Hamilton County at the Smithsonian

Hamilton County at the Smithsonian

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

When someone mentions the Smithsonian Institution, you may think about famous objects like the Spirit of St. Louis and the Hope Diamond.  Of course, there are also many small everyday objects.  Some from them are from Hamilton County.  For example, the new National Museum of African American History & Culture has information and images from Roberts Settlement.

One item has actually been mentioned in several books – a quilt.  It was made by Mary Rockhold Teter (1817-1897) at the beginning of the Civil War.  The war would come to have very personal meaning for her.  She and her husband Thomas had four daughters that died in infancy, and three sons – Joseph, George, and Newton.  Two of them would serve in the war. George (1845-1927) – whose name is on the quilt – enlisted first in Co. D of the 109th Indiana Infantry July 10, 1863.  However, for some unknown reason, he mustered out a week later. He reenlisted in April of 1864 in Company D, 136th Indiana Infantry.  There is no clear record of his service.

The war would have its greatest impact on Mary though her eldest son Joseph (b. 1843).   He served as a private in the 19th Battery, Indiana Light Artillery, and also as a private in Company D, 101st Indiana Infantry.

It’s not clear which one he served in first.  Joseph would be killed at the battle of Chickamauga.  On the internment record at the Chattanooga National Cemetery, his death date is listed as Oct. 22, 1863.  Interestingly, the cemetery was one created by William Wainwright.

The quilt has a date of 1861 stitched into it, and it’s commonly identified as having been made in that year.  However, the names of the generals stitched into it confuse this dating somewhat.   “General Scott” probably means Winfield Scott, who was the General-in-chief of the army.  “General Lyon” is probably General Nathaniel Lyon who died on the battlefield in 1861.  The only “General Taylor” who fits near this time frame is George W. Taylor who died on the battlefield in 1862, and had a poem written about him.  While the quilt may have been finished in 1861, the names may have been added later.

The quilt is mentioned in several books that are available at the library:

“Quilts from the Civil War” by Barbara Brackman

“Smithsonian Civil War: inside the national collection” edited by Neil Kagan

“Legacies:  collecting America’s history at the Smithsonian” by Steven Lubar and Kathleen M. Kendrick

“S is for Smithsonian” by Marie and Roland Smith



Both library locations will close at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 22 and reopen at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, November 24.
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