Saturday, June 29, 2019

Buried With the Silver: Highly Unlikely

Megan posted a link on a social media group about a newspaper article on a Mississippi quilt.
Here is Shirley, a quilter herself, showing off a family heirloom that has been passed on from her mother with the story that it was buried in a hollow log during the Civil War. 
See the link at the bottom of the page.
"Her great-great grandmother Susan Powell Davis stitched the family-prized quilt around 1860, when she lived on a plantation in Newton County, according to Mississippi Quilts, a book by quilt researcher Mary Elizabeth Johnson Huff."

Mary Elizabeth, who died this spring, was a Mississippi publisher and author who surveyed the state's quilts with the Mississippi Quilt Association and published Mississippi Quilts in 2001.
UPDATE: Mary corrects me in the comments. Mary Elizabeth lived in Alabama.

The quilt in the pattern we call Drunkard's Path as shown in the book.
The design was quite popular in the years 1880-1920. 

Shirley told the reporter that the quilt used to be red, white and blue. The red (probably dyed with a reliable synthetic Turkey red dye) has stayed true but the blue has faded to a dun-colored brown, the common fate of cottons dyed with new synthetic dyes after 1880.

Linda Veal, Pike County, Alabama
The North Carolina team dated this quilt as 1901-1929

Drunkard's Path above recorded by the North Carolina project pieced of solids: a reddish brown (always was a brown) and a blue that is fading to dun, particularly along the top row.

The original blue color in the Davis quilt was likely a teal blue-green, often used
 in the 1880-1930 years, a pretty color off the bolt, but prone to quick fading as in this early 20th century top.

When she posted the link to the "Civil War quilt" Megan found the date questionable: "A strip border like that makes me think of a later date." Strip borders indeed were far more popular after the Civil War and towards the end of the century. And that corner treatment---people who have seen a lot of quilts recognize it as an end-of-the-century style. You just don't see it in quilts made before 1870.

Leslie's Weekly

The idea of a quilt buried to keep it from Yankee raiders is a compelling idea in the South, perpetuating the idea that women were victims of Northern aggression and keeping alive the myth of the Lost Cause. Quilts with bad stains or dye damage are often passed on with that Civil War story.

But the story has roots in reality. Over the past few years I've shown several quilts that look to date before 1865 with stories like this one in the collection of the Charleston Museum that "got wet and stained night of Sherman's Raid."

Account of an Illinois regiment near Savannah in December, 1865.
"Alas, for these over prudent citizens! They buried their household goods...
and the soldiers have discovered spoons."

Grierson's Raiders in Mississippi

The family story is that the quilt was hidden during the raid by Benjamin Grierson's troops in the spring of 1863. Davis family valuables may have been hidden, but not this quilt. Accuracy demands that the hidden quilt has to be older than 1863 and the Davis quilt is not.

The quilt has a good deal of damage, not only from fading, but in brown streaks in the central fold lines. That staining is not from a hollow log but typically happens when cotton is stored in a wooden or paper container that leaches acids into the quilt. One can imagine Susan Davis's daughter Rio putting a red, white and teal colored quilt in a trunk and retrieving it a few years later to find it stained and faded. 

Susan's second husband was Dr. Jeremiah Prophit Davis. Daughter Rio was born in Mississippi in 1855.

Mary Elizabeth took the family story as gospel but now we know more about dating quilts by fabric, style and pattern. Susan Davis (1825-1896) probably made the quilt when she was in her sixties in the 1890s. So it could not have been stuffed in a log during the Civil War by a faithful slave.

Shirley is quite proud of her quilt and there is no sense in disillusioning her. The article says she "shows her family’s heirloom at quilting exhibits, but no museum has ever contacted her about buying it. Even if they did, per the wishes of her late mother, she plans to give it to her younger sister."

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Hospital Sketches #6: Mountain Laurel - Tishomingo

Hospital Sketches #6 Mountain Laurel by Becky Brown

This popular applique block recalls a hotel turned hospital in Corinth, Mississippi in the Appalachian foothills.

Laurel blocks appear quite often in album samplers.

Several Southern plants are known as Mountain Laurel.

