The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries – Chapter 2:
Southern Belle and Yankee Puzzle…or a House Divided Will Fall…
By Beverly Hicks Burch
In her book A Quilter’s Diary: Written in Stitches, author Mimi Dietrich includes a section on “heritage”. Many of you would not be surprised to know I was drawn to that section. After all, genealogy is another passion of mine. I don’t know if we, as Southerners, are imprinted at birth to have a burning desire to know all our “begets”. I think yes…and sometimes, I think no…
I find it amazing to talk to younger people who have absolutely no interest whatsoever to know anything thing about those who came before them, or what and who makes them who they are. Actually I find it unthinkable, because what these young lions don’t understand is one day, God willing, they will be one of these “begets”…an ancestor if you will…and they will be just as forgotten if their descendents have the same attitude they do.
My heritage is about as Southern as it gets…as Southern as grits, fried chicken, chicken fried steak, pecan pie, mint juleps, magnolias and azaleas; AND you know how much I love that heritage. My Daddy’s people were from East Tennessee and Western North Carolina. Momma’s people were from East Tennessee and Middle Tennessee. (Tennessee is divided into East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee. If you’re from Tennessee, you understand all about that.)
Some of those ancestors in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina were mountain people. I’ve always felt that explains my affinity for the mountains. I recently wrote about that love and a surprising family discovery in a blog called, No Place Like Home…In More Ways Than One.
Given the choice, I will head for the mountains any day instead of the beach. Beach = torture. Well…maybe not all of the time… But, just let me ask you, “Do you know what happens if sand gets into my Bernina?!”
This is no joke, but I have actually taken my Bernina and holed up in a log cabin in the Smoky Mountains for about a week. Guess what I was doing? Nope, it wasn’t designing a new model of a stock car for NASCAR. That cabin, a cozy fire, my Bernina and piecing quilt blocks till my heart was content…that’s my definition of heaven on Earth. I can just see me lugging my Bernina down to the sandy shore…
My heritage is also Scots-Irish, English, German, Native American and a spattering of other nationalities that probably add up to a cell or two in my over all DNA and make-up. But, there is something else…something many Southerners may not even realize or may not want to “own up to” in their own heritage…and my diary blocks tell that story…
My diary blocks in this chapter are the Southern Belle block…and the Yankee Puzzle block. Whooaaa, wait a minute, I’m sure you’re saying…Yankee Puzzle?! Yep, that’s right…Bev is not ingesting funny mushrooms…you read it right.
You see, when you do genealogy, you discover some very interesting facts and situations. This die-hard, GRITS (Girl Raised In The South) has Southern ancestors that fought for the Union! I’m sure right now there is a collective gasp in some places, heads hung low in others and some heads shaking in disbelief that  this happened and  I would admit it.
You see after having traveled over this big beautiful USA, reading and watching media of all sorts, I have learned there are some decided impressions or stereotypes of antebellum Southerners. The most common are that most Southerners personally owned thousands of slaves, all Southerners were for “The Wawah” (War), Southerners were as dumb as pet rocks and the remainder of the Southern population was dirt poor, stayed barefoot and ate things like possum and entrails. Oh, and we can’t all do a “Rebel Yell”.
Well, if any of those were Jeopardy answers, the question would be, “What are some biased, idiotic, uninformed notions of antebellum Southern people?”
Not all Southerners owned slaves (yet pundits fail to teach or even mention Native Americans and free African Americans owned slaved during that period). Actually only about 4.8% of Southern whites owned slaves. In New Orleans alone 28% of free African Americans owned slaves before the War. US Federal Census records from the time are replete with information of slave holders of the day, both white and black. This is not to justify anything…this is just providing historical background.
As a result, not all Southerners necessarily sought War or wanted to go to war. Many dreaded sending sons to a War they didn’t have a stake in, others had moral trepidations with slavery, still other didn’t like the fact that Big Government was forcing some things down States throats (they believed in state’s rights) and that was unconstitutional…sound familiar?
We were a country sorely divided…it was a time in this country when we found out as a nation that “…if a house is divided (split into factions and rebelling) against itself), that house will not be able to last.” Mark 3:25 Amplified Bible Abraham Lincoln used that very Scripture in his famous “House Divided” speech. Yet, the country press on towards war…people on both sides had convictions they believed in…
Back in the hills, mountains and valleys of East Tennessee there was many a concerned and worried home. When the war did come, that part of Tennessee was torn asunder…homes were divided…families were divided. Some fought for the Confederate and some fought for the Union even within the same family.
My great-great-great grandfather Henry Ogle of Sevier County, Tennessee was one of those. He served in the Union Army.
Henry Ogle’s Civil War Pension Index Card
Yet, a couple of hundred miles to the west, in Middle Tennessee there seemed to be an unusual story that developed…
Family lore says my great-great grandfather George Washington Shaffer did something unusual. His brother was just about to be married and was also about to be conscripted into the Confederate Army. George volunteered in his brother’s stead. He went on and served in fighting around Nashville and Murphfreesboro…some of the worse battles in the War. George became sick and was hospitalized for some time.
Once George was well, he could have gone home back to Lawrence County, Tennessee, but he didn’t. He walked all the way to Mississippi and joined the Union force there and fought with the Union. Yep, George fought for both sides.
These stories aren’t exceptions to the rule. In Alabama there is an independent minded little county called Winston. During the Civil War, they seceded from the state of Alabama and became known as “the Free State of Winston”.
Then, of course, there were those that came South after the War…some were called carpetbaggers. I always said my marriage to Gomez the ex went south when I started digging around in his family history and discovered his paternal ancestors were carpetbaggers. I guess he thought his ancestors spontaneously and miraculously sprung from the red clay of Alabama after God flung a lightening bolt to the ground.
And then, there’s the reverse of that…imagine my surprise when I started digging around in the roots of my Southwestern cowboy and I found out his roots are as Southern as mine! Tickled me pink…no wonder he’s such a sweetheart…
So, there it is…why I’ve included the Southern Belle and Yankee Puzzle blocks in my diary quilt. They are both part of my heritage…one in a really big way and one in a smaller, surprising way. But, they are part of what makes me who and what I am.
Southern Belle Block
Yankee Puzzle Block
These blocks are both 6 inch machine pieced blocks. Once again I used the red, white and blue color scheme…kinda fitting. All pieces for the blocks were cut with the rotary cutter and they went together super fast…I’m having a blast with these little blocks…
So, on to Chapter 3 and what’s next in The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries…
(If you haven’t yet read the Introduction or Chapter 1 of the BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries, it not too late. You can find them here:
© 2009 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.