Saturday, June 15, 2019

Catherine Barnwell Barnwell's Civil War: 1 Her Quilt

Hexagon medallion attributed to Catherine Osborn Barnwell Barnwell  (1809-1886)
Beaufort, South Carolina, 1829
Charleston Museum Collection 1942.060.015

The date is from family history, linked to her November, 1829 wedding.
Style and fabrics back up that date.

The central panel of a fruit basket is the most common panel seen
in American quilts used from about 1825 to 1850.

The floral stripe in the border is a double loop with a bouquet seen
in another Charleston quilt dated 1830.

Quilt signed in the quilting Sarah F.C.H. Miller, 1830,
Charleston, Shelburne Museum Collection, pictured
in Florence Peto's 1949 book Quilts & Coverlets.

And used in similar fashion in this quilt from Woodard & Greenstein's
inventory, likely from Charleston 1825-1850 based on format and fabrics.

Woodcut of the Barnwell home, "The Castle"
 from the Lowcountry Digital Library

Catherine was born in 1809 into the family that built this mansion in Beaufort, South Carolina. She was the daughter of Carolina aristocrat Edward Barnwell. Appropriately, a slave is pictured in front, as the Barnwell fortune was built on slavery, rice and sea island cotton.

Beaufort is on Port Royal Island, one of the Sea Islands, about
midway between Savannah and Charleston (the yellow symbols).

When 20 years old she married cousin William Hazzard Wigg Barnwell, a few years older than she, becoming Catherine Barnwell Barnwell on November 26, 1829.

William Hazzard Wigg Barnwell (1806-1863) attributed to George Gibbes Barnwell.
Lowcountry Digital Library. Family photos have been Photoshopped for clarity.

William is remembered in Litchfield, Connecticut where he attended Law School almost 200 years later:
"During his time at Harvard, Barnwell was punished for various offenses, most often for irreverent behavior, sleeping, or disorderly conduct at public worship. He was also admonished for holding festive entertainments and ordered not to leave Cambridge without permission. After graduation, Barnwell attended the Litchfield Law School in 1826 and was admitted to the bar in 1827 at Charleston....On November 26, 1829, Barnwell married Catherine Osborn Barnwell, a daughter of one of his first cousins. Despite his apparent earlier irreverence at religious meetings in his youth, Barnwell left the practice of law to become an Episcopal Minister."

This may be a portrait of Catherine Osborn Barnwell

Catherine gave birth to a dozen children in the 21 years between 1831 and 1852. William soon became rector at Charleston's St. Peter's Episcopal Church, incorporated in 1833. Another cousin, powerful Charlestonian and early secessionist Robert Barnwell (Smith) Rhett, seems to have invited William to establish the new church.

Catherine's youngest children: Mary Elliott Barnwell (1850-1927) and 
Charles Mathews Barnwell (1852-1923) about 1855
Lowcountry Digital Library

Nina Graham Barnwell Heywood (1880-1966) About 1900.
Photo from FindAGrave

Catherine's quilt descended in her son Allard's family. Granddaughter Nina Graham Barnwell Heywood gave it to the Charleston Museum in 1948. 

By the time of the gift the quilt was well worn with two burn holes and water stains. The detail shows the scallop/clamshell quilting pattern. The museum caption tells us the scallops are corded (outlined in corded lines) and there is no batting. The cording work is attributed to enslaved seamstresses.

Southern quiltmakers typically used every scrap of the fruit panel.
Triangles in the corners are leftovers from trimming the center image.

Over the past year or so Merikay Waldvogel and I have been looking closely at quilts like Catherine's featuring panels. Our conclusion is that many of the Charleston-area examples were made by professional seamstresses working to a formula efficiently using chintz florals, stripes and panels, stitching bedcovers as luxury items for Carolina's wealthy elite. 

The final striped border

But Catherine's quilt is different. It's so labor intensive with its rings of concentric hexagons (over 75). No one could make money doing this kind of work. Catherine may have had help from friends and hired or slave seamstresses but the carefully cut, repetitive hexagons indicate the close supervision if not the handwork of one woman with a lot of leisure time (before the 12 children.) She may have made the top herself and then turned it over to enslaved quilters.

