Saturday, June 25, 2011

26 Barbara Frietchie Star

Barbara Frietchie Star
By Becky Brown

Poetry was powerful propaganda during the Civil War. John Greenleaf Whittier, who often described current events in verse, applied his pen to the coming war. In 1861 he based a poem on Martin Luther's hymn A Mighty Fortress is Our God, describing slavery as
"The poison plant the fathers spared
All else is overtopping.
East, West, South, North,
It curses the earth...."
John Greenleaf Whittier

Whittier believed the war to be a fight against slavery but the official position in 1861 emphasized that this was a war to save the Union. General McClellan banned Whittier's emotional poem from Union Army programs during the summer of 1861.

A year later Whittier's hopes for an anti-slavery victory had faded.

Yet he renewed his resolve when he heard a story about a Union heroine named Barbara Frietchie in a battle in Frederick, Maryland. Inspired by that tale, he wrote Barbara Frietchie, which was published in the Atlantic Monthly. His poem became a rallying cry for the Union and a classic recitation for schoolchildren for generations.

Barbara Frietchie is recalled as an elderly woman who waved a Union flag from her attic while General Stonewall Jackson marched his Confederate troops through town. Jackson ordered his men to fire at the defiant woman.
"Shoot if you must, this old gray head,
But spare your country's flag,  she said."

Small photograph cards of Barbara Frietchie
were sold with pictures of other Union heroes.

General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was a
 Confederate hero pictured in many Cartes des Visites
(CDV) souvenirs

According to the poem, the embarassed General rescinded the order and Frietchie's Union flag waved over Jackson's short occupation of the town.

Historians point out that Stonewall Jackson, who died in battle soon after the poem's events, marched nowhere near Frietchie's house and that the 95-year-old woman was confined to bed. Barbara Frietchie's defiant flag waving is an American myth flying in the face of the facts. True or not, her tale was a Union answer to the Confederate myth of the martyr Stonewall. Here was a woman who'd won a small victory over the legendary General.

 Whittier's contribution to the myth inspired patriotic impulses for well over a century.

The poem was translated into a popular
stage play and then a film

In the 1930s Needlecraft Magazine published an article by Helen Rockwell Adams who had visited the recreation of Barbara Frietchie's house in Maryland. On the bed she saw a sawtooth star, which "tradition assures us that Barbara made...with her own hands." Adams pictured a block, naming it Barbara Frietchie's Design. 

This version is BlockBase number #1140, given the name Barbara Frietchie by the Grandmother Clark needlework company in 1932. It is one triangular pattern piece, sewn into squares and shaded as a star and pinwheel.

Cutting an 8" Finished Block

A Cut  squares 2-7/8". Cut 4 dark,  2 medium light, 2 medium dark and 6 light. Cut each in half diagonally.

 You need 8 dark triangles, 4 medium light, 4 medium dark and 12 light triangles.

A re-creation of Barbara Frietchie's house in Frederick was a tourist attraction for many decades, but it is now closed. Today's welcome emphasis on historical accuracy in telling the story of the Civil War may mean it will never reopen. The tale of the star quilt on the bed, made by Barbara's "own hands," probably has no basis in fact either.

Barbara Fritchie Star
Shirlene Wedd and Jean Stanclift made a version
of the Barbara Frietchie star quilt with
 an eagle border adapted from a Civil War era quilt.
 Anne Thomas handquilted it.

So this week we have an imaginary story and an imaginary quilt block, but they can remind us of the power of myth in telling about our past. Read Whittier's poem at this site:

Order our Barbara Fritchie star pattern with appliqued eagle border by clicking here:

Saturday, June 18, 2011

25 Calico Puzzle

Calico Puzzle by Becky Brown
We can recall the effectiveness of the Union blockade on Southern lives with Calico Puzzle.
"What will the pople do?"

In June of 1861, Clara Solomon began keeping a diary. Sixteen-year-old girls often confide their thoughts, dreams and disappointments to diaries. Clara, one of six daughters of a New Orleans dry goods merchant, also recorded her reactions to the Yankee occupation of the city, her father's absence in the Confederate Army, shortages, and her family's increasing poverty in the War's first two years.

She wrote in the slang of her day, revealing that teenagers 150 years ago had their own language, some of which lingers. Her friend Alice "looked particularly 'jimmy' in a clean muslin."
 "Alice, I often think of you. Aint' that cool?"

Some of her words were probably Southern regionalisms rather than teenage slang. She called a baked potato dish a "potato pone."

