Saturday, April 9, 2022

Sarah Barnhart Daihl's Civil War


Sarah Ann Barnhart Daihl (1815-1887) about 1880

When the Civil War began in 1861 Sarah Barnhart Daihl was about 46 years old, mother to two daughters and seven boys aged 1 year to 25. The older boys---25 down to 17--- put her in an unenviable position. They would want to be fighting those rebels.

1860 Census

George Daihl (1809-1887)

Husband George Daihl (also Deihl) was an "industrious farmer" according to his obituary. They'd recently bought a farm in the spring of 1859 in Southampton, Franklin County near Shippensburg, Pennsylvania (between Chambersburg and Harrisburg).

A landscape of mountains and valleys
Just north of the Maryland line

Confusing geography to the outsider

At least four of her boys joined the Union Army. When he was 17 Elijah McGee (Magee) Daihl enlisted in the 130th Pennsylvania Infantry in August, 1862. They soon moved on to Washington and marched to Maryland, where Elijah was unimpressed with the countryside. He wrote a note to his younger brother Reuben on August 28th.
"This Cutry is like a Desert I don’t know what the rebbl wants with it now nor what any body els wins wit it I wouldn’t live here for any thing but for to fight the rebbles for I intend to fight them till they kill me or els I kill them"

Within a few weeks they had killed him. He died in the Antietam Battle on September 17, 1862. 

Sgt. David Fogelsanger Daihl (1839-1909)

David Minich Fogelsanger recorded in his diary that he ran into David Daihl in Chambersburg in February, 1864, just home from the "army in Georgia," probably on medical leave after being wounded at Nashville in 1864. Sgt. Daihl returned to the war but he and his two brothers eventually came home.

Anna Margaret Daihl (1851-1928)

At home was younger sister Maggie who may have spent some of her time piecing a nine-patch quilt that descended in her family.

The scrappy nine-patch seems to have been pieced from the 
family clothing

with some striped furniture chintz---or maybe an old-fashioned dress to alternate between the blocks.

She salvaged many scraps of this floral stripe.


Laura Cornelia Plasterer Alleman (1878-1952)

The well-used quilt was inherited by Anna Margaret's great-granddaughter Judy Cloe. Our best guess is that Maggie stitched it rather than Maggie's mother Sarah being the seamstress or Maggie's daughter Laura Cornelia (Cora) who wasn't born until the late 1870s. 

One can imagine that a simple nine-patch would have been the work of a young teenager during the Civil War when cotton prints were in rather short supply. The border is a foulard, a printed figure in a diagonal grid, which looks to be a wool/cotton combination fabric. The back is a single printed stripe, all prints fashionable for everyday garments in the 1850-1870 era. 

A few of the prints may be 1870's or '80s indicating the blocks were
finished and set after the war. Do note that white stripe at the bottom
here. The print was first printed dark on white and then overdyed with
a brown, which did not reach all the way to the edge. Maggie included
it anyway.

To add to the Daihl household's anxieties during the war Franklin County on the Mason-Dixon line became an unlikely battlefield in the summer of 1863 as Confederate General Robert E. Lee marched his Army of Northern Virginia into Pennsylvania, hoping to humiliate the Union in their own territory. The huge battle took place in Gettysburg, south of Shippensburg in the first days of July. Leading up to Gettysburg Confederate troops under Brigadier General Albert Jenkins occupied Shippensburg in late June.

After chasing the First New York Cavalry out of town, the Confederates took over the Sherman House as headquarters from June 23 to the 27th. Jenkins's goals were gathering food and supplies and rounding up any refugees from slavery to return "captured contrabands" to their owners.

Confederates burning railroad tracks in Franklin County
by Albert Waud, Library of Congress

Sarah Daihl and her neighbors must have been terrified by Confederate troops looting and threatening the farmers. Soon they heard news of the Battle of Gettysburg, a costly Union victory, where 170,000 soldiers fought for 3 days. One in every four soldiers suffered some kind of casualty and civilians in the weeks after the battle were occupied with dealing with the victims in makeshift hospitals and morgues.

Chambersburg, August, 1864

A year later the Southern army was back in the neighborhood. Nearly 3,000 troops took over Chambersburg, 10 miles south, threatening to burn the town unless a ransom of $100,000 in gold was paid. Their extortion failed and Brigadier General John McCausland's troops torched the town destroying 500 buildings.

Davis Wallace Plasterer (1846-1932)
Most of these portraits are from Find-A-Grave,
the early ones copied from a family album of the 1860s.

After the war Maggie married Davis Plasterer, probably a nephew of the Plasterers who lived on the next farm. A biography of Maggie's brother George notes that Davis was a "mechanic."

1870 Census
Anna Margaret married Davis in December, 1870

The Plasterers had six children; two died as young children. Laura Plasterer Allman (1878-1952) passed several quilts to her granddaughter Judy, among them a pair of cotton quilts that have survived.

Churn Dash quilt
The second quilt is in good shape, pieced of just a few prints
with the distinctive blue-violet figure here popular 
in the 1870-1890 period.

"My grandmother (known as Cora) became the 'keeper' of these quilts. I don’t remember ever using them when I was a child. We had lots of quilts my grandmother made. I ended up with several of them. They’re well worn and loved. We slept under light weight cotton quilts in the summer and heavy woolen quilts in the winter. Those woolen quilts had cotton on the back, usually feed sacks, and woolens on the front."  Judy Cloe

Judy's Great-Grandparents Davis & Anna Margaret Plasterer
lived well into the 20th century.

Maggie's mother Sarah died in 1887, just a few months after her husband George.

Much information is at Find-A-Grave.
Here is a link to Sarah Barnhart Daihl's file:

A less maudlin obituary.

Further reading:
Read more of the civilian perspective on the Battle of Gettysburg in Robert L. Bloom's "We Never Expected a Battle: The Civilians at Gettysburg, 1863" by doing a web search for the PDF.

I hope Cora or whoever made this quilt never noticed the triangle turned the wrong way. Judy is donating the pink and gold Churn Dash quilt to be auctioned in the September live auction at the American Quilt Study Group's seminar. We'll print out all this family history and package it with the quilt.


QuiltGranma said...

Love the scrappy wonkyness of the 9 patch quilt!

Grams Jean said...

I too love all the rich scrappiness of the 9 patch quilt. However, the "churn dash " looks much more like a bear paw quilt.