Blogging A-Z Q Is For Quinine


I have a steamer trunk similar to this and it would be like some of the trunks Lorena and Imogene have.


Some of the traveling Victorian vanity cases in were quite elegant.

With the outbreak of war, supplies of medicines and manufactured goods soon became a problem in the South, which was definitely a agrarian society. The capital, which had been in Montgomery, Alabama was moved to Richmond, Virginia to defend its manufacturing center even though Richmond was perilously close to the northern border. With so little manufacturing already in place in the South, they couldn’t afford to lose any.

Very soon couriers and smugglers began procuring needed supplies, including medicines. The Moon Sisters and mother were involved in smuggling and spying. Ginnie Moon and her mother were arrested while carrying a large quantity of quinine, opium, and morphine hidden in quilts and their their hoop skirts. They might possibly have escaped with the bottles hidden in the hoop skirts if someone hadn’t brushed against Ginnie and the bottles in her skirt clinked together.

It didn’t help that the arresting officer mumbled, “I suppose you feel like hurrahing for Jeff Davis,” whereupon she raised her arm in the air and proclaimed, “Hurrah for Jeff Davis!”

This happened over and over during the war. Women crept into Union camps and stole shoes, weapons, and food and hid them in their skirts to scurry away in the dark. Carriages were rigged with false bottoms to smuggle supplies as with Lorena’s in the following scene where she’s smuggling medical supplies as well as military plans out of Washington. She and Imogene have been stopped by a group of Zouaves who are stationed to search travelers. We’ll see more of the Zouaves on Z day.

I stopped fanning. “I spoke to the commandant before I left to make sure I was not breaking any rules. Ink was not on the contraband list.”

He (the captain) motioned to the rest of the crates. “Open them up. See what’s in there.”

I flounced over to him. “Captain, really I–”

“Yes, I know. You must protest.”

While the rest of the ink crates were being opened he had two soldiers pull our trunks from the back of carriage.

“Really, Captain? What do you think we’re going to carry in our trunks? We could barely get our clothes in there. This is intolerable.”

“Four trunks for two women? I could stuff a small army in there.”

“I’ll refrain from comment.”

“Please do.”

The trunks were unloaded and opened. Dresses were taken out and shaken. They opened every drawer, holding up each item for the captain to inspect. Imogene had a very complete array of vanity items, so that took a while though I had stocked up also, anticipating just such a situation. The soldiers doing the unpacking were completely flummoxed and a bit embarrassed by the procedure. I had a sense this was not normal.

“Is all this really necessary?” the captain asked as the third row of drawers was opened.

“Not if you prefer unkempt women who care nothing of their appearance. There’s a reason southern men don’t stray.”

“Because they fear for their damned lives mostly.”

“Language.” I continued to fan myself and watched with mild interest as the poor soldiers grew more agitated the deeper they dug.

“Miss?” I turned to see Lieutenant Cormac. “We can’t get Miss Boudreaux’s boot off. Our button hooks are too large. She has seventeen buttons and refused to let the doctor cut the boot off!”

“Well, yes, she has such a small foot the buttons are quite delicate. If the captain would allow me, I could fetch it for you. If it’s still where it was though heaven knows I seem to have a summer storm blowing through everything from caplet to corset.”

“I ain’t touched no corsets, ma’am,” said one of the poor conscripted soldiers.

“The day is young.” I pulled a button hook from the top vanity drawer of Imogene’s trunk. “There you go, sir. Is there anything else she requires?”

“She is quite upset and in pain,” Cormac said. “Perhaps you can come comfort her?”

“Tell her I will come as soon as we’ve been thoroughly searched. Do not tell her your comrades are rifling her unmentionables.”

“Oh, dear God, no, ma’am. I would never in life tell her that. Trust me.”


  1. Julie, I always learn so much on your blog. What an extensive wealth of knowledge you have! It’s inspiring 🙂
    I must admit, it’s also making me more conscious of the fact that, if I ever move away from MG and YA, and write that historical crime series that’s been fermenting for over a decade, exactly how much research must needs yet be done. And that’s a good notion to realise. (Not that that last sentence even makes sense, but there’s three kids need feeding and I’m rushed for time lol) Thanks for this!

    1. “Research as you go’ – that’s good thinking. ‘Eating an elephant one bite at a time’ kind of idea. Is that how *you* do it? Research, I mean, not eating elephants! 🙂

  2. It’s interesting how polite the soldiers are with the ladies they’re searching. I believe it, but it’s so different to how such a scene would play out today! Once again, fascinating stuff, Julie. 🙂

    1. Well, some were unfailing polite. Sherman’s, Sheridan’s, and Butler’s men were out of control thugs. In this case, I believe Wallace’s Zouaves were stationed outside Alexandria on these dates and they were well disciplined.

      As for today’s soldiers, my son was in Iraq and even with the war going on women weren’t savaged. If women had to be searched they had other women search them if at all possible. Soldiers back then weren’t expecting to trigger bombs as they searched suitcases.

  3. This.

    “Language.” I continued to fan myself…

    HAAAAAAAAAAAAAA! Loved it. That’s all she had to say!.

    This is what I mean by your dialogue. Geez, I feel like I’m eavesdropping on real people from about 150 or so odd years ago!

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