Tag Archives: Sarah Morgan Dawson

Civil War Sampler #12: Louisiana

My Civil War Sampler Block 12 is Louisiana:

Louisiana, completed February 25, 2019

Louisiana, completed February 25, 2019

The story about the “Louisiana” block in Brackman’s book and blog centers around the diary of a young woman named Sarah Morgan, whose family home was a plantation outside of Baton Rouge. She wrote in her diary of the devastation their home suffered in August 1862 as part of the “celebrations” of victorious Union soldiers, after the Battle of Baton Rouge (never heard of it). Her words are truly chilling, as she describes all that was destroyed, some of it irreplaceable.

Sarah’s diary was later published (in 1913) and so, as it is squarely in the public domain copyright-wise, here is a slightly longer excerpt even than what was in Brackman’s book (courtesy of the University of North Carolina’s Documenting the American South digital project, where you can read the entirety of Sarah Morgan Dawson’s A Confederate Girl’s Diary online):

She says when she entered the house, she burst into tears at the desolation. It was one scene of ruin. Libraries emptied, china smashed, sideboards split open with axes, three cedar chests cut open, plundered, and set up on end; all parlor ornaments carried off – even the alabaster Apollo and Diana that Hal valued so much. Her piano, dragged to the centre of the parlor, had been abandoned as too heavy to carry off; her desk lay open with all letters and notes well thumbed and scattered around, while Will’s last letter to her was open on the floor, with the Yankee stamp of dirty fingers. Mother’s portrait half-cut from its frame stood on the floor. Margret, who was present at the sacking, told how she had saved father’s. It seems that those who wrought destruction in our house were all officers. One jumped on the sofa to cut the picture down (Miriam saw the prints of his muddy feet) when Margret cried, “For God’s sake, gentlemen, let it be! I’ll help you to anything here. He’s dead, and the young ladies would rather see the house burn than lose it!” “I’ll blow your damned brains out,” was the “gentleman’s” answer as he put a pistol to her head, which a brother officer dashed away, and the picture was abandoned for finer sport. All the others were cut up in shreds.

Upstairs was the finest fun. Mother’s beautiful mahogany armoir, whose single door was an extremely fine mirror, was entered by crashing through the glass, when it was emptied of every article, and the shelves half-split, and half-thrust back crooked. Letters, labeled by the boys “Private,” were strewn over the floor; they opened every armoir and drawer, collected every rag to be found and littered the whole house with them, until the wonder was, where so many rags had been found. Father’s armoir was relieved of everything; Gibbes’s handsome Damascus sword with the silver scabbard included. All his clothes, George’s, Hal’s, Jimmy’s, were appropriated. They entered my room, broke that fine mirror for sport, pulled down the rods from the bed, and with them pulverized my toilet set, taking also all Lydia’s china ornaments I had packed in the wash-stand. The débris filled my basin, and ornamented my bed. My desk was broken open. Over it was spread all my letters, and private papers, a diary I kept when twelve years old, and sundry tokens of dried roses, etc., which must have been very funny, they all being labeled with the donor’s name, and the occasion. Fool! how I writhe when I think of all they saw; the invitations to buggy rides, concerts, “Compliments of,” etc. -! Lilly’s sewing-machine had disappeared, but as mother’s was too heavy to move, they merely smashed the needles.

I can’t even imagine. I think the parts about the letters and diaries and “private papers” and portraits of deceased family members bother me most – which makes sense, of course: as an archivist, it is literally my life’s work to preserve such things.

(Completely random coincidence I did not even discover until looking up Sarah’s diary in order to write this post: I made this block within days of her birthday, which was February 28, 1842. I made my block on February 25, 2019. Weird.)

Returning to the quilt block itself, let’s have a look at it again:

Louisiana block (once more, with gusto!)

Louisiana block (once more, with gusto!)

I like how the triangles sort of reminiscence of “broken dishes” – which, Broken Dishes is an entirely different block and much simpler – since Sarah talks about “china smashed.” But they’re really Flying Geese. (I kind of hate Flying Geese blocks, is it just me? I have a hard time lining up the triangles for some reason.)

For the colors, I thought, what colors or designs come to mind when I think of “Louisiana”? Again, I thought of the sports team colors. I don’t even watch sports, but it seems like you can hardly avoid knowing these things sometimes. Especially when the team’s main color is one of your favorites: purple. Any excuse to use purple!

The only other noteworthy design element (in my opinion) is that I took particular care to get at least a couple of “whole” cream-colored roses in each of the purple rectangles, and I placed them so that all the roses were “flowing” the same way – as if they are following one another in a clockwise circle.

Fabrics for my Louisiana block, including

Fabrics for my Louisiana block, including “Civil War Ladies” by Judie Rothermel

Have you ever noticed that pinwheels have a lot of seams in the center that can make a big bump in the middle of the block?

Detail of Louisiana block

Detail of Louisiana block

Well, there’s a way to sort of…swirl them around and make a little mini-pinwheel on the back side that helps flatten everything out. I did not come up with this; I think I first read about it in one of Eleanor Burns’ Quilt in a Day books. But here’s a helpful blog post from Rachel Rossi on “Getting a Perfect Pinwheel” (which, btw, mine below is not, but I got it mostly flattened out…).

Not-quite-complete mini-pinwheel on the back of the block (it was flat enough!)

Not-quite-complete mini-pinwheel on the back of the block (it was flat enough!)

I hope you enjoyed!