Gone Up the Spout

Soldiers North and South created their own language for describing their experiences in camp and on the battlefield, a language as notable for its ironic humor and word-play as it was for its rawness and underlying tone of bitterness and frustration.  Instead of deserting or going AWOL, soldiers flanked out, ran the blockade, took a highlow or a French leave.  J. W. Reese, a private in the 60th North Carolina, wrote home after several soldiers deserted from another regiment in his brigade: “sevril has went out of the 58 N C Regmant  the Boys Calls this when on[e] Runs A way or is missing that the owls has Cout him.”  Why call something by its usual name when something better could be invented?  Thus, soldiers called the poor-quality alcohol they sometimes consumed bursthead whiskey, Captain Whiskey, the critter, kill-around-the-corner, and O-be-joyful.  According to the OED, go up, meaning “to be destroyed, ruined; to die, be killed” is an Americanism that originated in the early 19th century.  The expression was widely used by soldiers North and South, but by 1863 a more elaborate expression, go up the spout, had become popular with Southerners, especially those serving in the Confederate Army.  The phrase aptly sums up the decline in Confederate fortunes after the summer of 1863 and the growing hopelessness in the final years of the war.  In his 1872 Americanisms, Maximilian Schele de Vere describes go up the spout as an expression widespread in the Confederacy, but it is not listed in either the OED or the Dictionary of American Regional English. Like so many other words and expressions commonly used during the Civil War, it has long since disappeared from American English and from American memory, except as these words and expressions are preserved in letters written during the conflict.



a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight  compound noun phrase  A common complaint among Confederate soldiers.

March 26, 1863:  I wood git out if I cood But I am A poor man and no Bodey to help mee out  this is A Rich mans woar But the poor men has to doo the fiting. (J. W. Reese, Reese Papers Duke) Buncombe County, NC

Dec. 22, 1863:  I am a posed to desertion as much as any boddy can bee but I say put every one on equal foottin for this is a rich mans war an a por mans fight. (John Booker, Booker Coll. UVA) Pittsylvania County, VA

Nov. 30, 1864:  I hope and trust to god that they is a day a coming when poor privats will be as free as big ritch officers  This Cruel war is a rich mans war and a poor mans fight but I hope that it wont always bee sow. (W. H. Horton, Councill Papers Duke) Watauga County, NC


backdoor trots  noun plural  Diarrhea. [EDD back-door, 2. (3), OED backdoor, noun, 1. b. (earliest citation from 1789)]

May 11, 1862:  Our boys are all well except bad colds and back door trots. (J. E. Jeffares, Jeffares Letter GDAH) DeKalb County, GA


body guard  noun  A body louse. [HDAS body guard, noun (a single citation from 1863)]

Feb. 10, 1862:  we have got some men in our company that cary a “body guard” with them  if we do not get some horses before long we intend to select some of the largest and break them to ride  I think they will answer for that better than than to have them eating us for if we take them for horses we will draw forage for them. (Albinus Fell, CW Doc. Coll. MHI) Trumbull County, OH

Aug. 29, 1862:  there is one thing left  that is the great big little headed dug toothed shoted backed Bodyguards that are allaways abiting or on the trot ofer aman and playing hidingcoop for you had might as well try to catch a toad in the mire as to get hold of them  if they get much worse we will have to pile our clothes and set fire to them. (Jonathan Herrold, Herrold Letters FHS) LaPorte County, IN 

Feb. 17, 1863:  I Dont know hardly what to wright and ther is A grey back bighting me  we hav the most fun A catching body gards that you ever saw. (Strader Evans, Evans Papers MHI) Vermilion County, IL 


break guard  verb To leave camp without permission by avoiding sentries; also present participle as noun breaking guard. See run the guard.

Dec. 27, 1861:  we had a good time here on Crismas we had a feast of geese a[nd] chicken that we got the night before by brakeing guard but we had to be very carefull so we did not get in the guard house. (W. J. Helsley, Helsley Papers FHS) Trumbull County, OH


buck  verb and verbal noun  To tie a prisoner’s hands together, place him in a squatting position, then insert a stick under his knees and over his arms. This was a common form of military punishment during the Civil War (see citations).  [DARE  buck, verb1, B, 6a.]

