Saturday, October 15, 2011

42 H is for Hospital

Log Fence by Becky Brown

The H signifies a field hospital.

A faded Civil War hospital flag
from Gettysburg National Military Park Collection. 
The background color was probably a stronger yellow 150 years ago.

Flags were used to communicate on the battle field. We're all familiar with the white flag as a signal of surrender. Yellow flags meant the no-fire zone of a hospital for either side. Confederate nurse Kate Cumming explained their use in her first day of nursing in Corinth, Mississippi.

We are at the Tishomingo Hotel, which, like every other large building, has been taken for a hospital. The yellow flag is flying from the top of each. Mrs. Ogden tried to prepare me for the scenes which I should witness upon entering the wards. But alas! nothing that I had ever heard or read had given me the faintest idea of the horrors witnessed here. I do not think that words are in our vocabulary expressive enough to present to the mind the realities of that sad scene. Certainly, none of the glories of the war were presented here."

Hand-colored photo of a field hospital
after the Battle of Savage's Station, Virginia.

Late in the War the Union Army adopted a clearer signal, a yellow flag with a green H. The graphic design alerted friend and foe that patients were sheltered in that camp. 

Above the Michigan State Relief Association nursing at a field hospital in Virginia.
Is that a quilt airing out on the tent?

The quilt block is drawn from a child's quilt that is pictured in my book Civil War Women, made by a member of the Burkhart family in Illinois about the time of the Civil War. Terry Thompson and I called it Log Fence for that book. The H's just jumped out at me recently.

I want to emphasize: I am NOT saying this mid-century quilt was intended to represent the H or a hospital. We can, however, use the block to symbolize the brave doctors and nurses who worked in the field hospitals.

Cutting an 8" Finished Block

Use a background that captures the faded yellow in the Gettysburg flag above or a brighter yellow to indicate the flag as it once was.
A Cut 1 green square 1-5/8"
B Cut 2 background yellow prints into rectangles 3-7/8" x 1-5/8"
C Cut 2 green and 2 background yellow prints into strips 8-1/2" x 1-5/8"
D Cut 2 slightly darker yellow strips 8-1/2" x 2" (This will give you extra to center and trim the block when done.)

See more about nurses on this post from April.

Read Kate Cumming's 1866 book
A Journal of Hospital Life in the Confederate Army of Tennessee

It's also available in a newer print edition as Kate: The Journal of a Confederate Nurse.

Here's a version of Log Fence by
Francine Pons of San Antonio, Texas.

Below three photos of nurses at Union Hospitals in Washington D.C. from the Library of Congress


Claudia Hieber said...

the perfect block for me this week.
H for Hieber ( my second name) and H for daughter spend the last week there!

Anonymous said...

I am reading the book "My name in Mary Sutter", about a civil war nurse. Very interesting book.

Mary said...

10 weeks to go. I have sewn 7 precious blocks this week. I'm catching up. Thanks for an easy Block to make this week.

Deborah said...

I love this block used solely in the quilt. Very cool.
Thank you!

Susan said...

I have to try that book. I've gotten several you've recommended and thoroughly enjoyed them. Thank you. Thank you for an easy block, too!

beecee(sundaybee) said...

I love Francine Pons quilt. It woould make a great group quilt, it is so forgiving. I too am catching up. I am going to cut the star now too. I can't believe how the year has flown.

Anonymous said...

Another interesting bit of Civil War history. I have completed the block and posted it on my blog along with a how-to.

Eleene said...

Barbara, Every Saturday, I eagerly look forward to your quilt blocks and civil War information. I love Civil War history, and the quilt blocks are absolutely fabulous! Thank you for sharing your talents with us