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.”
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.