by Fredricka Zimmerman
Promiscuity was not as illusive as we have all been led to believe. Apparently between 1860 and 1870, despite the war's casualties, the population boomed to 7,111,051. Yet there is no mention of sex in the Civil War. Women were not pregnant; they were confined or expecting. Pregnancy was not to be bragged about and was even hidden by raising the skirt line above the natural waist. With all this proper protocol, people in today's world must think sex was almost nonexistent. All evidence points to the contrary. What went on "behind closed doors" is enough to make one blush!
It is a known fact that General Joe Hooker loved his share of women. He had a whole flock that followed his division. They were affectionately known as "Hooker's girls"; the term was shortened to just "hookers". In fact, he patronized the New Orleans red light district often enough that it became known as "Hookers Divisions".
It was not only a war among men. Many of you know and accept the fact that there were women in uniform fighting in the ranks. Two sisters, Mary and Molly Bell alias Tom Parker and Bob Morgan, spent two years under the command of Jubal Early. They were involved in more than just shooting Yankees as a past time. The Bells were imprisoned for "aiding in the demoralization of General Early's veterans", according to the Richmond enquirer October 31, 1864.
Doctors were at their wits end in trying to persuade the men to stay away from women of easy virtue. Sexually transmitted diseases were all too common during the war. At Camp McClellan Hospital near Davenport, Iowa, in August 1864; the commander was fed up with the women of easy virtue who were "trifling" with his convalescent soldiers. It was reported that the cyprians were "treated to a cold bath in the Mississippi River".
Prostitutes would follow the armies and seemed to never be in short supply. One such woman had a bill against a soldier for $40.00. That sum is considerable when you stop to think that the soldiers were paid only $13.00 a month in wages. Officers would rid such women from the men but only for a short time for supply and demand always wins out.
Not all instances were immoral. Letters from home from wives, fiancés and sweethearts were romantic. Far from the dry "how are you" letters. These letters often talked of encounters with each other; of wedding nights and "married life". Some in more graphic detail than you would expect in a correspondence. But after all, they were only human. The long nights away stirred the emotions in some quite moving letters from Jane Goodwin to her husband, James.
A few of the Generals also had more than indiscretions with a woman known as "Charley" or "Alice". The relationship came into question years later when in political life, his enemies dug into his somewhat colorful background. When witnesses were produced they described her as a woman of vulgar character.
My last tale is a humorous one of a poor steamboat Captain's cargo. The Captain of the steamer the Idaho was given 150 passengers for his charge. Unfortunately he learned too late that they were prostitutes being transferred from Nashville to Louisville to get them away from the army. His orders were to let none off before Louisville. To his dismay, word had been sent ahead to the city's all down the river of the steamers cargo. The steamer was met by the sheriffs of the cities at the docks refusing to let anyone ashore. In fact, Louisville did not want them either. All the way to Cincinnati the steamer took it's cargo. The good citizens of Cincinnati wanted nothing to do with them and would not allow them to step foot off the steamer. After a month's journey on his adventure, Captain Newcomb took back to Louisville all 150 passengers!
All the stories have been found in a book not for the shy or faint of heart. Some of the stories are a bit harsh, as life was back then. I chose some of the light hearted stories from a book that has challenged me to open my mind to the subject of sex in the Civil War and has given me new insight on how rough some had it back then. Much of it is not unlike today, which I found surprising and fun. If you are more curious on the subject, the title of the book is "The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell--Sex in the Civil War" by author Thomas P Lowry, M.D.
I hope you found these excerpts funny and light
hearted and that I have not offended anyone by this subject; after all,
it is part of life; even life during the Civil War.
This article, its photos and all the
Designed by Dixie Myst Designs copyright ©2001