Before I began research on my novel Sherman's Mistress in Savannah I had no idea there were books, web sites and even a History Channel DVD about sex in the Civil War. I had already reviewed many general works about the war, for my web sites on Savannah during that period (see links at bottom of web page), but none even mention sex as a discrete topic. Three popular (and otherwise excellent) books that cover Savannah during the war, but omit anything about sex, are:
- Civil War Savannah, by Derek Smith
- Saving Savannah, by Jacqueline Jones
- General Sherman's Christmas, by Stanley Weintraub.
In my novel Sherman has a mistress and she has a stalker, an immigrant who runs a house of prostitution. The novel's very premise demanded some research on sex in the Civil War, and that's when I discovered a trove of material, including several books written for the general public (see sidebar), a History Channel DVD, and even a Wikipedia web site,
Sex in the Civil War.
My research also led to stories about women impersonating male soldiers in the war. The fact that there were female soldiers on both sides and that Washington pretty much denied it for half a century is itself a fascinating aspect of
Civil War history.
Books and the History Channel DVDs about sex in the Civil War are listed in the sidebar, with links to amazon.com. Especially recommended are Dr. Thomas Lowry's Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell and They Fought Like Demons, by Deanne Blanton and Lauren Cooke. Information in these books helped inform passages of my novel dealing with sex, including conversations between Belle Anderson (Sherman's mistress) and her good friend Fanny Yates Cohen. Below is a portion of their conversations about sex, from Sherman's Mistress in Savannah (Chapter 22). It takes place in a Savannah cafe, January 1865.
For the Preface and other excerpts from Sherman's Mistress in Savannah
please click here.