June 20, 1862:  others has to bee bucked four successev hours each day in the sun shine and rain as it may bee. (Ephraim Hampton, Hampton Letters Emory) Grayson County, VA

Dec. 21, 1862:  I would like to see you coming back before long if you are abel for tha have bin bucking some of our boys down for 6 ouars [= hours] for staying too long. (Philip Shull, Councill Papers Duke) Watauga County, NC

Jan. 14, 1863:  4 men has run a Way from this camp this Weke tha cot to of them and brot them back and buct them down like dogs til ther hands and ar[m]s Was black as a pot. (Joseph Wesson, CW Soldiers’ Letters ADAH) Talladega County, AL

Oct. 17, 1864:  Bucking is a common thing here  Bucking is tying thir hands together  drop them below the knees and run a stick throug  if a man does right he dont have none of this punishment. (Ucal Gunter, Gunter Papers USC) Lexington District, SC


buck and gag  verb phrase  See buck verb.

Nov. 5, 1861:  our pattys [= paddys, Irishmen] get drunk most every day  we bucked and gaged some of them. (James Mohr, Mohr Papers FHS) Marion County, OH


buck fashion  adjective phrase  See buck verb.

June 13, 1862:  All quiate To day onley our men will Run the Blockad  I git Drunk some times They will Runn the line  I was Sergant of the gard last night & they under Taken To Runn The line  the Colonal found it out & sent out a Detail gard & Braught them in  24 of them & put them in the gard house next day put them on the gard line  I think it will brake them  Thare was one man had to tie him down Buck fashion. (A. F. Harrington,  Hubbard Papers Duke) Moore County, NC


Bull Run scrape  noun  A Union defeat.

Jan. 21, 1862:  jenerel Thomas Commanded the union troops  he don it just right  it is not a bull run scrape this time. (Isaiah Ripley, Ripley Letters FHS) Guernsey County, OH


Bull Run trot  noun  A disorderly retreat, a rout.

Feb. 8, 1862:  Genl Price of Mosura has had a big fight & whiped the yanks.  there was nine hundred yanks left dead on the field  our forces gained a decisive victory. the yanks took the Bull Run trot & the field was ours. (A. W. Bell, Bell Papers Duke) Macon County, NC


bummer  noun  A loafer, idler; a soldier who leaves ranks to forage or steal on his own; also used figuratively. [see OED bummer, noun3U.S. slang”]

April 8, 1863:  when we got a boute a quarter of a mile from the swamp and still in our shirte talels the cry was the rebs was comeing  back came bummers forigers general and staff pell mell and the Jonnyes after them and nothing but our Compny to check them. (Thomas LaRue, LaRue Papers MHI) Benton County, IA

May 10, 1865:  you may say that wee hospital Bummers might be mustered out I will tell you thare isthousands that has not got any thing here to Show what Regt or Co. they belong to or how much pay thare is dew them. (Samuel Reeves, Reeves Letters Notre Dame) Knox County, IN


bursthead whiskey  noun  One of many names for poor-quality, homemade whiskey; usual form busthead. [see DARE busthead, noun, chiefly South, South Midland]

Dec. 27, 1861:  this place is entirely deserted by the inhabitance except the very last rakeings of creation and they are growing rich off of the soldiers  they are selling Burst head Whiskey to them at five dollars a gallon. (Hugh Honnoll, Honnoll Papers Emory) Monroe County, MS


Captain Whiskey  noun  Whiskey; jocular expression used in cases in which alcohol has taken command of a man. [HDAS Captain Whiskey, noun]

Nov. 6, 1861:  This is election day here  there isent much stir here. Ther is some tite fellows, there has bin a couple of fist fights here to day. I think it it was Captain whiskey, Whiskey is selling at $10.00 a gallon. (Daniel J. Hileman, Hileman Letters, Lewis Leigh Coll. MHI) Rockbridge County, VA


cat hole  noun  A hole in floor of a house for a cat to pass through; figuratively: a route of escape, a place of refuge.

