[Editor’s note: Hey readerz, we know that you like many things about this blog (all of the things), but we’re going to hazard a guess based on our good ol’ site stats that you like it when MRG, LHB and I do NOT in fact write the posts. So yes, we’re a little insulted, but we’ll give you what you want, like the poor mother you browbeat into submission with your incessant, querulous, childhood whining. In honor of Dedication/Remembrance Day, which remembrances the original Gettysburg Address of 1863, we dedicate to you a Civil War themed guess post, courtesy of CHR, a true holdover from another, more dapper time.]
Those of you that live outside of the City of Enchantment (by which I mean Gettysburg) may not be familiar with some of the shittier aspects of living here (by which I mean most of them). Aside from the misinformed and mildly racist populace, the blatant commercial exploitation of one of the worst events of our nation’s history there are a few bright spots. The local custom of commemorating Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on November 19th is one such pearl-in-the-dungheap. Old Abe was many things, a statesman, a manic-depressive, a rail splitter and a story teller. Unfortunately; a collector of poon trophies (poonphies, if you will) he was not. With that in mind we are going to move just a few hundred yards south on the battlefield, past a row of ghost tours and our historic KFC, to the spot where General Dan Sickles put the cherry on his bamf sundae. But all that guts and glory can wait a few short paragraphs. Let us first turn to the genesis of old Devil Dan, the greatest coochie campaigner of the war and of the age.
Dan Sickles was born in one of 5 years at the beginning of the 1820’s. We’d report his actual age but he lied about it consistently to cover up the fact that he would eventually marry a barely pubescent Italian girl (but more on that later). His father was a successful lawyer who managed to get Dan admitted to the bar without ever actually going to college of any kind. Dan further exploited his dad’s connections to score a job with the city of New York where he did nothing but collect sweet sweet monies. It was around this time that he got involved with the Democratic party’s political machine in New York, Tammany Hall (more like SLAMMANY Hall amirite???). He once printed 40,000 certificates of citizenship and handed them out to Irish immigrants in exchange for votes (goddamned illegals). He then proceeded to take every Republican pamphlet out of every mailbox in the city’s main post office and burned them like vanities in the post office lobby. He spent his evenings talking with ex-pat Italian and dirty-old-man-extraordinaire Lorenzo Da Ponte, a collaborator of Mozart’s on the ultimate snatch-grabbing stage-spectacle Don Giovanni. Lorenzo taught Dan everything he knew about how to get out there and “grabba da’ poosie,” little realizing that the “poosie he was’a gonna grabba,” was that of Lorenzo’s 15 year old, very Catholic niece, Teresa. Against the wishes of both families, a 34 year old Dan married this little bit of Jesuit Jailbait before you could say “quinceanera.”
Being a typical 19th century gent (by that I mean, having no interest in the fledgling condom industry) Dan put a baby in that almost as fast as he put a ring on it. Apparently though, that fresh miss thang wasn’t enough to maintain Dan’s interest. He kept up a lively game of bang-around-the-rosie with Fanny White, the madam of downtown New York’s most notorious whorehouse. Sure, Dan had a lot of ho’s, but Fanny was his favorite, his ho-mate if you will. A year later when the baby that Teresa had popped out of her shiny-new uterus was a few months old, Dan was appointed special envoy to London with future shitty president James Buchanan. Teresa couldn’t travel because of the baby, so Dan took Fanny with him to London instead and left the Teresa at home to deal with all the little kid poop. While in London Dan wore such a pimptastic uniform that on at least one occasion a visitor handed his hat and coat to Buchanan, assuming him to be Dan’s butler. Fanny wasn’t happy playing the bit-on-the-side and wanted to meet
ol’ lady twatslammedup Queen Victoria herself. Dan managed to get them an audience, and in the greatest gesture of “suck-it” since the Andy Jackson gave Prince Albert a Prince Albert, Dan Sickles introduced New York’s most prominent whore to the ruler of over ¼ of the world’s population. Dan finally made it back to New York where he took Fanny on a tour of the New York State senate chamber, for which he was formally reprimanded (how the other senators knew she was a hooker wasn’t mentioned in the censure).
