notorious Cary girls, Hetty, Jenny & Constance, who actually had to leave town and move to Virginia they were so indiscreet in a Union state.

Hetty Cary Pegram Martin (1836-1892 )
When the war began the Cary sisters Jenny & Hetty
 lived at the corner of Eutaw & Biddle,
where Maryland General Hospital is now located.

Hetty was also a member of the Monument Street Girls, who organized a Glee Club and found a fiery Confederate song as a theme. The song was described in a 2000 article by Dan Fesperman in the Baltimore Sun:
"James Ryder Randall... penned a nine-stanza rant about oppression beneath 'the despot's heel' [Despot = Lincoln], which was published in Baltimore papers. Jenny set the poem to the tune of an old college song, Lauriger Horatius (O, Tannenbaum), and the girls sang it for their friends. It was called Maryland, My Maryland, a rallying cry for the Confederacy, and in 1939 it become the state song, inflammatory lyrics and all."

The Monument Street Girls apparently sang it as they marched to the Washington Monument in their West Monument Street neighborhood after the Southern victory at the Battle of Manassas in July, 1861.

Rebecca also had a hand in the song's genesis. In her 1904 account of the club's activities she recalled they asked men associated with the poem to publish it as a song but they refused, worried about Union retaliation. Rebecca decided to do it herself. Her father James M. Nicholson was opposed to Secession (although a Southern sympathizer) so she guessed she could get away with treason, reportedly saying: "My father is a Union man, and if I am put in prison, he will take me out."

The publishers Miller & Beachem were imprisoned for their Confederate activities
but Rebecca was not. Her copy of the published song with her notes
is in the Library of Congress.

Unlike her Cary friends Rebecca toned down her rhetoric and treasonous activities and remained in Baltimore for the rest of the war. 

John Eager Howard Post (1840 -1876)

In April, 1866, a year after the war ended she married this dashing Confederate, Captain John Post of the First Maryland Cavalry. In the ten years they were married they had six children but only one son survived to adulthood.

Her husband died at 36 at their home on West Monument St., 
mourned by his fellow Confederate veterans

Rebecca's Confederate enthusiasms must have faded as her second husband was a Union veteran, Dr. Edward Shippen (1827-1895), a Philadelphia surgeon who served with several Pennsylvania regiments and as superintendent of a hospital at the Capitol building in Washington. They married in 1878 and had a son the following year.

She lived well into the 20th century, dying in 1926. The Maryland Historical Society has her papers and albums, telling us they "traveled throughout Europe, and eventually settled in Florence, Italy," although they returned to Baltimore. 

Rebecca seems to have enjoyed writing and in her later years published several articles on her own history, her family's and her peers. She was a founding member of the Maryland Society of Colonial Dames in 1891.

Mount Clare Museum House
Maryland Society of Colonial Dames

Rebecca's great uncle was Francis Scott Key who wrote the Star Spangled Banner and she wrote a bit about that as well as her role in publishing Maryland, My Maryland and putting a tune to the poem. Rebecca owned the purported first manuscript of the Star Spangled Banner, scratched on an envelope, which she sold to a collector in 1907.

She and the newspapers made much of the coincidence that she published the Civil-War-era song and her grandmother---another Rebecca Lloyd Nicholson---had a hand in publishing the Star Spangled Banner.

Seeing that her grandmother had the same name makes one wonder if the family history associated the pair of quilts with the wrong generation.

Rebecca Lloyd (1771-1847) who married Joseph Hopper Nicholson

The first Rebecca's granddaughter & namesake loaned this miniature by Richard Cosway (1742-1821) to Alice Morse Earle for her 1903 book Two Centuries of Costume in America.

One might guess that the first Rebecca Lloyd Nicholson stitched the two quilts above as style is much more in keeping with her life span. And then there is the generation in between: Arinthea Darby Parker Nicholson, mother to the younger Rebecca and daughter-in-law to the older. Arinthea married in 1838 and had three daughters.

We'll never know the quilts' maker or figure out that Lloyd & Nicholson genealogy, but it's all been a good excuse to look at the life of an interesting young woman during the Civil War.

Some links:

The quilt auction

Article on Hetty Cary in the Baltimore Sun

The photo of the Monument Street Girls:
Rebecca's first husband's obituary 1876

Second husband's obituary 1895

Saturday, August 1, 2020

The Civil War Uniform Question

Fence Rail wool quilt attributed to 
Louisa Thomas Bunten (1851-1934)
Crawford, Lewis County, West Virginia
Photo from the Quilt Index & the West Virginia project

According to the family history:
"This comfort was made by Louisa Thomas Bunten, wife of Lieut. Watson Morgan Bunten, Company 1, 40th Regiment, Illinois volunteers, United States Army. The Buntens were married in 1870. Lieut Bunten had been wounded in the Battles of Pittsburg Landing and Missionary Ridge and had been discharged from the army on March 3, 1864. The comfort was made by Louisa Thomas Bunten and friends about 1875 from Lieut. Bunten's Civil War uniforms."

