Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Daring Hoop Skirt Blockade Runner

Civil War blockade runner. While the phrase immediately brings to mind images of Rhett Butler (let's be honest), Rhett and his male counterparts weren't the only ones bringing in goods for the South. Southern women had an ingenious weapon at their immediate disposal to help them aid the war effort--the hoop skirt. 

And so without further ado we bring you the tale of a daring hoop skirt blockade runner, as remembered by Sara Pryor, a Virginian aristocrat and the wife of Confederate general Roger Pryor: 
"One day I was in an ambulance, driving on one of the interminable lanes of the region, the only incident being the watery crossing over the 'cosin,' as the driver called the swamps that had been 'Poquosin' in the Indian tongue. Behind me  came a jolting two-wheeled cart, drawn by a mule  and driven by a small negro boy, who stood in front with a foot planted firmly upon each of the shafts. Within, and completely filling the vehicle, which was nothing more than a box on wheels, sat a dignified-looking woman. The dame of the ambulance at once became fascinated by a small basket of sweet potatoes which the dame of the cart carried in her lap. 

"With a view to acquiring these treasures I essayed a tentative conversation upon the weather, the prospects of a late spring, and finally the scarcity of provisions and consequent suffering of the soldiers.

"After a keen glance of scrutiny the market woman exclaimed, 'Well, I am doing all I can for them! I know you won't speak of it! Look here!'

"Lifting the edge of her hooped petticoat, she revealed a roll of army cloth, several pairs of cavalry boots, a roll of crimson flannel, packages of gilt braid and sewing silk, cans of preserved meats, a bag of coffee! She was on her way to our own camp, right under the General's nose! Of course I should not betray her — I promised. I did more. Before we parted she had drawn forth a little memorandum book and had taken a list of my own necessities. She did not 'run the blockade' herself. She had an agent — 'a dear, good Suffolk man'— who would fill my order on his next trip.

"It isn't worth while to tell men everything. They are not supposed to be interested in the needle-and-thread ways of women!" 
--excerpted from Reminiscences of peace and war (1905)
So there you have the brave tale of subterfuge, goods smuggling--and crinoline and petticoats.  And just think: if some regular ole Southern lady could be so inventive with her hoop skirts, can you imagine what our own intrepid Scarlett would be able to do with them? If the girl could turn green curtains into the ultimate seduction weapon, I shudder to think what she would be able to accomplish with an especially voluminous hoop skirt in her arsenal.


  1. Ha! That was completely awesome...

  2. Hey! I live near Suffolk Virginia!

    Also, I had a history professor in college who told a similar hoop skirt story involving his great grandmother (not sure how many "greats"). Anyway, said grandmother was a die hard southerner. Her husband had gone off to war and she was pretty much left alone in their big house (I think she had some servants). One day a Confederate spy came by and she fed him but before he could head out on his way, Yankees came by looking for said spy. She hid him under her skirt and just didn't move and the spy wasn't found. Kind of wild, especially for those days!

    I'm loving the blog! Keep up the good work ladies!

  3. Haha, that's an awesome story, Amy. I love it!

    We'll probably have more posts on hoop skirts in the future, as they were frequently lampooned back in the day and there's lots of material out there about them.

    Thanks for sharing your story and I'm glad that you are enjoying the blog!


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