Saturday, April 30, 2011

18 Union Square

Union Square can represent the Union recruits,
eager to sign up in the spring of 1861.

Individual Union states were responsible for raising troops to fight the new war. Using the same organization that worked during the War with Mexico in the 1840s, local militias volunteered under charismatic commanders. Ohio's George McClellan was state militia commander, Major General of Volunteers, and exceptionally good at attracting troops.Young men were drawn by patriotism and promises of glory, much to their mothers' anguish.

Milan Ohio April 20, 1861

"Dear Carlos
Likely you have heard about the war down South….You may have heard that Mrs. Dan. Hamilton tried to stop Will, who had enlisted at Springfield---she was too late---he had marched before she got there---She is said to consider it a greater affliction than any previous one, which have been many and severe."
H. Colton

The photographs are from a Flickr Group and the Library of Congress called Civil War Faces. The Liljenquist Family recently donated their rare collection of almost 700 ambrotype and tintype photographs to the Library of Congress in remembrance of the Union and Confederate soldiers who served in the American Civil War. Click here to see the soldiers: 

I brightened up the portraits a bit so you can see how young some of the boys are.

These beautiful photograph cases may give you quilting ideas for mid-century reproductions.

Recruiting units later used bonuses and a draft as well as patriotism and honor to attract soldiers.

Union Square is BlockBase #2417, given that name in the Nancy Cabot column in the Chicago Tribune of the 1930s.

Cutting an 8" Finished Block

A - Cut 4 dark squares 2-1/2"
B - Cut 4 medium squares 2-7/8".

 Cut each into two triangles with one diagonal cut. You will need 8 triangles. You may want to cut these triangles a little larger, say using a 3-1/4" square, and then trim them.

 C - Cut 5 light and 4 dark squares 2-3/8" for the center nine patch.

The letter above is from The Colton Letters: Civil War Period 1861-1865, edited by Betsey Gates. McLane Pub., 1993. The letters are from a large Ohio family of young men and women.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

17 Comfort Quilt

The Comfort Quilt
by Becky Brown

Woven comforters warmed many patients

The Comfort Quilt pattern, given that name in the Kansas City Star in 1940, has two meanings. The patchwork looks like a geometric woven comforter pattern---bedcoverings were often called comforts in the 19th century. The design can also serve to remember Dorothea Dix and the Civil War nurses on both sides who comforted the wounded and ill.

Dorothea Dix
From the National Portrait Gallery
 at the Smithsonian Institution

On April 22, 1861 the Union Secretary of War accepted social reformer Dorothea Dix's offer to organize an "Office of Women Nurses." Despite disapproval from female society and from male doctors who believed women did not belong in hospitals, Dix recruited thousands. Women answered her call for nurses  who were "sober, earnest, self-sacrificing, self-sustained, calm, gentle, quite active and steadfast and willing to take and to execute the directions of the surgeons."

A nurse and her patients take the air
 in Fredericksburg in 1864

Dix's reputation has suffered from the backlash of ridicule that often results from a woman's assuming a position of power. Diarist George Templeton Strong described her as a "philanthropic lunatic," and journalist Jane Swisshelm called her "a self sealing can of horror tied up with red tape."

Dix devoted her life to reform,
first in the care of the mentally ill
 and then with Army hospitals

Even those who respected her agreed she could be dictatorial and demanding. As nurse Georgeanna Woolsey put it,
"We have had an encounter with Miss Dix, that is rather the way to express it. Splendid as her career has been, she would succeed better with more graciousness of manner."

A field hospital with a nurse second from right.
She has been identified as Cornelia Hancock.
Don't tell Miss Dix about that hoopskirt.

Dix's Plan for Nurses outlined the rules:

"No women under thirty need apply to serve in government hospitals. All nurses are required to be plain-looking women. Their dresses must be brown or black with no bows, no curls, no jewelry and no hoop skirts."
Charlotte Wilson in New York soon heard of the nurse recruitment:
"I went this morning to the Cooper Institute to see the operation of an admirably organized society for the relief and aid of the sick and wounded soldiers. This society is in communication with Miss Dolly Dix who informs them of the wants of the Washington Hospital….There is an organized body of Nurses, being trained here in the Hospital. One of the first questions asked a woman who is ambitious to become a Nurse is whether she is over thirty. None under that age are accepted. It is wonderful how many find it impossible to confess they are over thirty."
We smile today with Charlotte at all the obstacles put in the way of the women who wanted to help. In this first month of the proposed 30-day war, no one had any idea what lay ahead in the hospitals.

Cutting an 8" Finished Block.
 Scraps of indigo blue prints would add to the
look of a woven coverlet. The pattern is BlockBase #2031

A- Cut 8 blue squares 2-1/4"
B- Cut 4 light rectangles 2-1/4" x 5".
C- Cut 4 light rectangles 2-1/4" x 1-1/2"
D- Cut 1 blue square 1-1/2"
C- Cut 4 light rectangles 2-1/4"

Read more about the role of nurses in Chapter 5 of my book Civil War Women. Click here for more information:

Several nurses published their memoirs and diaries in the 19th century. Read Louisa May Alcott's Hospital Sketches at Google Books by clicking here:

And Georgeanna Woolsey's Hospital Days by clicking here:

Here's a block from our Flickr group by A.E.A. Quilts

And one by Ellen from American Homestead

Saturday, April 16, 2011

16 White House

White House by Becky Brown

The White House block can remind us of Washington City, the U.S. capitol perched on the Virginia state line. As the Lincolns settled into the President's House during the first weeks of the War, Washingtonians were choosing sides and leaving the city.

