Saturday, November 28, 2020

1860 Fabric?


An intriguing online catalog entry from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts: A nine-patch quilt with "Constitution Must Be Preserved" associated with it and an estimated date of 1865.

My guess is that the fabric in the alternate squares and borders is this print:

I'd have guessed the fabric was printed for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition
but the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum at the Smithsonian, which has a
piece, tells us it's a campaign print.

"The Constitution must be Preserved" may relate to the pre-Civil-War election of 1860 when four men
ran for President. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas are best remembered but John Breckenridge and John Bell of Tennessee also ran.

Bell's party was the Constitutional Union party

Jeff Bridgman has sold several Bell flags over the past few years.

Bell came in third in the field of four.

Here's what the Cooper-Hewitt has to say:
"This printed cotton calico featuring the slogan “The Constitution Must Be Preserved” was produced for the presidential campaign of Tennessee senator John Bell, the Constitutional Union Party’s candidate in the contentious election of 1860. The party was formed in 1859 by former Whigs and members of the Know-Nothing party to attempt to bridge regional tensions by supporting the preservation of the Union without regard to the slavery issue. Bell was, himself, a slave owner, but opposed the expansion of slavery into the western territories – which was also the official position of the Republican Party, although many Republicans favored the total abolition of slavery."

The print is rare. I'd hoped to find it in context with other prints to determine a date of 1860 or 1876. I did look through our best document of Centennial prints, the Bradbury quilt in the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian and did not see this print.

The Bradbury quilt is a patchwork catalog of Centennial prints
from 1876.

The only examples I've seen of the Constitution print are in the Cooper Hewitt and the Montgomery Museum. Any one ever seen another example?

Looking through for the slogan I found a reference to the print in January, 1860, which upends my theory about the Centennial association.

The editor of the New Bern, North Carolina paper was sent two swatches of fabric; the second "has a figure in the centre of which are the words, 'The Constitution must be preserved.' "

 The first specimen probably refers to this print.

The words "The Union For Ever" are just legible.

So the print is 1860, mentioned on January 18th, a date so early in the year that it also upends the theory that it is a Bell political campaign textile. 

The Constitutional Union Party had only been discussed a few weeks earlier at a meeting in December 1859, officially formed on February 12, 1860. They met in convention in May and nominated John Bell. There was really no Constitutional Union party yet in January when the fabric arrived in New Bern.
Then the question is: What Have We Here?
Two pro-Union images on star-spangled backgrounds
available as early as January, 1860.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Cassandra's Circle #11: Charleston Star for Susan Petigru King

Cassandra's Circle #11, Charleston Star by Becky Brown

Susan Dupont Petigru King Bowen (1824-1875)
Sue was one of Charleston's literary lions, a Charleston star before the war.

Sue Petigru King was at the periphery of Mary Chesnut's circle much of their lives. Charleston girls of good family, they attended Madame Talvande's elite school together there when they were young. Mary thrived; Sue despised it.

James Louis Petigru's Charleston law office, photographed
in the 1930s. Library of Congress

In the early 1840s both young women married lawyers who'd done their clerking in the office of Sue's father James Louis Petigru, one of Charleston's most brilliant attorneys. James Chesnut moved his bride back to his home town of Camden. Sue stayed in Charleston with Henry King, who never fulfilled any promise he might have had. Sue was not enamored of Henry, whom she described as short, broad, round-shouldered and ''a little lame.'' 

Sue and Henry spent the first years of their marriage living
with his family at Meeting and George Streets.

Henry was an alcoholic who could not support her in the manner her ambitious mother had hoped for. Within a few years she and her unhappily wed sister Caroline were making regular husbandless escapes to New York City and Sue was writing novels about miserable marriages in Charleston. She began publishing anonymously in 1853 to much success.

Charleston Star by Susannah Pangelinan

The Mills House 

In the spring of 1861 as war threatened, Mary Chesnut was in Charleston boarding at the Mills House. She heard local gossip from Sue, now formally separated from her husband.

James Louis Petigru (1789-1863),
reputed to have countered Secessionist talk with:
"South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large
for an insane asylum."

Charleston Star by Denniele Bohannon

That same month Abraham Lincoln sent friends Stephen Hurlburt and Ward Lamon to Charleston to interview Sue's father. James L. Petigru had long been opposed to the standard South Carolina dogma on state's rights. From nullification through Governor Pickens's threatening the Union's Fort Sumter James Petigru was a dissenting voice.

Stephen Hurlburt, born in Charleston, wrote a report to the new President about the city's mood:
"There is an unanimity of sentiment which to my mind is attachment to the Union.... Fort Sumpter is the only spot where the United States have jurisdiction and James L. Petigru the only citizen loyal to the nation."
Women watched from "Housetops in Charleston During the Bombardment of Sumter"
Harper's May, 1861

Fort Sumter was soon under Confederate jurisdiction but Petigru maintained his Union loyalty. Daughter Caroline shared his sentiments and fled to New York and Europe while James Petigru stayed in Charleston, where he enjoyed respect from the many who disagreed with him so dramatically. Sue---if she cared at all---was a Secessionist. When Henry King died after the Battle of Secessionville in 1862 Mary wrote: "He died as a brave man would like to die. From all accounts, they say he had not found this world a bed of roses.