Jan. 10, 1862:  we will have to make the rebbels hunt the cat hole. (W. H. Bradford, Bradford Letters, SRNB) Hancock County, OH

March 26, 1863:  we throwed a few shots in amongst them & made them fly for the cat hole in a hurry. (Norman Markham, Markham Papers FHS) Hillsdale County, MI


come to one’s milk  idiomatic verb phrase  To yield, give in to authority.

July 24, 1863:  I guess they will come to their milk before long  Our forces are driving them up close. (Norman Markham, Markham Papers FHS) Hillsdale County, MI

Oct. 12, 1863:  I think that thay are coming to thare milk after a long time. (W. C. Hacket, CW Doc. Coll. MHI) Wood County, OH

Nov. 24, 1863:  the leaders of the south are beginning to Come to thair milk but the Ware will not end soon  the federal government has two mutch arristocerty. (W. L. Brown, W. L. Brown Papers ETSU) Knox County, TN

May 20, 1864:  they are as good as whipped but they hate to own [= admit] it yet but they will have to come to their milk before fall. (Israel Atkins, Atkins Papers MHC) Shiawassee County, MI 


crab  noun  A short form of crab-louse, a louse infesting the pubic region; usually in the plural. [HDAS crab, noun, 2. (citations as early as the 18th century)]

Aug. 10, 1862:  they would not let us stay in the fireight house but showed us an old freight car of beding  the boys held a concle and gave in the virdict that there was to great a chance of bodylice and crabs. (Jonathan Herrold, Herrold Letters FHS) LaPorte County, IN 


critter  noun  Alcohol; in the verb phrase see the critter: to drink alcohol.

Oct. 5, 1862:  I halve not seen the Critter since I Came here but I halve had it offered to me a good many times since that I Came here  (Josephus Jackson, Josephus Jackson Papers Duke) Rutland County, VT


dodge  verb  To avoid work; to avoid military service or arrest. [DARE  chiefly South]

Nov. 16, 1862:  Ma’s hands [= slaves] work tolerable well when they have regular work  they never would dodge and do much without some white man. (Mary Pound, W. H. Ivey Papers Emory) Upson County, GA

Feb. 26, 1863:  I will Cum home any how if you think we can meck out By my doging A Baut to ceep out of the way. (J. W. Reese, Reese Papers Duke) Buncombe County, NC

March 29, 1863:  I dont reproach my self yet for cuming to the war yet and the Conscript [law] now would bee hard to dodg or get clear of for I shoald not bee able to get subastute [= substitute] too go in my place. (Levi Rice, Levi Rice Letters SRNB) Kankakee County, IL 


dog nest  noun  A small, two-man tent, same as dog tent.

June 1, 1863:  one hour after dark comes roll call a gain the we make down our dog nests and crawl in twenty minutes after roll cal the bugle sounds taps which is to distinguish [= extinguish] lights. (F. M. Emmons, Emmons Letters WHM-C) Macon County, MO 


a fight or a footrace  noun phrase  See citations.

Feb. 19, 1863:  I am still on hand and give the rebels the best I have got ever time I get a Chance and it seems its not hard for the 6 Ky to get a Chance  if the 6th gets in five miles fo the rebes ther has got to be a fight or a foot race. (Terah Sampson, Sampson Letters FHS) Shelby County, KY

March 12, 1864:  I Beleave ther will be a Big fight here befor a grate while or a foot rase one. (C. M. Epperly, Epperly Letters GLC) Floyd County, VA


flag of truth  noun phrase  A flag of truce.

May 11, 1862:  the yankes Come to forte Jackson laste friday with a flage of trueth to see if we wooden take thir sick presnors and let them have thir men back. (Gabriel Farmer, Farmer Family Letters GDAH) Twiggs County, GA 

Sept. 17, 1864:  the rebels Sent in a flag of thruth yesterdia to decater with the capten for a exchang of priseners. (Daniel Walker, D. Walker Papers FHS) McMinn County, TN


flank  verb  [OED flank, verb1, 5.b., “U.S. slang”; Schele de Vere’s Americanisms (1872):

 “The term to flank, which, from the strategy of the generals, descended in the mouth of privates to very lowly and not always honorable meanings. When the men wished to escape the attention of pickets and guards by slipping past them, they said they flanked them; drill and detail and every irksome duty was flanked, when it could be avoided by some cunning trick. Soon, however, honesty itself was thus treated, and the poor farmer was flanked out of his pig and his poultry.” (286-287)]

1.  To go absent without leave, to desert; to flank out. See also run the blockade, take a highlow.

April 22, 1862:  I am affraid that some of the boys that flanked out & went home will have to suffer for it. (John Kiracofe, Kiracofe Letters Duke) Rockingham County, VA

2.  To steal. 

Jan. 4, 1862:  Holderfield an Tom Morris is gon out to day to flank a hog or a Sheep  i lent them my Pistool to Shoot it with an we go in Cohoot. (Thomas Inglett, Inglettt Letters UGA) Richmond County, GA

Jan. 6, 1865:  if you can Send me any thing Send me Somthing to ete for that is what I am Suffering for  clothing I can flank if I dont have a nough. (Jesse Hill, Hill Letters NCSA) Forsyth County, NC


gallinipper noun  One of several flying insects, including large mosquitoes and biting flies. [DARE  chiefly South, South Midland, especially South Atlantic]

June 23, 1862:  I Returnd from picket yesterday almost Eat up with the Musqueters & galnippas they are the worst I Ever saw  they can nip you threw your coat & shirt. (Martin Barkley, Barkley Family Letters SHC) Anderson District, SC

Sept. 1, 1862:  I spent [Sunday] on picket and fighting musketoes galanippers & Scratching flees for tha are the worst thare I ever Saw in my lief by half. (A. J. White, A. J. White Papers Duke) Campbell County, GA


give someone his breakfast  verb phrase  To beat, defeat someone in a fight. The citation below refers to the Battle of Mill Springs (also known as Fishing Creek and Logan’s Cross Roads) in which forces commanded by Union Gen. George Thomas defeated Confederates led by Gen. Felix Zollicoffer, who was killed.

Jan. 21, 1862:  Old Tom give Old Zolicoffer his breckfast yesterday. (Isaiah Ripley, Ripley Letters FHS) Guernsey County, OH


gobble (up)  verb  To capture, take (someone) prisoner. [HDAS gobble, verb, 2. b.]

Jan. 2, 1863:  they have been compeled to lie for months along the road in open camps a company or two in a place their to rot or await till a few hundred secesh cavilry comes along and gobbles them up.  (John Boucher, CW Document  Coll. MHI) Washington County, IL

May 2, 1863:  I dont think he will get gobbled up as slick as Stoughton was [Gen. Edwin Stoughton captured by Mosby’s raiders at Fairfax Courthouse on March 9]. (Jasper Lamson, Lewis Leigh Coll. MHI) Orange County, VT

Dec. 10, 1863:  the fifth Iowa were pretty near all gobbled  if you have not heard yet who was in Co H it may be of some interest to you. (James Giauque, Giauque Papers UIA) Van Buren County, IA


gone case  noun phrase  A lost cause, hopeless case.

Feb. 15, 1863:  it lucks like a Gone Case with us enny way that we can fix it for it lucks like the men is all a going to Dye and Get killd up. (Samuel C. Phillips, Woody Letters, Confed. Misc. Emory) Mitchell County, NC


gone up  See  go up


gone up salt creek  See  go up Salt Creek.


gone up the spout  See  go up the spout


‘Go up’ and ‘gone up’ were usages scattered in the North and somewhat more common in the South.

go up  See Map.

1. verb  To be ruined or lost; to be defeated; to be killed. [OED go, verb, to go up, 9. “(orig. and chiefly U.S.) To be brought to ruin or destruction . . . Also: to die; to be killed”]

Aug. 27, 1863:  it is thout by Some that E Tenn is to be given up to the yanks  if this is So or they take it western N.C. is gon allso Charleston SC. has or will go up & I supose it is to be burnd. (Stephen Whitaker, Whitaker Papers NCSA) Cherokee County, NC

Jan. 29, 1864:  I am a fraid that the infur[n]el Rebs will Catch him and he will go up. (W. T. Hammontree, Carson Family Papers GDAH) Bradley County, TN

