Darkly Bound is a series of fanfiction stories about Clay Mosby and Robert Shelby, characters from Lonesome Dove: The Series and Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years. It was inspired by the Lonesome Dove mailing list discussion of THE ROBBERY episode back in the fall of 1997. At that time, I suggested that Clay had been sexually assaulted while in prison during the war. I based that interpretation at least in part on my knowledge and experience of post-traumatic stress disorder personally (as a person with a disability) and professionally (as a psychotherapist who works with PTSD issues).
What came out of that discussion was a short story--my very first fanfic piece--written in December 1997 and originally meant to stand on its own. I wrote it just to prove to myself that the rape scenario was plausible and could account for Clay's intense PTSD attack in THE ROBBERY. I was particularly interested in the opening scene, in which McSween makes Clay get on all fours and then rides him across the floor. That, more than the beating, appeared to me to be the major source of humiliation and the trigger for his flashbacks and rabid pursuit of vengeance. It made me wonder if he'd been in that physical position in prison (since prison memories were emphasized in the show), and for what life-threatening purpose.
There aren't any recorded reports of rape in Civil War prisons that have come to light yet, but a number of humiliations and tortures have been documented that did involve forced nudity. For example, at Camp Douglas in Chicago, prisoners were often rousted out of bed at night in the winter and made to pull their pants down to sit in the snow until it had melted beneath them. Beatings over a barrel were also done bare-assed, often with the buckle end of a belt frozen in the snow first to give it more "bite."
As to same-sex interest, there is a chapter in the book, The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell: Sex in the Civil War, that discusses homosexuality among soldiers on both sides. It wasn't widely documented, but some evidence exists and it's safe to say that the percentage of homosexuals in the population then was about the same as now.
Ultimately, however, what mattered to me was if rape was possible, not if it was probable, and all it would take was one sadistically creative guard with unlimited power over helpless, depleted prisoners to allow for such an assault.
Since writing the original story--here titled Scorpion's Sting--I have been expanding Darkly Bound into a much larger project. Unfortunately for readers, I write in piecemeal fashion, so I'll try to fill in the missing essential information in my introduction to each installment. I had no specific prison camp in mind initially, but after I decided to continue the story, my research on actual Civil War prisons led me to envision a combination of Camp Douglas (outside of Chicago) and Elmira Military Prison Camp (in Elmira, New York). Darkly Bound contains descriptions drawn from both of those places, but the camp, which I call Camp Elmwood, is my fictitious creation.
One last note of interest: The title of my story series is from an 1818 Lord Byron poem called Childe Harolde's Pilgrimage. I found it first, however, in the book Uncle Tom's Cabin. The poem is as long as a novel, but several verses from Canto IV fit Clay and his PTSD extremely well. I have included these verses below. Consider them another kind of introduction to Darkly Bound as a whole.
All suffering doth destroy, or is destroy'd,
Een by the sufferer; and, in each event,
Ends: --Some, with hope replenish'd and rebuoy'd
Return to whence they came--with like intent,
And weave their web again; some bow'd and bent,
Wax grey and ghastly, withering ere their time,
And perish with the reed on which they leant;
Some seek devotion, toil, war, good or crime,
According as their souls were form'd to sink or climb.
But ever and anon of griefs subdued
There comes a token like a scorpion's sting,
Scarce seen, but with fresh bitterness imbued;
And slight withal may be the things which bring
Back on the heart the weight which it would fling
Aside for ever: it may be a sound--
A tone of music--summer's eve--or spring--
A flower--the wind--the ocean--which shall wound,
Striking the electric chain wherewith we are darkly bound:
And how and why we know not, nor can trace
Home to its cloud this lightning of the mind,
But feel the shock renew'd, nor can efface
The blight and blackening which it leaves behind,
Which out of things familiar, undesign'd,
When least we deem of such, calls up to view
The spectres whom no exorcism can bind,--
The cold--the changed--perchance the dead--anew,
The mourn'd, the loved, the lost--too many!--yet how few!
But my soul wanders; I demand it back
To meditate amongst decay, and stand
A ruin amidst ruins; there to track
Fallen states and buried greatness, o'er a land
Which was the mightiest in its old command,
And is the loveliest, and must ever be
The master-mould of Nature's heavenly hand,
Wherein were cast the heroic and the free,
The beautiful, the brave--the lords of earth and sea.
[from Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Canto IV, by Lord Byron,
published in 1818]
Colleen J. MacLennan