Quilts For Soldiers, A Pieced History

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JPK Huson 1863

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quilt eagle top.jpg
quilt eagle bottom.jpg
From the Met, an era quilt whose history is unknown. Nearly impossible tracking down quilts specific to those sewn for fund raising or use in hospitals, have an idea this was one. There are 26 stars but have a feeling two were put in to balance the design.

There's an American theme running through the war, our quilts. The famous Gunboat Quilts Confederate women created purchased an entire gunboat, an 1862 letter written home by a North Carolina officer begs for quilts for his wounded men, relief workers North and South were responsible for uncounted numbers created between 1861 and April, 1865. The Western Sanitary Commission Fair took down the bunting and tents, re-purposing the fabric into quilts for men on battlefields.

Example of a ' presentation quilt ', one purpose sewn for some special, specific event- Gunboar Quilts were of this ilk- workmanship is just crazy.
quilt presentation pattern 1849 top.jpg
quilt presentation pattern 1849 bottom.jpg

Also from the Met., close ups are too perfect to believe- but women did it.
quilt presentation pattern 1849 middle.jpg

Isn't it wonderful?

Thanks to Chellers, we have pages of examples here, a Ladies Tea sticky. She cherished these old treasures, recognizing Americana at it's very, very best. Thread is merely a kind of overview because really, as wonderful as we find our old quilts, their place in the war doesn't see enough discussion.

For some reason ( not snark, just can't figure it out ) our unbelievable Sanitary Commission is poorly reported on. Not merely huge, it rapidly grew to massive proportions funding and fueling compassion and packing off battalions of aid workers to battlefields, hospitals, ships and heck, trains. One of their major projects involved putting women to work- at home. Give us quilts. They did.

quilt harpers 1864.JPG

Part of an 1864 spread by Harper's, April of that year honoring the Sanitary Commission. They recruited women to sew quilts, ' housekeepers ', shirts and whatever else men needed in tents and hospital.

quilt san fair building.JPG

Just one fair, the massive Metropolitan Fair in 1864, in Union Square, NY spawned quilts from every county. Which were sent to soldiers.

You can't open an era paper without seeing lists - who sent what to where by way of food, clothing, medical supplies and staff. Needed? Despite heroic efforts by army medical units there just were not enough. Bull Run should have been the only time we were overwhelmed by numbers of wounded yet it happened throughout the war. Like we threw a war and someone forgot the band aids.

On every list of needed supplies? Quilts. Men who'd lain wounded for days on battlefields had hospital stays comforted by home-sewn compassion, quilts were sold or auctioned to raise money for aid and hundreds sent to encamped troops.

quilt aid odds The_Soldiers__Journal_Wed__Mar_30__1864_.jpg

Just one of regular mentions of quilts. This was from a report on the Western Fair.

Tomorrow, ' famous ' quilts of the war- we already have threads on most, wonderful stories by themselves. Too terrific a topic to stuff into one post.
 

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J. D. Stevens

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I'm no expert, but my wife is a quilter, so I know how much time and skill was required to make these beautiful quilts. This thread reminded me of a few sentences in a letter written by 18 year old Philip W. Gathings of Company A, 12th Texas Cavalry to his mother. It was written in April 1864 as his regiment was chasing General Nathaniel Banks army back down the Red River in Louisiana. Although the young trooper writes about a blanket instead of a quilt, it still expresses what these articles meant to the men in the field.

"Mother, Lieut Jackson has requested me to ask you if you could have him some thread spun to make him a blanket & get Mrs Lyon to weave it for him. If you do, he waunts (sic) it a little larger than mine. He has got his shot all to peaces (sic)."
 
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JPK Huson 1863

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While I do sew quite a bit, I do not have the patience to quilt. And I will just say the needlework upthread?
Such tight even stitching! That is a master at work.