March 17, 1865:  the nuse is very good now I hope it will continue so til the rebs go up I think they will go up this spring. (Henry Maley, Maley Letters Notre Dame) Henderson County, IL

2. adjective phrase  Ruined, defeated, lost. [DARE gone up, adjective phrase]

Nov. 22, 1861:  I think that price [Gen. Sterling Price] is gon up for this time. (Matthew Goodrich, Goodrich Letters FHS) Rock County, WI 

Aug. 18, 1862:  our Regiment is nearly gone up  we only report 255 men abl for duty there was 646 killed and wounded in our brigade in this fight. (John Ingram, Thurman Papers IHS) Spencer County, IN 

Jan. 19, 1865:  I think the Confedercy is about gon up  I think thee yank Will make us say it yet  if they air a going to Wip us I dont cair how quick for I think Wee hav had War a nough. (G. W. Love, Love Papers Duke) Henderson County, NC

Feb. 26, 1865:  it looks like the confedercy is gone up to evry bodey in the armey at this time. (Henry Bowen, Bowen Papers NCSA) Washington County, NC


go up Salt Creek  verb phrase  To be ruined, defeated; adjective phrase gone up Salt Creek.

Dec. 21, 1864:  I think old Hood is gon up Salt Crick. (Henry Maley, Maley Letters Notre Dame) Henderson County, IL


go up the flue  verb phrase  To be ruined; to die.

April 11, 1863:  if he gets Home Sick he never will do any more good and if he is not let go home he will Soon go up the flue for I have Saw Several cases of it tried Since I Enlisted  I have knowed instances where men has died just on that account. (Lawrence Cox, Cox Letter IHS) Parke County, IN


'Gone up the spout' was more typically employed by southerners.

go up the spout  See Map.

1. idiomatic verb phrase  To die, perish, be ruined, lost. [Schele De Vere Americanisms (1872, page 308); compare with  DARE  gone up, adjective phrase; flue, go up the and flume, go up the]

April 30, 1863:  Mother ther is not a chicken in five miles of our camp The chickens would not take the oath [= loyalty oath] when we came here therefore we took them prisoners and they have gone up the spout some way. (Terah Sampson, Sampson Letters FHS) Shelby County, KY 

July 30, 1863:  doo you think we can hold up on that  I dont think we can if we had to march much i no we would soon go up the spout  for a quarter of a pound of bakin ant much and a pint of meal ant nether. (Thomas Warrick, Warrick Papers ADAH) Coosa County, AL

Aug. 20, 1863:  our noble old army is becoming verey tierd of the war and Deserting like hel  one hundred Left Gen Danwels [= Daniel’s] Brigade Last nite  I fear they will so many leave that we will have to go up the spout. (John Rogers, Confederate Miscellany Emory) DeKalb County, AL

Feb. 27, 1864:  they say thare was 21 hundred of Pickets Devision left last weak in won gang  it wont take many such gangs as that for hour litle cofdricy to go up the spout. (Mary Epperly, Epperly Letters GLC) Floyd County, VA

March 22, 1864:  thay Will all doo aney thing that Old Jeff Davis wants them to doo But I fear that the confedercy will go up the Spout this Summer. (Isaac Copeland, Copeland Papers Duke) Surry County, NC

July 12, 1864:  we are 4 miles west of Atlanta  we are 3 or 4 miles from the Yankeys  I think our confedracy is about to go up the spout. (James Watkins, Watkins Papers Emory) Franklin County, GA

ND [1865]:  this confederacy is a going up the spout  money is hard to get holt of and after a man gets it he cant by nothing with it,  this ware canot last longer than till Spring I Dont think. (W. D. Smith, W.Smith Papers Duke) Davie County, NC

2. adjective phrase  Ruined, defeated, dead.

July 7, 1863: yistered tha thot the yankes was a comin for vixburg is gon up the spout an the dockers sent all the men that cod be mov to Jackson. (William Poe, Poe Family Papers ADAH) Fayette County, AL 

Feb. 21, 1864:  my cold is Worse that it ever has Been and I am a bout gon up the Spout. (Levi Worster, Worster Diary UKY) Grant County, KY   

Sept. 23, 1864:  I was thinking that them old harness would be worn out by this time I see you speak about Father mending them. I hope they will be gone up the spout before I git home. (Henry Maley, Maley Letters Notre Dame) Henderson County, IL

Dec. 19, 1864:  old hood [Gen. J. B. Hood] is going in the direction of Columbes and tomes [Gen. G. H. Thomas] is after him fare well hood  I think he is gon upe the Spout this time. (W. S. Carson, Carson Family Papers GDAH) Bradley County, TN  


grog  noun   Originally diluted rum; in these citations probably whiskey or brandy.

