If you’ve been a visitor to the Stonewall Jackson Inn sometime in the past few years, you may have noticed a curious 4′x4′ painted square attached to the side of the Inn’s building. And if you’ve wandered around the downtown area, you may have noticed other squares, decorated with varying patterns and adorning the fronts of other buildings. They are quilt blocks, and they’re part of Harrisonburg’s local quilt trail — just one of many national such trails. Here, Dr. Wayne Engel tells the story of the creation and inspiration behind the coming-to-be of this particular square:
How did you get involved with the Quilt Trail?
In 2012, The Virginia Quilt Museum, which is located in Harrisonburg, approached us to help establish the first and only Walking Quilt Trail adjacent to the Museum in our Historic District. As a historic property (circa 1875), we were a natural to launch and anchor that initiative, as quilting and flag making was an exceptionally patriotic and popular pastime for women during the Civil War period. Along with select other Harrisonburg properties, we were invited to either find or uniquely design an authentically historical quilt block from that period.
Can you share a little more about the Trail?
Harrisonburg’s Historic District’s Walking Quilt Trail features approximately 12 historically unique quilt blocks. All are artistically beautiful and were chosen or designed with the historical significance of the building or business in mind. Many more such decorated blocks can be discovered as you drive around the Valley — barns are a good place to look.
What was your inspiration for the square you designed?
The original pattern for this block is found in the beautiful applique “Butterfly” quilt designed and made by Jefferson Davis’ wife Varina at the end of the Civil War. Her granddaughter gave it to the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond Virginia. When given, she informed them that it was designed as a commemorative quilt to signify the noble spirit of the Confederacy even in defeat. This original block was the only one geometrically designed with a beautiful variant style of the historical St. Andrew’s Cross, and is the only repeated block in the quilt.
Do you have any idea where she got her inspiration?
The Stonewall Jackson’s Brigade Regimental flags may have been the inspiration behind Varina’s original creation. The 2nd Virginia was the first regiment formed, but three additional regiments were added by Jackson after the Harper’s Ferry deployment and fought with sometimes unbelievable courage, dedication, and fierce loyalty to General Jackson. These flags all displayed the St. Andrew’s Cross design containing the seven stars, one for each state. Virginia (of course) is clearly identified and is represented as the center core star of the Confederacy as in the Davis Block. (For a bit of historical trivia: The Virginia Regimental number identification is above the star. Thus, the 2nd Regiment would have a “2″ above the Virginia Star and so on.)
Why did you specifically select the 2nd Virginia Battle Flag as the reference source for the Inn’s quilt block?
The 2nd Virginia Regiment was made up of men from the Harrisonburg area (the Valley Guards) and western Virginia where General Jackson was born and grew up. Jackson could always count on these men in battle. He always placed them in key positions and the fiercest combat locations on the battle line to ensure the outcome of the battle. Thus, they were the lead regiment of the famous “Stonewall Brigade.” The flag was never captured, and was carried into all 13 major battles of the Brigade from the very first battle at Harper’s Ferry in 1861 (to capture John Brown and secure the armory there) to the final surrender in 1865. During these years, approximately 2000 men served in the 2nd Virginia. At the Appomattox surrender there were 62 men and 9 officers with the highest rank a Captain, left to surrender their combat-weary battle flag. Such bravery, courage, and loyalty deserves to remembered and told.
Keeping the story alive… is this why you’ve named the Inn the Stonewall Jackson?
Yes — in addition to Stonewall Jackson’s historically brilliant defense of the Shenandoah Valley and support of General Lee, he was greatly respected as a person, leader, and hero. As the Valley hero he inspired character and great loyalty from his men and the admiration of everyone, North and South. Thus high schools, parks, streets, and all manner of things carry his name to honor his nobility and that of the men under his command.
Where can guests find the Inn’s quilt block?
As you approach the Inn from the parking lot, you’ll see the painted square mounted on the side of the building. It’s one of many great photo opps around the Inn and downtown area. I’ll even stand there in the photo with you!