Mountain Laurel by Myrna Powers
Cross the stems or leave the center empty

The Tishomingo Hotel was successively a hospital for both Confederate and Union wounded, changing allegiance as the important railway junction was occupied by different armies during the war. Confederate soldiers were treated there after the Battle of Shiloh in April, 1862 until Union forces took over Corinth six months later.

 Confederate Kate Cumming served there:
"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.

Kate Cumming (1836-1909)
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."

Tishomingo Hotel along the railroad tracks

Like many women, Kate had to defy convention to work in a hospital. Born in Scotland she was raised in Mobile, Alabama. Southern women, in particular, were thought too delicate for such work. Cosseted by slaves, trailed by chaperones, married in their teenage years, they were considered inept at anything but decorative mothering.

"The Lady with the Lamp," Florence Nightingale
was the model for American women after her
innovative soldiers' care.

At war's beginning, Kate joined a group of women calling themselves the Florence Nightingale Brigade after the inspiring nurse in England's Crimean War. According to a 1914 book by Richard J. Fraise, Kate's Brigade arrived at Tishomingo in the midst of chaos, "held a council of criticism and decided to revolutionize the bad management. In less than a week, however, only two or three of the thirty were left to give a helping hand. One was Miss Cumming of Mobile."

Ella King Newsom Trader (1838-1919)

Ella Newsom, a young widow living in Tennessee, also served at Tishomingo. She'd inherited a good deal of money and she spent it on the Confederate soldiers' cause. The 1914 biography praises her unselfishness: "Her complete consecration of time, money, servants, energy."

This statement fifty years after the war gives you a picture of the place of slaves (always called servants in the South) in one's personal litany of identity and possessions. Confederates sent supplies, food and enslaved workers to help. 
"Nurses are very much wanted and citizens who can spare their servants are requested to send them to the camp." Richmond Whig May 10, 1862.
Mary and Delia were possibly free black women working
at the Armory Square Union Hospital in Washington.
From Sarah Low's scrapbook.

Ella recalled boarding in Corinth in a sparsely furnished room. "I was allowed to occupy with my faithful servant Carrie a small room in which we put two cots and one or two boxes for seats." 

African-American women pose for a photo over the yard
of a Nashville hospital, summer, 1863.

Mountain Laurel by Bettina Havig

Kate Cumming and Ella Newsom became friends and saw each other at various postings throughout the war. Ella seems to have always been accompanied by "servants" who helped forage for food, carry supplies, and nurse patients in Confederate hospitals.

Escaped slaves, "contraband" workers assisting
the 13th Massachusetts Infantry

Mountain Laurel by Barbara Brackman
I put the leaves atop the stem

The role of African-Americans in hospitals has long been invisible. Reading Kate Cumming's journals one sees them on the periphery, slipping in and out of the picture. Although born in Scotland, Kate adopted Southern prejudices towards the "servants" who waited on her, helped her and carried out her nursing mission. A search for the word "servant" in her online diary reveals some of the duties of men and women as cooks, laundry workers and nurses.

Unknown woman photographed during the war by
Jacob Byerly of Frederick County, Maryland.
Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection

In March 1865 at a hospital in Macon, Georgia, patients were few and she had to turn down several women looking for work.
"We have many Negroes, and nothing for them to do but sewing...A number...are at work quilting comforts. Dr. de Yampert wished to have the cloth for them dyed; but most of the Confederate dye does not stand. The comforts are made out of unbleached homespun, and the raw cotton is put in them in lumps, and they are tacked about a foot apart; when washed they are not fit to use."

African-American workers outside the laundry at the Nashville hospital.
Comforters on the line seem to be of the type Kate described.

Glenna R. Schroeder-Lein in her Encyclopedia of Civil War Medicine cites records for Georgia Confederate hospitals. Blacks were about 46% of all hospital workers in 1863 and 70% the following year. Union women hospital workers were 10% black with 36% of the cooks, 14% of the laundresses and 6% of the nurses African Americans.

Another view of the laundry in Nashville. 
The women's dresses seem quite revealing,
probably because they are wet.

The Block

Vintage versions

Much variety in the block but the basic structure is four
twigs of compound leaves in green and red.
See a post on the block'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.