March 6, 1864:  I saw some of my old acquaintences in Wiliamsburg and we past around the grog  I Can say to you that I nver got tite. (John Evans, Chapman Family Papers TSLA) Campbell County, TN

May 13, 1864:  Mr. G. B. Cates is going with mee  Wee will be apt to Take a drink of grog Being We both Like it. (John Chapman, Chapman Family Papers TSLA) Campbell County, TN


grog shop  noun  A tavern or saloon.

June 14, 1861:  Gov Brown came up here yesterday to muster us in to service  in sted of keeping hi[s] pledg to muste us in for 9 months if he could  he sayes we shall go in for the war if we go in the service of the Confederacy  Proclaimed marshal law for two miles around Camp  disperced the grog shopes and assumed other authority which it is said he had no right to do. (W. S. Shockley, Shockley Papers Duke) Jackson County, GA


haul in one’s horns, draw in one’s horns  verb phrase  To back off, become less aggressive.

April 9, 1862:  there is a few more old trators round and about that town that needs an ounce of lead a piece and the day is coming when they will get it if they dont haul in there horns. (John Boucher, CW Document Coll. MHI) Washington County, IL

March 27, 1862:  The boys that has been wanting to fight so bad has begun to draw in their horns the closer they get to their enemy the less they want to fight. (Louis Skinner, Skinner Letter FHS) Adams County, OH


high private  noun  A non-existent rank; an ordinary private soldier (jocular).  [HDAS high private, noun; OED (in high, adjective and noun2) high private, noun, (b) “an ordinary private soldier; a private.”]

March 26, 1863:  if we was All to gether we Cood mak the thing work Jest Rite  tha can git thair Bounty and what stuf we cood Bring with us to sell wood make us A nice pile of money then we Can doo as we pleas if we had druther Bee moutain Raingers as A hy Privet we can doo Jest as we like.  (J. W. Reese, Reese Papers Duke) Buncombe County, NC

Jan. 23, 1865:  Jo Bruce is corprel and Green van is sargnt Dave Bowen is high private. (Thomas LaRue, LaRue Papers MHI) Benton County, IA

June 2, 1865:  write soon  Direct as before to Washington DC  Harrison Nesbitt  Heigh Private Co F 203 Regt PV. (Harrison Nesbitt, CW Document Coll. MHI) Luzerne County, PA


horn  noun  A drink of whiskey or brandy. [Bartlett’s Americanisms (1848); DARE horn, noun, 1. “By ext from horn a drinking vessel”]

Feb. 17, 1862:  some of them gets tight every few days  for my part I have never taken but 1 horn since Ive been here. (Thomas Hick, Hinch Coll. MHI) Gallatin County, IL


horn colic  noun  A pain caused by suppressed or frustrated sexual arousal, priapism. [see DARE horn colic, noun; also HDAS horn colic (includes a citation from 1785)]

Sept. 27, 1861:  I receved your leter and was glad to here from you but was sorrow to here of the mis fortune of one of your boys being in foald and of the horn colick being among you. (G. W. Neves, Neves Papers USC) Greenville District, SC


housewife  noun  A sewing kit. [OED housewife, noun, 4. (earliest citation from 1735]

Jan. 3, 1862:  you wanted to know what I wanted any thing or not  I have my house wife yet and every thing I want I belive we can get. (Thomas Vincent, Vincent Papers MHI) Oakland County, MI

Sept. 8, 1862:  you spok about the house wife   all we need is a few Buttons Cotton thered and so i do not no as i need a wife here but i Should like the Company of my own wife and family verey much.  (James Pratt, Pratt Papers MHI) Norfolk County, MA

Nov. 1, 1862:  if you can get those “housewives” done it will be well to send them by him if you can.  (Augustus Holmes, Holmes Papers MHC) Genesee County, MI

March 8, 1863:  make me a housewife and fill it well with good course nedles and some pins. (Israel Atkins, Atkins Papers MHC) Shiawassee County, MI 

March 20, 1863:  if you want to send me that house wife it will come here as safe as any where.  (Norman Markham, Markham Papers FHS) Hillsdale County, MI


in the brush, in the bushes  prepositional phrase  Hiding out, avoiding conscription or arrest. See in the woods, lie out, lie in the brush.

