Saturday, February 23, 2019

Civil War Hospital Workers: Inventing Clara Barton

This album quilt in the collection of the Clara Barton
Birthplace Museum is one of the most famous 
quilts associated with the Civil War.

It was probably made to memorialize a veteran's re-union, called an encampment, in the 1870s or '80s. Forty-eight men's names are inked in the blocks. The central square is inscribed:

"Post 65 of the G.A.R.
Clara Barton Encampment
Warren Mass
Organized August 1868"

The quilt is not dated (the post's organization date of 1868 is on there) but the fabric in that dedication block is a stripe printed to celebrate the 1876 Centennial.

The shield is inscribed Peace and the musical notes are thought
to be from the song "Hail, Columbia." This piece is a reproduction
that the Museum did with Windham Fabrics several years ago.

I had a swatch and also reproduced the stripe ten years ago or so.

Based on the fabric the quilt is dated to the late 1870s, about the time of the Centennial celebration that created a revived fashion for patchwork quilts. G.A.R. veterans' groups were named for Civil War soldiers and it's a tribute to the men of post 65 that they named theirs after a woman. One might think the quilt was made or given to Clara Barton herself, but it is more likely it was donated to the Museum because of her name in the inscription.

The quilt is famous because Clara Barton is famous. But why is Clara Barton so famous? She was only one of hundreds of women who worked in Civil War hospitals, yet of those hundreds the one chosen to be pictured in the frontispiece of the 1867 book Woman's Work in Civil War, the standard for remembering female contributions to the Union cause

She's inspired dozens of biographies while most
women hospital workers have been forgotten.

Of course she is remembered as the founder of the American Red Cross, and that organization has had a dynamic public relations and fundraising presence in America since then, but the Red Cross was founded in 1881, years after the War.
Her service during the Civil War doesn't seem extraordinary.

Clara Barton (1821-1912)
probably about 1850.

Clarissa Harlowe Barton was born in Massachusetts. As a single woman she worked to support 
herself, first as a school teacher and then as a clerk in the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, beginning in 1854. 

The Patent Office during the Civil War.
The building wasn't finished until 1868.

Barton is sometimes referred to as the first female clerk there---but as with most "firsts" this is doubtful. Women had been hired to copy documents working from home. What was unusual about her hiring is that she is supposed to have been paid the same salary as the men in her position and she had more duties than mere copying. She went back to Massachusetts after a few years, either because she was let go in the new Buchanan administration or because her family needed her nursing skills at home. While depressed and feeling aimless at home "she pieced together a quilt," according to a letter. In 1860 she was back in Washington as a copyist.

She attended Lincoln's inauguration.

A year or so later wounded Civil War soldiers began appearing in Washington's make-shift hospitals (the Patent Office set up wards) and Barton began visiting, providing consolation, companionship and what medical assistance she could. 

She became skillful at organizing relief supplies and incoming food and provisions, a role that quickly became a standard for concerned women. As the war dragged on she apparently quit her clerical job and followed the fighting. In 1863 she moved to the Union-occupied Sea Islands outside Charleston, South Carolina and delivered and supervised supplies, working with soldiers and freed slaves. She ended the war in Virginia at a hospital under General Benjamin Butler.

Two unnamed women working in Virginia in army food service

Barton may have been a skillful organizer, a compassionate bedside visitor and a woman who stood up for her own rights and those of her patients, but she was one of hundreds. Why is her name the best remembered?

The Sanitary Commission and the Christian Commission were
two large Union organizations that delivered goods and provisions
to soldiers in the field.

She certainly was a celebrity. In doing a search for Clara Barton in the Library of Congress's digital newspaper page I got 14,947 hits. The earliest published reference I could find was in July, 1864 when she is listed as one of the organizers of a home for disabled soldiers in New York. Up to that time Clara Barton was not famous.

As the war ended she was back in Washington and made a move that may have insured her celebrity. She realized that there were thousands of unknown soldiers' graves, thousands of missing soldiers and thousands of bereaved families hoping to find something about their lost men. She'd been keeping records in her hospital work and she organized a system to cross reference information.