Eventually Dan managed to get himself a spot in the House of Representatives proving that you don’t need to wait until after you’re elected to start showing people your dick. After the move to Washington, Teresa took a page out of Dan’s pooty-tang playbook and started shacking up with a bang-butler of her very own. Teresa had found Phillip Barton Key, the district attorney of Washington D.C. And Francis Scott key’s nephew. Oh say can you see the shame! Key was famous for being a handsome playboy around town and for spending almost no time at the office which he blamed on his fragile health. The two didn’t put too much effort into concealing their bangings-on about town, and one Sunday morning, Dan caught sight of Key waving his handkerchief across the square from his house, which everyone in D.C. knew was his signal for some pound time with Teresa. Dan grabbed two pistols and ran outside. The point I’m establishing here is that Dan Sickles had no qualms about ripping you out of your home and eliminating you if he thought you were nasty. Dan Sickles didn’t give a shit. He called out to Key and pulled the first gun. Key, ever the man’s man, threw his opera glasses at Dan just as Dan shot him in the groin. He lived long enough to ask Dan not to shoot him again. Not one to be told what to do, Dan shot him again, several times in the chest, killing him real goodly. President Buchanan had the chief witness shipped away and after a few weeks imprisonment in a palatial office suite, Dan was found innocent by reason of temporary insanity (making him the first mothersucker audacious enough to actually use this fakeass defense successfully in court). Teresa was made to write out a public confession which was published in all the national newspapers and Dan summarily divorced her and shipped her upstate to manage a farm and exercise the trampiness out of her.
Dan kept serving in congress and was made a Brigadier General when the Civil War got rolling. It was at Gettysburg that he made a real name for himself. Unhappy with the position assigned to him by his commanding officer, George Gordon “Da Big G” Meade, Dan moved more than half a mile in front of the main Union battle line, stretching it thinner than a child-sized hello-kitty shirt on an aging Marlon Brando. Dan also took a cannonball to the leg, so he would have to conduct the rest of his tramp trampling career as a hop-a-thon. Even though some haters say he nearly shit the proverbial bed, Gettysburg went down as a Union victory and Sickles fought on through the end of the war.
Dan may or may not have shacked up with Teresa a few more times as he got older, but all we know for sure is she totally wanted another mustache ride from the old general ifyaknowwhatimean. Dan went to Spain in an attempt to buy Cuba from their newly formed government, and managed to bang the hell out of the deposed queen, leading some to call him “The Yankee King of Spain.” He must have eaten that shit up. He stayed in Spain until mounting debts and angry dads chased him back home. Dan held on for the rest of the century and when he died in 1914, he was living with a mistress less than a quarter of his age. So on this Remembrance Day, uncork a vintage whisky, give an enemy some high impact lead poisoning, and tell your special someone that you’ve been having sex with another special someone; and do it all for Devil Dan: The Star-Spangledest Cooter-Catcher of them all.
I would like to preface this post with 2 (two) items:
1. Sorry it’s been so long since we’ve posted. We’ve had a lot of real-life shit going on. A lot of moving in & moving out of our respective apartments to do. And at the end of move-in/-out day, your number one priority is usually not to write a pithy li’l essay about historical sex. BUT GUESS THE FUCK WHAT. We’re back, our priorities are just where they should fucking be, and you’re about to reap the rewards. You’re welcome.
2. As you may have noticed, roughly 83% of our posts are about people or events or places that we just fucking adore and always have. This will be one of those posts. I’m an English major of the American nineteenth century persuasion, and the following is sort of my jam. Get over it. My throat is already a little tight.
