Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Marie Virginie Trahan Ternant Avegno's Civil War


New Orleans on the Mississippi River

In 1860 New Orleans was the sixth largest American city with a population of about 170,000, most of whom were identified as "Creole" from French, Spanish and African cultures. The city's history was unusual in that it had been a French colony rather than a British or Spanish outpost. 150 years after its founding the city was still French in language, culture and sensibilities. 

Marie Virginie Ternant grew up in this house in the French Quarter
on Toulouse Street.

Residents like the Ternant family spoke French as their first language and spent time in Paris, sailing  rather easily across the Atlantic. The Ternants had the means to travel and to live well in both the French and American cities and rural Louisiana.

 Marie Virginie Trahan de Ternant Parlange
A portrait of the elder Virginie de Ternant hangs in her house.

Library of Congress
Parlange Plantation house, begun 1750
Pointe Coupee, Louisiana

Virginie's mother Marie Virginie Trahan de Ternant inherited the plantation from her first husband Claude Vincent de Ternant (1786-1842). Still in the family, the place is known as the Parlange Plantation after her second husband. When mother Virginie lived here before the Civil War she was the largest land owner in the area.

Marie Virginie Trahan Ternant Avegno (1838-1910)

Claude and Virginie's daughter, another Marie Virginie, was in her early 20s when the Civil War began. She'd married Italian-American attorney Anatole Avegno in 1857 and had two daughters, Virginie Amélie about 2 years old and infant Marie Valentine. 
Major Anatole Placido Avegno (1835-1862)

Soon after war was declared Anatole formed a company called the Avegno Zouaves, made up of men from a variety of ethnicities who dressed in the fashionable Zouave costume of fez and gathered pant legs.  

Library of Congress
A Zouave

Anatole was injured at the Battle of Shiloh in April, 1862.

On April 11th the Times-Picayune reported on Virginie's ordeal
 while waiting for news or her returned soldier.

Five days later

Daughters Amélie and Valentine towards the end of the war

Daughter Valentine died on March 11, 1866, perhaps of Yellow Fever during one of the many epidemics of the mosquito-borne disease. New Orleans was one of the unhealthiest cities in the United States due to the low-lying land and the busy port. Malaria, yellow fever and cholera were constant threats.

Virginie Avegno must have taken stock of the situation. Despite the war she still had enough 
family fortune to relocate to France. She and 8-year-old Amélie left for Paris in 1867.

Daughter Amelie Avegno (1859-1915) about the time she 
married Pierre Gautreau, 20 years older.

Amélie became a Parisian belle with her appearance her major goal. Cosmetics, expensive clothes and a slightly scandalous attitude won her the standard prize of a rich husband when she was in her late teens. Her mother, rebuilding her life after the Civil War, could consider herself a success.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Collection

John Singer Sargent painted this famous portrait of Amélie--- "Madame X," which shocked 
Paris when it was shown in 1884. Sargent left Paris. Amélie and her mother remained.

The Queen of Hearts

This blog is supposed to be about quilts and Civil War biographies, but I have no quilt to show for the Avegno family. I didn't expect to find any because New Orleans with its French heritage had few patchwork traditions until late in the 19th century, long after they left. The Avegnos did not take any patchwork quilts with them to France.

The best period bedding for those antebellum Louisiana plantations
like Greenwood pictured here would be a whole cloth quilt. The
whitework quilt, a form of Marseilles quilt, is a good choice;
the patchwork reproduction a bit of an anachronism.

Esther Searl of DeRidder, Louisiana and a quilt she made in 1915.
More typical of later Louisiana patchwork.

You might like to read Deborah Davis's Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X. You'll get quite a view of Madame Gautreau's Paris.

1 comment:

Lady Locust said...

I had to read this post due to the name. I have a G-G-grandmother who's name was Virginie (different last names of course). It's not a name I've heard unless slang for Virginia. Love the history.