Next week we follow Catherine and her children into the Civil War.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Finishes---Well Done

Threads of Memory blocks by Becky Brown

Five years ago we did a Threads of Memory block of the month here---new star blocks named for places and people in stories of escapes from slavery. Becky Brown did two versions, this one in pink with a complicated sashing of flying geese. It's been waiting for a final border for a while.

She writes:
"I've been reading comments on Hospital Sketches [Facebook] about how people struggle with deciding which fabrics to use - don't we all! Well, I finally found the answer to the border for this quilt - it didn't involved flying geese or lots of tiny 1/2 square triangles - just fabric! The right fabric was waiting for me all this time - a simple solution for a border and I think it looks just right, and I'm calling it done."
I'd call it well done.

She had that fabric around---she just didn't see what a perfect match it would be.

And Lori DeJarnatt has had her 2015 Stars in a Time Warp quilted by Diane Knott and it's well done too.

Chrome orange the perfect set for all those stars of different repro prints.

The label on the reverse

We did the Stars in Her Crown Quilt Along on my other blog
Material Culture last winter. Cordelia Nance has finished all nine blocks.

We're plotting a new 9-block Quilt Along for the Material Culture blog starting in August. Pieced; Skill Level-Challenging
Stay tuned.

If you are late to the party you can still buy the patterns for all these series quilts at my Etsy shop.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Underwear: Drawers

One reason so few quilts survive from the Civil War years is that everybody who had time to sew seems to have been stitching men's drawers. Keeping the soldiers supplied with underwear kept women busy North and South. Patchwork was no longer a primary time filler.

Block signed Mrs. Philo Brown, Scituate, R.I. August 2nd, 1862.

Many women devoted time to plain sewing every day, the functional garment making that kept everyone clothed and warm.

Finishing a shirt. 
Armies issuing uniforms often ignored shirts and underwear.

Once the war began that time was spent stitching clothing for soldiers---long-johns for one's brother or for an unknown patient in a hospital.

Ellen Renshaw House of Knoxville, Tennessee stitched underwear in an informal assembly line: "Sister cut them out and ... we sent them around to the girls near us. I never knew a dozen pair could be made in so short a time."

The written history of the war contains countless lists of stitched gifts:
In 1862 the Vermont Military Hospital in Brattleboro thanked the "Ladies of Vermont" for
  • 162 sheets, 
  • 78 pillow cases, 
  • 41 quilts, 
  • 6 bed sacks, 
  • 22 flannel blankets, 
  • 14 dressing gowns, 
  • 8 flannel shirts, 
  • 20 prs. slippers, 
  • 5 prs. flannel drawers, 
  • 6 prs. cotton drawers,
  • 3 coverlets

Sewing underwear for unknown men was a strange turn of events for the properly raised lady of the time.

Bellows in the center

Henry Whitney Bellows of the Union's Sanitary Commission noted that many of the donated drawers did not fit. "Most of our ladies have so magnified our soldiers in their hearts that the shirts and drawers they send would fit the Anakims [a Biblical race of giants.]" He advised women to use their husband's measurements for size.

Of course, some women, like 22-year-old Emma Holmes of South Carolina had no husband to serve as dressmaker's dummy.
"Finished my first pair of 'drawers' today. I could not help laughing at the idea of being able to teach [sister] Lila how to put them together. I do not find the machine as hard to manage as I expected...." August 5, 1861                         

Underwear being stitched was neither boxers nor briefs. As one 1862 article suggested:
The drawers should be made much like pantaloons, as they are worn instead of pantaloons in the hospital. ...The drawers should be as long as pantaloons."

Pair of wool blend drawers lined with cotton on display at the 
Atlanta History Center.

Atlanta History Center
Scrap of wool cloth purported to be a souvenir of
Jefferson Davis's underwear (!?!)

