Threads of War - Civil War Clothes



Threads of War

Commemorating the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War and celebrating the opening of its new textile gallery, The Charleston Museum presents Threads of War: Clothing and Textiles of the Civil War through September 5, 2011. This original exhibition offers a peek into the lives of those left on the home front, battling deprivation and fear while raising their families and protecting their property, as well as those fighting on the front lines. Threads of War illustrates how, as the 1860s marched on, the war took its toll not only in lives lost but on fashion, supplies, and every aspect of life.


Women's, men's and children's clothing, uniforms and accessories, quilts, coverlets and flags, along with magazines, newspapers, daguerreotypes and diaries provide tangible images of mid-nineteenth century Charleston and a lifestyle torn apart by war. Uniforms in the exhibition include a custom-tailored coat of fine wool, with wool and silk lining worn by Captain Warren R. Marshall of Charleston. He purchased it from Charleston tailor Charles D. Carr who maintained a shop at 30 Broad Street.

Image: Confederate Uniform Coat, worn by Capt. Warren R. Marshall of Newberry, S.C. The dark gray wool and eagle button were made in England and the coat bears a label from Charleston tailor, C. D. Carr & Co., 30 Broad Street. Marshall served in Co. A, Washington Artillery/Hampton Legion Artillery as indicated by the buff colored facings. HT 4218


Calhoun Artillery Flag, blue silk with silk, chenille and sequin embroidery. The back features a gold crescent with the words "Cresit. Alba" and "Calhoun Artillery." The unit was raised for service during January 1861; its officers were Captain William Calhoun, 1st Lt. Thomas Wagner, 1st Lt. William Preston and 2nd Lt. S. Seagreaves. They, along with other companies became the First S.C. Artillery Battalion in May 1861. HT 4590


Flags typically provided a rallying point for the troops. On display will be a woolen Confederate battle flag from the 5th South Carolina Cavalry/Butler's Brigade and an elegant embroidered blue silk flag from the Calhoun Artillery with palmetto tree and star.


Brown Ribbed Silk Two-Piece Day Dress, c. 1866. The dress features the V-bodice, jewel neckline and very full skirt popular during the 1860s. It was worn by a member of the Jervey family of Charleston. HT 822


Threads of War includes a beautiful brown silk day dress worn by a member of the Jervey family of Charleston and a cream wool challis dress with Zouave-style jacket (a short open fronted jacket styled after the uniforms of the French Army serving in French North Africa) worn by Isabella Woodruff Holst, both with the wide hoop crinoline popular of the period. A young bride, Frances Ann Hardcastle, wore her best brown plaid silk dress for her hasty marriage to William Henley Smith of Charleston, just two days after the bombing of Fort Sumter. Wedding garments, accessories and memoir excerpts from the 1865 wedding of Louisa McCord and Augustine T. Smythe reflect the difficulties in obtaining supplies even after the war had ended.


A home-made palmetto straw hat and handcrafted turkey feather fans form an image of inventiveness while a magnificent Chinese embroidered shawl brought in through the blockade shows a continuing desire for small luxuries.

Men's riding trousers made by local tailor, C. D. Carr, elegant vests from shortly before the war and the ubiquitous 19th century top hat, worn by Henry Hyrne Baker of Charleston, portray the civilian side of men during the war. An intricate woven coverlet made on Towles Plantation, Wadmalaw Island is one of the few slave-made artifacts that survived from those difficult years. A magnificent Star of Bethlehem quilt that was buried for safekeeping and a flowery chintz-appliquéd quilt made by friends of the Dibble family after they evacuated to Orangeburg during the war, are examples of women's artistry and skill.

Image: Bronze leather shoes with cutwork and embroidery and a large silk rosette, mid 19th century. The pierced vamp is backed with blue silk and edged with chain stitching. This type of slipper would be more appropriate for home wear, possibly with a dressy wrapper. Bronzed leather is a slightly metallic-looking finish created by the use of cochineal dye, made from the bodies of South American beetles, a technique quite popular at this period. 1994.16.4

Threads of War Programming

In conjunction with Threads of War: Clothing and Textiles of the Civil War and the Civil War Sesquicentennial, the Charleston Museum will offer educational programs. Carolina Ladies Aid Society will offer a variety of living history programs, such as mid-19th century fashion demonstrations and period cooking and laundry techniques, on the second Saturday in March 2011, May 2011, and July 2011. Monthly tours of the Civil War fortifications at the Museum's Dill Sanctuary, as well as hands-on textile workshops will be available. A public Quilting Bee with a mid- 19th century pattern will be open on select Saturdays throughout the exhibit. Many programs require advance registration; visit