Sign from the Missing Soldiers Office Museum in Washington

President Lincoln appointed her General Correspondent for the Friends of Paroled Prisoners  in March, 1865. She established the Bureau of Records of Missing Men of the Armies of the United States where she and 12 clerks answered tens of thousands of letters about the missing. They compiled long lists of soldiers who were unaccounted for and checked prison camp, burial and hospital records. The Missing Soldiers Office Museum tells us that her office identified more than 22,000 men by 1868.

In the last weeks of the war she sent a press release to newspapers all over the country.
A Mineral Point, Wisconsin paper printed this notice: 

"Paroled & Exchanged Prisoners
In view of the great anxiety felt through the country for the welfare of our prisoners now being exchanged...Miss Clara Barton...had kindly undertaken to furnish information by correspondence in regard to the condition of returned soldiers [...and] to learn the facts in reference to those that have died in prison, or elsewhere. All letters addressed to Miss Clara Barton, Annapolis, Maryland will meet prompt attention. Editors throughout the country are requested to copy this notice."

A few months later:

"Miss Clara Barton has hit upon an excellent device for bringing to the knowledge of friends the fate or whereabouts of missing soldiers....She has already received such descriptions in some thousands. Roll No 1 is a large sheet [with] fifteen hundred names of missing prisoners of war. Twenty thousand copies of this roll have been printed and circulated....
The rolls of soldiers were posted in post offices, on newspaper office windows and in newspaper columns. Her name was in some paper somewhere nearly every day in the summer of 1865 when she traveled to the Andersonville prison to collect names and provide headboards for the graveyards there. In March, 1866 Congress voted unanimously to pay her $15,000 in bonds to continue her work (an enormous sum of money.)

In 1867 we find references to her lectures on the prison at Andersonville, the rolls of missing soldiers and her war work.

Davenport, Iowa, 1867

In 1868, the she lectured in New York at a G.A.R. event to celebrate the Fall of Richmond. Her topic "Work & Incidents of Army Life."

Barton was good at organizing, at inspiring others, at public speaking and apparently she was excellent at public relations. She encouraged families across the country to describe their missing, asked veterans to help with identification of fallen comrades and publicized the "Rolls of Missing Men". As we can see from the newspapers it was Clara Barton in charge. One did not write to a department or an agency. "All letters must be directed to Miss Clara Barton, Washington, D.C."

Celebrities were featured on cartes-de-visites,
collectible photographs

It is probably this post-War work that landed her at the front of the book Woman's Work in Civil War.

But it's not that work that is remembered in the many subsequent biographies. A woman good at managing a federal bureaucracy was not a salable 19th-century image. She was remembered as a caretaker, a nurse, "the Angel of the Battlefield," an acceptable female role.

Clara Barton, Girl Bureaucrat was not a viable book title (although I might have liked it as much as I liked all those nurse biographies from the 1950s).

 "My work has been chiefly to supply 'things.' "

If you are interested in the real Clara Barton see the 1987 biography Clara Barton, Professional Angel By Elizabeth Brown Pryor.

Google Books Preview here:

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Periwinkle Wreath Blocks

Beverly Simpson

Heather Mantz

Janet Olmstead

Karen Doerr Martin

Lisa Jewell

Louise Haddon

Riikka Sarsama

Shelly Pagliai

From our Facebook Group

Pattern #2 Next Wednesday

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Pry Family: A Quilt Linked to Antietam

"Remember Me
When far away.
And in a distant land
You Stay
M.A. Rhorer"

Album quilt inked with Washington County, Maryland names

The quilt is thought to have been made about 1873-1874 when Elizabeth and Philip Pry moved from Keedysville in Washington County, Maryland to Tennessee in hopes of a new and more prosperous life.

"Ellen M. Landis
The Pry Home, 1862, Alexander Gardner photograph

The Pry brothers married to the Cost sisters were once quite prosperous with Philip farming and and his brother Samuel operating a substantial grist mill where Little Antietam Creek met the Antietam. In September, 1862 a nightmare descended upon them in the form of opposing armies led by Generals George McClellan and Robert E. Lee. The Battle of Sharpsburg or Antietam was the single most murderous day during the war.