 By fall she was complaining about the price of cotton. 
 "Former bit calicoes are now 20 and 25 cents...What will the people do?"

Mid-19th-century Americans used
Spanish coins like this "bit" as currency.

Twenty-five cents is two-bits, so the price of prints had doubled. Like most teenagers, she found "pretty dresses" a major concern:
"Remained sewing until 2 ½ when I proceeded to adorn my person. Wore my new dress with which I am in love."
"After School I came directly home. Ma was down stairs sewing....F. came.... The pretty ladies [she] had seen had made her quite envious particularly of their toilettes & she cautioned me not to go on Canal St. for I would see too much grand dressing for my own comfort. Innocent child! How often have I returned home almost downhearted at the remembrance of the pretty dresses & faces I had seen."

Calico Puzzle (BlockBase # 1681) was given that name in the Kansas City Star in 1930.

Cutting an 8" Finished Block

These measurements will give you pieces a bit large which you can then trim to an 8-1/2" square (8" finished) block.

A Cut 2 medium and 2 light squares 3-5/8". Cut each in half diagonally.

You need 4 triangles of each.
B Cut 4 dark and 1 light square 3-3/8"

Clara's diary was recently published as The Civil War Diary of Clara Solomon: Growing up in New Orleans, 1861-1862, edited by Elliott Ashkenazi (Louisiana State University Press, 1995). Read excerpts from the book by clicking on this webpage and scrolling to the bottom of the page:

New Orleans became a Union-occupied city for most of the War.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

24 Ladies' Aid Album

Ladies' Aid Album by Becky Brown
The block recalls the founding of the Sanitary Commission.
If you see a shadow of a red cross it's because the Sanitary Commission preceded the Red Cross as an organization to aid sick and wounded soldiers.

Headquarters of the Philadelphia Sanitary Commission

150 years ago this week the Union government recognized the United States Sanitary Commission, authorizing the civilian group to take responsibility for soldiers' hospitals and medical care. It surprises us today to realize that governments took little responsibility for war wounded. In Europe's Crimean War of the 1850s Florence Nightingale established a civilian mission that saved many lives. Inspired by Nightingale's work, the first Sanitary Commission grew from the work of New York's Woman's Central Association of Relief.
Women were officers as well as nurses in the Sanitary Commission.
Here a group visits a battlefield.

Cities all over the Union soon volunteered to organize local Sanitary Commissions. One of their major duties was collecting blankets, medical supplies, food and clothing for hospitalized soldiers. Another was sewing those blankets, supplies and clothing in numerous Ladies' Aid Societies.

The Washington D.C. headquarters

 In 1863 Mrs. R. H. Hook wrote a flowery letter about the work of the Sanitary Commission, using a patchwork quilt as a metaphor to discuss the sacrifices of Union women.

 "They have given their husbands, their sons, their lovers and brothers.... This passion, not content with giving up the bread-winners, the pride and joy and stay of their homes, has led the women of the land to take the snowy quilts and blankets from their beds, the curtains from their windows, the hoarded linen from their presses, and send it in avalanches of comfort to our storehouses of relief.
The women have considered themselves as at a great national quilting-party; the States so many patches, each of its own color or stuff, the boundaries of the nation the frame of the work; and at it they have gone, with needles and busy fingers, and their very heart-strings for thread, and sewed and sewed away, adding square to square, and row to row; allowing no piece or part to escape their plan of Union; until the territorial area of the loyal States is all of apiece, first tacked and basted, then sewed and stitched by women's hands, wet often with women's tears, and woven in with women's prayers; and now at length you might truly say the National Quilt—all striped and starred—will tear anywhere sooner than in the seams, which they have joined in a blessed and inseparable unity!"
The Christian Commission did similar work,
 gathering supplies in boxes and barrels
 to be shipped to battlefield hospitals.
Those barrels held many patchwork quilts.

The Ladies Aid Album block (BlockBase #1719) was published in the Kansas City Star in 1938. Here the design is redrawn to better fit an 8" block.

Cutting an 8" Finished Block

A Cut 4  light  squares 3".
B Cut 4  light  rectangles 1-1/2" x 3-1/2".
C Cut 1 medium square 4-1/4". Cut  into 4 triangles with 2 cuts.

You need 4 medium triangles.

