Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Yankee Puzzle Quilt Block

This 12" Yankee Puzzle quilt block is the seventh block of my Irish Great-Grandpa Sampler Quilt.  It was originally published in 1929 by Ruth Finley in her book Old Patchwork Quilts and the Women Who Made Them.  This pattern also goes by other names - Hour Glass, Pork and Beans, The Whirling Blade, and Big Dipper.  The pattern plus in-depth historical information by Barbara Brackman can be found here.  Her directions are for an 8" finished block.  I made my block 12" by starting out with 7-1/4" squares of each color instead of her 5-1/4" squares.  Each square is then cut twice diagonally to create the four triangles of each color.      

While my maternal grandmother was still in high school, she interviewed her father, James Lynch, at the urging of her older brother Will, who was living in China at the time.  (Read his letter to her here.)  Later, she wrote a biography of her father from the notes she'd taken during the interview.  Following is the seventh part of this biography:

"On August 12, 1862, James enlisted and joined the Company G of the Illinois Volunteer 74th Infantry on the side of the North in the Civil War.*  His commander was General Thomas, whom he liked.  Some of the battles he fought in were:  Cableorchard (the first one), Peachtree Creek, Murfreesboro, Chattanooga, Chickamauga, Francisville, Liberty Gap, and Perryville.  He was never wounded, but a bullet hit his canteen and he lost all of his drinking water.  He and his comrades were hungry many times.  They were sent out to forage from the farms around them.  Once he and another soldier tried to rob a bee tree, with many stings and little honey.  After the war, he was discharged at Nashville, Tennessee on June 10, 1865."
  - by Hazel Lynch Skonberg, James Lynch's daughter 

* Very specific details about Company G of the Illinois Volunteer 74th Infantry and the battles they fought in may be found here on pages 228-233.

James Lynch, Private in Company G of the 74th Illinois Infantry
Union Army, Civil War

Hardtack was a biscuit made of flour with other simple ingredients, and issued to Union soldiers throughout the war.  Hardtack crackers made up a large portion of a soldier's daily ration.  Large factories in the North baked hundreds of hardtack crackers every day, packed them in wooden crates and shipped them out by wagon or rail.  If the hardtack was received soon after leaving the factory, they were quite tasty and satisfying.  Usually, the hardtack did not get to the soldiers until months after it had been made.  By that time, they were very hard, so hard that soldiers called them tooth dullers and sheet iron crackers.  Sometimes they were infested with small bugs the soldiers called weevils, so they referred to the hardtack as "worm castles" because of the many holes bored through the crackers by these pests. Soldiers were usually allowed six to eight crackers for a three-day ration.  There were a number of ways to eat them - plain or prepared with other ration items. Soldiers would crumble them into coffee or soften them in water and fry the hardtack with some bacon grease.

Union Hardtack Recipe
2 cups of flour
1/2 to 3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon of Crisco or vegetable fat
6 pinches of salt

1.  Mix the ingredients together into a stiff batter.  Knead several times and spread the dough out flat to a thickness of ½” on an ungreased cookie sheet.
2.  Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.
3.  Remove from oven, cut dough into 3-inch squares, and punch four rows of holes, four holes per row into the dough.
4.  Turn dough over, return to the oven and bake another 30 minutes.
5.  Turn oven off and leave the door closed. Leave the hardtack in the oven until
cool. Remove and enjoy!

James Lynch's Discharge Papers from the Union Army

Illinois Civil War Detail Report
Name:  James Lynch
Rank:  Private
Company:  G
Unit:  74 Illinois US Infantry

Personal Characteristics:
Residence:  Monroe, Ogle County, Illinois
Age:  28
Height:  5'11-1/2"
Hair:  Dark
Eyes:  Blue
Complexion:  Light
Marital Status:  Single
Occupation:  Farmer
Nativity:  Clonmel, Tipperary, Ireland

Service Record:
Joined When:  August 12, 1862
Joined Where:  Linnville, Illinois
Joined By Whom:  E. F. Dutcher
Period:  3 years
Muster In:  September 4, 1862
Muster Out:  June 10, 1865
Muster Out Where:  Nashville, Tennessee
Muster Out By Whom:  Captain Chickering

 Are you interested in reading more about my Irish Great-Grandpa Sampler Quilt?  You'll find it all right here.

You might also enjoy reading my previous blog post


  1. It is wonderful that so much detailed information about the Civil War--battles, etc--is available to the public. It makes it so personal. So many men and boys lost.

    How did they manage to live on hardtack?? It does not sound very nutritional.

  2. War seems to affect every generation. James fought in the Civil War, his son, Floyd, served in World War I, another son, Will, (the brother who encouraged Hazel to interview her father) was in the Consular Service in Shanghai, China, and was taken as a diplomatic prisoner on December 12, 1941, at the beginning of World War II, when the Japanese captured that city. Also, at least two boys in the next generation later served in VietNam.

  3. I love a history lesson brought home!

  4. I am really enjoying your journey through your Great Grandad's life and your quilt blocks. A large number of my relations have emigrated from Ireland to the States down through the years including one G G Grand Uncle who emigrated about the time of your G Grandad. He also emigrated with a number of his siblings, some of whom worked in the cotton mills, and he too served time in the Civil War so your posts gives me a taste of what their lives could have been.
    Clonmel is a lovely town, and in Irish (Gaeigle) means the Honey Fields, in other words the best of land; that was the hardship of the Famine even those with the best of land died because their one and only crop and main source of food failed. These websites, if you would like to read more, are good ones to help explain an event that happened over 170 years ago and that still resonates today; when you consider Ireland lost 4 million people or half its population during and in the following 20years then the full horror of the what happened in the 1840s becomes apparent.
    Those that emigrated, like your G Grandad and his siblings well, I am in awe of their resilience and resourcefulness, they are just amazing people to survive and thrive in a new land. Looking forward to the rest of your quilt!

  5. Very interesting to get first-hand historical information!

  6. The block is fantastic! The story is very interesting. Having a mothers side from the north and having a fathers side from the south, it's hard to hear what was done to both sides. Reading Alice's Tulips made me think of the north side too and what was done and here we read a little of the south side and what was done. Both from a north perspective. We have similar stories here from the south perspective all around us in Georgia. I have heard the south side my whole life. Now hearing some of the north. LOL! Sounds like things were the same on both except the groceries were much cheaper up north for Alice in Alice's Tulips than they were down here in Atlanta. LOL!

  7. I enjoyed this story involving the Civil War. I also had relatives that served in that war. I wish I had a picture of one of them in uniform. Your family is very blessed to have so much pictorial documentation to accompany the written family history.


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