Word origins from the Civil War era

Hi Everyone,
Great site! I hope someone can help. I'm building a web site dedicated to several aspects of the Civil War. In the course of creating said web page(s) I've learned that we use several words and phrases that have their origins from that time period. The one we have all used but most people are probably unaware of its origins is "Pup Tent". Originally "Dog Tent" its origins can be placed directly in the battlefields of the Civil War.
Now, my question is, simply, does anybody know of any word origins from the Civil War era, and would perhaps be willing to share them?
While "sideburns" and "hookers" are the first things to come to my mind, I'm sure others will turn-up.
Lewis Joplin II
I am away from my library at the moment. But give me a day or so and I believe I can add several to your list.
Frank Pierce
"Bum" or "Bummler"in the sense of a straggler from a marching formation come to mind, and if not the point of genesis, certainly came into widespread usage at this time. A bum would be at the "bottom" or "bu'm" end of the column, way back. May also very well come from an imported fragment of slang from the German-American troops, with bummeln meaning to wander aimlessly.
If its a matter of coming into wide-spread usage over actual genesis, I believe "barbeque" qualifies.
Lewis Joplin II
I am finding three categories of Civil War words and phrases: 1. those that were in use during the Civil War era but weren't necessary coined during that time; 2. words and phrases specifically referring to the war - like Butternuts; and 3. Civil War era words and phrases that we use now in everyday speech.

Is the third category what you're wanting? Going on that assumption, here are some I've found.

From "Everyday Life during the Civil War: A Guide for Writers, Students and Historians" by Michael J. Varhola (Writer's Digest Books, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1999):
BIG THING - A term used by soldiers to describe any significant event.
BUMMER, SHERMAN'S BUMMERS - Used from 1850 for deserter; from 1861 for soldiers who would slip out of ranks prior to combat to loot or simply avoid fighting. (Stuart Berg Flexner, see next reference, says this is from the German 'bummler,' idler, loafer.)
IRONCLAD - Warships armored with metal plate...this term didn't appear in print until 1867...during the Civil War Northern ships of this type were referred to as MONITORS.
ALL QUIET ALONG THE POTOMAC - A phrase used by Northern newspapers in the weeks after the Union defeat at Bull Run, making fun of Gen. McClellen's interminable delay in attaching the Rebel forces.
GOD'S COUNTRY - Term used by Union troops to refer to the North.
PUP TENT - Term used from about 1863. Also called a shelter tent.
SHODDY - A word for a type of cheap cloth that in the 1860s came to describe anything of low quality.

From "I Hear America Talking" by Stuart Berg Flexner (Von Nostrand Reinhold Co., New York, 1976):
DOUGHBOY - A soldier. This was a fairly new and rare word at the time of the Civil War.
DRAFTEE - An American word first used in the Civil War.
FEDERAL INCOME TAX - One had been talked about for decades, but the first one went into effect in the Union during the Civil War.
GREENBACKS - On Feb. 25, 1862, Congress authorized the first U.S. legal tender bank notes - green in color.
SKEDADDLE - From Scot and Northern England dialect, probably from Greek 'skedannunai,' to split up) entered American English in the 1820s, but became popular during the Civil War. Union troops used the word to describe Confederate troops fleeing from battlefields.
UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER - General U.S. Grant used the term first. One of his nicknames became "Unconditional Surrender," matching his initials.
WAR CORRESPONDENT, 1861; ARMY CORRESPONDENT, 1863. One of the best known was Winslow Homer, who accompanied the Union Army as a correspondent and artist for "Harper's Weekly."

"America in So Many Words: Words That Have Shaped America" by Allen Metcalf and David K. Barnhart (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston & New York, 1997):
AWOL - (1863) Americans on both sides in the Civil War sometimes "skedaddled" (1861, a Union term), not only from the battlefield but from their assigned posts. The phrase "absent without official leave" was used to designate those who were gone for a relative short time, as opposed to permanent deserters. In the Army of the Confederacy, such a soldier was punished by being draped with a sign bearing the initials A.W.O.L.

From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997) and "America in So Many Words: Words That Have Shaped America" by Allen Metcalf and David K. Barnhart (Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston & New York, 1997):
DEADLINE - Mr. Hendrickson writes, "This expression has its origin in the infamous Confederate prison camp at Andersonville during the Civil War. There the deadline was a line marked 17 feet from the camp fence. Any prisoner who crossed that line was shot dead by the guards. It seems that newspaper reporters and editors were the first to use the word in its present sense of a time when a task must be finished. They applied it to the time when a a story had to be completed; if the story wasn't in by that time, it was in effect killed or dead for that edition." Mr. Metcalf and Mr. Barnhart have this to say: "...An 1864 congressional report explains the usage in one camp: 'A railing around the inside of the stockage, and about twenty feet from it, constitutes the 'dead line,' beyond which the prisoners are not allowed to pass.' Nothing could be more emphatic than 'dead line' to designate a limit, so we Americans happily applied the term to other situations with strict boundaries. For example, the storyteller O. Henry wrote in 1909 about crossing 'the dead line of good behavior.'..."

