Archive for the ‘Sewing/Costume’ Category

The Pamlico Rifles

Organized in Beaufort County in 1861, William T. Marsh of Bath, commissioned captain of Company I, 4th Regiment. Marsh was fatally wounded at Antietam on September 17, 1862. “He fell gallantly, leading his veteran regiment to battle and to victory. He breathed his last 8 days thereafter in the home of strangers who yet soothed his final hours with their sympathy and kindness. Though opposing secession with all the power of his intellect; yet when the storm came, he cheerfully laid himself upon the altar of sacrifice and bravely died for North Carolina. The memories of such heroes are the richest legacies of history.”


This flag may have been made by several ladies from Washington: Mrs. S.B. Waters, Mrs. Claudia A. Benbury, Miss Jeanette McDonald, and Miss Sarah W. Williams. The flag has a blue field with a crescent outlined in gold braid containing 11 appliqued stars.  “PR” appliquéd in white, hand sewn, poor condition.

 Source: North Carolina Museum of History, Raleigh, NC 1938.6.2. For more information on Marsh, see Lewis, Taylor and Joanne Young,  The Hidden Treasure of Bath Town and visit the Bath State Historic Site where you can visit the Palmer-Marsh house, http://www.nchistoricsites.org/bath/palmer-marsh.htm.



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January 31, 1862

Dined with Sister Frances*.  All well & as usual, she busy making Haversacks and Flags for the Regiments to take the field in the Spring.  Went visiting in the morning.  Susan Rayner carried me into the Ladies Soldiers Aid Society, the same one to whom I gave my wool Mattrass in the Fall to be knit into socks.  Ellen Mordecai is the President and Susan the Treasurer.  We found about a dozen ladies all hard at work on Hospital shirts & drawers.  Ellen & Susan had their Sewing Machines & all were as busy as possible.  The work they have done is wonderful, indeed the Ladies all through the country have been heart & soul in the cause.  Never was there such universal enthusiasm, enthusiasm too which does not evaporate in words but shows itself in work, real hard work, steady and constant.  These Ladies have spent three days of the week at this Society room since Sept & show no signs of flagging.  Promised Ellen & Susan some Dahlia Roots & some Tube Roses in the spring when I plant mine out.  The first sunshiny days we have had in weeks!  I hope it crippled Burnside.

 * Longtime readers may recall that Catherine was extremely upset with Sister Frances last February, calling her a “terrible unionist.”  See the post here: http://wp.me/p1qIB8-L

Source: Edmondston, Catherine Ann Devereux, 1823-1875, Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston 1860-1866. Crabtree, Beth G and Patton, James W., (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979). http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/478.html

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Manassas Junction,Va., January 16, 1862

Dear Sister:

            I received your letter some days since and was very much rejoiced to hear from you, but I thought that you were a very long time in answering my last.  It came at last and eagerly did I devour the contents and with what pleasure I lingered on every sentence, no tongue can tell.  The description you gave of your tableau interested me very much, and I regret very much not being able to have been there, as all such scenes always interest me so much, besides the desire of seeing you act.  I think, myself, that you should have had your face painted, and that would have set off the piece a great deal.  It is a pretty hard piece.  Didn’t you feel pretty scared?  What does Dick act?  Who was that sweetheart of yours that has been home four times?  I should like to know him.

            We have a hard time of it here now.  The ground is covered with snow and then a sleet over that, and it is nearly as cold as the frozen regions, the winds come directly from mountains and blow around us like a regular hurricane.  But we have now moved into our winter quarters, huge log hut, and we keep very comfortable, but it is nothing like home, home with its sweet recollections.  As I sit and write I cannot refrain from gliding back into the past and enjoying the blessed memories of yore.  But enough of indulging the imagination, for this is a sad reality and it will not do for my imagination to assume too large a sway.  Tell Miss Myra that when I visitWashingtonI will call on her parents.  I expect to go there soon, either as a visitor or captive, but I hope as the former.  We will have a tableau before long, I expect, but I expect the scene will be played in a larger place than a hall.  It will encompass several miles and will take several hours to perform it, but when it does come off it will end in a sad havoc.  I am very thankful to you for those socks you knit for me, and when I wear them I shall think of you.  All around me are asleep and the huge logs have sunk into large livid coals ever and anon emitting large brilliant sparks, that cast a ghastly hue around the whole room, and I know think it time to close, so goodbye. 

Your loving brother,


Source: Laura Elizabeth Lee, Forget-Me-Nots of the Civil War: A Romance Containing Reminiscences and Original Letters of Two Confederate Soldiers (St. Louis, Missouri: A.R. Fleming Printing Co, 1909).  See also Joel Craig and Sharlene Baker, eds., As You May Never See Us Again: The Civil War Letters of George and Walter Battle, 4th North Carolina Infantry  (Wake Forest, NC: The Scuppernong Press, 2010).

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Monday 30th [December 1861]

Cold & a heavy frost. I went to the mill. George wanted me to look over E.P. Knight’s account. He thought Knight was getting along to fast I guess. It will be all right when Mr. Henry gets home & how I want to see him. Emeline Murray spent the day here, had a nice dinner & even coffee for dinner. I made me a coarse skirt of shirting on the machine today. It worked finely. I sprinkled the jeans this morning.  All are well.  Jim set in the morning to work. John not come.