The empty spot in the center requires some thinking about negative space. 

There are three ways to do this.
1) Start placement in the block corners with the red leaves and work towards the center. Then adjust the leaves so both the corners and the centers are symmetrical.

2) Start at the center by making a diagonal line about 5-1/2" long (very lightly with a #2 pencil) using your grid ruler for placing the inside green leaves.

3) Cut yourself a piece of paper 5-1/2" square. Place it on the diagonal in the center of the block. Line up those center green leaves along the edges and work out towards the corners.

Mountain Laurel by Janet Perkins

Vintage quilt with a lot of leaves


Mountain Laurel by Roseanne Smith

Crossed stems fill up the center.
 Roseanne made each of her leaves separately.

Mountain Laurel by Becky Brown with dots


8-1/2" x 8-1/2" Finished
Cut a 9" square
1 Each of A, B & C
1/2” Finished bias stem 

Denniele Bohannon's #6 Laurel Sprout 
Finishes to 9"
Subtraction and addition

The block has no directionality so it goes in the center of the outside row.

After the War

A bit more information about Caroline Elizabeth (Carrie) is included in Ella Newsom's biography. She'd entered the Newsom's home when she was nine coming from Ella's parents house in Arkansas. After the war and freedom she married a man named Baker and moved to Madison County, Illinois, where she had six children. This is not much but it is more information that easily found on the rest of the women of color seen here.

Sampler from an online auction

After the war Ella King Newsom married Colonel William H. Trader of the Arkansas Volunteers who had been a patient in Nashville. Perhaps they met there. She and Trader had children, one of whom May survived into adulthood. The marriage was apparently not happy as the 1880 census finds William living in a Memphis hotel listed as single while Ella was living in Asheville, North Carolina. She later moved to Washington to work as a government clerk.

Mountain Laurel by Barb Sanders

 In 1910 she was run over by an express wagon according to the magazine Confederate Veteran, which suggested readers help her out. Women like Ella were the beneficiaries of the many Confederate veteran's charities into the 20th century. She died in 1919 at May's home. May who never married also worked for a Washington government agency.

Kate Cumming is buried in Mobile

Kate Cumming remained single and worked as a governess and a teacher after the war. She published her memoir in 1866, but apparently did not make the kind of royalties that women like Aunt Becky Young and Clara Barton did. One had to market the book as well as write it and Kate's Confederate story undoubtedly had fewer eager readers than triumphant tales by Union heroines.

She published a second version of her memoirs in 1895.

Mountain Laurel by Kathryn Jones

Extra Reading:

Read Kate Cumming's account of her hospital days in A Journal of Hospital Life in the Confederate Army of Tennessee from the Battle of Shiloh to the End of the War.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Catherine Barnwell Barnwell's Civil War: 2 Her Tale

Last week we looked at Catherine Barnwell's hexagon quilt in the collection of the Charleston Museum, thought to have been made before her 1829 marriage to William H.W. Barnwell. In the summer of 1860, 51-year-old Catherine led an enviable life, probably back on Port Royal Island, her childhood home on the coast between Charleston and Savannah.

Catherine's cousin Robert Barnwell (Smith) Rhett's 
home in the city of Beaufort. The photos of Beaufort and Charleston are from the
Library of Congress.

She lived in Beaufort, an elegant outpost of Carolina privilege amongst thousands of slaves. Her 51-year-old husband was no longer affiliated with Charleston's St. Peter's Episcopal Church, perhaps retired, perhaps tired of Charleston politics. Her 75-year-old father had died over the winter but she had twelve thriving children, the oldest 29, the youngest 12. Eldest son Robert's wife had given the family a grandchild, gossip noted in 1859 by Sally Baxter Hampton of Columbia:
"Mary Barnwell has a baby. No one knew how it came nor when & she has seen the world ever since it was 24 hours old---both young parents in raptures!"

Robert W Barnwell and Robert B Rhett
Mary Chesnut thought Barnwell's "benevolent spectacles

 give him a most Pickwickian expression."

