A Major Work of Scholarship…Long Overdue
One hundred-fifty years after the conclusion of Civil War, the historian Kim Murphy has brought forward 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, that accompanied the marches, battles, skirmishes, and periods of military occupation during that dreadful time. She has produced a major work of scholarship that was long overdue, and that all historians should be grateful for.
A Gem of Research
Murphy, a popular author on women’s issues, focuses on rape in the Civil War through this study of military records, court-martial proceedings, legal accounts, correspondence, and newspaper coverage… The book is a gem of research that in one small volume strings together important narratives from the 450 or so rape or attempted rape cases that passed through the Union military courts in the Civil War era…
An Impressive Work of Original and Meticulous Scholarship
Kim Murphy’s “I Had Rather Die: Rape in the Civil War” is an impressive work of original and meticulous scholarship into a difficult aspect of the bloodiest war in American history to date. While a sensitive subject and one that we are still dealing with today (more than 5,000 reported rapes in the American military for 2013), “I Had Rather Die: Rape in the Civil War” is informed and informative reading with an amazing relevance far beyond the usual Civil War studies of military campaigns and personalities. Simply stated, no academic library Civil War Studies collections can be considered complete or comprehensive without the inclusion of “I Had Rather Die: Rape in the Civil War”.
A Long Overdue Voice
Historians of the American Civil War have long asserted that it was a “low-rape” war. Rather than accept this unsubstantiated claim, Kim Murphy investigated the extant sources and 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. I Had Rather Die gives a long overdue voice to females who suffered sexual degradation at hands of US and Confederate soldiers.
A Remarkable Piece of Scholarship
…a remarkable piece of scholarship, in an area of the Civil War avoided by male historians. Her spare style adds to the gravity of the subject. Rather than editorializing, or pontificating, Murphy lets the facts speak for themselves, which makes the record even more damning…. This book is a must read for all serious students of the Civil War.
Exploding the Myth of the Low-Rape War
I Had Rather Die is the first book-length project examining sexual violence during the Civil War. In it she levels some rather damning although not unwarranted charges against historians who argue that the conflict was a low-rape war. Murphy persuasively asserts that focusing on the number of rapes stems from a misguided assumption that calculations reveal something meaningful about wartime sexual violence. By reframing rape as a crime of power, she attempts to sidestep the numbers game in order to expose a seemingly genteel and restrained Victorian society that in reality provided few protections for white and black rape victims and often freed convicted rapists.
A highly informative and enlightening book
Kim Murphy has produced a highly informative and enlightening book, “I Had Rather Die: Rape in the Civil War.” Again, not a pleasant topic, and one that is rarely touched by other historians. In fact, historians have often referred to the Civil War as a “low-rape” conflict. Murphy, however, in her seven years of exhaustive and extensive research, proves otherwise.
In the Media
- The Atlantic, February 20, 2014: Julie Beck:
Gender, Race, and Rape During the Civil War
- Ann Marie Ackermann’s blog, August 8, 2016:Rape in the Civil War
- Virginia Time Travel, July 21, 2015: Rape in the American Civil War
- Fairfax Times, February 7, 2014: Gregg MacDonald: Virginia author’s book outlines Civil War sexual atrocities
- Legal History Blog, December 7, 2014: Emily Prifogle: Sunday Book Roundup
- NONFICTION, July 4, 2014: Harry Allen: WBAI-NY/99.5 FM
- Think Tech Hawaii, December 20, 2013: Jay Fidell: Rape in the Civil War
- Daily Kos, December 8, 2014: Juli Myers: The Great American Uniform Fetish