Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Generals' Wives' Quilt

National Quilt,
Collection of the Ohio Historical Society

For decades after the Civil War, the Union Veterans' group The Grand Army of the Republic held annual national "Encampments," huge reunions of Union soldiers. The 22nd Annual Encampment was held in Columbus, Ohio in September, 1888.

Thousands of veterans camped out in tent cities
 at these National Reunions.

During the festivities a quilt was raffled to benefit the GAR. Apparently the GAR post in New Carlisle, Ohio organized the quilt by asking women associated with Union Generals to contribute blocks. Or was it made in Columbiana in Salem County? 

Julia Dent Grant may have made or sponsored this block dedicated to her late
husband General  U. S. Grant
Jessie Benton Fremont and the block dedicated to Gen. John C. Fremont.

Caroline Harrison's husband's block. In 1888
Benjamin Harrison was running a successful
campaign for President.

General Frank Blair's block and his wife
Apoline Alexander Blair in a portrait by
George Caleb Bingham.

Mrs. John C. Black with General Black's block.
In the 20th-century portrait she is holding
a photograph of her late husband.

James B. McPherson was Ohio's highest-ranking Union officer
killed in battle. The block honoring him was made by a Miss
McPherson. He never married, so this may have been a niece.

Organizers also asked state governors to donate a block but only one state block from California
is in the quilt. Who bought it? Who won it? 

Stories conflict. Was the quilt sold at the Re-union or sold to California's Governor Robert W. Waterman? The Ohio Historical Society's information says it was donated by descendants of the lucky winner of the 1888 raffle. There is also some indication that more than one quilt was made.
"Thirty-six women sent quilt blocks to New Carlisle, where they were incorporated into the three quilts. They were entered in an Ohio centennial celebration in 1888, where the National won a first premium in the Art Needle...."


Suzanne A said...

What a well done quilt with great history. The Governor might have bought the quilt and then donated it back for re-auction, that was done a lot by benefactors. Or his bid might have referred to one of the others as you suggest, wouldn't we like to see those!

RodFleck said...


This is an amazing piece of history. The fact that there might have been three is equally amazing. The beauty of each block is incredible. When I ws in the USAF, I was stationed at Keesler AFB and toured on my one day off Jefferson Davis' Biloxi home and I still remember this amazing quilt that had blocks with the signatures of the Confederacy leadership.

As a Union descendant, it's great to see that this tradition was a universal. Thanks for sharing this.

Barbara Brackman said...

Rod, I'd better check out that quilt in Biloxi.

viridian said...

I live very near New Carlisle OH. Interesting!

Denise Layman said...

Thank you so much for blogging about this quilt!! you have helped me with some research!