The Barnwells, descended from Irish immigrants who came to the Carolinas before the Revolution, were rich, well-connected and part of what coastal Carolinians considered an aristocracy in the wealthiest state in the Union. The most famous men in the family were her cousins, law partners  Robert Woodward Barnwell (1801-1882) and Robert Barnwell (Smith) Rhett (1800-1876), both of whom had been U.S. Senators for a short time.

Southern Ass-stock-crazy
A Northern cartoon

Both were influential in creating a Southern Confederacy: Rhett as a rabid secessionist who'd been painting Southern whites as victims of Northern aggression for thirty years, Barnwell casting the deciding vote for Jefferson Davis as President of the CSA, an office cousin Rhett thought he deserved.

Harper's Weekly
Attack on Union-held Fort Sumter by Confederate troops

After Lincoln's election South Carolina seceded in December, 1860. The year 1861 dawned as the first year of a new world with Carolinians optimistic about their independence as a slave-holding, agricultural nation. In April Union troops showed they would not ignore Southern secession by sailing into Charleston's harbor. The shooting war began. 

Charleston, Harper's Weekly, January, 1861

Catherine's son William Finley Barnwell apparently joined "the Regulars" at the age of 20, becoming a Lieutenant. Oldest son 30-year-old minister Robert Woodward Barnwell, a Harvard graduate like his father, became a chaplain. (Robert called himself Robert Jr. to distinguish him from his famous relative former Senator Robert W. Barnwell.) Robert Jr. quickly realized the medical needs of Carolina troops and by July, 1861 Mary Chesnut noted that he "means to organize a hospital for sick and wounded" near the fighting in Virginia.

The planter class of Port Royal and the city of Beaufort must have known that Confederate forces could not defend their Sea Islands.

 Any worst case predictions came true in early November when the Union Navy captured the island. 

Samuel Abbott Cooley, photographer with the Union's Tenth Corps,
 captured a trio in occupied Beaufort.

The planter families fled Port Royal Island, leaving Beaufort to Union occupiers and now-freed slaves.

Freed people identified as "Mrs. Barnwell's" 
Photograph by Erastus Hubbard of Beaufort, South Carolina.

Mary Chesnut again: "Those Beaufort do they feel, with their troops in Virginia, their homes invaded, destroyed?"

 How did the Beaufort women like the Barnwells feel? And where did they go as the white population abandoned the island? We also have to imagine how the black women in Beaufort felt.

Beaufort College building used as a school for freedpeople

Northern writers made note of the irony in the occupation of  fire-eater/secessionist
Robert Barnwell Rhett's Beaufort home. Former slaves enjoy the parlor
with a print of Fort Sumter on the wall.

Where was Catherine Barnwell when she heard the news late in November that son William had died a week before his 21st birthday? Scarce records tell us it was an accident, a spinal wound, but no news of the death of Lt. W. F. Barnwell seems to have been reported. 

Ruins of the 1861 fire in 1865

The family may have evacuated to Charleston, no safe haven. On December 11 a terrible fire, unrelated to the hostilities, destroyed a good deal of the city including husband Robert's St. Peter's Episcopal Church, one of five churches reduced to skeletons until long after the Civil War was over. 

The fire burnt a swath across the city, seen in this print
as a dark area on the right side and center.

Reverend Robert W. Barnwell

1861 was a horrible year for Catherine Barnwell but one bright spot was eldest Robert W. Barnwell Jr., much in the news for his hospital initiatives. He seems to have organized an agency, the South Carolina Hospital Aid Society, which began with one Virginia hospital. He solicited contributions of supplies and money and publicized its work.

News of Robert's Hospital Bureau at Virginia battlefields

Robert and several men "with the co-operation of several ladies of South Carolina" had charge of it. He asked for donations similar to those requested by the Union's Sanitary Commission:
A newspaper search for Robert Barnwell shows he had more press in 1862 than the older generation of Barnwells who'd started the war.

Diarist Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut (1823-1886)

Mary Chesnut ran into Robert in Virginia at the end of a railroad journey. From her memoir:
"July 13,1861. Yesterday, as we left the cars, we had a glimpse of war. It was the saddest sight: the memory of it is hard to shake off - sick soldiers, not wounded ones. There were quite two hundred (they said) lying about as best they might on the platform. Robert Barnwell was there doing all he could. Their pale, ghastly faces! So here is one of the horrors of war we had not reckoned on. There were many good men and women with Robert Barnwell, rendering all the service possible in the circumstances."
At one point she regretted donating money to fund Confederate gunboats.

