Library Catalog - Kentucky Historical Society

Object Record

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Object Name Quilt, Bed
Common Name Quilt
Catalog Number 1957.27
Maker Lee, Mrs. Robert E.
Date ca. 1870
Material(s) Cotton
Dimensions H-64 W-62 inches
Description This log cabin pattern quit has quilt blocks in reds, blues, greens, browns and blacks. There are six rows and six columns of ten inch squares. Each square is made of 21 pieces of fabric. The colors are grouped in bands creating an overall diamond pattern. From a distance the pattern is like squares stacked on each other and getting progressively smaller, first green, brown, blue, pink& blue, red, and then pink & blue in the center. The black fabric is made of wool as are some of the other fabrics. There are several patterned fabrics including two brown plaids, a red with white diamonds, a green background with multi-colored floral, a red background with repeating oval decoration, a red-on-red floral, and a peach background with large black polka-dots. The pieces are sewn onto a off-white fabric (this can be seen through holes in the quilt pieces). There is a thin batting layer. The quilt is backed with a printed pattern of stylized flowers that have purple centers and polka-dot petals. The edging is the same black fabric found in the quilt pieces.
Notes Letter 10-22-1971: "The quilt was made by Mrs. Robert E. Lee and presented to her friend, Mrs. Willoughby Newton Brockenborough. It had been bequeathed to her grandson, my husband." Mrs. James Brockenborough, Paducah, Ky.

Mrs. Brockenbraugh (b. Missouri, 11/25/1846) was an intimate friend of the Lee family. Her husband Willoughby served under General Lee during the Civil War. Perhaps she was given more than one quilt made by Mrs. Lee.

Mary Curtis Lee - Mary Anna Randolph Custis Lee (October 1, 1808 – November 5, 1873) was the wife of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Mary was the only surviving child of George Washington Parke Custis and Mary Lee Fitzhugh Custis, daughter of William Fitzhugh [1] and Ann Randolph. Mary was well educated, having learned both Latin and Greek. She enjoyed discussing politics with her father, and later with her husband. She kept current with the new literature and, after her father's death, edited and published his personal papers as "Recollections and Private Memoirs of Washington, by his Adopted Son George Washington Parke Custis, with a Memoir of this Author by his Daughter" in 1859.

Mary was diminutive and vivacious and had known Robert E. Lee from childhood. Among her other suitors was Sam Houston. The pair were married at her parents' home, Arlington House, June 30, 1831 and had seven children, three sons and four daughters: George Washington Custis, William H. Fitzhugh, Robert Edward, Mary, Agnes, Annie, and Mildred.

Mary inherited Arlington House from her father, and the estate became the couple's home whenever they were in the area. Mary was a gracious hostess and enjoyed frequent visitors. She was a painter, like her father, and painted many landscapes, some of which are still on view at the house. She loved roses and grew 11 varieties. She was deeply religious and attended Episcopal services when there was one near the army post. In Arlington, Virginia, the Lees attended the Christ Episcopal Church in Alexandria, the church she and Robert had attended in childhood.

Mary taught her slave women to read and write and was an advocate of eventual emancipation. She suffered from rheumatoid arthritis, and this became increasingly debilitating with advancing age. By 1861, she was confined to a wheelchair.

With the advent of the American Civil War, Lee and their sons were called to service in Virginia while Mary delayed evacuating Arlington House until May 15, 1861. Early that month, Lee wrote to Mary Anna saying:

"War is inevitable, and there is no telling when it will burst around you . . . You have to move and make arrangements to go to some point of safety which you must select. The Mount Vernon plate and pictures ought to be secured. Keep quiet while you remain, and in your preparations . . . May God keep and preserve you and have mercy on all our people."
Mary and her daughters moved between the several family plantations until they finally settled in Richmond, Virginia for the bulk of the war. Before Mary reached Richmond, she was caught behind the Federal lines as Union forces moved up the York River and the Mattaponi River toward Richmond. In a gentlemanly gesture by Union commander George B. McClellan, she was allowed to pass through the lines in order to take up residence in Richmond --- McClellan's campaign goal, ironically.

After the war, she accompanied her husband to Lexington, Virginia, where he became president of the Washington College, later renamed Washington and Lee University. She was able to visit her beloved Arlington House once more before her death, but she was unable to leave the carriage. She hardly recognized it except for a few old oaks and some of the trees she and Robert had planted. Mary died at the age of 66 and is buried next to her husband in the Lee family crypt at Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington and Lee.
Collection James Brockenborough Collection
Event American Civil War
People Lee, Mrs. Robert E.
Brockenborough, Mrs. Willoughby Newton
Subjects Beds
House work
Civil wars
Search Terms Kentucky
Quilt patterns
Civil War
Physical Holder Kentucky Historical Society - KHS