Pry House Hospital

The Union Army commandeered their beautiful home for McCelland's headquarters and an officer's hospital under Dr. Jonathan Letterman, Medical Director of the Army of the Potomac. Enlisted men were treated in the barn.

"The whole town was a hospital," remembered a local woman:
"Some one suggested that yellow was the hospital color, and immediately everybody who could lay hands upon a yellow rag hoisted it over the house. ...and the fantastic little strips were soon flaunting their ineffectual remonstrance from every roof-tree and chimney." 

The Prys were members of the German Reformed Church, known
as the Dunker Church in the Gardner Photos. Bodies in the yard,
shell damage in the walls.

Photo by Carol Highsmith at the Library of Congress

Their house was saved although it was emptied of their belongings. It's now the
Pry House Field Hospital Museum near the Antietam Battlefield.

Elizabeth Ellen Cost Pry (1831-1884)
About 1865. She was about 31 (some sources say 40) in 1862.
When her home was overrun she and her five 
children, the youngest Annie, a baby, sought refuge with relatives in town.

Daughter Ellen had died before her second birthday in 1856

An account of the damage from the National Museum of Civil War Medicine:
"The entire Second Corps camped on or near the property while General McClellan and his staff occupied the house. The army depleted the Pry’s food stores, slaughtered their livestock, burned their fences for fuel, used their hay and fodder and stole or damaged the family’s personal possessions. In addition, the Pry Barn housed between 400 and 700 injured soldiers from the Bloody Lane. Philip filed several claims for compensation from the government totaling over $9,000. He had to wait until November 27, 1865 for the first claim to be paid in the amount of $2,662.50. Two other claims were paid out seven years later in 1872, a full decade after the Battle of Antietam. In the end, the Prys received a total of $4,243.53. Unfortunately, the government deemed part of this to be overpayment and Philip Pry was forced to repay $1,209.38."

Lincoln visiting McClellan in his tent
On the up side--- the President came to visit wounded officers in their home.

The Prys never recovered financially. It must have been heart-wrenching to leave for Tennessee ten years later. Elizabeth's friends and relatives consoled as they could with the quilt blocks.

Elizabeth in later life

She lived in Tennessee for about ten years and when she died in 1884 she asked to be buried in the Fairview Cemetery back in Keedyville with her family.

Her star quilt's meaning seems to have been forgotten by a family who used it and used it up.

"Remember me
When this you see
Though many miles
Apart we be,
Your Friend 
Susie Hoffman"

Baby Annie, born in 1861 inherited the quilt and it eventually wound up with relatives in Plainfield, New Jersey who sold the tattered thing at a garage sale to Maggy Sluyter. She determined to find out who signed the quilt.

Maggy learned the quilt's story and donated it to the Keedysville Historical Society in 1999. The quilt is occasionally shown at the Antietam Battlefield Museum in the Pry's house.

Susan Yano decided to make a reproduction of the worn quilt. She photographed each block, found accurate fabrics and pieced the top. Sue Ketron hand quilted it.

They sell a pattern for the replica to benefit the museum.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Antebellum Album Quilts

Sara Reimer Farley's Civil Quilt
(Not a Civil War quilt, but a Civil Quilt)

We've been following Sara's blocks all year as she's
inked advice for a civil society in each.

Some other finished tops.

Cynthia Brouillard set three rows of four
with  a checkerboard stripe between.

Each of her blocks has a bird print.
Very pretty.

Dena Brannan's

Her own set.

Dorry Emmer used the official set and an interesting palette that
is not quite right in this photo.

It's more like this.

38" x 38"
Linda  DeMuth did the small blocks.

Jovita Evans

Kay Gentry's on-point set with applique edge blocks.

Beautiful inking

Lynn Graff set hers on point with the nine patch between them
but shaded it in a different way.

Send pictures or post them on our FaceBook page.