Dirty words from the Civil War

George Thompson gt1 at NYU.EDU
Thu Mar 22 19:35:23 UTC 2001

I have been reading a book called "The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell:
Sex in the Civil War" by Thomas P. Lowry, M. D., Mechanicsburg, Pa.:
Stackpole Bks, 1994.  This includes passages from letters home from
soldiers to their friends or wives (and a couple of letters from wives
to soldiers) and extracts from court martials of soldiers who had cursed
out officers or committed other indiscretions.  I note the following

[From a poem "Jeff Davis' Dream".  Evidently it exists in two versions
and several manuscripts.  The version quoted is from a ms dated 1863 at
the Ohio Historical Society.  Davis is represented as an old man, asleep
in bed with his wife; he has a nightmare that his house is under attack
by Yankee soldiers and while still asleep reacts with various physical
actions.]  ***/And reaching down his gun to take/His fingers touched her
monkey./***  (p. 50)  HDAS has "monkey" = female genitals from ca. 1888.

The others all belong in the illusory 3rd volume of HDAS.  We may never
know whether they would be antedatings.

[a gang rape]  Tom Michael held the light and she received about 60 big
schlorgers one after another.  (p. 39, from a letter written by a
soldier in a Pennsylvania regiment.)

I don't think he will play stink finger with Jack's gals any more.  (p.
37, from a letter by a soldier in an Ohio regiment.)

One [girl] had been too near a trouser serpent and got bit.  [i. e.,
pregnant]  (p. 34)

In addition, the book offers some quotations using commonplace dirty
words, all of which HDAS documents from American sources long before the
Civil War -- though of course the citations in this book would fill out
a scanty record.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998.

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