 Charleston Star by Pat Styring

The widowed Sue darts in and out of Mary's diary, primarily viewed as a fast woman who was enthralled with the soldiers, throwing off her widows weeds for scarlet. In their book about the Petigrus Jane & William Pease quote a former Charleston gentleman after the war: "There goes Mrs K[ing] driven by a Yankee thief in my uncle’s Stolen Buggy.”
Photo of Susan King Bowen from
her sister Caroline's album. The frizzed
fringe on her forehead indicate an 1870 date or later
when she was about 50.

But George Williams was an admirer of Sue in Charleston in 1863, writing his niece:
"I have a very dear friend at Summerville, Mrs Henry King, the author of 'Busy Moments of an Idle Woman, Lily etc.' I go up there occasionally...Mrs. King is as kind to me as an own dear Sister. Since this war began, she has lost her husband, Father, Father in law, beside several other friends. She is one of the most brilliant women in America." 
Letter in the collection of Mississippi State University Libraries.
She must have been a charmer, but Sue was volatile, stubborn and self-absorbed, so difficult to live with that her relatives used words like "nearly mad" when complaining about her. Her father described her as a woman who thought she was infallible: "Whoever differs from her---must be wrong---mental hallucination." 

The Petigru's family story is fascinating and I've told parts before. After the war Sue continued to scandalize by marrying Christopher C. Bowen, a sleazy Congressman who apparently had two legal wives already. Sue died of typhoid ten years after the war.

Grave of 
Susan Petigru Beloved Wife of Christopher C. Bowen.
Bowen and her father may be the only persons Sue ever cared for.

The Block

The inspiration is a block in an album quilt from Stella Rubin's shop.

Applique to an 18-1/2" square or cut it larger and trim later.

One way to print these JPGS.
  • Create a new empty JPG file that is 8-1/2" x 11" or a word file.
  • Click on the image above.
  • Right click on it and save it to your file.
  • Print that file out 8-1/2" x 11". Note the inch square block for reference.
  • Adjust the printed page size if necessary. Do not use tools like "Fit to page."
  • Make templates.
  • Add seams when cutting fabric.

For the wreath cut a 15" square of fabric. Fold into triangles.
Place the template on the pattern with the center at top. Add seams and cut 1.

You need one 4" rose for the center.

Becky's Rose

Julia Jones's block from Gay Bomers 1857 Album
at Sentimental Stitches

Four blocks from an album by Elizabeth Dilts, Hunterdon County, New Jersey
New Jersey Project & the Quilt Index

Cassandra's Circle: Blocks 1-11
Susannah Pangelinan
Quilted, bordered and bound.
Two final blocks to go.

Extra Reading

Read Jane H. Pease & William Henry Pease's A Family of Women: The Carolina Petigrus in Peace and War. Preview:

Read two of the novels that made Sue a literary Charleston Star:

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Harriet Alexander Caperton's Sampler # 3: The Civil War

Unusual block from Harriet Alexander Caperton's sampler
Union, (West) Virginia

Previous two posts are about Harriet's family and her quilt. This one gives
us a view of one extended family's misery in Virginia/West Virginia during the war years.

After Lincoln's election in November, 1861, Samuel Rutherford Houston (1806-1887), minister to the local Presbyterians, recorded his worries in Union, Virginia.
"The affairs of the South yet more threatening; the people crazy with excitement. 'Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad.' ....
Newspapers full of accounts about the excitement in the cotton states. A dissolution of the Union seems to be inevitable."
Despite the town's name, the people of Union were decidedly in favor of secession.

Houston's 1846 house shows the town's mid-century prosperity.

Six months later:
"How sad the countenances of mothers, wives, and sisters. 27 young men leave our little village....The saddest day in all my life. Our 108 volunteers left for the perils of war."
Among the young men marching with Virginia's Confederate 108th Regiment was 17- year-old John Caperton, joining relatives like Uncle James F. Preston, a Colonel from nearby Blacksburg, home to the Virginia Military Institute, where John spent some time as a cadet during the war.

