Sunday, January 18, 2015

January, 1865 - Sherman's March Concluded

With no organized Block of the Month, I'm choosing blocks to go with my own family Civil War stories from here until Eli will finish his service later in 1865.

For January, I chose to make the block we usually call "Churn Dash" these days, but one of the names it has gone by is "Sherman's March."  I made it look a little different with an unusual color placement - the floral strip with bright blue just seemed to want to be used this way.

We made this block in the 1862 Civil War block of the month, when it was called "Lincoln's Platform."  It's a simple block that goes by many names.

Sherman's March honors the men of the 82nd Indiana who had made the March to the Sea that ended in December.  There are no more published letters from the Hayden Indiana soldiers of the regiment, so this marks the end of the first-hand contemporary accounts.  The regimental historian later wrote of their experience, " ...Now, to let the loved ones at home know of their victory and safety, and to hear from the dear ones at home, was the next pleasant task to accomplish. ... We had no men killed or captured in the Eighty- second, and very few sick on the campaign. This was decidedly the finest soldiering it was my pleasure to meet with during my time of service. Plenty to eat, reasonable marching, and just fighting enough to remind us there was an enemy in our front. To give its proper standing I would call it a regular " dress parade" performance from Atlanta to the sea.  (History of the Eighty-Second Indiana Volunteer Infantry by Alf. G. Hunter, 1893. p 145)

As for the 52nd, the Regimental History tells us, "Battle of Nashville December 15-16. Pursuit of Hood to the Tennessee River December 17-23. Duty at Clifton, Tenn., and Eastport, Miss., until February, 1865. Eli Hause started a letter to his cousin on the 3rd of January, though he did not finish writing it for some days He does not mention any fighting or what duties the regiment performed - it is possible he had sent that information to his parents, from whom Calvin would have been informed. The letter is postmarked, Cairo, Illinois.

"As we have got through to the Tennessee River & board of a boat again I thought I would write a few lines to you in answer to your kind and welcome letter of the 11th Inst which found me better off than what I am now; there is some kind of a swelling coming on my left leg just above the knee it has been very sore and painful for the last four or five days so much so that the doctor had to haul me in the ambulance, we reached the Tenn River last evening and embarked today about noon and are now on our way up the River to Eastport which I understand will be our destination 

Jan 4th well Cal they kept moving us around so much yesterday that I could not finish this we drove up to the bank last night and hitched up and are laying here yet and it is now about two oclock, my leg pains me worse today but am in hopes that it will do better soon."

After some mention of friends in Hardenburg, Eli writes, "If I were there I would not be afraid to try you a game of eucher seven up or even a game at eating Buckwheat cakes I think that I could hold you a very close game at either, why didn't you call around Sunday evening and invite me to go with you Monday to hunt Rabbits. ... I did not see much fun Christmas & New Years this season how did you spend the time?"

Eli finishes his letter saying, "well Cal you think that you are a poor scribe if you just knew how much good a letter from you does me you would not think of that, when I get a letter from you with two sheets filled full I sit down and read it over & some time think that I have missed some of the pages and go back and read it over and still it seems so short, well as I have nothing of interest to write I will close this scribbling."

The letter was postmarked Cairo, Illinois, either the 12th or 13th of January, and Calvin received it on the 16th. My great grandfather took Eli's words to heart as he did not take more than a few days to send his next news from home.

Here is a photocopy of the first page of Eli's letter. It's the first example I have of anything other than blank paper.
Wikipedia has this article on the U.S. Christian Commission's role during the Civil War:

Saturday, January 10, 2015

A most comfortable sweater

I finished knitting this sweater back in the middle of November but realized recently I never posted photos of it here.  It is Fylingdales, by Lisa Lloyd from her book, A Fine Fleece.

It's a long oversized sweater made with an Aran weight yarn. I usually knit a medium size for myself, but this one was so big I made the smallest size and it fits very loosely and feels comfortable. I bought this discontinued yarn from a fellow Ravelry user who was moving and sold it to me at a very nice price.  I was going to make my Silver Belle sweater with it, but couldn't get the right gauge.

This sweater was easy to knit (those are the simplest of cables) and went very quickly once I devoted  time to it.  The ribbing at the bottom really pulled in and the welting below the cable and seed stitch part was very wobbly and ugly until I blocked the completed sweater.

 I wear it over lighter sweaters inside the house all the time, and it sometimes goes outside with me too.
Looking at my photos you're probably wondering what color is that anyway?  Well, I think the photo below captures it.  The manufacturer called it "light blue" but it's really a pale grayed blue-purple.

I only used about half of the yarn I bought. The rest of the yarn would make another very nice sweater!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

WWI - December - Heavenly Puzzle

This is the last block in this series.

All the red and blue fabrics in this interesting block are from Vicki Welsh.  I used foundation paper piecing for the four corners which helped keep the points sharp.  

