Gentleman Johnny

Hello Hayseed readers!  Yes, I know it’s been a while…..

Come with me now, back in history, to the Revolutionary War. 

The place: Saratoga, NY

The year: 1777

The reason for writing this: Quilts!  Is there any other reason that makes sense?


John Burgoyne was a British general who convinced King George III that he could get those pesky colonists under control once and for all.

Burgoyne was known for traveling in style.  He went on the war path with a sizable wardrobe, the finest utensils for dining, and cases of champagne.  (The original “glamper”!)  He was known as Gentleman Johnny and I can see why.

I know what you’re thinking, “But, Val, what about the quilts?”

OK, Burgoyne’s plan to get the Americans back in line was to advance southward from Canada to Albany but at Saratoga all hell broke loose.  He expected reinforcements but they never came and his troops were surrounded.  It was a bad day for Gentleman Johnny.  The battle of Saratoga was a turning point in the war and the rest is, well, you know.  Amen.

I hear you saying, “Val, the quilt connection?”

OK, a couple years after Burgoyne’s defeat an 18th century quilter designed a block to illustrate this pivotal battle.  She called it Burgoyne Surrounded.  


For all you non-quilters out there, a “block” is the square that, when repeated, creates an overall secondary pattern.  In the case of the Burgoyne Surrounded block, it also illustrates a story which is easier to see when the colors are used like this.


The irregular 9-patch in the center represents Burgoyne and his troops.  The Americans are the circle surrounding the center.  The chain outside the circle are the British that Burgoyne was cut off from.

20 years ago I started a quilt using this block and I just got around to finishing it this year.  Can you find the block?  I like it as much for the story as for it’s visual simplicity.

Borgoyne Surrounded (3)

I have to thank the unknown quilter who created such an enduring design.  Here’s to you, Madame.  Many thanks!

Ask not what your fabric can do for you, but what you can do for your fabric.  —Anonymous 

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