Saturday, December 31, 2022

Ann Mary Crittenden Coleman's Civil War

Ann Mary Butler Crittenden Coleman (1813-1891)
Perhaps in the 1880s when she was in her 60s.

Ann Mary was born in Russellville, Kentucky to politician John Jordan Crittenden and his first wife Sarah Lee Crittenden. Her mother died when she was about 11 years old. Someone---mother, stepmother Maria Innes Knox Crittenden or a teacher---taught Ann Mary to stitch fancy needlework. (She went by two names Ann Mary, it seems.)

Sarah O. Lee Crittenden (1787-1824) & John Jordan Crittenden (1787-1863),
her parents by Kentucky artist Matthew Harris Jouett

In the early 1850s three of Ann Mary's quilts represented the United States at London's Crystal Palace Exhibition (open from May 1st to October 15, 1851.) 

She and Ellen Anderson of Kentucky sent four quilts to England.

The plans made the news in the 1850s.

1850 news story, Danville, Kentucky

By then she'd been married to Louisville businessman Chapman Coleman for twenty years and had seven children at home. She'd married Chapman at 17; he was 20 years older---5 years younger than her father.

1850 Census showing her husband with $90,000 worth of real estate.
He was a banker, an insurance executive and a merchant.
Being daughter of Kentucky Governor John J. Crittenden (in office from
1848 to 1850) didn't hurt her quilts' chances to win prizes. 
He later became U.S. Senator & then a Representative during the Lincoln administration.

John Jordan Crittenden (1787-1863)

In his autobiography German refugee Gustave Koerner, a Lexington law student, described the Crittendens: "What were called in the south The 'First Families.' "

From Family Search

The 1850 census shows Ann Mary's household with 9 or 11 enslaved servants, at least 4 women who
might have assisted in the embroidery, patchwork and quilting of her masterpiece bedcovers, which had received much press for winning the Bourbon County Fair in 1849. "Mrs. Coleman has been very successful in obtaining premiums for quilts....It is about time for her to stop and give others a chance." 

Cut-throat quilt competition in Kentucky

No trace of these three quilts has been found.

One is described as embroidered with a large eagle in the center
surrounded by patriotic insignia and fruits, flowers and animals in the corners.

Louisville silk quilt from an online auction
Kentucky quilts had a reputation for elegance.

One often finds that women making outstanding quilts had relations in the fabric business and indeed her husband was apparently wholesaling fabric in 1840. Chapman Coleman died in 1850 at about 57 years of age, leaving her with 7 children and a substantial estate. The next year her stepmother Maria Innes Todd Crittenden died. The joy of sending quilts to the London exposition was tempered by loss.

Stepmother Maria Innes Todd Crittenden (1796-1851) is pictured
with her second husband on a Kentucky bank's $20 bill in 
1859, years after her death.

Elizabeth Moss Wilcox Ashley Crittenden (1804-1873) was
widowed three times

What Elizabeth Ashley, the third Mrs. Crittenden, who married John J. in 1853,
thought of this banknote is not recorded.

The widowed Ann Mary sold her house on Main Street near Washington in Louisville and took the children to Europe for several years, enrolling them in Stuttgart schools in the mid- 1850s. She returned to Kentucky in 1859 as politics became more polarized, her father in the middle of the sectionalism in a country in "wretched condition," as he described it.

Even before the war began her family fractured. Father John Crittenden became a supporter of Tennessean John Bell's new Unionist Democrat party in the Presidential election of 1860, won by Abraham Lincoln. Senator Crittenden introduced the "Crittenden Compromise" a month later, hoping to maintain the Union but his idea failed. He lost his Senate seat, then became a Representative from Kentucky. He was instrumental in keeping his splintering state in the Union.

Ann Mary, on the other hand, was in favor of a Confederate Kentucky.

Her eldest son John J. Crittenden Coleman headed South at 24, a "zealous advocate of...Southern rights" but in 1861 he and Edwin Hart editor of the Tallahassee, Florida Sentinel killed each other in a duel.

Newspaper article reprinted in the Congressional Record, February, 1861.

March, 1861, Baltimore Daily Exchange

The duel seems to have taken place before the war began in February, 1861 although family accounts of the date vary, possibly to make his death seem a more honorable war tragedy. Ann Mary was, of course, devastated.

Advice from her father: Buck up, stay home and do not
buy real estate.

Damon Eubank author of In the Shadow of the Patriarch tells us that Ann Mary surprised her father by supporting the Confederacy, her partisanship perhaps a response to son Crit's choice of loyalties & death. She discouraged his younger brother Chapman Coleman II from joining the Union army.
"It seems to me if I lose one son in the Southern army and the other in the Northern my sons will have been born in vain!"

Her family was a classic case of brother against brother.

Ann Mary's brother George Bibb Crittenden (1812-1880)
in a U.S. uniform before he resigned to become
a Confederate General

Her father, deeply mortified by her brother George's defection

Brother Union General Thomas Leonidas Crittenden (1819-1893)

An unlikely story of Civil War spying, published in 1909

Ann Mary moved to Baltimore, another place with fractured loyalties. She and her father argued over partisanship by letter:

"I don't think I love the rebellion but I accept it, as the best thing that remains.....This country can never be one again." Soon after her letter he died on the campaign trail at the end of July, 1863.

Louisville Courier Journal

Writing occupied her time. In 1866 she and her daughters translated a German book about Frederick the Great and several others by Luise Muhlbach.

Ann Mary also published a biography of her father after the war.

With an apologetic preface for being female

An 1870 book on Southern writers tells us she was one of the successful petitioners
to free Jefferson Davis.

1880 Census: "GMa" Ann at 67 is living with an extended family
 headed by daughter Florence's husband in Louisville.

She died in Louisville in 1891.

I found no mention of the three quilts after the flurry of attention in the 1850s but perhaps her husband's death divided her life into two eras; the quilts were part of the past.

No comments: