Sunday, November 24, 2013

Civil War Block of the Month November 1863 - Part II, Tennessee Star

The Battle of Chattanooga took place on 24-25 November 1863 and ended with the Union taking first Lookout Mountain and then Missionary Ridge to control the state of Tennessee. I chose the Star of Tennessee block to commorate the scene of some of the 82nd's most important action in the war after Chickamauga.

With 20 "y-seams", this is a block that most quilters would piece by hand, but I prefer machine piecing. It was the only block I've had to make twice. My first attempt used two red fabrics for the center star that were too similar, and I didn't have enough contrast between the background and a fabric for which I have now substituted the subtle plaid.  I don't want all that precise work to go unnoticed, so I changed the background fabric as well. This in an 8 inch block, like the Hunter's Star I chose outside the Dixie Diary series.

The 82nd Indiana, part of the Army of the Cumberland, did not see much action on November 24th, while Hooker's forces took Lookout Mountain. At around 3:00 p.m on the 25th, when Sherman's army to the north of their position stalled, Grant ordered some of Thomas' forces to take the rifle pits at the base of Missionary Ridge. The men did so, but upon reaching the pits found themselves under fire from above, so they kept going up the ridge. The units on the Northern end of the line got to the top first. The 82nd Indiana in the 1st Brigade had rougher terrain to get over, but they fought their way up the 200-400 foot incline in the charge on the Confederate center that ultimately resulted in the Union victory.

Billy wrote a letter to his brother and sister on December 2nd, saying he had not forgotten to answer their letter, he didn't have time to write. "I suppose you have heard by this time that the 82nd has been in one of the grandest charges of the war within the last week. Of course I was in the mess with the balance. I got a hole shot through my coat and haversack, which was as close as I want them to come to me. You had better believe the bullets come down the hill pretty fast but when we got on top and saw the Rebs running from us, we felt big. Our Co. lost but one man wounded and he is not mortally wounded.... We got 52 pieces of artillery on the ridge and enough in the valley and on Lookout Mt. to amount to 85 pieces. There were 7,000 prisoners sent away from here at one time. [That estimate is higher than post-war figures.] Small arms to the amount of about 10,000 stand. We followed the retreating enemy about 20 miles and the woods were strewn full of small arms and artillery - all the way."

I wonder where Billy's bugle or drum (he is listed as "musician" on the regiment's roster of enlisted men) was while he was running up that ridge.

Wikipedia has gathered illustrations and a map of the battle for Missionary Ridge you can see at with a lengthy description of the action. Billy and John were in Turchin's brigade.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Grandmother's Choice - the quilt and the book

I finished Dana's Green and Yellow Grandmother's Choice quilt last week and got it mailed off to her on Wednesday when her book arrived.

Here's the quilt: 
And here are a few photos showing some of the blocks.  You've seen them before since I photographed and blogged about them as I made them but I'm really happy with the look of the whole quilt.  Vicki Welsh's custom hand dyed William and Mary greens and yellows are truly the star of the show.

I made the binding out of 5 of Vicki's shades of green, with the lightest at the top and darkest across the bottom. You may be able to see that in this photo of the back of the quilt.

When I made the Civil War block of the week quilt, Laurie asked me if there was a book with an explanation of the blocks. In response, I used the Blog2Print service to print a book of my blog posts. I know she and Roger appreciate it, even though the text was very "quilty" in focus and jargon. For Dana's quilt, I wrote my posts with the intention of publishing them in a book.

I was unhappy with one aspect of the blog book for Roger and Laurie: I had no control over where the photos were in relation to the text. Where possible, they stacked three photos on one side of the page with the text in a column on the other side, so it was dissassociated with the photo being discussed.  And worse, sometimes the text was on one page and the photo on another. The best compromise with the Blog2Print service  - still imperfect - made the book almost 50% longer and therefore rather expensive - and the photos came out different sizes. Their algorithm for page layout, in almost every case, did not choose the same photos I would have to make larger. So I did some research and first looked at They claim you have full control, but their layout interface was  complicated. Getting my photos in the the size and location on the page was a big frustrating learning curve for me. I decided to try Blog2Print did save me a lot of time in comparison to the Lulu solution, since the Blog2Print program automatically fetched all the relevant blog posts, and put them in the order I requested. But doing the labor myself with gave me complete control and made the book come out exactly as I wanted it to be. I simply downloaded their document template and copied the text one blog post at a time for the 50 odd posts. This solution not only allowed me to make sure the text about a photo (including identifying captions naming the people) was not a page turn away, but also gave me the choice on photo size. I decided the block photos could be small, since Dana would have the real thing in the quilt, but I could make them larger if that put the page break where I wanted it without a lot of blank space.  It was also easy to correct typos and I was able to add a few details like full family names and a photo of the quilt in progress that I had never posted on the blog.

This is the cover of Dana's book. (The smear on the cover is from where I edited out my grandmother's full names.) does not advertise their name anywhere on the book - it looks exactly the way it did when I finalized both the cover and the inside pages. The photo is of Dana's father, my parents and my two grandmothers at Carl and Beth's wedding.

I had Dana's book printed with a hard cover on Lulu's standard paper. The quality of the paper was better than I expected, though the colors are not as bright and true as when I print them on my Epson R1900.  

Here's an example page where the block photo is quite small in comparison to the photo of my grandmother with her friends, and the one of Dana's father as a baby with his brothers.

The turnaround for the book from when I placed my order to having the book in my hands was around two weeks. I am quite happy with the way it turned out. I would use the Lulu service again, with the only caveat that if color were really important, I would get the paper upgrade.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Civil War Block of the Month - November 1863 - Just Hominy

In this month's diary entries, we looked in on Sarah and her family, refugees scattered in Louisiana and hungry with only Hominy to eat.  They are facing the decision to starve, or to go back to Union-held New Orleans where they will have to pledge their loyalty to the Union.

I enjoyed making this block, even though it has four Y seams. It is more complex than the other blocks in this series. I've been using at least one stripe or plaid in each block. I started my fabric selection for this one with the wavy stripe that appears in the star points.

On November 15th 1863, Shep wrote to his family to say he had at last received their letter of October 20th. He explains it had been in the Mississippi River, sinking with the Transport City Alton, and was taken out of there and sent to Memphis before reaching him at Fort Pillow. The City of Alton was built in Madison Indiana on the Ohio River about 30 miles from Hayden/then Hardenburg, where Shep, Billy and John were from. I looked into the history of this riverboat and learned it was used as a troop carrier that at one point was operated by the Sanitary Commission and served to carry wounded soldiers away from Vicksburg. The River to Rail website about Madison Indiana also reports "This steamer was used to remove 10,000 muskets from the St. Louis Arsenal before a Confederate plot to seize them could be put into effect. The confiscation of these arms, carried out by city militia under cover of darkness, likely prevented the state of Missouri from joining the Confederacy." Evidently, the steamboat was recovered and repaired.

Shep compares his circumstances to brother Billy's saying "We get along first rate here, plenty to eat. Pleanty to wear and not much to do. Health generally good, for my part, I have no reason to complain of anything." He comments on the death of probably a comrade, "he has gone where this is no wars. I think that is a great consolation to the living." He has had his photograph taken and will send them home to be kept for him, "But if I never should call for them, you can keep them to remember me by."

In a letter to his brother Henry and an unnamed sister on the 21st, Shep reports on the excitement caused by General Hulbert's order to conscript all able bodied men in the department. He does not sympathize with the merchants who have been making money from the Army, "taking advantages, they are for smuggling and speculating while the soldiers protect them. It will go pretty hard with some of them, for they have rather stuck up their noses at the soldiers and now the boys have a chance of retaliation and they will not be backward about using it." He wishes Henry were there to attend the debating societies. and describes the music - "fiddles, banjos, bones, cow bells, and various other instruments. The Rebs may come and spoil our fun some of these old times but don't think there is much chances." 

At the end of November, the 52nd moved from St. Louis to Nashville.

Billy in Chattanooga wrote on November 12th to thank his family for the provisions they sent, all of which arrived in good condition except the loaf of bread that was entirely spoiled. The thread was just what he needed. The soldiers are still on half-rations but he claims they are doing very well. He is pleased that he has received one of Shep's photos. He asks his mother to knit him a pair of gloves because the mornings are cold, but he can get his socks there. On the 18th, he wrote to his sister Joanna complaining in the last three months he has had only the half dozen words from her that came in the box of things. He still had butter from that package, and would use it with the soft bread ration they drew that morning. He explains he was not with the regiment when they crossed into Rebel lines and drove them away because he had been guarding the supply train at Steveson. But he goes on to tell her "some of the particulars" -
"... our Brigade and one Brigade of Johnson's old Division went down there in the night and lay on the opposite side of the river until about 4 o'clock in the morning when 1200 men out of the 6th Ind. crossed in pontoon boats and landed in the Rebel picket line before the Rebs knew it. You may bet they had fun. They pitched into the Rebs and drove them back, meantime our Regt. and several others were crossing and soon we had a pretty strong force across. The Rebs were bound to retreat. Our boys put a pontoon bridge across the river immediately, then you see, our cracker line was opened but the Rebs still occupy Lookout Mountain. They keep shelling our supply trains from there every day but I have not heard of their doing any damage yet. Our picket lines in front of Chattanooga are but 30 or 40 steps apart. We can talk to each other, the Rebs say that their men still hold Vicksburg. They will not believe us when we tell them different. That is all they keep fighting for, they are kept in ignorance. One of them told George More that they were not fighting for country nor constitution, they were fighting to protect their women and children. If that is all they are fighting for, they had better quit. I would like to know what they leave their homes and families for if they want to protect them."