Despite it being early morning, a line had already formed. They had gotten off the boat wobbly, still trying to get their land legs back since they had traveled all the way from England. Moving slowly, a mother holding the hand of her young daughter whispered again to her. Moving forward at the command of a union soldier, the young girl looked down, gripping her doll tightly to her chest. Looking up through her eyelashes at her mother as she talked to the man in a blue uniform, she tightened her hand in her mother’s. Another man in blue looked at the young girl smiling, saying to her what a cute doll she had, moving to touch it. The young girl moved behind her mother’s dress remembering her mother’s words whispered to her early in the line. “Don’t let anyone touch your doll.” The man who was talking to her mother yelled at the other for scaring the young girl and apologized to both of them, ushering them forward across the blockade. During the Civil War, the Union blockade hindered the passing of crucial supplies to the Confederate side. Many blockade runners were women and even young girls. Through the use of such people, the Confederates had spark creative ways of smuggling supplies over the blockade. In fact, dolls similar to this girl’s doll was used to smuggle anesthesia drugs through the Confederate lines.

A simple doll made of papier-mâché helped smuggled contraband across enemy lines with the help of a young girl, the niece of Confederate Major General James Patton Anderson. During the start of the Civil War, the South had been winning the war against the North. As the war began, a plan was introduced from the Union. This plan was known as the Anaconda plan. This plan attempted to surround the South and starve their supplies until the South had had enough. The North had a production economy and the South was mainly made up of plantations that produced cotton; the South lacked most of the industrial production that the North produced in abundance. This greatly hurt the South because, as mention before, the North introduced the Anaconda Plan, cutting the South’s access to all kinds of supplies, including anesthetics very much needed by the Confederate medical corps, which became limited and scarce. The need for anesthetics increased for the South.1 The necessity led to creative means, such as this example of using dolls to smuggle these drugs within them to the South.

Dolls named Nina and Lucy Ann are suspected to have been used to smuggle drugs used for anesthetic purposes across the North’s blockade. The South needed these supplies so desperately that dolls were used to carry them across. The Virginia Commonwealth University Heath System Radiology Department has taken X-rays of both dolls and discovered their heads to be hallowed out papier-mâché heads.2 This finding though could not prove that the dolls did, in fact, smuggle contraband across the blockade because many of the dolls during that time period had papier-mâché heads. Further analysis by the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC) concludes that the probability of the dolls being used for smuggling was very high because of evidence such as Nina’s head being secured by clips instead of it being sewed to the body. This evidence suggests that it allowed for things hidden inside that could be easily accessed. More evidence came from Lucy Ann, which had a gash on the back of her head, which was most likely used to get access to items likely contained inside her head. With this conclusion, the museum of the UFDC has stated that it is highly likely that these dolls were used to smuggle some kind of contraband during the Civil War.

The young girl held her doll safely to her chest, whispering reassurance to herself and to the doll. Once the mother had led her daughter to the edge of a clearing of grass near some of the trees across the field, a man in gray was standing there waiting. He ran across the field with such speed that once he had got across, he was out of breath, trying to express his thanks, causing the little girl to giggle at the man’s antics. The mother gently pushed her daughter forward. The young girl looked up at the man; she then kissed the doll’s forehead, and holding her in both hands, she lifted her up, giving the doll to the man. The man took the doll with great care, smiling gently to the young girl. Waving goodbye to her doll and the man, the young girl and her mother watched as he ran as fast as a rabbit across the clearing with the doll’s long curly brown hair swaying in the wind. The North’s blockade had made many of the supplies that the South needed very limited, but that only led to creative ways to circumvent the blockade, such as the use of dolls to smuggle important items across such blockades. The Confederates were desperate for such supplies and the use of dolls was a very good way to smuggle things across. With Nina and Lucy Ann being two such dolls, we now know more about how the South reacted to the blockade during the Civil War.

  1. Ruth Ann Coski, “Testing the Stories of the Museum’s Smuggling Dolls,” The Museum of the Confederacy Magazine, Spring 2011, 22-24.
  2. Ruth Ann Coski, “Testing the Stories of the Museum’s Smuggling Dolls,” The Museum of the Confederacy Magazine, Spring 2011, 22-24.

89 Responses

  1. What a great and informative article about an interesting side story during the civil war. It’s interesting that contraband smuggling has been around for as far back as the civil war. Southern innovation was interesting to hear about. The story-telling in this article was very well done it was a easy to understand story with decisions that made sense within the context of the story.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this article, it was full of imagery and really drew a picture in my head of what it was like to be the little girl, smuggling supplies across the border for the Confederate Army. It was interesting to learn how the Confederate Army used different techniques, like paper mache dolls to smuggle much needed supplies across the Union’s blockade, great job!

  3. I loved the story-telling element of this article. The Civil War was truly a joint effort, not just fought by soldiers, but by the ordinary civilian too. I was always aware of Southern smuggling efforts, and how it was considered high treason to the Union, but never had I heard it was done by these means. This was truly a creative way of smuggling goods across, as Union soldiers likely wouldn’t even begin to question the innocence of an unassuming little girl and her mother. I’m not exactly sure how much these small smuggling efforts assisted the South considering how great the casualties were, but it certainly shows how the ordinary Southern civilian was dedicated to the cause.

  4. This was quite an interesting story. It shows how people in the South had to get creative in order to obtain items that they needed. With the North constantly producing goods and needs and holding the South in their Anaconda plan, this left the South with a disadvantage. They were smart and clever to think of sending anesthetics inside the dolls. Job well done on your article!

  5. I found this article very informing and somewhat unique based on how the information was presented to us. I found your topic extremely interesting because I find the Civil War to be an intriguing subject and the creative ways the Confederacy transported supplies you mentioned certainly caught my attention. The way you told the story also kept my attention all the way through. You told it very much so as a story and I enjoyed that very much.

  6. It is quite strange to think how smuggling items in other non-contraband items has been around for a long time. A very interesting article about some of the non-combat aspects of life during the Civil War. I enjoyed the little story at the beginning and end to illustrate what some of the blockade runners could experience trying to pass through the union blockade of the south.  

  7. It was very interesting to read about the South improvements and was a very innovative place. The North helped people who were suffering and helped those people with opening arms. It was also very interesting to see how the Virginia Commonwealth University Heath System Radiology Department did X-rays on the dolls. Overall, this article was fantastic work and had me reading up until the very end!

  8. Hello Esperanza, I found your article to be interesting. It’s really cool to learn about how the South improvised and came up with such an idea or an idea that many believe to be true. Hallowing out a dolls head to stuff it with drugs, anesthetics, was a very smart idea. The North did it not for there own enjoyment but to help those who were in pain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.