An American Seafarer in the Age of Sail: The Erotic Diaries of Philip C. Van Buskirk, 1851-1870

An American Seafarer in the Age of Sail: The Erotic Diaries of Philip C. Van Buskirk, 1851-1870

by Barry Richard Burg, B. R. Burg
     
 

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Philip Van Buskirk enlisted in the U.S. Marines in 1846, when he was twelve years old. Beginning in 1851, he recorded his thoughts and experiences on board ship, providing a firsthand account of the countries he visited, the brawling nation in which he lived, and the everyday life and homoerotic exploits of the sailors and marines who sailed with him. B.R. Burg draws

Overview

Philip Van Buskirk enlisted in the U.S. Marines in 1846, when he was twelve years old. Beginning in 1851, he recorded his thoughts and experiences on board ship, providing a firsthand account of the countries he visited, the brawling nation in which he lived, and the everyday life and homoerotic exploits of the sailors and marines who sailed with him. B.R. Burg draws on these unconventional and revelatory diaries and on social, religious, and medical writings of the time to create a picture of nineteenth-century America that is rarely seen.

The semi-educated son of a once prosperous family, Van Buskirk had the ability and enthusiasm to depict the mores and behavior of the ordinary folk with whom he associated, something other chroniclers of his time did not do. Burg points out that a substantial gulf separated the perceptions and sentiments of literate Americans of this period from those of unlettered Americans. Van Buskirk's journals highlight the differences between these groups and tell of the conflicts that existed as the notions of propriety and morality held by the upper classes were tested by a less-than-deferential underclass.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Philip Van Buskirk, a 12-year-old who joined the U.S. Marines in 1846 as a music boy, played drums on a Navy ship, first in the Mexican War and then with the East India Squadron in 1851. He kept a diary recording life aboard ship and his adventures on liberty. Burg, a professor of history at Arizona State University, has constructed an intriguing narrative from the diaries, which span the years 1851-1870 and are indeed, as the subtitle notes, intimate. Van Buskirk describes his own and others' homoerotic acts, which apparently occurred frequently on warships and were ignored by superiors. Middle-class, with some schooling, he also writes of his unpopularity with his rough-and-tumble mates. The diaries provide an illuminating glimpse of class differences of the period as well as sex mores. Naval and social historians will find this book valuable source material. (Apr.)
Library Journal
This fascinating volume relates the adventures of a young man who began a rather checkered career in the navy in 1846 as a drummer boy. Covering his life from teen years to his mid-thirties, these diaries give the reader real insight into seafaring life in those days. Considerable space is devoted to the subject's pursuit of attractive boys, as homoerotic activities were evidently very much a part of navy life. By the end of the account, Van Buskirk receives a commission. Much land activity takes place in the Washington, D.C., and Maryland areas. Despite the book's many intriguing passages, its appeal is limited to those having a definite interest in this period and area of activity. For regional and large maritime history collections.-- Robert E. Greenfield, formerly with Baltimore Cty. P.L.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300199772
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
05/01/2013
Pages:
240
Product dimensions:
6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.55(d)

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