1863 Susannah Pullen's Civil War Quilt

Mrs. Gilbert (Susannah G.) Pullen and her Sunday school class made this pieced quilt in Augusta, Maine in 1863. She followed the guidelines set by the U.S. Sanitary Commission for bedding to be used in the Civil War. The fourteen young ladies in the Sunday school class contributed over 150 inscriptions that were penned on the quilt's fifteen separate star-patterned blocks. They chose Bible passages, stories to uplift and guide, and riddles to which the answer was only to be found in the Bible. They also provided numerous inscriptions on practical health advice, patriotic messages, and light-hearted riddles. Even personal messages such as: "If you are good looking send me your photograph. Direct to the name in the large square. E.G.D." appeared on the quilt. It was hoped that the quilt would not only provide a diversion for the wounded soldiers during their long days recovering in hospital but also "alleviate or prevent disease and lead to happiness and Heaven." The numerous inscriptions on this quilt provide an insight into the feelings and concerns of the period and perhaps all war eras.
Susannah Pullen expressed hope for correspondence when she penned these words on the quilt: "We have many dear friends connected with the army & any proper letters from any persons embraced in the defense of our country, received by any whose names are on this quilt shall have a reply. Tell us if nothing more its destination. We meet with many others to sew for you every Wednesday and your letters would prompt us to more exertions for our patriots." Two letters remain with the quilt and attest to its use at the Carver and Armory Square Hospitals in Washington D.C. A letter from Sergt. Nelson S. Fales of Nov. 22, 1863 eloquently expresses his gratitude: "Dear Madam I have had the pleasure of seeing the beautiful 'Quilt' sent by you to cheer and comfort the Maine Soldiers. I have read the mottoes, sentiments, etc., inscribed thereon with much pleasure and profit."
On the back of the quilt Susannah Pullen penned these words: “The commencement of this war took place Apr. 12th 1861. The first gun was fired from Fort Sumter. God speed the time when we can tell when, and where, the last gun was fired; & ‘we shall learn war no more.’ If this quilt survives the war we would like to have it returned to Mrs. Gilbert Pullen, Augusta, Me . . . This quilt completed Sept. 1st 1863.” It did survive use during the Civil War, and it was returned to Mrs. Pullen as she requested.
Susannah G. Corey was born in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1816. She married Gilbert Pullen (1810-1890) April 26, 1840. Gilbert was listed as a marble cutter on the 1850 census. They lived in Augusta, Maine with their two daughters, Susan E. and Charlotte. Susannah and Gilbert were members of the First Baptist Church. Susannah died November 26, 1871, and is buried in the Forest Grove Cemetery in Augusta, Maine.
Susannah Pullen's Civil War Quilt was exhibited at a library in Augusta, Maine, for many years. Over time the inscriptions faded, but fortunately a transcription of them was made in the early-twentieth century. In 1936 Susannah’s granddaughter, Gertrude B. Davis, donated the quilt in her mother’s name, Charlotte Pullen Scruton. It is a reminder of the efforts of the many women who used their needlework and organizational skills to provide comfort for the armies of both the North and South.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
Pullen, Mrs. Gilbert
Physical Description
fabric, cotton (overall material)
thread, cotton (overall material)
filling, cotton (overall material)
pieced; lined, quilted (overall production method/technique)
overall: 84 in x 50 in; 213 cm x 126 cm
Place Made
United States: Maine, Augusta
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Civil War
Government, Politics, and Reform
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Textiles
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Charlotte Pullen Scruton
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

1/14/2016 1:09:54 PM
This beautiful quilt is a reminder of how a collaborated love for others can be manifested by those who care, and imagine it still exists today. Thank you for sharing it and reveling it to the world.
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