September Meeting – Sex and the Civil War

Monday, September 18, 2017

7:30 PM

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, September 18, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

Our speaker this month will be Dr. Chris Fonvielle.  UNC-Wilmington professor and well-known expert on the Civil War period in the Lower Cape Fear, he will be talking about “Sex and the Civil War.”   “This one should be FUN!”

Chris E. Fonvielle, Jr. is a native of Wilmington, North Carolina, with a lifelong interest in American Civil War, North Carolina, Lower Cape Fear and Southern history. His in-depth research focuses on Civil War coastal operations and defenses, blockade running, and the Navies.

After receiving his B.A. in Anthropology at UNC-Wilmington, Fonvielle served as the last curator of the Blockade Runners of the Confederacy Museum. He subsequently received his M.A. in American history at East Carolina University and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina.

Dr. Fonvielle returned to his undergraduate alma mater at UNC-Wilmington in 1996, where he now teaches courses on the Civil War, Wilmington and the Lower Cape Fear, the Old South and Antebellum America. He also teaches extended education courses on the history of the Lower Cape Fear through the university.

From the President – September, 2017

By Elaine Henson

Click

The summer boardwalk rides have added so much in making Carolina Beach a family destination again.  The empty lots where families now ride was formerly occupied by several buildings and businesses. Some of those lots are footprints of large hotels built in the 1920s-30s.

This month we will look at the Hotel Royal Palm and Fountains Rooms and Apartments which were along Harper Avenue between Canal Drive and Lake Park Boulevard as seen in this post card.

The builder and owner was named Willie Gardner Fountain.  (Mr. Fountain did lease the building on the right to Mr. Southerland for a few years and thus the sign indicates that this picture dates from that period.)

W.G. Fountain and his wife Serena moved to Wilmington in the 1920s from Chinquapin in Duplin County. Within a few years he started Fountain Oil Company in Castle Hayne selling fuel oil and also operating gas stations in the area. He had a ready work force with their seven sons Clayton, Millard, Alton, Elmo, Woodrow, Gus and Archie. Summer months were slow in the fuel oil business and so he decided to start a summer business at Carolina Beach.

In 1935 he built three two-story buildings with 20 rooms each on Harper Avenue near the boardwalk and named them Fountain’s Rooms and Apartments. One could rent a room or an efficiency apartment for a stay at the beach. They were so popular that Mr. Fountain decided to build a hotel next door opening in time for the 1936 summer season.

The four-story Royal Palm Hotel had 58 rooms with wrap around porches, a spacious lobby, dining room and the first elevator at Carolina Beach. Perhaps its most distinctive feature was a neon sign spelling out the name in four foot letters that could be seen a mile away.

In 1946, Fountain enlarged the Royal Palm with a fifty room addition over a cafeteria that seated 100 people.

People flocked to Carolina Beach and business was good.  These businesses also survived the disastrous 1940 boardwalk fire in addition to rebuilding after Hurricane Hazel in 1954 and several other storms.

W.G. Fountain, a very astute businessman, was the founder of the Bank of Carolina Beach and served on the Carolina Beach Board of Alderman, also serving as Mayor ProTem and Mayor.  He died in 1956 leaving the businesses to his sons and daughter, Lila Fountain, who was Miss Carolina Beach 1939. They sold and moved the Rooms and Apartments in 1959 to make a parking lot for the Royal Palm and later sold the hotel in 1961.

For the next 20 years the hotel had various owners and experienced a slow decline until Vince and Dee Bolden bought it in 1982.  They renamed it the Hotel Astor remodeling the 107 rooms to 53 more spacious rooms with private baths.

In spite of their efforts, the hotel continued to decline prompting the Boldens to sell it in 1994.  That trend continued until it was condemned by the Town of Carolina Beach in 2005.

Awaiting demolition, the building was burned on June 27, 2005, by an arsonist who was later tried and convicted.  The empty lots along Harper Avenue have been there ever since coming to life every summer to the delight of families and children.

 

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!

 

Events Calendar – Summer-Fall 2017

Federal Point Historic Preservation Society

Events Calendar Summer/Fall 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017: 7:30-9:00 pm.
Program: Jennifer Daughterty, Local History librarian for the New Hanover  Public Library, will talk to us about genealogy, genetic testing, and how it is affected by race and ethnicity.

 

 

 

Monday, August 21, 2017:  7:30-9:00 pm.
Program: Author Tanya Binford, will talk about her book Crossing the Wake.  At age 51 she took a year off work and  accomplished her goal of circumnavigating the  Eastern United  States in a 25 foot boat.

 

 

 

 

Monday, September 18, 2017: 7:30-9:00 pm.
Program: Chris Fonvielle, author, historian and noted expert on Fort Fisher, returns to  present his newest program, “Sex and the Civil War.” This one is rated PG-13.

 

 

 

 

Monday, October 16, 2017: 7:30-9:00 pm.
Program: Andrew Duppstadt, Program Development & Training Officer, NC Division of State Historic Sites, returns to present a program titled, “North Carolina Personalities of the War of 1812.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday,  November 20, 2017:  7:30-9:00.
Program: Vann Pearsall, of the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust, will present a program on the mission and goals of this nonprofit formed in 1992 to help protect locally and regionally valuable natural areas and waters.

 

 

Monday December 18, 2017: 6:30–8:30 pm. Holiday Covered Dish: The perfect time to bring  friends and prospective members to celebrate the holiday season with all our history friends.

 

 

 

History Center — Located adjacent to Carolina Beach Municipal Complex

 ALL PROGRAMS ARE FREE AND OPEN TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC.

They are held at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd. (Just south of the Carolina Beach Town Hall.)

Or visit the History Center, open Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays 10-4. For more information call: 910-458-0502.   federal-point-history.org.