Letters to his mother Harriet Alexander Caperton survive in the family papers. Harriet was apparently concerned about John's morals in his first enlistment. He assured her from Richmond soon after he left:
"I have not touched Liquor I have not touched dice and I have not touched cards except once and then I only touched them whilest I was throwing them out of my shelf."
Unknown VMI cadet about 1860
Collections of the Virginia Military Institute

John spent six months at the Virginia Military Institute in 1862 but "Cadet J. Caperton" was expelled for an "outrage" in July:

"Sunday cadets whose names are not given went upon the premises of J. McD. Moore and killed some chickens. These chickens are said to have been killed by these cadets and not by Cadet Caperton. By his own statement it is also admitted by Cadet Caperton that he received these chickens knowing them to have been improperly killed and took them to the Mess Hall representing them to the servant who was to have them cooked, as pheasant. The whole transaction shows guilty knowledge on the part of Cadet Caperton and such palpable violation of property that the Board of Visitors deem it their duty to the Institution to direct his immediate dismissal."
Virginia Military Institute at Blacksburg  Lexington. 
(Thanks Dolores for the correction)

In August he enlisted as a private in the 13th Battalion Virginia, Light Artillery, but by November was back in Union, "sick." He returned to battle in the last months of the War as an Ordnance Sergeant in February, 1865. The family papers include a pass for the slave Lewis (perhaps Lewis Tuckwiller) to join John in Petersburg. John was paroled and went home to the family farm in May, presumably accompanied by Lewis.

John Caperton died October 31, 1867

Within 18 months he was dead at 23. His tombstone in the Union graveyard, like his life, is hard to read. What a heartbreak for Harriett.

John definitely was a Confederate soldier, yet a county history listing veterans does not include his name. Like his father, he remains just outside the picture.

White Thorn about forty years after the Prestons built it.
The 1860 slave schedule shows 22 enslaved people living there.

Caperton papers include letters from John's aunt Sarah Ann Caperton Preston to Harriet. Sarah was husband Gaston Caperton Sr.'s younger sister who'd grown up a neighbor in Union before marrying James F. Preston and moving to White Thorn plantation near Blacksburg. Preston was a rich planter whose father had been a Virginia governor.

James Francis Preston (1813-1862)

James had attended West Point and been an officer fighting in the Mexican War of the 1840s.
He immediately raised Confederate troops becoming a Colonel of the 4th Virginia Infantry.

In 1854 Mary Eliza Henderson (1836-1900) married George Henry Caperton,
brother to Sarah Ann Preston and Harriet's late husband Gaston Caperton.
Mary Eliza spent months living with her sister-in-law at White Thorn in the war's first years.

James Preston in his late forties did not thrive in field life, suffering from the heat and in May "very sick" according to Mary Eliza. He recovered enough to lead his men into the war's first big battle at Manassas Junction in July where he was slightly injured in the arm, bruised, he said, from a bullet. Illnesses continued to plague him.

Harriett received a letter from Sarah Ann five months later that Colonel Preston was "almost entirely well" although suffering from a "severe attack of rheumatism [probably rheumatic fever affecting his heart]...I have a hope of seeing him at home about Xmas." He died at home a month later.

Sarah Ann Caperton Preston (1826-1908 ) in 1862 with the
 body of  youngest son James Francis Preston II. 
 She was already in deep mourning for her husband when her boy died.

Scarlet fever and/or diphtheria seems to have raged in the house. Mary Eliza's seven-year-old died a few days later and then two weeks after his father's death James Francis Preston II died at 22 months followed by a four-year old cousin. Fifty-four children died of diphtheria in the county that year.

Death Record 1862 for two James F. Prestons

Six weeks later Sarah Ann was grieving deeply as she wrote Harriet:

"My sorrow seemed greater now than in the beginning! At first I was without feeling....Oh Harriet there are not many such husbands as mine..."

The month of terrible news from Sarah Ann also included news of "lost slaves" in Union who escaped one Saturday night, including three people from Harriet's father's farm and one from brother-in-law's Allen T Caperton's Elmwood, who unfortunately was captured and jailed. The reporter for the Richmond Daily Dispatch had "no doubt Union men and Yankees had a hand in it."

The stars in Harriet's antebellum quilt may have had no
symbolism at all.

Monroe County had some "Union men" but the majority of the residents were Confederate supporters  opposed to their county being added to the the Union state of West Virginia. 

Raising the Union flag in Wheeling, West Virginia, 1963

Small skirmishes were the rule in an area far from major battles. In 1864 federal troops under General George Crook bent on destroying rail lines occupied the town for a few weeks, looting Elmwood the home of Harriet's brother-in-law Allen Caperton, a Confederate senator in Richmond.

A.T. Caperton continued in politics after the war becoming the first ex-Confederate to become a U.S. Senator in 1875. He only lived a year in office, replaced by Harriet's son-in-law Frank Hereford.

Harriet lived for about 35 years after the war was over, dying with her century in 1899. She is buried with many in her family in Union's Green Hill Cemetery.

My search for evidence of Harriet's Union sympathies has certainly showed
us she had none but what a wonderful quilt and so much detail found
about women's lives in western Virginia over 150 years ago.

The earlier posts:

Caperton family papers are at West Virginia University Libraries:

Two letters from the Prestons are in the library at Virginia Tech:

Laura Jones Wedin is the authority on the Preston family and their plantations and has read letters from the Capertons and published extracts.. Family portraits are from her papers.

See: A Summary of Nineteenth-Century Smithfield, Part 2: The Early War Years, 1861−1862 Laura Jones Wedin