OKAY. Walter Whitman. Uncle Walt. That’s what I call him in my head. And I will probably call him that for the rest of this post. The bard of the American experience. He of the legendary beard and the namesake of that bridge connecting Philly to south Jersey. Probably the best American poet ever to live. That’s a bold fucking statement, and I meant every word of it. Here’s another bold-ass statement: I don’t even like poetry that’s not Walt Whitman. You’re shocked, I know. I love my Uncle Walt so, so much. Because he’s not just MY Uncle Walt, he’s OUR Uncle Walt. We Americans fucking share this treasure of metaphysical verse.
So if America is a metaphorical family, and we’ve already established Walt as our eccentric, bearded, single uncle…I think you know where I’m going with this.
Walt Whitman is America’s super intellectual, super gay uncle.
Actually, scholars think he was either gay or bi, but there’s really no way to know. It’s not like he was snapping daguerrotypes of his sexploits. “Don’t worry baby, just wanna see how hot we look! But stay still, the exposure takes 20 minutes.” So before we get into this I want to say that it’s really hard to prove who or what someone was doing in the heat of the night through historical evidence. But dammit, I’ll try!
And one more disclaimer: in no way am I trying to suggest that being gay is scandalous. I’m just trying to say that in the 1840s-50s, a public male figure would probably definitely want to keep his homosexuality under wraps so as to avoid a giant shitstorm. Remember that sodomy was a crime punishable by jailtime and often hanging. So to review – being gay: not scandalous. Being gay in a time when you could lose everything including your motherfucking life if your sexual orientation became public: scandalous.
First, let’s contextualize (my favorite pastime). It’s the mid-nineteenth century. Shit’s getting all kinds of fucked up with the whole slavery issue. People are getting caned in the Senate, James Buchanan, God bless him, understandably is having a real fucking hard time keeping shit together, John Brown is orchestrating suicide missions in the name of the North. It’s just a rough time to be American. You’ve got so many feelings. And you just don’t know what to do with them.
Unless you’re a genial Long Islander with legs for days, a pair of misty-ass baby blues, and you go by Walt Whitman. Because then you fucking write beautiful, inspiring, transcendental, metaphysical, what-do-those-words-even-mean-ical verse all over the place. Verse that’s political but also relateable and celebratory. I’m getting a little boner.
And (Northern) people were stepping all up in his shit. Important people. Famous intellectual people, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, and my literary heartthrob, Henry David Thoreau. They all agreed that Uncle Walt was really on to something with his emotional, expressive, glorious writing, because people just really weren’t doing that. Poets like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow were getting all kinds of popular for fucking pansy-ass poems about Revolution-era blacksmiths and Founding Fathers while Uncle Walt quietly wrote these amazingly personal and bold poems. Sort of how Ke$ha is to Arcade Fire, to use the parlance of our times. People know Arcade Fire, but more people know, thoughtlessly support, and throw money at Ke$ha.
Okay, so most of the people who think Uncle Walt was gay think so because 1) his poetry was really sexy in a time when you didn’t do that shit and 2) he had a longtime male BFF to whom he wrote steamy letters and was totally devoted.
STOP. I know what you’re thinking. “But MRG, from my extensive reading of the canon Uncle Walt’s poetic voice was just so VIRILE, so PATRIOTIC, so AMERICAN! How could he possibly have been gay?” I know that’s not what you were thinking but indulge me.
So boop ba doop, it’s 1866, the war is finally over. But it’s the Reconstruction and people have no fucking idea how to deal with what’s happened. It’s an uncertain time. And much as before, feelings are popping up like lilacs in the dooryard (see what I fucking did???!?!) So Walt is feeling a little lonely, a little old, a little in need of some zest. And let me ask you this, dear readers. What’s fucking zestier than a 21-year-old man in uniform?
Walt met Peter Doyle, a sexy little bus conductor, on a rainy night in DC. Walt stumbled on, a little rainwater dripping from the end of his Gandalf beard, a wet blanket wrapped around his shoulders. They looked longingly at each other and promptly made out. I mean I just made that part up, but Peter later said this about the night he met the love of his life:
“I thought I would go and talk to him. Something in me made me do it. He used to say there was something in me had the same effect on him…We were familiar at once — I put my hand on his knee — we understood. He did not get out at the end of the trip — in fact went all the way back with me.”
