Civil War Patterns for Soldiers, Fairs & Gun Boats

Patterns for Reenactors and Others Wanting to Reproduce Authentic Quilts
(click on the quilts pictured below to find their patterns)

April 14, 1861 - "Civil War has finally been declared. War between the two sections of our once happy, prosperous country. The telegraph brought the startling news today that the first gun of Rebellion was fired at Charleston at four clock on Friday morning April 12."
From the diary of Rebecca Loraine Richmond
"The Civil War Diary Quilt"

Quiltmaking for Reenactors

Reenactors are well aware of many aspects of the Civil War and are known for their desire to be historically accurate. These Civil war quilt patterns will help reenactors, as well as others interested in the Civil War, in finding authentic quilting projects.

Union quilt

There were two ways quiltmaking was done for soldiers both Confederate and Union. Many elegant quilts were made to earn money through fairs and auctions to help the war efforts. But most of all, quilts were needed to warm the soldiers in the field and in hospitals.

Union Fairs and Quiltmaking
In the northern states there had been a long tradition of women making quilts for various causes so when the war began their energy simply shifted to raising money for the Union cause. Sanitary Fairs and similar events were held to help buy needed supplies to be distributed by the Sanitary Commission and other organizations. Fancy work from afghans to quilts were sold. But these fairs were far more than just a bazaar. Some included exhibition halls, livestock, and farm equipment. Such events could last a week or more. The grandest fair of all was the 1864 New York Metropolitan Fair. In a time when the average family income was around $500 a year this three week extravaganza netted an amazing $1.2 million dollars!

eagle quilt

Silk was fashionable for clothing during this period and silk patchwork was considered quite elegant. The Log Cabin quilt pattern first appeared at this time. It and other patterns were made up in silk, wool and fine cottons for these events. Fancy appliqued quilts were also popular displaying floral and political motifs including the eagle and flag.

Gunboat Quilts Made by Southern Ladies

The best known confederate quilts were the "gunboat quilts" made to raffle off in order to buy desperately needed gunboats. Quilts were just one of many items made by the women to be sold or auctioned off during the fairs and festivities for the Confederate cause.

gunboat quilt

Gunboat quilts were truly magnificent often with broderie perse flowers and other motifs appliqued on them. Some piecing was done but fine stitching in both the applique and quilting prevailed. As with the North, fine fabrics were used in these elaborate creations. After the North blockaded the southern ports the money earned went to hospitals for the sick and wounded instead. The sense of optimism reflected in the gunboat quilts dissipated.

Quilts for the Soldiers

Both southern and northern women made quilts for their soldiers.

Northern women rallied to the call for clothing, blankets, and quilts. Not only were new quilts made but existing quilts were contributed. Two regular quilts could be remade into three cot quilts. As the war continued on supplies ran short and even precious heirloom quilts were remade into soldier's quilts. When no quiltmaking supplies were left for families to contribute fundraising events helped provide money for needed fabric. It is estimated that 250,000 quilts and comforters were made for Union Soldiers.

cot quilt Providing quilts for the Confederate soldiers became especially difficult for southern women when their ports were blockaded and fabric became scarce. Although the South grew cotton the North manufactured the cloth. Some rural women and slaves knew how to spin and weave but many women had to learn these skills. One popular song proclaimed, "Three cheers for the homespun dress the Southern ladies wear." Homespun, once considered crude clothing only suitable for slaves and the very poor, became a source of Confederate pride.

Civil War Quilt Patterns

As you can see Civil War quilt patterns varied greatly depending on the purpose of the quilt. This leaves so many choices for Civil War reenactors and others wanting to make these quilts. You can make everything from an easy utility quilt like those made for soldiers to a fine applique quilt like the quilts made to raise money for the cause both North and South.

Learn more about civil war quilting
Civil War Quilt History

2007 Judy Anne Breneman

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Civil War Diary Quilt
, by Rosemary Youngs

"Quilts From the Civil War", by Barbara Brackman

"Alabama Gunboats" by Byrding Adams Quiltmaking in America: Beyond the Myths

"Quilts for Union Soldiers in the Civil War" by Virginia Gunn,
Quiltmaking in America: Beyond the Myths