I'm going to miss working on this series  even the leaves.  After a few months, I knew the whole rhythm and allotted the time for the applique, never trying to get the entire block done in a day so I didn't find that job as tedious as I did in the beginning. 

Service records for the majority of our WWI veterans were burned in a fire in at the Federal Records storage facility in St. Louis in the 1970's, so precise information on my four great-uncles who served is unfortunately not as easy to come by as for Civil War veterans. Their tombstones list their units, though without much precision.  There is information about the Army's organization and where the elements served available at Federal libraries scattered around the country.  The University of North Carolina Asheville is supposed to be one of those places where the public can access that information, so that will be a project for me, perhaps before I get the quilt completed. As it is right now, I'm not sure any of the uncles actually shipped out to Europe.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Threads of Memory - December 1864

This month's Rochester Star block is a nine-patch star on point giving us interesting shapes for the corners -

I enjoyed picking the fabrics and making this block, the last in Barbara Brackman's Threads of Memory series. Next year, she is doing something completely different so I'll have to choose my own blocks to go with family Civil War history from 150 years ago.

Sherman's army's March to the Sea  ended on the 21st of December when they captured the port of Savannah.  The 82nd's regimental historian recorded that in the latter part of the march, they went through mostly flooded rice fields. There was a lot of work in making corduroy roads for the troops and their wagons to pass over the water. By the time they were laying in for the siege, their supply train had nothing left, only foraged rice to sustain them.  He commented that the horses seemed to like the rice better than the men.  The rebel army did not surrender but departed Savannah on the night of the 20th. Sherman's troops had left a 40-50 mile wide track of desolation behind them, and the 82nd suffered no casualties on the campaign.  They enjoyed plenty to eat once they were in camp.  An undated letter from Billy to his sister Carrie says, "We have a firstrate good little house and a good fireplace in it.... We have had no cold weather here to amount to anything. The ice has been 1/4 of an inch thick 3 or 4 mornings." Billy reminds his sister he has but 7 months left to serve as he closes his letter.

I do not have a letter from Eli with the 52nd Indiana to my great-grandfather Calvin from this time in  1864, but, like his November letter, there was one published in Rodger Ruddick's book.  Eli wrote on the 11th of December from Nashville, Tennessee, full of questions about life at home. He asks about the pumpkin crop in Indiana, saying "When we were in Missouri, we had stewed pumpkins several times, but it is played out with us now." He wishes he were back in Indiana to eat buckwheat cakes and molasses, but he doesn't think he'll be there any time soon. Calvin must have told him about going to dances because Eli would have gone too. Then he tells Calvin a prayer from their nights out on raid in Missouri:  "Every time I lay down to sleep, the greybacks all around me creep, and if they bite before I wake, I hope by God their jaws they break." Later he describes current conditions: ".. we are suffering with the cold very bad and the wood is getting very scarce near camp. I don't know what we will do in a few days if the weather still keeps cold, we will freeze, I grief, but I live in hopes of a better time coming."

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Threads of Memory - November 1864

This block is yet another version of the star we did last month and in in August.  I fussy cut every piece of this one, though the star points don't show it very well.

The red and white print fabric, of which I had only a 10 inch square, drove the fabric choices.

John and Billy with the 82nd were placed under the cmomand of major General H. W. Slocum. In early November, they prepared for the march to Savannah, passing through Atlanta on the 15th. That night, the regimental history records, "the light from the burning city made our camp as light as day. Details were sent in to check the fire. The more details the brighter the light." The brigade was treated to some fine music by the brigade band while the fires burned. I guess Billy, listed as "musician" on the Regimental roster, was among those playing.

The marching orders were to cover 15 miles a day, destroying railroads on the way.  This map illustrates the routes of the four Army Corps - John and Billy would have been on the heavy line identified as the 14th Corps.  The 82nd did witness attacks by Rebel cavalry and were involved in some fighting, particularly during the earlier part of the march.

This map is free to use, from the Wikipedia article on the march at

I do not have Eli's letter to Calvin from November 1864, but it was published in Rodger Ruddick's book.  Eli, with the Indiana 52nd  wrote on the 25th, datelined, "On the boat, Prairie, down the river." He tells his cousin "this has been a hard trip on me, we have walked about seven hundred and fifty miles. Was gone just fifty days and was marching just forty days out of fifty."  He lists the Missouri towns they passed through on their way to Kansas and back - they did pass through St. Charles, the location of the story behind our block this month. Eli comments on the election, "I am sorry that the abolitionists won the Presidency this time, but it can't be helped now." He goes back to the march, saying that his feet are so sore he can just barely get around and he has pain in his right hand from a wart he had had knocked off over two weeks earlier.

Then Eli tells Calvin, "I saw some of the prettiest prairie land in Missouri that I ever saw. I have seen the biggest part of the state of Missouri this trip and this is some of the prettiest land that I ever saw in any state. I think that if this war was over, I could find a home in the state that would suit me first rate." There was not always enough food - one day they had flour and a little piece of fresh beef, "just about enough for one good meal for a day rations and all the way that we had to cook the flour was to mix it up in some water and salt it a little and bake it in our frying pans."

