August 6, 2019
Contact: Adam Lynn
Honey Springs Battlefield and Visitor Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Reproduction Civil War–Era Quilt to be Raffled to Raise Money for Honey Springs Battlefield and Visitor Center
CHECOTAH, Okla.—The Friends of Honey Springs Battlefield received a special gift during the memorial service honoring the 156th anniversary of the Battle of Honey Springs on July 13, 2019. Kathy Dickson, director of museums and historic sites for the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS), presented a hand-sewn reproduction of a United States Sanitary Commission (USSC) quilt to the group. Dickson had pledged to reproduce one for the Friends organization when presenting a Civil War quilt workshop at the Visitor Center in November 2018. The Friends of Honey Springs Battlefield are selling raffle tickets for the chance to win this one-of-a-kind quilt.
“I have always wanted to make one, and it should be a good fundraiser for the battlefield leading up to the reenactment the first weekend in November,” said Dickson. “The Friends of Honey Springs will be selling raffle tickets. The drawing will be November 2 following the reenactment of the battle on Saturday.”
“The quilt is made from all-cotton fabric, and the patterns date to the early 1860s or before,” continued Dickson. “Some of the fabric patterns are reproductions from the Sturbridge Village Museum in Massachusetts so they date to the 1830s. The ladies would have used whatever they could find to make quilts, but would have avoided fine fabrics like silk since these do not take rough handling well.”
If you are interested in purchasing a raffle ticket, contact the Honey Springs Battlefield and Visitor Center at 918-473-5572. Tickets are $5 each or five for $20. The drawing will be held after the Battle of Honey Springs reenactment on Saturday, November 2, and you need not be present to win.
When the Civil War started in 1861 neither Union nor Confederate leaders were prepared to supply the men who volunteered to fight with even basic necessities. Many left home to join the fight with only the clothes on their backs. Women stepped in to fill the void on both sides of the conflict, but their efforts were more organized in the Union. Sisters Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell organized the Women’s Central Association of Relief (WCAR) within a week of President Lincoln’s call for volunteers in April 1861. Three thousand women attended the first meeting, volunteering to be trained as nurses and hospital workers.
WCAR officially became a branch of the USSC in June 1862. The USSC was a quasi-military organization charged with the procurement of supplies. It also participated in other war relief efforts, such as fundraising, registering female nurses for work in military hospitals and helping to direct discharged soldiers and their families to local relief agencies.
Under the USSC, women set to work to fill some of the soldiers’ basic needs. The USSC called on them to provide the most requested articles: blankets for single beds; quilts of cheap material, about 7 feet long by 50 inches wide; woolen or cotton flannel bed gowns; wrappers, undershirts and drawers; small hair and feather pillows and cushions for wounded limbs; and slippers.
“The size specified for the quilt was small enough for the soldier to carry with his pack, and it also fit a hospital cot,” said Dickson. “These quilts were quickly made with little attention to fine stitching or matching of fabric. The idea was to make as many as possible as fast as possible. Most were a potholder style, basically the 19th-century version of quilt-as-you-go.”
Of the thousands of quilts made, very few originals survive. “There are a few in the national quilt collection at the Smithsonian Institution,” said Dickson. “I researched these to find the inspirational quotes written in the center of each block. Sometimes these were signature quilts with the block makers name and hometown, others included Bible verses or simply well wishes from the maker to the solider.”
When the quilts were finished and turned over to the USSC, they were stamped on the back before being sent out on supply wagons. Though these quilts were made for Union soldiers, Confederate soldiers often ended up with them from captured supply wagons or captured or killed Union soldiers.
With the help of OHS graphic artist and Civil War reenactor Preston Ware, Dickson was able to recreate the USSC stamp for the back of the quilt.
“As a fledgling quilter with a background in history I became interested in Civil War quilts,” said Dickson. “There were fancy, finely stitched quilts made by the ladies of the North and the South. These were made to be auctioned or raffled to raise funds for the war effort. These art pieces are way beyond my quilting talents so I focused on the quilts made by ladies’ groups for the soldiers’ use.”
“The blocks were made from several different patterns, but all the patterns were simple,” continued Dickson. “The pattern I chose is called Nine Patch on Point. The pattern is taken from an original, and it took thirty-five blocks to make the approximate size.”
“People always ask how long it takes to make something so I tried to keep track. I estimate it took about 3.5 hours per block. This includes cutting the fabric, piecing and quilting each block, binding the blocks together, so just over 122 hours. I am sure the ladies in the 1860s were much faster. The soldiers might have frozen waiting on me to make them quilts,” said Dickson.
For more information about Honey Springs Battlefield and Visitor Center, the November 1–3 reenactment or directions to the site, please visit www.okhistory.org/honeysprings.
Honey Springs Battlefield and Visitor Center is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.