When it was auctioned off at the Sanitary Fair in Philadelphia in 1864, this patriotic quilt may have raised a few hundred dollars. Today the signatures it bears makes it a priceless Who’s Who of Civil War history.

The 56 signatures include luminaries from all walks of public life. Politicians, including Lincoln and his cabinet, appear alongside well-known officers in the Union army and poets, authors and artists.  

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Andrew Johnson and many of Lincoln’s generals, including Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman, put pen to fabric for this very special auction item.

The U.S. Sanitary Commission hosted sanitation fairs in cities across the country. Volunteers, primarily women eager to do their part to support the war effort, raised nearly $25 million in money and supplies during the war.

Sanitary Commission Quilt

Before the Assassination

Featuring 56 signatures from politicians to poets, the U.S. Sanitary Commission auctioned this quilt to support nursing services for Civil War soldiers. Who are some of the famous--and now not-so-famous--people featured?

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John Sedgwick

Sedgwick has the dubious distinction of being the highest-ranking Union casualty of the Civil War, in the Battle of Spotsylvania. Legend has it his last words were, “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”

Edward Everett

Edward Everett was a celebrated orator during the Civil War. Today he is best known for giving the two-hour speech that preceded Lincoln’s two-minute Gettysburg Address.

John Greenleaf Whittier

Whittier was one of the Fireside Poets, famous American poets that include Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and William Cullen Bryant—all of whom signed the quilt.

John Ross

John Ross was principal chief of the Cherokee nation from 1827 until his death in 1866. He led his people on the Trail of Tears, when the U.S. Government forced the Cherokee from their homeland in Georgia to Oklahoma.

Millard Fillmore

Fillmore was elected as Zachary Taylor’s vice president in 1849 and, when Taylor died in 1850, Fillmore served as president until 1853. Fillmore was critical of Lincoln's policies, including the Emancipation Proclamation.