Eli asks his cousin to write more often - even if he can't write while on the march he can get letters from home. He closes his letter, "... give my love to all inquiring friends and retain a share for yourself, Yours truly, Eli to Cal Direct by way of Cairo, Ill."

I included the closing of this letter because it is the same way that Eli will finish letters to Calvin in the early 1870's, when he and his future wife Jennie will have started a family and struggled to make a living in Missouri.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Austen Family Album - Block 34

I did not care one bit for this block - Queen Charlotte's Crown. So I played with stripes.  I really like the way my version looks in the thumbnail where I changed the block design slightly to do something a little different.  I'm showing it to you in the smallest thumbnail because it shows the effect best.

My personal stamp on the block was to have two different stripes meet up going across the block from lower left to upper right.  The rest of the block is just background to that, and my photo shows that some of my seams are off.  I really did hurry through the cutting and piecing.

In the original block, the upper right and lower left squares were made of half-square triangles which met the "crowns" in Y-seams at the inner corners.  I don't really mind doing Y-seams anymore, but I did mind the block and thought it would be interesting to play the two stripes into each other in a more yin-yang coloration.

I like it a lot better now, so I'm thinking I should correct my sloppiness.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

WWI - November - Mother's Dream

I don't know why this block would get that name - I do know I like how this one came out.  I used foundation paper piecing for precision on all those 1 inch half-square triangles.

The red fabric in this block is different from the others in the series, but my blocks are all made with slightly different reds. I love the drama of  Vicki Welsh's shibori stripes in the four squares, so I chose a commercial print for the more subdued blue version in the center square. The red fabric in the long rectangles with a more subtle stripe was not from the same piece but it was also dyed by Vicki.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Austen Family Album - Week 33 - Corn and Beans

This is not the only block that goes by the Corn and Beans name -

I like how this one came out with that symmetrically arrayed stripe.  Funny, that stripe was the main reason I decided to participate in this block of the week project - I had used it in my tablet cover

and thought it would lend itself to this block-by-block quilt.  But I only used it in maybe two other blocks. The print is actually trickier to use than average - in fact the two horizontal bars in the block are colored slightly differently than the two vertical ones.  It's a subtle difference that will it probably never be noticed by the casual viewer.  But cutting other areas of the stripe, it would be noticeable and I would have had to waste so much of it for the blocks I thought I'd use it, so I just didn't.  There still isn't much left.

The dark blue mottled fabric with its unpredictable flashes of light is what makes this block work for me though.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Seasons Challenge - Fall

When last seen, the Fall challenge was a single Ohio Star block with a very bright solid orange fabric (photo at this link).

I took the main block seams apart so I could square up the block for easier piecing.  My friend Judi scheduled another Dye Day in her nearby studio, so I brought the quilt block pieces.  She suggested I try a bleaching technique to change the character of that orange.  It happened I had brought along stencils so I tried painting the thick mild bleach solution through the stencils to create an interesting design, but whatever the dye was, it was quite stubborn.  By the end of the day, it had done what it was going to do, which wasn't much.

Back at home, I printed a maple leaf graphic on freezer paper, cut it out and centered it on the orange squares. I used black and blue watercolor pencils around the edges of the freezer paper stencil for  another layer of design on the fabric. Here's how the block looks now, pieced back together and much closer to square (only very minute shavings had to come off the orange pieces and the hourglass blocks).

I was pleased with the end result - I think that garish orange has a lot more interest and texture. You can best make out the bleached design in the center leaf where I outline quilted only - it's a four way symmetrical design that makes an "orange peel" center.

When it came to setting the block into a quilt, I turned to the Quilt Index for Ohio Star quilts and settled on one that just alternated the hour glass blocks and squares.

I wanted the vintage block to stand out among the fabrics from my collection I chose to go with it.  With the blue-purple print and the leaves, I think it is obvious even in the small view. It's not the typical "fall quilt" but all of the prints in my little hourglass blocks feature leaves. The plain squares are hand dyes and prints that look like hand dyes.

I quilted it in a light pink thread, as though it was 5 Ohio Stars set with alternating plain blocks. The feathers have a sprinkling of stylized leaf shapes.

The backing and binding are made from a fabric that combines orange, pink, and magenta with greens.

I named the quilt "Maple" in keeping with my single word titles for the previous two season quilts.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Austen Family Album - Week 32 - Ladies' Wreath

This is one of those blocks whose name doesn't make any sense in isolation -

We made this block in the Grandmother's Choice series. I showed how it makes a wreath at the end of this post.  I didn't use the floral as I did the yellow roses in that block - the polka dots would hardly make a mourning wreath.  But I decided the name of the block didn't matter.

The block looks very wonky in my photo. It's just so hard to get a square photo with that little camera I didn't even try to get the block to lie flat.

Only four more bloks to go.