Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Hospital Sketches #4: Cockscombs & Currants - Field Hospitals

 #4 Cockscombs & Currants by Becky Brown

Cockscombs & Currants recalls the Union field hospitals,in particular those established after the Battle of Antietem. Smoketown Hospital was laid out after a 12-hour battle on Antietam Creek near Sharpsburg, Maryland. September 17, 1862 is considered the worst day for casualties in an American war when 23,000 soldiers were wounded, captured or killed, carnage impossible to grasp.

Field hospital of tents, September, 1862

Smoketown Hospital, literally a hospital in a field, cared for
500 patients some staying into the winter.

The woman in the tent ward is probably Maria Hall.

Maria M. C. Hall Richards (1836-1912). 
Photo from the Brady Studios. Library of Congress

Cockscombs & Currants by Marty Wesbster

Smoketown was one of over a hundred hospitals in the Sharpsburg neighborhood treating wounded after Antietam. 

Philip and Elizabeth Pry's house was seized for General McClellan's headquarters and a hospital for officers. Some enlisted men were treated in their barn. See a post on the Pry House Hospital here:
Smith's Barn near Keedysville was used as a hospital..
Alexander Gardner Photograph. Library of Congress

Churches, barns and pastures were set up as make-shift treatment centers and morgues with post-battle medical treatment adding to the disaster. Medical Inspector W.R. Mosely deplored conditions:
"All the churches used for hospitals in Sharpsburg are in a dilapidated condition, and filthy, and unfit for the purpose for which they are used....a spectacle of misery and poverty.” One exception: Locust Spring hospital with 24 beds and comfortable bedding: “straw in good sacks, with sheets, quilts, and blankets placed on bedsteads.”
Union surgeon Anson Hurd of Indiana treating 
Confederate wounded in makeshift tents behind the Smith's barn.
Alexander Gardner Photograph. Library of Congress

Getting supplies to the hospitals was a nightmare in that first full year of war. The Sanitary Commission and smaller organizations would become more efficient as war dragged on but agents bungled transportation and disbursement after Antietam. Concerned families responded to the horror stories by sending volunteers from individual states to the front with supplies.

Cockscombs & Currants by Bettina Havig
Harriet Hope Agnes Bacon Eaton (1818-1885)

The Maine Camp Hospital Association hired 42-year-old Harriet Bacon Eaton from Portland as their Relief Agent in the field. A widowed minister's wife with a son in the Maine volunteers, Eaton left two daughters with friends to act as nurse and provisioner, according to biographer Jane Schultz who edited her diary. Eaton described her supply work as differing "materially from that of a nurse in the Army."

This photo of two women in a flatboat after Antietam has been labeled a picnic,
a rather frivolous view of a lunch of hardtack. 
Is that Harriet Eaton on the left?

This enlargement of the Gardner photo is from John Banks's blog:

Eaton's diaries in the collection of the University of North Carolina have been recently published as
This Birth Place of Souls: The Civil War Nursing Diary of Harriet Eaton by Oxford University Press.

She was a great one for listing everything:
"Crackers, fish, pickles, currant shrub and rhubarb wine, apple sauce, blackberry cordial, blackberry preserves, current jelly, dried apples, a jar of raspberry preserves, one of shrub, a bottle of currant wine, soft crackers, farina, chocolate, one can chicken, one doz. combs..."
Cockscombs & Currants by Janet Perkins

Currant shrub (a vinegar-based drink?) and currant wine....
Improvements in the Union supply chain are shown in Eaton's second tour of duty in fall of 1864 when she camped out at City Point in Virginia. She described several quilt deliveries---some not to the patients---but to the doctors who seem to have favored Maine quilts and signed albums in particular.

In October she arranged a trade:  The doctors "begged so hard for album quilts that we finally gave them on condition that they made it up to us in blankets."

Capt. Plummer took a can of peaches, a can of tomatoes, two pillows and a quilt. "Capt. Fogler of the 20th...was highly delighted to receive a quilt marked with his wife's name...."  His wife was 
Caroline (Carrie) E. Hull Fogler (1838-1902) of  Union, Maine.

25-year-old Captain Prentiss Fogler (1838-1897)
 suffered from sunstroke at City Point.

November. "Uncle Richard came for a quilt for ....the new Medical Director. Maine has got a great name for quilts."

And it still does.
Quilt attributed to Cornelia M. Dow of Portland, Maine
during the Civil War.

The Block

The block was an applique fad in the 1850s.

This one with a variation of the vessel, vine and floral border
is dated 1852. Made by a woman named Dixon in Knox County, Illinois,
it's the earliest dated example I've found.

Published names include Flowering Almond, Poinsettia, Chestnut Berry, Oak Leaf, Grapes and Oak Leaf, Spray & Buds---in addition to Cockscombs and Currants.

See a post about the pattern's history here:

To Print:

Create a word file or a new empty JPG file.
Click on the image above.
Right click on it and save it to your file.
Print that file. Be sure the square is about 1" in size.

For the background cut a square 18-1/2".
Add seam allowances to the pattern pieces if you are doing traditional applique.


How many currants?
From a sampler in Julie Silber's Inventory

Cockscomb & Currants by Barbara Brackman
20 is quite fine.

Vintage block

1 Each of A, B, C & E
3 of F
1/2” Finished bias stem

Denniele added more dots.
I'm reminding us that hers finish to 9".

And then she decided the dark blue dot was too big
so a revision.

After the War

Maria Hall married Lucas Richards in 1872 and lived in Unionville, Connecticut, raising three children. She occasionally published memories of the Civil War, including a two-part article in the Springfield Republican in 1886. Long after she died in 1912 a memoir of nursing Tad Lincoln in the White House was published in the Delineator magazine in 1921.

Harriet Eaton also went back to New England. When she died in Hartford, Connecticut she was remembered with a two-sentence obituary only as the wife of her late husband. Unlike other matrons and nurses who published their memoirs she faded into woman's sphere.

Sampler attributed to North Carolina
Read more about the pattern here:

Block #4 has four-way symmetry so is not directional. It goes on the North/South axis.

Extra Reading:

This Birth Place of Souls: The Civil War Nursing Diary of Harriet Eaton. Ed. Jane E. Schultz. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

John Banks on Maria Hall:

See a letter from Eaton published in the Portland Daily Press in 1863

Cockscombs & Currants by Kathryn Jones


Wendy Caton Reed said...

Thanks for another great history lesson. I looked up "shrub" and it is apparently still quite a popular drink and bottled by a number of companies. Maine was indeed very active in the efforts to keep soldiers comfortable. We are fortunate to have many quilts that have survived. Somehow I knew, since May is our busiest month in the boatyard, that this month's block would be the one with all those blessed currants!! I might be late with this one.

Mark Lauer said...

This is a great block! And so many fantastic versions!