From an Internet source - quoting from from "Best Loved Songs of the American People" edited by Denes Agay Doubleday & Company, Garden City, New York:
WHEN JOHNNY COMES MARCHING HOME -- This song is generally credited to the Union Army bandmaster, Patrick S. Gilmore, who wrote it in 1863. It is similar to the Irish song "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye" (a tale of a maimed soldier returning from war). Which version came first is debated.

Lewis, Thank you for the effort you gave to compile so much fascinating information on Civil War era word origins. There are several in the long list you wrote:
>> AWOL - (1863) Americans on both sides in the Civil War sometimes "skedaddled"... <<

I have my doubts about this early origin of AWOL. Mostly because Merriam-Webster gives 1919 as the year of origin. Does anyone have any supporting info one way or another?

Lewis Joplin II
All I know is what in my phrase books. But I'm not saying they aren't wrong or conflicting sometimes. Any old soldiers got any information?

Here's what it says in a second reference, "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997):
"AWOL - This commonly used abbreviation meaning 'absent without leave' originated during the Civil War, according to H.L. Mencken ('The American Language, supplement I, 1945): '(In the Confederate Army) unwarranted absences of short duration were often unpunished and in other cases offenders received such trival sentences as reprimand by a company officer, digging a stump, carrying a rail for a hour or two, wearing a placard inscribed with the letters AWOL.'"

I looked up AWOL in The American Language version I have (Alfred A. Knopf Inc., 1963) and found "a.w.o.l." but didn't find that passage. On Page 505, it says, "World War I brought in A.E.F. (American Expeditionary Force) and A.W.O.L. (absent without leave, often pronounced ay-wall)." But on Page 755, Mr. Mencken writes about World War II terms, "Some...were legacies from World War I...others went back to earlier wars, including the Civil War, e.g., dog tag, K.P., a.w.o.l., hike, pup tent, gook (footnote: probably a derivate of goo-goo and gu-gu, early military names for a Filipino), belly robber, to bust (to reduce in rank)...'"

Lewis Joplin II
It looks like you're probably right.

From "Fighting Words: From War, Rebellion, and other Combative Capers" by Christine Ammer (NTC Publishing Group, Chicago, Ill., 1989, 1999):

"...According to the anonymous author of a particularly fanciful book of etymology, this term originated in the U.S. Army sometime before the Civil War, and during the war Confederate soldiers who were caught absenting themselves from military duties had to walk around camp bearing a sign saying "A.W.O.L." Most reputable lexicographers agree that the acronym first came into use during World War I..."

Lord Glenelg
Thanks, Lewis.

That story about the soldiers wearing the AWOL sign didn't really sound right. It didn't seem like a terribly effective punishment, especially since many soldiers of that war were semi-literate at best.

Dan Tilque

Lewis Joplin II
I own a large (and ever growing) library of phrase origin books. And what's discouraging to me is I've notice that many authors simply copy from other authors. So an error is perpetuated.
See also:
Seeking origin of term "Jim Crow" as in Jim Crow Laws of Reconstruction era.
A white comedian who performed in blackface, name Thomas D. Rice had a hit song in the U.S. which included "Jim Crow" among the lyrics. He then billed himself as "Thomas 'Jim Crow' Rice" and in 1836 the song became a hit in England, too. From this, "Jim Crow" began to represent repression of blacks in the U.S.
Regarding Civil War phrases, I believe "outliers" was used in the same sense that AWOL was. BTW ~ where is this website that you are building? I would love to visit!
Frank Pierce
On "Jim Crow"... the song was a nonsense song in which the blackface performer ended each verse with "turn around and spin around and dance Jim Crow."

Quote: "From this, "Jim Crow" began to represent repression of blacks in the U.S." Unquote

But did it signify a represssion of blacks in England prior to the Civil War? I doubt it, but it certainly made the negro as a race and as a segment of American society well known.

I don't know, but I'd suspect, from all I've read, that it was regarded as high entertainment by Europeans in general. Indeed it was this "happy negro" image that many blacks felt was detrimental, masking the darker side of slavery. Many still do.

And on another subject...

Quote: "That story about the soldiers wearing the AWOL sign didn't really sound right. It didn't seem like a terribly effective punishment, especially since many soldiers of that war were semi-literate at best."

It is apparently true. In the well known Civil War autobiography, Hardtack and Coffee, the writer makes frequent reference to these sandwich boards. While many soldiers were illiterate or semi-literate, the large majority were quite literate and spent much of their free time in writing letters home, compiling accounts, etc.

NOTE: Some of the attributions in this posting may have become corrupted. My apologies to anyone wrongly quoted. Please let me know if I can make corrections. Terry O Connor
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