The White House
Photograph attributed to 1860-1880

Elizabeth Lindsay Lomax lived near the White House on G Street. A widow in her sixties, she was born in Virginia and married to a Virginian, an Army officer who'd died twenty years earlier leaving her to raise their large family.

Painting by A. Meyer from the Library of Congress
The unfinished capitol dome loomed
over the city in the first years of the War.

Trinity Episcopal Church
Early 1860s

Elizabeth's diary gives a vivid account of living in the nation's capitol in the week after Fort Sumter. Her youngest son, 25-year-old Lindsay, was in the U.S. Army, a graduate of West Point. He and his friend Jeb Magruder spent time at Elizabeth's house that week. 
April 16, 1861
Rained all night.
Reported again last evening that Virginia has seceded, but it is not believed.
Events crowd so fast that I cannot relate them in my diary.

April 18
Virginia has seceded!! Heaven help us.

April 19
Visitors all day long.
Many people are leaving the city. Great excitement and unrest.

April 20
Mary Buckler and Julia went to Alexandria [Virginia] this morning to see Emily Page, and found difficulty in returning home, crowds everywhere and soldiers on guard and everything in a disturbed state.
The Jefferson Davis house in Washington,
 abandoned by the family in 1861.

An artist's depiction of Massachusetts troops in
Baltimore attacked by Confederate sympathizers.
April riots in Baltimore and Washington
 frightened residents into leaving the cities.

April 21
This has been a frightfully exciting day. Riots here and in Baltimore, many persons shot, also a heartrending day for Lindsay and for me. …This evening Lindsay told me that he had sent in his resignation; Colonel Magruder has also sent in his resignation from the army and will go to Virginia tomorrow where Lindsay will join him…

Lindsay's April 21st letter of resignation to his U.S. Army commander was published in her diary. Here is the first paragraph.

Dear [Lt. Geo] Bayard:
I cannot stand it any longer and feel it my duty to resign. My State is out of the Union and when she calls for my services I feel that I must go. I regret it very much, realizing that the whole thing is suicidal....

Lunsford Lindsay Lomax, 1835-1913  

The White House pattern is a variation of mid-20th-century block, designed first by Nancy Cabot in 1937 and modified by the Famous Features syndicate. The 1930s blocks included small nine patches or stripes in the outer squares, a little too much piecing for an 8" block (It's BlockBase #1146). Here I've changed the pieced stripes to a fussy-cut striped print.

Cutting an 8" Finished Block

A- Cut 4 dark, 4 striped and 4 light squares 2-1/2". You want to fussy cut the striped squares by lining one up against the right side of the ruler and doing the same with piece B when you cut it. That way the stripes will realign when you piece A and B together.

B- Cut 4 squares of striped fabric and 2 squares of light 2-7/8".

Cut each into two triangles with a single cut.
Use only the striped triangles that match piece A---you'll get one out of each square you cut. Save the other parts for another block. You need 4 striped and 4 light squares.

GigiBrod's block from the Flickr group

Elizabeth Lomax's diary was published in 1942.  It's not available online (it IS on the subscription site Your library may have a copy.

Elizabeth Lindsay Lomax, Leaves From an Old Washington Diary, 1854-1863. Lindsay Lomax Wood, editor. Dutton, 1943.
Her son Lindsay went on to become a Major General in the Confederate Army. He survived the War to become president of the school we call Virginia Tech and active in many veteran's associations and causes.
An updated look with a stripe by LJ Bush from the Flickr site with a new pattern piece combining A and B.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

15 Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter
The Fort Sumter block was given that name in the Chicago Tribune's quilt column in the 1930s.
In Charleston 150 years ago this week,  Mary Chestnut's husband was negotiating with the Yankees before the Confederate bombardment of the Union fort in Charleston's harbor.
"His interview with Colonel Anderson [Federal commander at the Fort] had been deeply interesting, but Mr. Chesnut was not inclined to be communicative. He wanted his dinner. He felt for Anderson and had telegraphed to President [Jefferson] Davis for instructions—what answer to give Anderson, etc. He has now gone back to Fort Sumter with additional instructions….

Colonel James Chesnut, Jr. during the War
I do not pretend to go to sleep. How can I? If Anderson does not accept terms at four, the orders are, he shall be fired upon. I count four, St. Michael's bells chime out and I begin to hope. At half-past four the heavy booming of a cannon. I sprang out of bed, and on my knees prostrate I prayed as I never prayed before.