Source: Diary of Cornelia Henry in Fear in North Carolina: The Civil War Journal and Letters of the Henry Family. Clinard, Karen L. and Russell, Richard, eds. (Asheville, NC: Reminiscing Books, 2008).

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Flag fragment, containing a St. Andrews Cross, made by the ladies of Asheville for the men of the 39th Regiment, NC Troops and presented to the Regiment in May 1862.  In the collections of the NC Museum of History, Raleigh.

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Camp Pickens

Manassas Junction Va

Nov the 20th 61

W.T.M. Phifer & Wife

Dear Brother and Sister,

            As I failed to send you a letter by Hyde I now seat myself to drop you a few lines which will inform you that I am enjoying the greatest of health.  I can’t tell you how much I way.  I haven’t been waid for some time but I tell you I am just busting all the buttons off my cloths.  I can’t hardly keep them soed on as fast as they come off.  You may say I don’t put them on good but I tell you I do I am a first rate hand at this business.  I can proove that by Lizzie.  She knows I am a good hand with a needle an thread before I got a stiff finger.  Well you can tell Mary that wescut she sent me would not meet on me with the strap buckeld.  I had to loose it and let it goe, and my pants when I got them at Camp Hill I could draw then up smartly by the strap but now I have to let it goe loose.  Well I think I have said enough to sattesfy you that I am a gallpuster you may think I am joking but it is the case.

            Well Thos that Battle hasn’t come off yet but still expecting it evry day.  We still keepe fetching them in every few days.  Since Hyde left there there has bin thirty two past the Junction going to Rich, they were caught in a corn field steeling corn.  Since that there has bin seventy odd taken and some sixty or seventy odd horses and I don’t remember how many wagons.  There was 7 prisoners an forty two horses landed today.  I can’t tell when the rest will come.  Well Thos I am going to undertake to tell you something about one of our prisoners that was taken in the Manassas Battle of the 21—but I don’t know wheather I can give you much sattasfaction about it or not.  If I could see you face to face I think I could but I fear I will fail by pen and ink.  Well he was relieced on Perroll this day was a week ago and arrived at our camp tonight.  He belonged to Col. Fishers Regt he sais he was the only one that was taken from that Regt and there was but 25 taken that he saw in the hole Battle.  He said he was tending to a wounded man and his Regt. retreated an he did not know antying about it and the first thing he new there was about 600 zoaves in twenty steps of him and told him if he moved they would shoot him down.  He said when they took him they told him they loved to hang him.  He said there was two took him by the arm and one bhind him with his gun and wood stick him every once and a while with his bayonet.  He said they fled him hand and foot for two days and nites and keep him in a stable.  Then they took to washington City.  When they got there they mobed him.  They took all his money from him too his pocket knife took his pocket handerchief and cut all the buttons off his coat that I saw with my own eyes they ware every one of.  He said the Gov alowed them crackers an water to eat but he said he got plenty.  He said he had plenty of friends there.  The ladies made up $900 to feed them and was very kind to them.  Some of them would curse them but he said he had plenty of friends.  He said the ladies sent their best respects to the Southern boys.  He said 2000 men could have taken the city at that time.  He  said lots of them never stoped till they got to N.Y. and what staid was looking for us for two or three days after the rite.  He said he never saw as bad scattered set in his life, they kept coming in for a week after the Battle.  They were so bad scattered they advertised in the city where they could find their corn and Regt.  He said  they never have acknowledged of being whiped yet, except the 21 they say we rather got them there, but they say we over powered them at Leesburg and they retreated.  He said about a week after the Leesburg Battle they took out 25 men at washington out of the Potomac that washed down there.  He said they had it in the papers there that N.C. had gone back into the union an that they were taken the oath of legion at Haters as fast as they could.  He said they don this in order to keep there men in good spirits and make them go on.  Well Thos I believe I will stop this subject.  I have forgotten his name but there was 57 left when he did and said there was but 29 left there.  He said they sent all that they got in N.C. to N.Y. He is now on the hunt of his Regt. an levs to go home in a few days.  Since writing the former part of this letter I heard that there was another train of Yankeess arrived at the Junction.  I did not learn how many.  They will leave in the morning for Richmond.  The health of the Regt is improving, Fuller is well.  I hope these few lines may find you well.  So nothing more remains your absent brother as ever

T.P. Gillespie

Sources: Christopher Watford, ed. The Civil War in North Carolina: Soldiers’ and Civilians’ Letters and Diaries, 1861-1865, Volume 1. (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2003).  Original in United States Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Carlisle, Pennsylvania

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The two homespun dresses featured this afternoon are plaid, and although we cannot know if they are made of cottons dyed and woven at the Alamance Cotton Mill, they are extremely similar to known examples of Alamance Plaids.  The Alamance Cotton Mill was producing high quality dyed plaids that were popular throughout the country prior to the Civil War.  Once war was declared, the mill changed its production to support the war effort and sold a vast quantity of textiles to the Confederate army. 


For more on the Alamance Mill, see this essay: http://ncmarkers.com/Markers.aspx?ct=ddl&sp=search&k=Markers&sv=G-82%20-%20ALAMANCE%20COTTON%20MILL

 The Alamance County Historical Museum has exhibits and information about the Alamance Mills too – including samples of the plaids! http://www.alamancemuseum.org/portal/History.aspx

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