Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Eunice Bullard Beecher's Civil War

A silk quilt dated 1850 by Helen M. Wilkes of Brooklyn, New York,
 a gift to Eunice Bullard Beecher, wife of Brooklyn Minister 
Henry Ward Beecher. The pattern is a variation of the Full Blown Tulip
 or Caesar's Crown design rather popular in the 1840s & '50s.

See more about the pattern at this post:

Miss Helen Matilda Wilkes joined Beecher's church in 1850,
the year she presented this quilt.

Silk quilts did not last long as bedcoverings. About 20 years ago the Beecher Stowe House published a postcard of the fragment that remained then in their collection. The quilt had been divided into four
pieces so four family members could each have a share. 

With current internet access we find
 Helen Matilda Wilkes (1826-1872) buried in Brooklyn.

1872 obituary of the quiltmaker, perhaps

The recipient, Eunice White Bullard (1812-1897) about the time
she married newly ordained minister Henry Ward Beecher in 1837.

Their first posting was to Lawrenceburgh, Indiana. Then to Indianapolis where she caught malaria that afflicted her all her life. Ten years on Indiana's frontier were hard duty. Eunice gave birth to four children but two had died by 1847 when the couple was thrilled to get a call from founders of a new church in Brooklyn, New York who were impressed by Henry's preaching style and philosophy of religion as love rather than brimstone. Henry thrived at the Plymouth Church where he was minister from 1847 until his death in 1887. 

Eunice & her first set of twins

Six more children arrived in Brooklyn but by the time the Civil War began in 1861 the Beechers had only four living children, having lost the pair of twins above to mumps on the same day---July 4th, 1853---and others to malaria.

Herbert was also a twin but it appears his brother was stillborn in 1854.

Brooklyn's Plymouth Church
rebuilt large to accommodate the Sunday audience after a fire

We can hope Eunice's religion (or Henry's) was some solace in the loss of the young children. Henry may have been some comfort (he grieved as deeply as she did) but he was a difficult husband. Always self-absorbed and needing adulation he enjoyed lecture and preaching road trips and the attention of star-struck congregants.

Henry Barton Beecher (1842-1916)

Weeks after the war began their eldest son Henry defied his mother and enlisted at 19 with his father's approval. In her biography of his father Debby Applegate tells us that the boy "was caught in a serious moral infraction and dismissed from his regiment in disgrace. His 'crime' was hushed up, but judging by his mother's reaction, it likely took place in one of Washington's notorious bawdy houses." 

Post-war gossip about Henry Jr.'s service in
the Springfield Republican and New York Times

His father's assistant Theodore Tilton somehow obtained a new posting for the junior Henry in the Army of the Potomac after an interview with Secretary of War Simon Cameron. Eunice was not pleased with any of these events.

Daughter Harriet married a minister at the beginning of the war. Eunice spent much of her war at a cottage she and Henry had bought in Peekskill, north of New York City in Westchester County. She wrote her husband many letters, which he failed to answer. Was she aware of Henry's extramarital affairs with young church members? 

After the war scandalous revelations about Henry's many affairs
enraptured the nation. 

Although she wouldn't have been able to describe it as such, Eunice was surely aware of his clinical depression, illustrated every Sunday in gloomy sermons. During the war concerned church leaders decided he needed a rest and sent him to Europe for four months at their expense.

New York Times, April 1863

Eunice did not accompany him.

Later spin on the 1863 rest cure was that Abraham Lincoln commissioned Beecher to influence public opinion in favor of the Union. Henry did make speeches in England to that effect---were they well-received?

Punch, the English humor paper, published some doggerel and a cartoon of "The Reverend Mr. Treacle" selling "Beecher's American Soothing Syrup" to a country that was not interested.
Mr. Beecher
Yankee preacher
Is, just now, a London feature.
Sent, we're thinking
By Abe Lincoln
To become Brittania's teacher.

Fort Sumter, April, 1865

Perhaps Henry's greatest Civil War honor was Lincoln's choosing him to give a speech at a notable ceremony as the war ended. Henry, Eunice with a host of friends and Plymouth Church members arrived at Fort Sumter in a chartered ship, where Henry gave a speech on April 14, 1865 celebrating the return of the Union flag over the war's first battleground. The next day they heard that Lincoln had been murdered the day of the ceremony.

Their post-war lives drowned in a huge scandal about her husband's hypocrisy regarding affairs with female church members that played out in the newspapers, resulting in a sensational trial in 1875.
"Eunice, a formidable woman with commanding features and snow-white hair, attended regularly. Day in and day out, Mrs. Beecher, wearing a black dress and looking like a raven, sat impassively in a wooden armchair in the spectators’ section of the courtroom." Robert Shaplin, "The Beecher–Tilton Affair," The New Yorker, June 4, 1954.
 Do a search for "Beecher Tilton Scandal" to read MUCH more.