"Oh, that we had given our thousand dollars to [Barnwell's] hospital and not to the gunboat! "

Mary Carter Singleton Barnwell  (1837-1863)

A year later Robert's wife was pregnant with their fourth child but no one was in raptures now. Mary Chesnut spent some time in the summer of 1863, comforting Mary's mother Bonnie Carter Singleton, who had lost one daughter in childbirth a year earlier. Bonnie, worried about daughter Mary,
 "seemed convulsed with grief. In all my life I had never seen such bitter weeping. Robert Barnwell was in a desperate condition, and Mary Barnwell, her daughter, was expecting her confinement every day."
The Asylum in Staunton, about 1890

Robert was indeed in desperate condition. It was said he had typhoid fever, a common ailment and a catchall diagnosis. But the real problem seems to have been Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Robert was traumatized by all the suffering he had seen in his hospital work and asked to be committed to a mental hospital, the Western State Lunatic Asylum in Staunton, Virginia.

On June 16th Carolinian Emma Holmes wrote in her diary:
"Barnwell has been very ill with typhoid fever and is in such a highly excited state, almost crazy from the many distressing deaths and other scenes he has so long been a witness of, that his friends have had to remove him...."
Mary Chesnut continues the sad story:
"It was not until I got back to Carolina that I heard of Robert Barnwell's death, with scarcely a day's interval between it and that of Mary and her new-born baby. Husband, wife, and child were buried at the same time in the same grave in Columbia. And now, Mrs. Singleton has three orphan grandchildren. What a woeful year it has been to her...
"[Mary Carter Barnwell] nursed him to the last. She tried to say good-by cheerfully, and called after him: 'As soon as my trouble is over I will come to you at Staunton.' ....He died the second day after he got there. Poor Mary fainted when she heard the ambulance drive away with him."
On the night the baby was born Bonnie Singleton got a telegram.
"Robert was dead. She did not tell Mary, standing, as she did, at the window while she read it. She was at the same time looking for Robert's body, which might come any moment. As for Mary's life being in danger, she had never thought of such a thing. She was thinking only of Robert. Then a servant touched her and said: 'Look at Mrs. Barnwell.' She ran to the bedside, and the doctor, who had come in, said, 'It is all over; she is dead.' Not in anger, not in wrath, came the angel of death that day. He came to set Mary free from a world grown too hard to bear."
Robert's grave says he died of typhoid,
but neither diarist Mary Chesnut nor Emma Holmes believed that.

Emma's report:
"He had become so completely deranged that he attempted his own life with laudanum and death probably from the effects was a merciful release." Others say he jumped out a window.

We get more bad news for Catherine Barnhart. Diane Miller Sommerville in her 2018 study Aberration of Mind: Suicide and Suffering in the Civil War–Era South tell us: "the etiology of mental illness can be complex, and Barnwell's family history (his father died in an asylum)...." 

And indeed Catherine's husband died eight months after Robert on February 17, 1863 in Philadelphia (of all places.)

After the war the 1870 census found Catherine back in Beaufort at 63 years old. C.O. Barnwell was head of her household, living with four daughters and youngest son Allard. Two children Singleton and Robert W. Barnwell may have been the orphaned boys left by Mary and Robert. Three people of color lived with them as servants, James Anderson and Lebe and James Chaplain, perhaps a married couple. Daughters Catherine, Hetty (Esther Hutson Barnwell) and Mary did not marry.

Catherine lived until 1880

The June 1880 census listed her as living in Beaufort with 30-year old daughter Mary. She was keeping house and Mary was "at home," perhaps caring for her 71-year-old mother.

St. Helena's Church. Catherine and many of her family are buried in the graveyard.

How the quilt survived the many disasters in Catherine's life is unknown

It certainly has an amazing American story behind it. 

She was of a family integral to starting the Civil War, guilty of enormous hubris. Those who glorify war might look to her tale.

Read more about Robert Barnwell Rhett here: