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The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell: Sex in the Civil War [Kindle Edition]

Thomas P. Lowry
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)

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Book Description

First book to cover all aspects of sexuality during the Civil War. Based on area original sources, including the soldiers' jokes, songs, letters, and diaries.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Using primary documents as well as standard historical works (e.g., Douglas Southall Freeman's biographies of Civil War leaders), Lowry, a physician and medical historian, weaves a fascinating history of a little-discussed aspect (sex) of a much-discussed subject (the Civil War). Beginning with the icons of the war, Lowry notes that the reputation of such saintlike figures as Lincoln, Lee, and Stonewall Jackson is well deserved. However, the rank and file present quite another story, and Lowry tells it in an easy, armchair-style prose that is well documented with letters, diaries, court records, and other primary evidence. From camp followers to gay lovers to vulgar language, Lowry examines Civil War-era sex from every conceivable angle. Recommended for public libraries and as ancillary reading in academic libraries where Civil War materials are collected.
William Emory Buchanan, Clarion Univ., Pa.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Revisionist sexual history is commonly overloaded with jargon and psychobabble, and it often erects a ponderous structure of didactic theory on a slender foundation of data. Lowry commits neither of these faults and, in addition, exhibits great erudition and even wit. Drawing on a wide variety of primary sources--from letters that escaped the censoriousness of their writers' descendants to court-martial reports, prostitutes' diaries, and the modest remaining examples of very immodest Victorian erotica--Lowry argues that, in spite of Victorian mores, a thoroughly normal amount of sexual activity went on under the covers and in other places during the war. Rape may have been rare, but sexual activity was as universal as ever. Readers of this book will have fun, too. Roland Green

Product Details

  • File Size: 3893 KB
  • Print Length: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Stackpole Books (June 30, 1994)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,653 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Dark Side of the Ledger July 25, 2001
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Thomas P. Lowry, a physician with an interest in history, seeks to dispel the common perception that the American Civil War was fought by sublime marble figures on horseback. In large part he succeeds, but only by way of over-kill on the seemly side. Indeed, some readers may walk away from this book convinced that the War Between the States was fought entirely by drunken, insubordinate, gambling prostitute-chasers.
The book consists of 17 short chapters, each covering a short topic that forms part of the author's tapestry. Chapters include topics such as officer misconduct, court martials, rape, VD and prostitution, all in relation to army units. The author does make some valid points here that are supported by documentary evidence, such as the high VD rates in the Union army that probably had an operational impact. While deaths from VD were not an immediate issue, up to 25% or more of soldiers in some units were debilitated. The units that were hardest hit by this disease were those that were stationed for prolonged periods of time near cities, rather than combat units in the field that had low rates. Although the evidence on the Southern side is weaker, apparently the Confederate army had lower VD rates since more of their forces remained in the field for longer periods. However, on most subjects the author's evidence is fragmentary, based on hospital returns and provost martial records.
Other parts of this book are based on scraps of diaries, letters and other wartime bric-a-brac. At times the author is overly-salacious and tends toward gossipy assertions, such as President Lincoln's relationship with a former male law partner. Another chapter on religious scandals involves two chaplains and is not very germane to this account.
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65 of 74 people found the following review helpful
I'm awarding one star for the title, one star for the subject and one for effort. My problem is I become impatient with an author who leaves me with more questions than answers.
As a young girl, I loved history. Unfortunately, every time I asked an earthy question such as what did women do for their personal needs or what were houses of ill repute, I was snarled at, lied to or just ignored. My knee jerk reaction has been to search for truthful answers to *all* my questions about the past especially in the realm of human nature.
Naturally when I saw The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell, I immediately grabbed it. Unfortunately, while the book had excellent moments and the prose is good, it was over-all a disappointment. Dr. Lowry successfully titillated, but unsuccessfully answered the titillating questions he brought up.
For instance Dr. Lowry sites a lot of data concerning a variety of sexual dilemmas such as rape, venereal disease and prostitution. I am keenly interested in both learning and understanding these offenses particularly within the context of the Civil War. In my opinion however, his efforts were weak and lacked even a cursory analysis.
In the area of rape for instance, he provided the nitty gritty of several reported episodes and subsequent trials. Yet he never touched on the army's attitude towards these crimes or the prevailing cultural climate. The stories were left treading water in mid-stream. Did a `boys will be boys' environment condone rape? How did the ordinary soldier feel about this crime against women? Were the women blamed as having somehow invited attack? If rape was as rare as he suggests, why? Even if Dr. Lowry couldn't solve these mysteries, I would have appreciated his acknowledgement that the questions exist.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very informative book about a taboo subject. December 7, 1998
By A Customer
Mr. Lowry's book deals with sex and the role it played amongst the performers in the Civil War. Although sex is usually left out of the history books, its prevalence in every day Civil War life makes it hard to believe that a book like this hasn't already been written. This book serves as a good introduction to sex in the Civil War but at times it feels as though some the meat and potatoes have been left out. I enjoyed the book, though, and would recommend it to any fan of history (or sex).
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Book: Credible Author? January 25, 2011
By History
The book reads well and seems well researched. However, being that Mr. Lowry is actually banned from the National Archives for tampering with original documents, can the facts be trusted? Apparently he took a fountain pen and changed the date on an original Abe Lincoln signed document with the intent of changing its relevance. The change temporarily boosted Mr. Lowry's reputation for "rediscovering" the documents importance. The statute of limitations expired before the archives could prosecute. Mr. Lowry lost all integrity when he defaced a historical document for his own personal gain. Did he conduct legit research for his other books? Think about these facts before you apply 100% faith in Lowry's writing and research.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must for Civil War Researchers November 19, 2002
By A Customer
I've read many books on the Civil War, but this is one of the best. Lowry does an incredible job digging up the seamy side of the war and presenting it in unflinching fashion. Yet at the same time, he views this stuff with a detached and nonjudgmental eye, and with gentle humor as well. Lowry often picks up where Bell Irvin Wiley left off in his wonderful "Life of Johnny Reb" and "Life of Billy Yank." Where Wiley tiptoed away from certain subjects (he was writing in the '40s, after all), giving the reader only a titillating tidbit followed by a footnote telling us we could find the information at some faraway library, Lowry seems to have gone and looked up that information for us, and presented it in all its glory. A notable example of this is the poem about collecting urine in the South for making gunpowder. Wiley only told us the poem existed; but Lowry prints it, and it's a howler! If you want to go on believing that all the Civil War soldiers were pure as the driven snow, this is probably not the book for you. But if you like your history fascinating warts and all, buy this book!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Published 28 days ago by Catherine D. Bishop
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Pretty enjoyable reading.
Published 1 month ago by Gwenevere Y White
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting side ofthe Civil War
Good resource on the other side of the civil war- good history study.
Published 4 months ago by Ted G. Byrd
2.0 out of 5 stars Take what he writes with a grain of salt
From the National Archives website:

"Washington, DC…Archivist of the United States David S. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Civil War Re-enactor
4.0 out of 5 stars Just a part of history
I bought the book because I enjoy reading anything that has to do with the Civil War. Things in it that are true but you might say might not be in most books even though true... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Johnny
4.0 out of 5 stars Slightly Disappointed
Wasn't expecting the book to have so much underlining and highlighting, as I don't believe the description pointed this out. A little disappointed. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Kerie Furry
4.0 out of 5 stars story soldiers wouldn't tell
this is a pretty good story, going through and telling of issues that our civil war soldiers went through and how the stories relate to even today.
Published 11 months ago by everett wilson jr
5.0 out of 5 stars good research, good read
Surprisingly thorough and readable. The author doesn't shy away from reproducing the explicit language in his research materials, which I appreciate, because I am weary of the... Read more
Published 11 months ago by The Literary Assassin
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just about !
This book provides additional information on the civil war that is not found any where else. The title does not do the book justice. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Lgm
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting tale
Interesting tale of the Civil War. Nothing new under the sun but it is a good view to the behavior of the soldiers, officers, professional ladies etc on both sides of the war.
Published 13 months ago by Glenn A. Hendricks
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More About the Author

I am a product of northern California -- beaches, high Sierras, high school in the East Bay, plane spotting in World War II, seven years at Stanford. Starting in 1957, I was a physician and psychiatrist -- an always interesting life -- in California and New Mexico, publishing several very dull medical books. Around 1995, with my wife Beverly, we began reading the Civil War records of misbehavior at the National Archives. Just like today's tabloids, only wilder. We found that high school history left out all the interesting stuff.

As you can see from my titles, I don't do battles or famous generals or comment on grand strategy. We do "human interest" stories (all true) of men terrified in combat, of women who miss having their men in bed, of abused horses, of loyal friends, of political conniptions, and of the surpringly ubiquity of prostitution. And little byways: Was Lincoln gay? Why were so many of his bodyguards drunks? Was Robert E. Lee's favorite ranger just a horse thief?

Leaping ahead fifty years, I've tackled a new aspect of history -- the Titanic. In my new book, TITANIC MADNESS, I show the very strong evidence that the captain had Alzheimer's Disease. All those people died because his brain was dying. Seems impossible? Check my book, now on Amazon in print and Kindle, or my website

So, I retired from scuba diving (damaged ears), and from medicine (forty years is enough), and I'm having a great time. About my books -- I don't think you'll find a boring one.

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