D Cut 4 red squares 2-3/8". Cut into 2 triangles with 1 cut.
You need 8 red triangles.E Cut 1 medium square 3-1/2"

Above is a report from the Northern Ohio Sanitary Commission on items received and then donated to hospitals. In Northern Ohio alone during the first year of the war the women took in nearly 6800 "comfortables and blankets." Very few of those bedcoverings returned from the war.
Read a preview of Judith Ann Giesberg's Civil War Sisterhood: The U.S. Sanitary Commission & Women's Politics in Transition (Northeastern University Press, 2000) at Google Books by clicking here:

Saturday, June 4, 2011

23 Illinois Roads

Illinois Roads by Becky Brown
Becky added complexity to a simple block with striped fabric .

Illinois Roads recalls Senator Stephen A. Douglas.

During the first week of June, 1861, flags flew at half mast. In the midst of preparations for War the Union mourned Stephen A. Douglas, Democratic Senator from Illinois, who had died suddenly of typhoid fever in Chicago.

Douglas, the Lincolns and the Union shared a tangled history that began in Illinois, where Douglas sought his fortune in 1833. A native Vermonter, Douglas used intelligence and personal magnetism to ascend to the Senate. He ran for President twice.

He represented the free state of Illinois but was a slaveholder. His first wife Martha inherited a Mississippi plantation worked by more than 100 African Americans in slavery. In the same way he made a personal compromise between keeping slaves and representing those opposed to slavery, Douglas in the mid 1850s advocated a compromise between North and South that would permit slavery to extend to new territories. His policy of "Popular Sovereignty" declared that if men who settled the new territory voted to be admitted as a slave state, slavery would be extended west, thus removing the decision and any political backlash from Washington.

Campaign button from the 1860 election

Douglas hoped his bold gesture would propel him into the White House in the election of 1856. Hindsight permits us to see that Douglas' bill to organize the Kansas/Nebraska Territory with a popular vote on slaveholding was disastrous for both his country and his own political life. Within the year, he was so vilified throughout the Northern states that he joked he could ride from Boston to Chicago on a path brightly lit by the fires of his own burning effigies.

The Lincoln/Douglas debates made both men national figures

In his youth he'd courted Mary Todd who married political rival Abraham Lincoln. During the 1850s Lincoln and Douglas traveled the roads of Illinois to debate the slavery question, their eloquence on both sides of the issue attracting national attention. They also ran against each other in the Presidential election of 1860, with Douglas representing one branch of the shattered Democrats and Lincoln the new Republicans.

In the spring of 1861 as the Union splintered, Douglas made public gestures to signify support for his rival, holding the new President's hat at the Inauguration, escorting the First Lady to the Inaugural Ball and defending Lincoln's policies in the Senate and back in Illinois.

Douglas's career was a series of political and personal highs and lows. After his last great defeat in the 1860 election and the coming of the War that he in part caused, Douglas at 48 years old seemed on the verge of a political and moral rebirth. From his obituary in Harper's Weekly:

"When the occasion demanded he sprang to the support of the President whose election was gained by his own defeat....Of all these glorious possibilities we can now only say he might have been."

Like so much else in the years before the Civil War, we continue to mourn what "might have been."

Cutting an 8" Finished Block

A Cut 4 medium and 4 dark  rectangles 2-1/2" x 4-1/2"

Illinois Roads is BlockBase #1615, given that name by the  Illinois quilt columnist Nancy Cabot in the Chicago Tribune, 1933.

In 1856 Douglas married 20-year-old 
Washington belle Adele Cutts,
grandniece of Dolley Madison
and niece of Rose Greenhow (about whom---more later)

One of the best things about history is gossip, so here's a quote from a letter Varina Davis wrote to her parents on the occasion of Adele's marriage to the older, disreputable Douglas.

"Ada Cutts who continues 'bigger than all the men at the springs' [Adele was apparently too tall for Varina's taste] is to be married immediately to Judge Douglas---and any amount of first love and sentiment is talked upon the occasion, and the dirty speculator and party trickster, broken in health by drink, with his first wife's money, buys an elegant, well-bred woman because she is poor and her Father is proud. However, water is going to be introduced into the city, and I trust with a view of making a little more out of the public, and sparing his wife's olfactories Douglas may wash a little oftener. If he don't his acquantance will build larger rooms with more perfect ventilation. However, this wedding has put me out of patience."

No wonder Mary Chesnut loved visiting Varina. What a sharp tongue!

The letter is on pages 80-81 of Jefferson Davis: Private Letters, 1823-1889 edited by Hudson Strode, 1995.