Innocent Civil War Dolls and Smuggling Drugs

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.
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76 Comments

  • A very interesting and informative article in the sense that it displayed information I didn’t previously know nor ever thought was possible! It’s weird to me knowing that dolls were used to smuggle drugs across enemy lines, but at the same time it’s not super surprising given the fact that it’s always the objects we least expect to carry contraband across borders they’re not supposed to cross. I hope to learn more about the “hidden” details of the civil war in the future!

  • This article is very interesting because not only does it highlight the viewpoints and political slander of both Lincoln and Douglas, but contrasts them to their party affiliations. This distinguishes these men as more than just puppets for their own party but as individuals who align themselves against one another based off of principle and interpretation of the constitution. The author did a great job depicting the debates, how they were formatted, and the struggle both of them faced in trying to stay true to these revered ways.

  • This is an interesting article written to remind us of the ingenuity required during war to meet shortages and sometimes conduct drug smuggling in later days.
    I had heard of Confederate smuggling before before but not anesthesia and pain killers. Dolls were never really Barbie size until Barbie. And few gentlemen ( like the soldiers from the north and the south) would harm a child or her of his play toys.
    I can fully see and understand smuggling needed supplies using something which would not be carefully examined.

  • During the civil war, even today, people use really creative ways to sneak supplies without people finding out. However, I would have never imagined they would use a little girl’s doll. I was surprised to read it was used to smuggle anesthesia drugs through the Confederate lines. It is accurate to say that when it comes to war. People will do anything and try everything to win and get what they need. Overall, outstanding topic selection with a good introduction. Good work.

  • This was a very interesting article. I had never known about this fact of the war. The article serves both as a reminder of the horrors of the Civil War as well as the ingenuity of some of the military leaders in creating these ways to smuggle drugs across the enemy lines. This article was informative and piqued my curiosity to continue reading about your topic even after I had completed reading your writing. Thank you for this piece!

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