Right? They were amazing, gee whiz. Remember as a child the ladies in our church still gathered around the frame in the social hall, to sew quilts. They'd put a kid between two of the older women then teach us how to do it. It's really hard- never progressed beyond those days. If you put in a crooked stitch no one thought it was cute, watching little kids try to quilt. Nope- they'd make you take it out and re-do it. It was unthinkable to balk or complain, you sure did it.

The middle layer was always interesting. Batting wasn't always used. Pre-batting, you find the most amazing collection of fabric in there, must have been every unusable scrap of worn and tattered clothing from households all tacked together. They sure didn't waste a thing, did they?
 

JPK Huson 1863

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quilt received vermont 1861.JPG

Vermont, 1861- relief society's accounting published in newspapers. Southern papers looked exactly the same.

This story was lengthy- each square had scripture embroidered on it- nurse relates how many soldiers used it and its comforting effect. THEN there's an account of the wounded man who recognized it as one made by his mother.

quilt scripture.JPG
 
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AshleyMel

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It is so satisfying to see these wonderful threads of women doing what we do. Charity, devotion and love. The gifts of these quilts (which I believe are healing in their own right) was a tremendous blessing to all who received one. Excellent thread as always!
I just bought my first antique quilt top with a block that has been dated as far back as 1847. It is unfinished and I hate to think that it was never used or enjoyed as was meant.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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It is so satisfying to see these wonderful threads of women doing what we do. Charity, devotion and love. The gifts of these quilts (which I believe are healing in their own right) was a tremendous blessing to all who received one. Excellent thread as always!
I just bought my first antique quilt top with a block that has been dated as far back as 1847. It is unfinished and I hate to think that it was never used or enjoyed as was meant.

Are you finishing it? That would be amazing if it's possible. I've heard sewers say really old fabric can be tough to work on because it gets fragile. It sounds wonderful like it is and who knows, if it was at least put together maybe someone did sleep under it?
 

AnnaLee

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The women in my family always made their own quilts. My own mother made some lovely ones. Me? I was into sewing my own dresses when I was young but after the children came along and my nursing career I just did not have time. Even if I did I don't think I would have had the patience to quilt.
 
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AshleyMel

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Are you finishing it? That would be amazing if it's possible. I've heard sewers say really old fabric can be tough to work on because it gets fragile. It sounds wonderful like it is and who knows, if it was at least put together maybe someone did sleep under it?
My sewing teacher recommended I have it appraised and evaluated first. She has restored quilts but nothing this old. She said that sometimes finishing the top is not always the best thing to do because you are right, depending on the condition of the fabric it could do more harm than good. There is a local lady I can contact who usually sets up a table at the quilt shows. Right now I have it lovingly displayed on my quilt rack with my more modern quilts!
 

AshleyMel

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The women in my family always made their own quilts. My own mother made some lovely ones. Me? I was into sewing my own dresses when I was young but after the children came along and my nursing career I just did not have time. Even if I did I don't think I would have had the patience to quilt.
My daughter sews clothes and costumes but has only a tiny inkling of a desire to learn to quilt! She sees how frustrated I get sometimes and wants no part of it! Lol!
 

JPK Huson 1863

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My sewing teacher recommended I have it appraised and evaluated first. She has restored quilts but nothing this old. She said that sometimes finishing the top is not always the best thing to do because you are right, depending on the condition of the fabric it could do more harm than good. There is a local lady I can contact who usually sets up a table at the quilt shows. Right now I have it lovingly displayed on my quilt rack with my more modern quilts!

You're talking to a giant idiot here. Until you posted that actually forgot what happened to one of ours quilts. A local historical society finished a quilt, from a top someone gave them. It seems to have been not ancient, maybe 1920's ( well, 100 years is pretty old ). We won it in their raffle one year- and yep, also like an idiot I washed the lovely thing ( muddy paws, don't ask ) without taking precautions. Fabric frayed terribly, it was just too old to handle poorly.

Having damaged it, sleep under it now- old cotton is the best night's sleep anyone ever had.
 
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