Civil War Hairstyles II

General Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate General of Tennessee

Goodness, Mr. Forrest, if I’m not careful I’ll get a crush on a dead man. But honey, when it’s all said and done, I don’t go for a racist. My great-grandmother told me all about the ruckus you caused. You were an awful man, for sure. Read all about it, people.

Let’s look at what is going on with Mr. Forrest’s hair. First of all, as his style indicates, longer hair on gentlemen was more of the going thing during the Civil War.  Grease was also the going thing. Any kind you could get your hands on for those luscious tresses. I don’t know how they managed it, but it sure gave them a most voluminous top wave. Most men had facial hair, and many shaved it down just like Mr. Forrest’s.

Andrew F. Skidmore, Pvt. 17th Virginia Infantry

Check out Mr. Skidmore, who had done his mop and his beard up very similar to Mr. Forrest’s. I did some askin’ among my gentlemen friends, and they told me that Mr. Forrest’s facial hair would most likely be called a Van Dyke beard with full mustache and a chin strip (not chin strap) variation. Correct me if I’m wrong. I have also been told that it can be called a circle beard, or a door knocker. Mr. Skidmore’s is a Van Dyke as well, but his comes to a point, as opposed to Forrest’s bushy one, and he does not have the chin strip, which makes his mouth more obscured.

John Houston Savage, 16th Tennessee Infantry

Goodness, Mr. Savage, you have quite the Fu Manchu! A remarkably controlled top wave, too!  He let the sides grow quite full and finished the look with neatly groomed sideburns.

Pvt. Hite Bird, Virginia Regiment, CSA

Let’s finish up this discussion with a look at Mr. Bird. Can I just say Wowee!, what a look! Again, a well-greased top wave. He has a wonderful mustache tending towards the handlebar shape & accompanied by a magnificently wide (ever so slightly lopsided) chin beard. (If you know of  a more appropriate name for that style of beard, please drop me a line.)

Goodness, it has been fun looking at these gentlemen’s tintypes. I believe I’m gonna pour me a little glass of hooch and flip through some more albums.


Civil War Hairstyles

A Southern Belle or a Connecticut Yankee?

Women left to tend their homesteads (or parlors) during The War of Northern Agression were forced to find practical, timesaving ways of doing up their hair. There are some similarities between WWII hairstyles (see my post “Longer ‘Dos of the 1940s”)  and these of the American Civil War, which makes me think that times of scarcity call for certain measures in keeping up appearances.

One similarity was this business of making rats. Fanny & Vera’s helpful hints and timely tips for Civil War reenactors say that, “Almost every Victorian lady had a hair receiver on the dresser, and would place the hair gleaned in daily brushings into it.  A lady could use this resource to construct rats for her hair. …Rats were used to add volume to the hair at the sides of the head.  Hairstyles that accented the width of the face were in style, so hairstyles were low on the crown and wide at the sides.” Anyway, they can tell you more about that here, if you are so inclined to find out.


The main goal was to have a very wide appearance to the hair, which adds roundness to the face. It’s just a thought that this hairstyle emerged while men were gone because the women were forced to take a more masculine role, and thus, a more masculinized appearance.

They had an uncompromising part in the middle, with no bang. The unbudging part down the middle could be seen as a parallel of the two sides of the Civil War, although I will say that the hair surely stayed a lot more in place than most anything else during those times. Perhaps due to an inability to control political affairs, the women controlled their tresses relentlessly during the War, not letting them get whimsical or out of place. It was very improper for a lady to let her hair down in public (a difference between these war hairstyles and those of WWII). You would be hard-pressed to find a tintype of a lady with her hair down between 1861–1865.

Who is this lady, and which side is she on?

However, it was permitted, at balls or dances, to wear ringlet curls. Often, women would confine their hair in buns at the nape of their neck with a knitted snood. Going to church or town, or riding horses or in a carriage, a lady may’ve worn a bonnet. Miss Vera’s Millinery has a great collection of Civil War bonnets.

Mississippi Woman Fights the Confederate Blues with a Bonnet

The last characteristic of Civil War hairstyles was a lot of grease, if it could be spared. That brings us to the end of this post and to the beginning of our next topic, Civil War hairstyles of the men in battle.

Until then, tout a l’heure!

Published in: on 16 February 2010 at 13:26  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,