During that period Eunice must have found comfort in writing; she authored several books in her lifetime. Her 1873 book of household hints and recipes gathered from periodical columns advises mothers on how to teach girls to sew with a doll quilt. If this is indeed the way she approached dialog with children her four surviving children were very lucky.

But she was not considered a gentle woman. Her famed sisters-in-law, Henry's sisters Harriett Beecher Stowe, Catharine Beecher and Isabella Hooker found her querulous, hostile and complaining. The best Catharine could say for the public was that Eunice had "always been civil to the family." (An exaggeration.)

Henry Ward Beecher died in 1887---the adultery scandals somewhat forgotten. Eunice lived exactly another ten years with daughter Harriet Beecher Scoville and her family.

An Obituary in 1897
Another obituary with Eunice represented the steadfast wife---the Victorian woman steeped in denial clinging to the ideal of a life-long insoluble marriage.

The Cambrian, 1897

How much of this hypocrisy Eunice actually believed is open to question but she was a stubborn woman making the most of a marriage to a very famous and wealthy man whom diarist George Templeton Strong described as having "a screw loose somewhere." She coped.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Washington Whirlwind #5: Road to the White House


Washington Whirlwind #5: 
Road to the White House by Jeanne Arnieri

After Abraham Lincoln was elected the family closed their Illinois house and made plans to travel to Washington in the spring of 1861. Their Road to the White House was complicated by hate-filled rhetoric from Southern "Fire-Eaters" threatening to kill the president-elect on his trip east. Several body guards and Pinkerton's detectives accompanied the Lincolns on the train ride as did a few young men whom Lincoln had befriended in his legal and political life. Three close friends were on the train.

1863 Alexander Gardner Photograph 
John Nicolay & John Hay were Illinois newspapermen
 appointed Lincoln's secretaries. Moustaches and beards 
became the fashion in the early 1860s and Lincoln showed
 up in Washington with a new beard.
"To Gardner's Gallery & were soon joined by Nico and the Prest . ... Nico & I immortalized ourselves by having ourselves done in a group with the Prest." John Hay, November, 1863.

Ephraim Elmer Ellsworth 1837-1861

Also in the entourage was New Yorker Elmer Ellsworth, about 24, who'd been studying law with Lincoln in Springfield. Ellsworth was a charismatic character who'd created a military drill team in Chicago. Appointed (self-appointed?) a Colonel, he popularized the Zouave uniform developed by African/French troops, consisting of a fez, baggy trousers and a good deal of soutache or flat braid trim. 
Ellsworth's Zouave Drill Book, published
in 1861.

New York Zouaves
When the war began Ellsworth established the 11th New York Fire Zouaves.

Medhurst & Company
17-year-old James Rockwell of DuryƩa's Zouaves in the distinctive outfit.
The Zouave jacket became female fashion.

Detail of a wool Zouave quilt in the Museum of Fine Arts/Boston collection

Road to the White House by Becky Brown

Harper's Weekly

During the spring of 1861 as Virginians argued secession, hotel keeper James W. Jackson flew a large Confederate flag from atop Alexandria's Marshall House, so large it was visible from the White House. John Hay recorded an April 29th visit to Nicolay's bedroom from Kansas Senator James Lane who "was at the window filling his soul with gall by steady telescopic contemplating of a Secession flag impudently flaunting over a roof in Alexandria." Lane suggested the flag be shot away. 

James William Jackson (1823-1861) of Virginia

Ellsworth, a frequent White House guest and a "great pet in the family," was also angered by the Secessionist taunt from across the Potomac.

May 24th, the day after Virginians voted to secede, Union troops occupied Alexandria, which was too close to the Union capitol to let it slip into the Confederacy. 


Elmer Ellsworth was among the occupiers who encountered little resistance. Feeling cocky he decided to take the Marshall House flag with backup from a few fellow soldiers. As he descended the stairs with the trophy in his hands, James Jackson shot and killed him. A fellow Zouave killed Jackson. This confrontation resulting in mutual destruction so early in the war became a rallying point for both Union and Confederates and a metaphor for what was to come.

Jackson left a wife and children. Ellsworth left his parents in New York and a bereft Lincoln family. 

The Harper's Weekly image became a propaganda icon....

Library of Congress

Ellsworth was given a memorial service at the White House with the Lincolns in tears. Julia Taft remembered that she with the Taft and Lincoln boys had visited Ellsworth to watch the Zouaves drill just the day before his death:
"I felt an impulse to tell the President about our pleasant visit to Colonel Ellsworth the day before he was ordered to Alexandria but I was told that the President wept at the mention of Ellsworth and I was afraid it would make him grieve.