Like many families, the Buntens passed down a story that their wool quilt was a souvenir of the Civil War, stitched from uniforms. A similar story accompanied the fan quilt below to a documentation  day at the Indiana Project.

Elizabeth Trogdon, Paris, Illinois

Family thought it might have been made 1865-1885
but fan designs of heavy wools tend to have been a fad after 1890 or so.

Log cabin with family story that it was stitched in 1865
from blue and gray uniforms of sons who fought on both sides.
Illinois State Museum

CORRECTION: Textile historian Lynne Bassett writes that she and Smithsonian textile curator Madelyn Shaw examined the log cabin above quite closely before they included it on their exhibition on Civil War quilts.  "The fabrics in the quilts ARE consistent with those used in Civil War uniforms."

Typical short Confederate jacket of butternut dyed wools

Eleven years ago I did a post on the topic. 
I haven't changed my mind although we continue to see purported Civil War uniform quilts.
CORRECTION & ADDITION: What we need to do is find quilts with actual wools and combination fabrics that are consistent with the family history.

Another log cabin with some beautiful blue wools
and a Civil War uniform story

The topic came up again in our QuiltHistorySouth Facebook group. Lynn Lancaster Gorges with husband Will Gorges runs Battleground Antiques in New Bern, North Carolina. She wrote about the mythical uniform quilt:
"Will and I have never seen one in our many years of specializing in CW uniforms."

The Gorgeses are experts. I'm sticking with them.  CORRECTION: But maybe I am too skeptical.
Here's their shop:

That combination of blue and gray seems to trigger
some very imaginative tales.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Cassandra's Circle #7: Maggie Howell's Wild Rose

Cassandra's Circle #7, Wild Rose for Margaret Graham Howell by Pat Styring

Margaret Graham Howell (1842-1930) 
Collection of the American Civil War Museum
One of her nieces or nephews has written
"Auntie (Margaret Howell)" on this portrait

Mary Boykin Chesnut, never able to have children, enjoyed lively adolescents in the house, inviting nieces and nephews and the children of friends to become part of her family circle.

When she lived in Richmond, Virginia and in South Carolina's capitol at various times during the war, she invited her sister's girls to stay where they might have more fun than in their small hometown. She also invited Confederate First Lady Varina Davis's younger sister Maggie Howell, who was about the same age as the Williams nieces.

Varina's note:
" 'Thank you, a thousand times, my dear friend, for your more than maternal kindness to my dear child.' " Mary added, "That is what she calls her sister, Maggie Howell."
Margaret Graham Howell was the ninth child of Varina's mother Margaret K. Howell and financially hapless father William Burr Howell. After Varina married into a more prosperous family she and her husband essentially adopted the girl when she was about 8. Maggie went to Washington with the Davises and when the war began accompanied them to Richmond.

McCord Museum Collection
Varina Davis's four surviving birth children in Montreal, 1867. 
Varina lost two young boys; only her girls survived her. 
The eldest here was named Margaret Howell Davis, 
after her grandmother and her young aunt.

Wild Rose by Susannah Pangelinan

Discipline at Varina's household seems to have been loose. Mary Chesnut recalled an unstructured carriage ride with the family in 1864.
"Drove with Mrs. Davis and all her infant family; wonderfully clever and precocious children, with unbroken wills. At one time there was a sudden uprising of the nursery contingent. They laughed, fought, and screamed. Bedlam broke loose. Mrs. Davis scolded, laughed, and cried."
Joseph Davis (1859-1864)

And indeed 5-year-old Joseph Davis fell to his death at their Richmond home while unsupervised. "This second boy, gentle and lovable, fell from the balusters into the back court of the home and was almost instantly killed," recalled Thomas Cooper DeLeon in 1907. Mary and Maggie Howell were on a carriage ride near Richmond when the news was broken abruptly.
"Maggie and I drove two long miles in silence except for Maggie's hysterical sobs. She was wild with terror."
The Confederate White House, designed by Robert Mills, built in 1818.
 Today this is the rear garden of the house. Did Joe fall from that 3rd story roof?

Mary's first encounters with the teen-aged Maggie at Richmond's Spotswood Hotel reflected Maggie's reputation for rebellion (much like Mary and Varina in that respect.)

"Miss Howell is the rudest, most ill bred girl I ever saw." July, 1861.