From the Getty Collection

Read more about men's underwear here:

From the ladies of Illinois to the Union hospital in Memphis in one month 490 pairs of men's drawers!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Borders with Dots

We've gotten this far in the first five months of the Hospital Sketches BOM. Time to get those border plans in focus.

 I found a great border in a photo of a quilt show at Pennsylvania's Packwood House Museum....

If you like dots and bias strips.

Indiana project and the Quilt Index

Or dots without bias strips

I guess Minnie Crawford Umstead got tired of the bias strips.

Angeline Hitt
West Virginia Project and the Quilt Index
I have a nice collection of borders with dots

From Ruth Finley's collection

From the Briscoe Center

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Sarah Low: The Lady in Charge at Armory Square Hospital

Pineapple #5 from Hospital Sketches by Marty Webster

Last Wednesday's post in Hospital Sketches was about the Armory Square Hospital with a focus on the elegant writing of Walt Whitman who volunteered there. Sarah Low was the "Lady in Charge"  but I ran out of room, so here is a post about her.

"Superb Quilt. The Album quilt which contains forty-two blocks, on each of which is written a Scripture-verse and two hymn lines, was presented on yesterday to Armory Square Hospital. It is the work and gift of several Connecticut ladies. It was presented on behalf of the donors by Mrs. James Laurenson and daughter, and was received on the part of the hospital by Miss Sarah Low, the lady in charge."
I couldn't find a thing out about the scripture quilt sent by the Connecticut women, but reading about Sarah Low reveals much information about the social networks and politics of Union nursing.

Sarah Low (1830-1913) About 1865.
New Hampshire Historical Society

 I believe she is wearing some kind of knit shawl or what we'd call a sweater. You don't
often see mid-19th-c. photos of knit wear although a lot of knitting went on.

Sarah Low posing in her hospital wear.

Low described her "uniform" in one of her many letters to her family: dark dress, white apron, "white cap & collar, my corps pin & the white cross that most of the nurses wear."

The hospital was on the National Mall where the National Air & Space Museum
is now located. Twelve barracks/wards were built in the Armory yard.
The print is from Sarah Low's gift album.

The long wooden pavilions were thought to be the healthiest
buildings, planned with lots of ventilation. In this photo from Sarah's album the
upper windows are all open.

Another white-washed ward at Armory Square, decorated with bunting
flags and garlands.

Several photographs were taken of the patients posing in the wards, probably
all on the same day. The photos are from the Library of Congress.

The two women on the right in the large photo.

Is this one Sarah Low?

Sarah Low

Sarah and her fellow hospital volunteers called their dormitory the Ladies' Chateau. One friend was
Amanda Akin Stearns who often counted on Sarah for daily tea.

The photographs here and in the Hospital Sketches posts are wonderful documentary evidence of the Civil War, and we can wonder how they came to be taken. Amanda mentioned a conversation in March 1864.
"Discussed the important question of allowing 'Brady' (the 'Daguerreotyper' ) to take our pictures in a group, but much to my disappointment it was decided not [to] have them taken, fearing they would be made too public, and instead suggested taking a patient from each ward to for a group."
We can assume she meant that the photographers from Brady's Washington studio proposed photographing a group of women but the idea of the Sanitary Commission or the Union Army using those photos for public relations purposes risked placing the women in public---too indelicate. However, the photographers may have persuaded Sarah Low to pose and may be responsible for the photos of the wards.

The proposed group photo also may have been taken. These three
women are Amanda Akin (lower left) S. Ellen Marsh at the top and Nancy Maria Hill.

Sarah Low negotiated a place in Civil War Washington by rebelling against Dorothea Dix's authoritarian rule, helped by her family's political connections. New Hampshire's Senator John Parker Hale was a cousin.

Read Katelynn Ruth Vance's thesis, "They Set Themselves to Undermine the Whole Thing": Gender and Authority in the Work of Union Female Nurses in the Civil War:

Sarah Low's letters have been digitized and published, but the book was a small printing. See this post:

And more excerpts from her letters:

Read Amanda Akins Stearn's memoir The Lady Nurse of Ward E: