Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mystery of First White House Quilts Park II

  Yesterday I gave the background on the two quilts belonging to the First White House of the Confederacy, that we have just had conserved, the Gunboat Quilt and the Baby Quilt.
The two quilts share many similarities and although that is not absolute proof that they were made by the same person, it is strong evidence that this may be the case. 
When the Baby Quilt was given to the First White House in 1979,  by Nell Marshall Reid and Panthea Reid Fischer, they said that Mrs. Reid's Grandmother, Panthea Coleman Bullock made both quilts.
Prior to that time, we had thought the Gunboat Quilt was made by Martha Jane Hatter, who married Mr. Bullock after Panthea Coleman, his first wife died. Ms. Hatter took credit for both quilts, as well as another Gunboat Quilt which is in the Birmingham Museum of Art.
The Gunboat Quilt, as I mentioned in yesterday's blog, was made to be auctioned, to purchase a Gunboat for Mobile Bay. We know it
 was auctioned twice in Tuscaloosa, once in Summerfield and once in Selma. It was finally purchased by the Rev. Joseph Johnson Hutchinson, a Methodist minister, of Summerfield, Alabama.
It was donated to the First White House by Mrs. Mary Hutchison Jones, Rev. Hutchinson's granddaughter, in 1928.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

History Mystery - The Quilt Controversy (Part I)

At the First White House of The Confederacy here in Montgomery, we have two beautiful and rare quilts of the 1861 period. Fortunately, each of them have been recently conserved  by the expert Conservators in Rochester, MA.  The "Baby Quilt", so named because it was made for a baby,  has been returned to us, and we have marveled at the improvement, as it had been badly damaged by water before it was ever given to u s by Mrs. John Reid and her daughter, Panthea Mary Reid Fischer of Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
The "Gunboat Quilt" was thus named because the women of the South made them to raffle off as a way of raising money to buy Gunboats for the Confederacy. It was on display at the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA, as part of a Sesquicentennial Exhibition called Home Front and Battle Field from June 30, 2012 through November of 2012. It is in storage now and will be in three traveling  exhibits in New York City, Shelburne, Vermont and Lincoln Nebraska. before it is returned to the First White House in June of 2015.  
We are extremely proud of the restoration of these fine quilts. As for the controversy, I have to save that for tomorrow. Today is the background, to whet your appetite over the real question, which is Who Made These Two Quilts????? 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Did You Know You May Contribute to the First White House Through Pay Pal?

You may now contribute to the First White House directly through our website. This is an easy way to send money, and we are trying to raise money now to restore the two matching gasoliers, one a recent acquisition and the other hangs in the Second Parlor.
Go to and you will see the pay pal button underneath the "view blog" button on the upper left hand panel on the home page. Then when you click you will see the following, and if you don't have a pay pal account you can use your bank card.
And to anyone who donates, we are a 501c3 organization and your gift is tax deductible. And we thank you very much for your generosity! We will email you back a "thank you" note!

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

The First White House and the White House Association and What You May Not Know

Did you know  the First White House was built between 1832-1835 by William Sayre, ancestor of Zelda Sayre, who married the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald?  There are Sayre descendants still living in Montgomery today plus a Sayre street and at one time a Sayre School.
William Sayre sold the house and land to George Whitman. Successive owners included  William Knox, Joseph Winter and Col. Edmund S. Harrison, who rented it to the newly-formed Confederate Government for use by President Jefferson Davis and his family. The Davises lived in the house from March until May, 1861, when the Confederate capital was moved to Richmond. Later owners of the house were Willis R. Calloway, William Crawford Bibb, Archibald Tyson and Mrs. R. L. Render.
 Hardly had the guns fallen silent after the end of the War Between the States when women throughout the former Confederacy formed groups to tend the graves of their fallen warriors. One such organization was the Ladies Memorial Association of Montgomery, which decorated graves in Oakwood Cemetery, beginning April 26, 1866 and continuing on today.
In 1894  the United Daughters of the Confederacy was formed, and one of their early goals was the preservation of the First White House. The ladies soon realized however, that they needed a vehicle solely dedicated to the First White House's restoration. The White House Association was formed on July 1, 1900.
The Alabama Legislature chartered the group Feb 5, 1901. Thus it is the oldest preservation society in Alabama and one of the oldest in the United States. The oldest is the Mt. Vernon Ladies' Association, founded in 1856 to save George Washington's home,  to which Montgomery women contributed as early as 1857.
More about the White House Association tomorrow.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Star-Blocks Quilt Made for Jefferson Davis

Yesterday I mentioned  a quilt made by Varina Davis, wife of President Jefferson Davis. Today I want to share information on a beautiful Davis Star-Blocks Quilt, made for President Davis by 15 women of Richmond, including Varina Davis. It too is at the Museum of the Confederacy and can be viewed on line. It is exquisite.
The ladies made it for the President during the stormiest part of the "War For States Rights". Every piece was made by a different person, and embroidered with pieces of sewing silk left over from the years of ease and plenty. 
 Once when President Davis was sleeping under it, he asked that it be taken off and "put away with lavender" which is an old fashion term which meant "with great care".

Here is the link again to the MOC where you can click "view quilts" -
The Museum of the Confederacy’s Quilts, an online exhibit at


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Did You Knowq...Varina Davis Was A Quilter?

Did you know that Mrs. Jefferson Davis was an accomplished  Quilter? I suppose all the "Steel Magnolias" of her day learned to sew, but she seemed especially talented with her hands, as well as intellectually the equal of her famous husband. 
One can view her handiwork by clicking on this link: - This quilt is one of many  owned by the Museum of the Confederacy. It is a patchwork quilt of silk embroidery, 50-3/4" x 52", made  by  Mrs. Davis between 1870 and 1880 and donated to the Museum by her granddaughter, Varina Davis Hayes Webb.
 Embroidered on it are oak leaves, symbolic of the dignity of the Confederacy; ivy, donating the faithful, loyal binding together of a warrior people; the passion flower and bleeding heart, representing the suffering heroines of the Southern cause; and the olive donating a cause that was lost, but still held its victor's crown of peace.
In the center is the butterfly, showing the soul of the Confederacy, beautiful and immortal. The shield is that of the Confederacy, and the flags are the Stars & Bars, the 2nd National and the Battle flag. It is truly an amazing work of art and puts into focus the love she had for her people and their lost but heroic cause.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Montgomery Sites Now Marked By Civil Heritage Trail

I am very excited that a new downtown Montgomery map has been issued, marking Civil War and Civil Rights landmarks.
It is mainly a walking or biking tour (of course it can be done by auto or trolley as well), the first stop of which is the Union Station Visitors' Bureau Center. There are 12 stops in all, ending at St John's Episcopal Church where President Jefferson Davis and his family worshipped while living in Montgomery. 
The second stop is Riverfront Park and the Harriott II Riverboat area where in the past thousands of bales of cotton were loaded for shipments to Mobile and other ports. Other places marked are Court Square Fountain, Rosa Parks Library & Museum, Freedom Riders Museum at Greyhound Bus Station, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Alabama State Capitol, Archives  History and First White House of the Confederacy.
From there the tour goes to the Civil Right Memorial and Center, Old Alabama Town and ends at St. John's. In front of each building will be a small bike rack, designating the sites.
I have always thought how interesting it is that both the Civil War and the Civil Rights movements both began here in Montgomery. I am glad the City is promoting these through this new venue.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Search For Music to Song About General Lee

A friend gave me a letter yesterday from her grandmother asking about the music for a song about Robert E. Lee (May Angels Guard Thee). If anyone reading this knows, or knows anyone that might know, please get in touch with me. I can be reached at the First White House number 334-242-1861. The words go like this:

 Heroic Lee! O peerless Lee!
Unnumbered thousands mourn for thee.
Each widowed heart, each spirit brave,
In silence lisps beside they grave.
Thy land beloved, thy stricken land,
Is bowed in sadness told again
and nations hear the sad refrain (repeat last two lines)

Sleep on, sleep well,
Immortal partner of our woes.'
Sleep on, sleep well,
Sleep on, sleep well.
May angels guard thee!
May angels guard thee in repose

Where dark Potomac's waters glide,
To Rio Grande's swift water's side,
From flowery hill to western plain,
This note of sadness swells again.
O gallant dead! O living brave!
Come breathe a prayer beside his grave (repeat last two lines)


Monday, July 8, 2013

Leonidas Polk, The "Fighting Bishop"

Charles McIlvaine was the man God used in the life of Cadet Leonidas Polk, in a great movement of God at the US Military Academy. Here is what happened.
Polk, troubled with a problem of forgiveness, found a tract in a drawer and upon reading it,  came to visit the Chaplain. McIlvaine said " I have never conversed with one thus seeking the way of life in whom the feeling of his need of light and grace, the sense of all spiritual necessity was deeper, or in whom the single anxiety to get to Christ and be His was more thoroughly absorbing."
Polk prayed with the Chaplain, and peace came to his troubled heart at last. He was the first cadet to ever take a public stand as a follower of Christ.
And we know "the rest of the story", how Polk became a Bishop and later served as a Confederate General, beloved by his men, who fought at Shiloh, Stones River, Chickamauga, and was killed in the Atlanta Campaign.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Lee Faces His Defeat After Gettysburg

On the morning of July 4th Lee faced his only choice, he must return to Virginia. But getting there was no easy task and would call on all of Lee's capabilities for leadership.
As they began their dismal retreat, the rain came down in blinding sheets. Wounded men, lying on the boards of the wagons, were drenched. The pontoon bridge at Williamsport had been destroyed by the Federals, but the Confederates, digging furiously build a strong parapet and awaited the arrival of the Yankees.
Meade and the Army of the Potomac play cat and mouse with the Confederates. Meade continued to delay the attack until it was too late. The final escape was underway when Lee and his valiant Army of Northern Virginia crossed the river on a make ship bridge, using wood from torn down warehouses.
Before long, Lee was watching the last of his troops cross the Potomac, and then he ordered the bridge cut loose. In Washington, President Lincoln could not contain his despair. Lee had escaped to fight again - and the war would grind on for another 21 months

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Why Did The South Lose The War?

I found these words by Jefferson Davis, in a small paper back book by Dr. H. Rondel Rumburg called "Jefferson Davis The Unreconstructed," and I felt it was fitting to quote them on this Independence Day, July 4, 2013.
Davis said, "When the cause was lost, what cause was it? Not that of the South only, but the cause of constitutional government, or the supremacy of law, of the natural rights of man."
Rumberg adds: "What was missing after the war was the very reason for the establishment of the country by the Founding Fathers. After the war the new centralized Government enslaved all the citizens."
Food for thought isn't it? 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

General Fry, Forgotten Hero of Pickett's Charge

Who remembers Burkett Davenport Fry, Confederate General, buried at Oakwood cemetery in Montgomery in a long forgotten grave?. He and Oates are both buried in Oakwood, but who is famous? Neither of them today, but instead, Hank Williams!!! 

Fry, since you probably don't remember, was a commander of one of the lead brigades during Pickett's charge on the last day of fighting at Gettysburg.  He was wounded four times, at Seven Pines, Antietam, Chancellorsville and lastly at Gettysburg.

How did it happen that he got to lead the charge? With the capture of Archer on July 2nd, Fry assumed command of Archer's Brigade of Tennesseans and Alabamians and helped lead   the July 3rd attack that became famous as Pickett's Charge. Did Fry get any credit? Well, heck no.

Nice guys finish last, don't they, after all? But we can go see his grave any time we want to...a friend went today and took flowers, in memory - 150 years ago today.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ten Facts About Gettysburg

Here are ten facts about Gettysburg I found from the Civil War Trust website on the Internet and want to share:
1. The battle was fought at Gettysburg because of the road system, not about shoes.
2. The first day's battle was much larger than is generally thought.
3. The second day was the largest and costliest of the 3 - can you say Devil's Den, Little Round Top, the Wheatfield, the Peach Orchard, Cemetery Ridge, Trosler's Farm, Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill?
4. Of 120 generals, nine were killed.
5. Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill were more important than Little Round Top.
6. Pickett's Charge was huge but by no means the largest charge of the War.
7. Gettysburg was the costliest battle but not the largest (Fredericksburg had more troops present)
8. 63 Medals of Honor awarded to Union soldiers for their actions. (none to Confederates I don't suppose)
9. Gettysburg Address same as Edward Everett's speech but 1/60th the time.
10. While the Gettysburg Battlefield is well-preserved, there are many parcels still to be saved.