Secretary of the Confederate Navy 
Stephen R. Mallory (1812-1873)

Mallory, former U.S. Senator from Florida, agreed. During the same month at the Spotswood he described the Howell sisters. Varina "lacked refinement and judgment---has a riotous sense of humor. Mimics."
"Ill-bred & underbred, & her training of her sister Maggie is making her like herself. – Mag seems to be constantly in an ill-humor & morose. – I cannot share in her ridicule of persons with whom I daily associate, & am condemned almost to silence at the table. She annoys [Jefferson Davis] terribly by her indiscreet, ill-timed & tart remarks."
Mary's opinion of Maggie changed---after all, Cassandra valued tart remarks. At a Christmas day reception in 1863 Maggie sat by Mary whispering about the guests. "A man came in....[Maggie's analysis] Rich, sentimental, traveled and a fool."

Wild Rose by Becky Brown

After Joe died in 1864 and Varina's new baby was born at the Confederate White House the 22-year-old Maggie stayed with the Chesnuts in South Carolina. She returned to her foster parents for the fall of Richmond, escaping south with the Davises where the President of the Confederacy was arrested in May, 1865 in Georgia.

Margaret Kempe Howell (1806-1867), Varina & Maggie's mother,
 was not well and died in Montreal at 61. Her supervision seems
to have been lax.

Varina then sent her children with Maggie and Margaret Kempe Howell to exile in Canada. They arrived in August. Joan Cashin in her biography of Varina Davis reveals that Maggie became pregnant in the fall by a man whose name is unknown. She gave birth to a son in June, 1866. He may have been adopted by another family as the baby disappears from the records.

When Jefferson Davis was released on bail from his Virginia prison the family fled to Europe, welcomed in Liverpool by members of the Southern Club, an international group of merchants who had spent the war years lobbying unsuccessfully for English recognition of the Confederacy.

Charles William Peter de Wechmar Stoess (1821-1891)
Stoess was an amateur Egyptologist

Maggie, now Margaret, was courted by Southern Club member Charles de Wechmar Stoess, a widowed German businessman who was Bavarian consul. Varina gave her sister away (Jefferson Davis was back in the U.S.) at their London wedding in 1870.

St Peter's church in Bellsize Park

The 49-year-old Chevalier (a Spanish title) seems to have been enamored of Jefferson Davis's pretty sister-in-law. Maggie's feelings were not recorded. 

Collection of the American Civil War Museum in the Confederate White House,
 probably a wedding photo of the 28-year-old Maggie

Varina liked Stoess and thought him a good match but rued that there was no romance on Maggie's side. Charles (Carl) had one almost-grown son Charles Anthony (1852-1916) and Maggie gave birth to two children in England, Christine Ida de Wechmar Stoess (1872-1935) and Philip Carl Stoess (1873-1942).

Madame de Wechmar Stoess enjoyed English society in Liverpool and London, but her husband declared bankruptcy in 1878 and thereafter they must have been dependent on friends sympathetic to her Confederate history. Varina sent them money. When Charles died in 1891 he left the family nothing.

Charles died at their Liverpool home

Madame de Wechmar Stoess in the early 20th century

Maggie and her children moved to America in the 1890s, first living in Vancouver and then Washington state where Christine gave music lessons and performed as a violinist. Both of Stoess's sons were engineers. The women eventually settled in the Los Angeles area. Maggie died in Long Beach in 1930 and Christine followed in 1935.

The Block

Wild Rose

A wild rose has five simple petals.
Maggie was never simple.

Maggie's rose is based closely on a mid-19th-century 
Ohio quilt attributed to Isabel Andrews Wilson (1812-1883) 
pictured in Hornback & Thompson's Quilts in Red & Green & 
the Women Who Made Them.

Applique to an 18-1/2" square or cut it larger and trim later.
Cut two 3/8" finished bias stems too. Either straight (5" long) or longer (10") for curvy.

One way to print these JPGS.
  • Create or a new empty JPG file that is 8-1/2" x 11" or a word file.
  • Click on the image above.
  • Right click on it and save it to your file.
  • Print that file out 8-1/2" x 11". Note the inch square block for reference.
  • Adjust the printed page size if necessary. Do not use tools like "Fit to page."
  • Make templates.
  • Add seams when cutting fabric.

Detail of Becky's Wild Rose

Lisa Erlandson owns a mid-20th-century quilt in the
exact pattern as Isabel Wilson's. There must have
been a connection. 

The Davises were rose gardeners. Sister Varina wrote a letter to her own mother about young Maggie's garden at the Brierfield Plantation
"Tell Maggie her little bed is covered with mignonette and purple, and Crimson verbena, and that her cloth of gold rose nearly covers the side of the arbor, and that she had better come back, and get some, and work in her garden."
Cloth of Gold, a hybrid rose

Becky's pretty set. Over half done.

Extra Reading
Maggies husband, the Chevalier, was an organizer of Liverpool's Southern Relief Bazaar in 1864. See a post here:

And read about the Southern Club:

See a preview of Joan E. Cashin's First Lady of the Confederacy: Varina Davis’s Civil War: