I Had Rather Die

Cover - I Had Rather Die

Cover art by
Roberta Marley

Rape in the Civil War

by Kim Murphy
ISBN: 978–1–936785–16–2 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 978–1–936785–15–5 (Trade Paperback)

The American Civil War is often regarded as a “low-rape” war, due to gentlemanly “restraint.” Nearly thirty Union soldiers were executed for the crime. As a result, rape is perceived to have been dealt with harshly. On the surface, the numbers reflect the view that rape was indeed far from widespread. In reality, few soldiers received harsh punishment for a crime considered a capital offense in the nineteenth century.

I Had Rather Die is the first book dedicated to the topic of rape during the war. Through newspapers, Official Records, diaries, letters, and court-martial documents, Kim Murphy exposes the misrepresentations about the topic of rape during the war. Not only were women raped during times of battle, but those who bravely stepped forward to name their attackers were interrogated in the justice system, often by their assailants. Courts-martial revolved around a woman’s consent and her degree of resistance against a man’s force. Poor and black women frequently had their reputations called into question. For far too long, women’s claims have been dismissed as hearsay and propaganda. Behind the brother-against-brother war lurks the hidden war of brother against sister.


“A meticulously documented and gut-wrenching account of the gratuitous acts of violence against women’s bodies, black and white, slave and free, young and old… A major work of scholarship that was long overdue, and that all historians should be grateful for.”

—Susan Brownmiller, author, Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape

Kim Murphy… found that women in war-torn areas brought numerous rape allegations to the attention of officials, some of which were prosecuted and many that were not…

—Mary R. Block, Valdosta State University

Kim Murphy was interviewed in The Atlantic, February 20, 2014 by Julie Beck: Gender, Race, and Rape During the Civil War.


Available from Coachlight Press