There was a sound of stir all over the house, pattering of feet in the corridors. All seemed hurrying one way. I put on my double-gown and a shawl and went, too. It was to the housetop. The shells were bursting. In the dark I heard a man say, 'Waste of ammunition.' I knew my husband was rowing about in a boat somewhere in that dark bay, and that the shells were roofing it over, bursting toward the fort."

Mary watched the battle from the
 roof of her house in Charleston,
a scene pictured in Harper's Weekly, May 4, 1861

Fort Sumter guarded Charleston's harbor. This map adapted from Wikipedia shows the bombardment that Mary Chesnut witnessed. The Fort (the red star) was fired upon from points on land north, east and west.

The Fort before the shelling.
 Picture from Harper's Weekly, April, 1861.

The quilt block, named by the fictional Nancy Cabot who wrote the quilt column for the Chicago Tribune in the 1930s, seems to symbolize the Fort in the harbor. The central nine-patch can stand for the building. The blue triangles around it can stand for the water in the harbor.

In actuality the Fort is a five-sided structure.

The red shapes in the corners can symbolize the lines of fire from the shore.

Cutting an 8" Finished Block

A - Cut 4 red rectangles 3-1/2" x 2-1/2". You'll trim the outside points at 45 degree angles when you've finished piecing the block.
B - Cut 2 blue squares 3-7/8". Cut each into 4 triangles with two cuts. You need 8 triangles.

C - Cut 4 light squares 1-1/2".
D - Cut 4 dark rectangles 1-1/2" x 4-1/4".
E - Cut 1 medium square 4-1/4".

The block has two variations, found as number 2423 or 2461 in BlockBase. Another name is Four Points.

An account of the the week's news
 in the Chicago Tribune, April, 1861

Mary's portrait from her book

Witness the War from Mary Chesnut's point of view by downloading her diary or adding this site to your favorites:
You can check it every week to get her perspective as a Confederate government insider who is perceptive enough to foresee the horrors ahead.


Fort Sumter by "Sewprimitive"

"Sewprimitive" posted this block early this morning on the Flickr group. She copied the pictures above onto fabric and created the Fort Sumter block out of the period graphics. Very clever!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

14 Fox and Geese

Fox and Geese
by Becky Brown

Fox and Geese can represent the standoff for control of Fort Sumter that occupied political discussions in early April 150 years ago. While spring bloomed, an uneasiness settled North and South as Lincoln took over the federal government. Sarah Rousseau Espey in Alabama sought solace in her needlework.

March 25, 1861
Pretty day, C. started to Georgia this morning, our folks [slaves] commenced planting corn; I still feel that strange depression of spirit, and dread of coming evil for which I cannot account; it seems that something dreadful is before us. Commenced fringing a counterpane.
Lincoln's first crisis was re-supplying the Union Fort Sumter in Charleston's harbor. Food was running out and South Carolinians threatened to fire upon any ships that might try to bring supplies. Gustavus Fox recently rejoined the Navy and he had an idea. President Buchanan had rejected this plan for sending ships stealthily to Charleston but Lincoln told him to go ahead. Fox headed south in command of the steamer Baltic following the cutter Harriet Lane (named for Buchanan's niece.) The next day the U.S.S. Pawnee departed.

Would South Carolina troops fire on the U.S. Navy and be viewed as the aggressors? Attacking the U.S. Navy would surely be an act of war. It was a game of Fox and Geese, and Fox was out maneuvered. The Confederates assaulted the Union-held Fort before the Baltic and the other ships arrived. Who was the aggressor then? Wasn't the Southern state just defending her borders?

The Confederates assaulted the Fort from the batteries in Charleston harbor. After observing the two-day battle, Fox and the Baltic rescued the federal soldiers who abandoned Fort Sumter to the Confederacy.

The Confederate flag flies over a battered Fort Sumter

On April 16, Sarah Espey wrote:

A stormy day and getting cold….Thomas went to Hale's and learned that the Carolinians have taken Fort Sumter and that our other volunteer company is ordered to Fort-Pickens, so I suppose the war is now opened….
The Fox and Geese pattern is a 19th-century design that was given that name in Carrie Hall's 1935 index to patterns. There are many variations of these four patches made of large and small triangles, but no record of what mid-19th-century quilters might have called them. It's #1313 in my Encyclopedia and BlockBase.

Cutting an 8" Finished Block

A - Cut 2 light and 2 dark squares 2-7/8"

Cut each in half diagonally to make two triangles. You need 4 of each shade.
B - Cut 4 dark squares 2-1/2"
C - Cut 1 light and 1 dark square 4-7/8".
Cut each in half diagonally to make two triangles. You need 2 of each shade.

Finish by making a larger 4-patch.

Read Sarah Espey's diary for the year 1862 online here:

Gustavus Fox was a Navy man who'd graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis and served in the Mexican War. In the 1850s he worked as an "agent for the Bay State Mills in Lowell, Massachusetts." Can we translate that to "a sales rep for a woolen mill?" He became Assistant Secretary of the Union Navy during the War and afterward went back to the woolen business in Massachusetts.

The Bay State Mills were the largest woolen mills
in Massachusetts in the late 19th century