Sex and the Civil War

By Doug Coleman

[Reprinted with permission from: The Old Town Crier, December 1, 2014]

L.P. Hartley once wrote: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” And so it is with the Civil War and American sexual morality during the 1860’s. Things we outlaw, they tolerated. Things we tolerate, they regarded as monstrous crimes.

Start with the notion that Americans in the Victorian age were prudes. Not so, unless one is willing to overlook the large families of that age. Domestic terrorist John Brown managed to sire twenty children before Virginia broke his neck on the gallows for trying to start a national slave revolt.

Thomas P. Lowery relates in his The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell: Sex in the Civil War an incident occurring in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a few days before Gettysburg. It seems a North Carolina regiment captured a good supply of Yankee whiskey and were soon helping themselves to it. One of the Tar Heels reported “some of the Pennsylvania women, hearing the noise of the revel and the music, dared to come near us. Soon they had formed the center of attention and joined in the spirit of the doings. After much whiskey and dancing, they shed most of their garments and offered us their bottoms. Each took on dozens of us, squealing in delight. For me it was hard come, easy go.” “With malice towards none, with charity for all”, our friendly Pennsylvanians rattle the stereotype of Victorian prudishness…

Civil War soldiers, or at least the Yankees, had pornography and dirty books. We know this because the Federal provost marshal complained what a chore it was to have to burn the mountains of the stuff his postmasters intercepted. So, pornography was forbidden, but, apparently, it was okay to have the government go through your mail. We have all heard of bullets stopped by Bibles, but at least one soldier claimed to have been saved by a dirty novel concealed on his person.

Prostitution was more or less legal in Alexandria. The 1860 census reflects that Alexandria had seven “soiled doves” and two bawdy houses. Not surprisingly, business boomed in Alexandria once the war was on, our city being described as “a perfect Sodom” with perhaps 75 brothels and 2500 prostitutes. The Federal authorities tolerated the sex trade and, generally, speaking those arrested at bawdy houses were arrested as AWOL or for drunk and disorderly conduct, not for patronizing the girls.   In Richmond, on the other hand, humorless First Families of Virginia (FFVs) consistently cracked down on disorderly houses, at least according to the Dispatch.

When the army moved, the prostitutes moved with them. In 1863, these “camp followers” were given the nickname “Hooker’s Division”, ostensibly after the lifestyle of General Joseph Hooker, who had a reputation for keeping his headquarters well-stocked with whiskey and entertaining women. Actually Hooker was not a big drinker, nor was he much of a womanizer. Similarly, the commonly held belief that “hookers” take their name from General Hooker is probably mistaken, as the term was already in use at least as early as 1845.

If Hooker had kept mistresses, he would not have been out of the mainstream. Confederate general Jubal Early allegedly kept two white mistresses having four children each, plus a mulatto child with a black woman. Custer is alleged to have had an ongoing relationship with his mulatto cook, an escaped slave who was pushed over a cliff in Custer’s carriage when captured by Confederates. Custer’s letters between him and Mrs. Custer were also captured and raised Confederate eyebrows, being described as “vulgar beyond all conversation and even those from his wife would make any honest woman blush for her sex.” Even McClellan was alleged to have lived with a young mistress for the duration of his command. However, one doubts this story, at least for the time when he was in Alexandria headquartered at the Seminary, as an engraving pictures him in front of Cazenove family’s Stuartland with his wife and children in the background.

Occasionally, ordinary soldiers would share their tents with their wives. In the Confederacy, Keith Blalock signed up with “Sam” Blalock, a good-looking sixteen year old boy, actually his wife Melinda. Melinda fought three engagements before she was wounded and found out by the regimental surgeon. Upon discharge from the Confederate army, they continued to soldier on together as Union partisans. In the Army of the Potomac, Kady Brownell and Mary Tepe joined their husband’s regiment as vivandieres, enduring all of the hardships of campaigning and both being wounded in combat.

The predictable drawback of all this sex was venereal disease, mostly syphilis and gonorrhea. Among the white troops, 73,382 cases of syphilis were reported and 109,397 cases of gonorrhea, giving a total of 82 cases of venereal disease annually per thousand men. Among the colored troops syphilis had an annual rate of 33.8 cases and gonorrheal infections 43.9 cases per thousand. The cures were scary enough to encourage chastity. For syphilis, first-line therapy was to cauterize the chancre with a caustic chemical. Secondary therapy might involve highly toxic mercury infusions, hence, the phrase “a night with Venus, a lifetime with Mercury.” For gonorrhea, treatment consisted of urethral injections of nitrate of silver, sugar of lead or sulphate of zinc. Amazingly, in an era before penicillin, these therapies appear to have worked much of the time. Rudimentary condoms, made from sheep intestines called “skins” and secured with a little pink ribbon, were available, but it is anybody’s guess how much protection they afforded to disease.

The Union’s hospital service certainly appreciated the relationship between prostitution and venereal disease and took pragmatic steps to get ahead of the problem. One of these steps was to license working girls, the license being conditioned upon periodic examination by a physician. The other, hand in hand with the first, was to establish hospitals to take out of circulation and treat prostitutes found to be infected. The attached photo depicts such a hospital. And in fact these measures were effective, with Yankee “casualties” dropping off dramatically where instituted. As for the women, their lives were nasty, brutish and short. One physician following a group of prostitutes noted that their life expectancy was only about four years once they entered the trade, alcohol and disease being major risks.  On the deviant side, rape appears to have been relatively rare, with 335 court martials being recorded. When found out, it often resulted in a hanging. A soldier who had raped a free black woman was hanged at Fort Ellsworth before all of the units camped around Alexandria so that everyone understood this. Twenty-two other soldiers were executed for rape over the course of the war.

Homosexuality was not much of an issue. There are not many recorded, probably because sodomy was regarded as an unspeakable crime. Though some reenactors a few years back “reenacted” a firing squad for two soldiers dressed in pink uniforms for “conduct unbecoming”, in fact there is no record of any soldier on either side being executed for the offense of homosexuality, or for that matter being disciplined for the offense. However, a handful of sailors were thrown out of the navy. Military law did not specifically outlaw sodomy until 1921. But we should not infer from this that homosexuality was previously accepted along the lines of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Keep in mind that at the time of the Revolution sodomy was punishable by death in all thirteen colonies. In 1779, Thomas Jefferson proposed a more lenient penal code under which homosexuals would be castrated and lesbians would have their noses pierced with half-inch holes; Jefferson’s proposal was rejected and sodomy remained a capital crime until 1831.

As recently as World War II, the usual sentence for sodomy in the United States Army was 85 years. William Manchester in his 1979 autobiographical, Goodbye, Darkness, describes the sensibilities of young marines in the 1940’s: “Youth is more sophisticated today, but in our innocence we knew almost nothing about homosexuality. We had never heard of lesbians, and while we were aware that male homosexuals existed – they were regarded as degenerates and called “sex perverts,” or simply “perverts” – most of us, to our knowledge, never encountered one.” The attitude of the farm boys who fought in World War II is probably pretty close to that of the farm boys who fought in the Civil War.

But plaster saints these soldiers were not.


Sources: Thomas P. Lowry, The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell: Sex in the Civil War

Thomas P. Lowry, Sexual Misbehavior in the Civil War; 

William Manchester, Goodbye, Darkness; Treatment of Venereal Disease in the Civil War,

Doug Coleman is an attorney and amateur historian in Alexandria; comments and corrections are welcome at dcoleman@coleman-lawyers.com.

Society Notes – Sept, 2017

By Darlene Bright, History Center Director

Thanks to Steven Arthur and James Kohler for providing refreshments at the July meeting.

Thanks to the Newton Cemetery Clean-up Crew that included Leslie Bright, Jakob Price, Jay Winner and Mike Coleman.

The History Center recorded 74 visitors in July. We had 35 in attendance at the August meeting.

The History Center was used for meetings held by the Got-Em-On Live Bait Fishing Club, the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Walk of Fame committee.

Welcome to new members Bonnie Seashore of Carolina Beach, Kitty Hollerith of Wilmington, Alexa Blair of Round Rock, Texas and Kenneth Badoian of Wilmington.

Also thanks to Jerry Kennedy who  renewed as a  LIFETIME member!

 

August Meeting, Crossing the Wake

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, August 21, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.  

This month our speaker is author Tanya Binford. Her book Crossing the Wake is the story of how she walked away from her stable life into a voyage unknown – a solo six-month boating excursion circumnavigating the Eastern United States in a 25 foot Ranger Tug Boat.

As a single mom and a psychiatric nurse practitioner, Binford seemingly had little time for chasing dreams, but couldn’t shake her fiery urge to sail the Great Loop (a 5,000 mile journey looping through Atlantic Ocean waters, Great Lakes, rivers, and the Gulf of Mexico).

When her boat falls behind the group, she quickly finds herself out of her element, but not out for the count. Now as the first lone woman on the Great Loop expedition, Tanya’s journey becomes internal as she discovers her strength and independence.

Crossing the Wake: One Woman’s Great Loop Adventure is both beacon of hope and an emotionally transformative tale anyone eager to test their own strength will enjoy. A motivating read guaranteed to energize readers into pursuing their passions.

Author Tanya Binford grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She got married in her second year of college and dropped out when she was pregnant with her daughter at 19. Her son was born two years later. When her children were young, she lived in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. After a difficult ten year marriage, she divorced and went to nursing school to earn her associates degree in nursing.

After becoming a nurse, she moved to Tucson, Arizona, where she lived for the next 14 years. During that time, she obtained her advanced degree and became a psychiatric nurse practitioner, working in public mental health. For ten years, she practiced as a nurse practitioner in Nogales, AZ, the later years through tele-psychiatry, out of her home in North Carolina.

At 51, she took a year off work to fulfill her dream of circumnavigating the Great Loop cruise route.


StarNews:  Southport resident travels 5,000 miles solo in 25-foot boat

 

 

From the President – August, 2017

By Elaine Henson

Many of you have undoubtedly heard the news about the ocean front Carolina Surf Condominium at 102 Carolina Beach Avenue South being condemned.  It seems that the four story, 28 unit condo built in 1986 has a “lack of structural integrity” with metal support beams corroded to half their original size. It got me thinking about what was at that location before the Carolina Surf was built.

For several summers in the 1980s our family rented a cottage right across the street from the Accordion Motel which was then at that address.  The Accordion was a large 2 story, “U-shaped” building with asbestos shingling.  The rear rooms faced the ocean with a pool in the center of the U as seen in this post card from the 1950s.

The picture taken by renowned Wilmington photographer John Kelly, whose studio/home was at Third and Greenfield Streets near Greenfield Lake.  Note the guests sitting on blankets, folding aluminum chairs with woven webbing didn’t become popular on the beach until the 60s.

You can also see a rock jetty beside the motel.  Jetties, made from rocks or creosote poles, were used in a futile attempt to keep the sand from washing away back then.

The motel had 30 pine paneled rooms and baths all “cross ventilated” which is good because I don’t see any window units.  It was owned and operated by Alice and John Washburn who advertised that it was “Just a wee bit nicer” and later “Just a wee bit better”.

John William Washburn was an accomplished accordion player and loved to sit on the porch and play. He decided to name his motel for this unusual feature so guests wouldn’t forget the name or his nightly serenade.

John was also the mayor of Carolina Beach from 1959 to 1961.  The Washburns later sold the motel to Ree and Jackie Glisson who put in air conditioning units, enlarged the pool to 48 feet and made other improvements.  This card shows it under their ownership. The Glissons operated it for several years before it was sold and torn down to make way for the Carolina Surf.

 

Federal Point Methodist Church, St. Paul’s Methodist Church and the Federal Point Methodist Cemetery

From the Bill Reaves Files

June 17, 1917: The new Methodist Church at Federal Point, which had just been completed, was dedicated at 3:30 in the afternoon.  Rev. J .H. Shore, presiding elder of the Wilmington District of the N.C. Conference, delivered the sermon. It was said at the time -This church will stand as a fitting tribute to the memory of the handful of loyal Methodists who live in this section of the county.  Although the county in this vicinity is very sparsely settled, the people have erected a church that is a distinct credit to their community. WILM. STAR, 6-19-1917

April 3, 1938:  The family of A. W. Hewett gave the Federal Point Methodist Church a silver communion service in his memory. WILM. STAR, 4-7-1938

February 12, 1945: Construction of a new Presbyterian church in the downtown area of Carolina Beach was begun.  The building materials had been ordered and work was to begin as soon as they arrived. John McLeod, student at the Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Va., preached for the Carolina Beach congregation in the Methodist Church building.  WILM. STAR,  2-9-1945.

April 21, 1946: The 4th annual Easter Sunrise Service was held at Carolina Beach.  The service began at sunrise, 5:30 A.M.  The sponsoring churches were Carolina Beach Baptist Church, St. Paul’s Methodist Church, Carolina Beach Presbyterian Church, Federal Point Methodist Church, All-Saints-By-The-Sea (Episcopal), Church of the Immaculate Conception (Catholic), and the Community Church.  WILM. EVENING POST, 4-20-1946

February 8, 1947: The pastors of Carolina Beach’s Protestant churches today were members of a new Carolina Beach Ministerial Association organized last night.  The Rev. Ben B. Ussery, pastor of the town’s Baptist church, was elected president, and the Rev. John D. McLeod, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, was named corresponding and recording secretary.  The other constitutions belonging to the association were the beach’s Methodist and Community Churches.  The Episcopal Church is expected to join also. At the organizational meeting, preliminary plans were laid for the resort’s fifth annual Easter Sunrise service.  WILM. POST, 2-8-1947

April 4, 1947: A three-act dramatization of THE FIRST EASTER MORNING was presented by the Young Adult Class of St. Paul’s Methodist Church.  The public was invited to this part of Carolina Beach’s pre-Easter observance program.  Included in the cast were: O’Neill Johnson, Homer Craver, Mike Bame, Jack White, Ryder Lewis, Chevis Faircloth, Jimmy Busch, Ernest Bame, Bunny Hines, Glenn Eaker, Rachel Bame, Ellen White, William McDougald, Edwin Carter, Sallie Faircloth and Ruby Knox.

Serving on the committees for the presentation were: Virginia Beach, Mrs. Odell Oldham, Mrs. Woodrow Hewett, A.L. Mansfield, Mrs. George Russ, Francis Ludwig and sons, Mrs. Edwin Carter, Mrs. Bunny Hines and Mrs. Sam Frisbee. WILM. NEWS, 4-2-1947

April 25, 1947: Plans were underway for the construction of an educational and recreational building for the young people of Carolina Beach.  The program was being handled by the Methodist Youth Fellowship committee, and all members were joining the campaign to raise funds.  A seafood supper on April 26th was the initial step in the fund raising.  The supper was to be held at Mrs. Reynolds Boarding House, operated by Mrs. R.W. Reynolds.  The building and facilities on the playground were to be located on the property of the Methodist Church. WILM.NEWS, 4-25-1947

November 12, 1947: Members of the Federal Point Methodist Church, Carolina Beach, elected their officers for the new year. The officers of the church were J. Otis Davis, Charge Lay Leader; the board of trustees included Dave Lewis, O.W. Davis and Mrs. J. N. Todd.  The communion steward was Mrs. J. N. Todd; membership committee, Mrs. Dave Lewis; pastoral relations committee, Mrs. G. C. Henniker; nominations committee, W. T. Lewis and Miss Beatrice Davis. Audit Committee, J. Otis Davis; golden cross, Mrs. O. W. Davis, board of missions and church extension, Mrs. J.O. Davis; committee  on evangelism, Mrs. W. T. Lewis; parsonage committee, Miss Beatrice Davis.  Stewards included J .O. Davis, W. T. Lewis, George H. Henniker, and Dave Lewis; parsonage trustees, Lee O. Davis. Officers of the Sunday School included Mrs. Ray Peterson, Dave Lewis, Mrs. J. O. Davis, Miss Beatrice Davis, W. T. Lewis.  WILM. STAR, 11-16-1947

February 6, 1948: Mayor A. P. Peay, of Carolina Beach, proclaimed today as a “Day of Prayer” at the resort.  This special day corresponded to a worldwide observance of a “world Day of Prayer.”  Special prayer services were conducted at St. Paul’s Methodist Church with a picnic lunch on the church grounds.  WILM. POST, 2-5-1948

October 24, 1965: St. Paul’s Methodist Church held its 22nd Annual Homecoming with a former pastor, the Rev. W. M. Wells, Jr., as guest minister.  During the past seven years, St. Paul’s had carried on an extensive modernization program.  During this period it had erected a new sanctuary, educational building and parsonage.

The church was organized on July 18, 1943, with 33 charter members.  The membership of the old Federal Point Methodist Church was absorbed in the new church.  Today the church membership was 317 and the church school enrollment was 178.  The present pastor was Rev. Thomas C. Fulcher, a native of West Virginia, who arrived in June, 1965 from Goldsboro.  WILM. STAR, 10-24-1965

February 8, 1985: Dow Road on Federal Point, one of New Hanover County’s biggest eyesores, was being cleaned up by many volunteers.  The project was dubbed “Operation Clean Sweep,” and it was organized by the New Hanover Clean Community Commission and a ranger from Carolina Beach State Park.  The two day cleanup started today when heavy equipment from the Sunny Point Military Ocean Terminal and Carolina and Kure Beaches were used to pick up large items dumped in the area.  The area near the Federal Point Cemetery at Dow Road and Ocean Boulevard were policed by Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, Brownies and members of the Sand Fiddlers Club.  Other volunteers included firefighters from Carolina Beach, Kure Beach and Federal Point and residents of the Fort Fisher Air Station, as well as members of Community Watch and the Carolina Beach Homemakers Club.  Between 300 and 400 refrigerators and stoves as well as construction debris, sofas and mattresses had been dumped in the clean-up area.  St. Paul’s United Methodist Church was planning to fence off the cemetery to keep dumpers out.  WILM. STAR, 2-9-1985

 

Society Notes – August, 2017

2017 Elected Officers and Board of Directors
(Election was held at the July meeting)

President: Elaine Henson
Vice President: Juanita Winner
Secretary: Nancy Gadzuk
Treasurer: Jim Kohler

2017 Elected Board of Directors:
Jim Dugan
John Moseley
Jay Winner
Brenda Coffey

Officers & Full Board of Directors


The Society owes a big thanks to Gil Burnett (right) for leading a group of us on a tour of the Boardwalk, pointing out where many of the iconic businesses of yesteryear were located. Now I finally know where his snowball stand was.  We hope to do weekly tours next summer, and this was great training for those who will be doing them, in 2018.


Society Notes

By Darlene Bright, History Center Director

Thanks to Cheri McNeill, Darlene Bright, Leslie Bright, Jim Kohler, Jean Stewart, and Paul Slebodnik for working at our table on the Boardwalk on Tuesday evenings. Tuesday didn’t turn out to be a great night and we hope to try a different evening next year.

Thanks to Helen James, Eileen Shober and Linda Ogden for providing refreshments at the July meeting.

The History Center recorded 97 visitors in July. We had 42 in attendance at the July meeting.

The History Center was used for a meeting held by the Got-Em-On Live Bait Fishing Club.

Welcome to new business members Michael and Amy Purvis of Kure Beach and Jeff and Leslie Cohen of Wilmington.

 

‘American Routes’ Sea Breeze Beach

Seabreeze Resort

Each week, American Routes brings you the songs and stories that describe both the community origins of our music, musicians and cultures — the “roots”— and the many directions they take over time — the “routes.”

This week (July 19 – 26, 2017), we travel to Sea Breeze Beach in North Carolina.

In the late 19th century African American beach communities emerged along the East Coast as havens for black vacationers excluded from white beaches.

Sea Breeze provided summertime leisure to African Americans throughout the Jim Crow era and became one of the few integrated places where blacks and whites could hang out, hear music, and dance together.

Nick Spitzer talks to Elder Alfred Mitchell and Brenda Freeman about their summer memories of Sea Breeze before white developers claimed ownership of the beach.

Enjoy the full program (11:22) at americanroutes.org.

 

 

Your Genetic Heritage: DNA Testing

By Nancy Gadzuk

Jennifer Daugherty, Special Collections Librarian for the New Hanover County Public Library, spoke on Your Genetic Heritage at the July 17, 2017 meeting of the History Center.

Jennifer explained that while some DNA testing can determine paternal lineage (y-DNA testing) and some maternal lineage (mitochondrial DNA testing), most DNA testing is autosomal. Autosomes are the chromosomes that do not determine sex, but determine the rest of a person’s genetic make-up.

She talked about three genealogical testing companies she has used. The companies – AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and Family Tree DNA – all are creating databases using the DNA of people who purchase their companies’ DNA tests. These people may self-identify with an ethnicity based on their personal history.

This identification by ethnicity, while not strictly DNA-based, becomes part of a larger geographical and historical component of the overall genealogical profile.

The more people these companies can attract to DNA testing, the larger their databases will become. This leads to providing, among other things, more robust family trees for participating clients. AncestryDNA has the largest database of client DNA, with more than 1 million genetic samples.

Both AncestryDNA and 23andMe sell their clients’ data to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Family Tree DNA has said it will not sell client data.

Jennifer listed briefly some of the characteristics of the three companies she discussed as a summary to her presentation.

 

 

 

 

 

Gil Burnett – Memories of the Carolina Beach Boardwalk

Click image – to view images & videos

Want to take a walk along the new and improved Carolina Beach Boardwalk?

And learn something about its history from master storyteller and long-time resident Gil Burnett while you’re there?

Click the image or follow this link to a series of pictures from a recent History Center walk with the retired Chief Justice Court Judge. Click or tap on any image in the photo series to view images in full screen mode.

Video clips capture Gil’s experience as a 12-year-old setting up a successful sno-ball operation on the Boardwalk and provide some background on the evolution of shagging in Carolina Beach.

See you on the Boardwalk!

 

July Meeting – Genetic Genealogy

Monday, July 17, 2017   7:30 PM

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, July 17, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

This month our speaker will be Jennifer Daugherty, Local History librarian with the New Hanover County Public Library.

Can your DNA tell you where you and your family are from? Learn the facts about all the new tests that are available and how accurate they are. We’ll cover the different kinds of tests, the best companies to test with, and how this can help you learn about your heritage.

Jennifer Crowder Daugherty has a particular interest in genetic genealogy and has attended the International Society of Genetic Genealogy annual conference as well as the Advanced Research Methodology course at the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR), now hosted at the University of Georgia. Daugherty took the Advanced Methodology and Evidence Analysis course at IGHR, which has expanded her ability to assist and train local genealogists.

Jennifer Crowder Daugherty holds a Master of Library Science from Indiana University-Bloomington and a Bachelor’s in English from Eastern Kentucky University. While in graduate school, she was chosen for a Fellowship Opportunity at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History Archives. Previously, a Local History Librarian at Cumberland County Public Library in Fayetteville, North Carolina, she is now the Special Collections and Local History Librarian at the New Hanover County Public Library in Wilmington, North Carolina. She serves as the Vice President of the old New Hanover Genealogy Society and the Publicity Chair of the North Carolina Genealogy Society.