Okay, I’ll admit it, after only a few days of post Valentine’s Day optimism, I need to remind myself that all of that uninhibited flirtation and carousing during the Civil War did come at a cost. I was as shocked as my character Katherine when her brother confessed that during the war he’d contracted gonorrhea (especially since Simon had been my perfect imaginary brother)! He was such a great guy and all. But we forgive our brothers, don’t we? My real brother went on a crazed sex-binge after his young, prudish wife died of cancer and I know this because he tells all and sundry.
The reason Simon had to get VD was because I was reading a lot of Civil War medicine books with tons of strange and fascinating descriptions . . . I couldn’t pass up the research (most of which got cut out in the final draft of Tenafly Road). So for all of you modern pleasure seekers be glad you live when you do 🙂 and here’s why: “Chlamydia trachomatis . . .produced plum-sized swellings in the lymph glands of the groin . . .termed bubos that when bursting and draining pus are described as suppurating bubos.” Cute! Gonorrhea was “cured” in a bunch of different ways: ” . . . injection [presumably urethrally] a solution of chlorate of potash, one drachm in eight ounces every hour for twelve hours . . .” or a “thorough cleansing of the alimentary canal, rest, low diet, the balsam and cubebs internally, with urethral injections of nitrate of silver, sugar of lead or sulfate of zinc.” I can’t remember if you were supposed to eat asparagus or stay away from it, but you definitely weren’t supposed to dance or ride.
Syphilis was super fun to treat: ” . . .mercurical fumigation . . . potassium iodide in sarsaparilla, corrosive sublimate, lunar caustiic, calomel, black draught, emetics, blistering, iron, quinine . . .” and so it went. Of course there was no way Simon would get syphilis as one of the effects was losing your nose and basically having a “revolting death.” I mean, Simon had his flaws, but that would be too much! These descriptions and so many more can be found in Thomas P Lowry’s book The Story Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell! Just think of the havoc wrought on the girls back home!