By Katherine Taylor-McBroom, Curator of Exhibits and Collections
Since our museum collection tends to be heavy in military artifacts, the crazy quilt from the Estate of Col. William Day Munson is one of our more unusual and beloved objects in the current exhibition, 200 Years—200 Objects.
The crazy quilt is a showpiece for fabrics of tantalizing varieties, including silk and velvet, and splendid threads of fanciful embroidery. The arrangement of the pieces yield to free motion over orderly placement and repeated motifs. With its unusual finished size, lack of batting, and delicate materials, crazy quilts were not intended for bedding but for display in the house. We believe the Munson family quilt given its impeccable condition was never used but a prized piece prominently displayed in Col Munson’s home.
Col. William Day Munson was born in Colchester, Vermont, February 7, 1833. He graduated from Norwich University in 1854 with a Bachelor of Science and became an assistant engineer on the St. Croix and Lake Superior Railroad until the Civil War began. In 1862 Munson recruited a company in Winooski, Vermont, which became the 13th Vermont Regiment, Company D, and served as their lieutenant colonel beginning in 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg.
At Gettysburg, Col. Munson’s 13th Regiment, along with the 2nd Vermont Brigade and the 16th Vermont Regiment, were part of the famous “Stannard’s Brigade.” Under the direction of Union General George Stannard the brigade stood ready upon Cemetery Ridge as 10,500 Confederate soldiers rushed up the slope of the hill to their death. “Stannard’s Brigade” turned the tide of the battle, and eventually the war, by resisting General Pickett’s charge and decimated 10,500 Confederate soldiers.
After the war, Munson returned to farming and surveying in Colchester until his wife, Julia, died in 1878. Col. Munson and his son traveled to South Carolina and Georgia for seven years teaching music and playing with concert orchestras. In 1885, he returned to Colchester to continue farming and surveying until his death in 1903.Due to his travels and the loss of his wife, perhaps this colorful and luxurious quilt was a comforting reminder of family and home.