I mean FUCK. I don’t know about you but I’m about to ride public transit all day every day.
And this romance had all the makings of a sequel to Romeo & Juliet. Walt was a staunch supporter of the North, his brother had been a Union soldier, and dear Uncle himself worked as an army nurse throughout the war. Peter was a Confederate soldier. Plus they were both dudes. FUCKING STAR-CROSSED STATUS.
Walt and Peter were really fucking in love. Their relationship also had a serious effect on Walt’s writing, mostly because Pete WAS FUCKING THERE when Abe Lincoln got shot, an event that really yucked Walt’s yum for a long time. Using Pete’s description of that event, Walt wrote several poems about Honest Abe who was his hero. And I like to think Uncle Walt had a big ol’ crush on Abe and his death hit hard. Sort of like how I’m not over Heath Ledger yet.
ANYWAY, the most popular of the Lincoln poems is “O Captain! My Captain!,” which aside from inspiring one of the most fucking gut wrenching scenes in film history, was almost definitely also about young Pete, in my professional/totally unsubstantiated opinion.
Wait, MRG. I read that shit in junior year English class. No way that’s about a gay!
SHUT YOUR GODDAMN MOUTH. BECAUSE……
The poem is ostensibly about a captain trying to steer a ship through a fucking monsoon. The Captain is Abe, the ship is America, the storm is slavery/the South/mo money mo problems, blah blah blah you get it. But I bet you didn’t fucking know that Peter Doyle was Irish, and that his family came to the good ol’ US of A by boat through a vicious-ass storm on Good Friday in 1852. Abe Lincoln was shot on Good Friday in 1865. COINCIDENCE? OR SORT OF ADORABLE BEAUTIFUL POETIC DECLARATION OF LOVE & ESTEEM?
I mean I could go on. Their letters to one another are lovely. After a tiff, Walt wrote “I never dreamed that you made so much of having me with you, nor that you should feel so downcast at losing me.” And later he promised Pete “a good smacking kiss, many of them – taking in return many, many from my dear son – good loving ones too.”
Their relationship lasted for decades, and when Walt had a stroke in 1876 and moved to Camden to live with his bro, Pete subsequently and probably not coincidentally became a brakeman on the Pennsylvania railroad (if you’re geography challenged like LHB is, PA and NJ are neighbors). He visited the Whitmans all the time. And then Walt had another stroke in 1888 and lived four more years, during which time his relationship with dear Pete fizzled. When he died in 1892, Walt thought Pete had already died because he hadn’t heard from him in so long. Fuck.
Later, in the aforementioned interview, Pete gave us this fucking gem of a statement. I’m going to go cry while you read it:
“I have Walt’s raglan here. Now and then I put it on, lay down… Then he is with me again… I do not ever for a minute lose the old man. He is always nearby…in a crisis, I ask myself, ‘What would Walt do?’ –and whatever I decide Walt would do, that I do.”
Okay I’m back. I want to know what Walt would do if he was crying like a child alone in his room because the story he’s relating on his humor blog about historical sex is so fucking lovely. That’s what I would like to know.
Anyway, aside from this beautiful, terribly sad, long romance, Walt had about a dozen other well-documented liasons with persons of the male persuasion. Including the biggest big gay in the nineteenth century, Oscar Wilde, who wrote “I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips,” to the second biggest big gay of the nineteenth century, George Cecil Ives. So Uncle Walt was getting his fo sho in a time when the getting was dangerous and difficult. That sounds gross. I mean the actual boning probably wasn’t dangerous or difficult, just the finding someone to bone part.
And once again, I have come to a graceful ending. Anyway, pick up a copy of Leaves of Grass, preferably the Deathbed edition, and fly your rainbow flag high. And celebrate the gayest, manliest, beardedest poet in history.