Road to the White House by Denniele Bohannon

The Block

This block composed of triangles and four-patches was popular in many shading arrangements. 

Made by Cora Myrtle Graham Boatwright, documented by the Arizona Project.

I was out of town last week so did not get Elsie Ridgley's two versions
up here.

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Baltimore Album with Civil War Imagery from Debby Cooney

Elizabeth A. Chanceaulme Sutton's block in a rather late
 Baltimore Album quilt top with unusual Civil War imagery

As most BAQ's date from the 1840s & 1850s, Union slogans are unusual. Baltimore situated in a Union state during the war was not a Union stronghold, one reason besides timing that Baltimore albums with Union imagery are rare.

Debby Cooney is guest blogging today. As a leading expert on Baltimore Album quilts she recently wrote an analysis of this 1862 Baltimore Album quilt top for the Baltimore Applique Society, summarized here. Photos are from the Richard Opfer auction site where the top sold last October. It's now in the inventory of quilt dealer Stella Rubin, who graciously allowed Debby to study and photograph details of this important Civil War artifact.

We'll start by explaining the numbering system BAQ scholars use.
Each horizontal row is given a number; each vertical row a letter.

Elizabeth Sutton's block D3 proclaims “The Union Forever” 
embroidered on a red horseshoe strip enclosing a stuffed eagle
with a flag shield on the breast, holding a banner 
reading “United We Stand Divided We Fall.”
 Tri-color French liberty caps sit in both top corners.

From Debby's analysis:

This late Baltimore Album quilt top dated 1862 is the only one I know of that references the Civil War. Many blocks present martial imagery and wording that support the Union’s goals of keeping the states together and ending slavery. War motifs include U.S. flags, shields, eagles, drums, and liberty caps. Patriotic phrases are inked on several blocks. Others have adapted iconograph of the French revolution and its slogan Liberte, Fraternite, Egalite


MW Sutton’s block exhibits a dramatic Baltimore clipper ship with red sails very similar to those seen on earlier BAQs. A striped U.S. shield sits in both upper corners. Below the ship’s hull is a patch of ocean in which embroidered red and white fish swim. The bottom of this strip is embroidered “U S Frigate Cumberland M W Sutton.” Embroidered cherry trees lie around and beneath the ship. The USS Cumberland was a 50-gun sailing frigate of the U.S. Navy, the first ship sunk by the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia in the battle of Hampton Roads on March 8, 1862.

Blocks featured in the center are made with a good deal of embroidery that appears to be the work of one person or others with a similar style. 

Signed by a younger daughter of Martin Chanceaulme,
Susanna C. Chanceaulme Carlton Ensor's block is an 
embroidered lattice basket holding stuffed & embroidered
 calico fruit surrounded by an open wreath of berries &
 leaves with her stenciled name below.

Many of the names are Chanceaulme, all likely related to Martin Chanceaulme (1788-1863). He was born in France, emigrated to Haiti and then to the U.S. before 1819, when he married Philadelphian Susanna Hamlet (1796-1859). In the early 1820s they moved to Baltimore where Martin worked as a cabinetmaker and wood carver until his death. Several of their children and relatives contributed the central nine blocks. Four of the red and green blocks include names of women of two families with husbands in the woodworking trades, which may be their connection to the Chanceaulmes.

Motifs in the outer rows are made largely with red and green calico prints and solids.

Signed S Chanceaulme, probably Sarah Ann (1841-1922) one of Martin’s younger daughters, this block exhibits crossed cannons surmounted by the U.S. striped shield surrounded by an open acorn wreath; her name is embroidered in a banner beneath the cannons. This construction resembles a poster circulated in 1792 after the French Revolution proclaiming “Unite et indivisibilite de la Republique: liberte egalite fraternite ou la mort" 1792” (Unity and indivisibility of the republic: liberty, equality, fraternity, or death).

M W Sutton’s block B3 shows a striped shield flanked by a U.S. flag on each side, surmounted by a Great Seal of Maryland figure topped by a liberty cap. Embroidered flowers and war trumpets sit in the corners, with the name in a banner beneath laurel leaves. M W Sutton probably was Elizabeth Sutton’s father-in-law Pvt. Mordecai Sutton (1779-1865), a veteran of the War of 1812, who fought in the Battle of Baltimore of September 12-15,1814, a crucial point in the war. American troops stopped a land and naval assault on the city during which Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that became our national anthem. As they aged, the battle’s survivors, including Sutton, were known and honored as the “Old Defenders.”

The red calico chains in the sashing appear in other Maryland album quilts, as does the simple vine and bud border.

Debby wrote much more about the genealogy and block imagery in her article for the Baltimore Applique Society's newsletter. You should probably join.