March 5, 1864:  keep george at home as long as you can dont let him go in survis as long as you can help  I Beleave it will be mor credit for him to go in the Brush than to joine The suthern armey or home guardes. (C. M. Epperly, Epperly Letters GLC) Floyd County, VA

March 16, 1864:  I hav not drawd one cent and but mity little of any thing and I hant a going to Stay at no Such a dam plase because I can make more at home in the bushes amakeing brooms than I can here in this tornel war. (Jesse Hill, Hill Letters NCSA) Forsyth County, NC

April 11, 1864:  Ervan Dull got away From them right straite and he is in the Bushes yet. (Jane Tesh, Tesh Papers Duke) Yadkin County, NC   

May 25, 1864:  Jack nash an his Comrade Landed hear May 14 and said he had a pass for 25 days  no person believed him  thay all believed he had ran away Sence news come that he had run a way Report has got out that he is back to his Ridgment But I dont believe it  he is in the brush I believe.  (John Chapman, Chapman Family Papers TSLA) Campbell County, TN


in the woods  prepositional phrase  Hiding out; same meaning as in the bushes. See also lie in the woods.

June 9, 1863:  ef tax dos hafto be pad on mi stock i wil run a way ef i cant git of[f] with thout for ef i haft to pay tax i Shant stay in the confedert Servs  i jest Son Stay thar in the wods as her eny how.  (William Poe,  Poe Family Papers ADAH) Fayette County, AL 

June 11, 1863:  they threatened shooting me  and said it was all they could do to keep from shooting me comeing up from feeding my Horses Because I have a son in the woods that is 23 years of age  I have no controle of him  he certainly is his oun man and will follow his oun mind. (Mark Nelson, Vance Papers NCSA) Randolph County, NC

Oct. 16, 1863:  he had two brothers had bin at work on the railroad and thay got after them to carry them to the army and thay left and com home and went in the woods. (Pattie Vernon, Vance Papers NCSA) Rockingham County, NC


(the) Kentucky quick-step  noun  Diarrhea.

Oct. 27, 1862:  I have had a slight touch of the go outs or the kentucky quick step. (Elijah Israel, E. W. Israel Corr. IHS) Johnson County, IN


kill around the corner  noun phrase  Cheap whiskey.

Dec. 13, 1864:  Mat McCullick got back the other day he does not look very well  he drank to much of the kill around the corner. (Henry Maley, Maley Letters Notre Dame) Henderson County, IL


knock under  verb  To give up, yield, admit defeat. [Bartlett’s Americanisms (1848); OED knock, verb, Phrasal Verbs, to knock under (citations as early as 1670)]

March 24, 1864:  I think that the people will elect Lincoln president again and then the rebs will know what they will have to depend upon for the next four years and I dont think that they will want to stand another four yars war and they will nock under. (Clark Whitten, Whitten Papers MHI) Lucas County, IA

Aug. 1, 1864:  the dezerters say there is Just enough left to make a nother charge and when the officers git drunk a gain they will mak a nother and then nock under. (Henry Maley, Maley Letters Notre Dame) Henderson County, IL


lay in the brush  verb phrase 

1. To hide out, fail to return to one’s unit, avoid arrest for desertion.  See lie out, lie out in the woods.

March 13, 1864:  Joseph Travis has Bin laying in the brush ever sence the Vix Burg fight. (John Chapman, Chapman Family Papers TSLA) Campbell County, TN

2. To hide out to avoid capture.

Aug. 6, 1864:  they cant give no account of E. A.  he left his horse and went in the woods I think he will com out after awhile iff he travels nights and lays in the  brush in the day time. (J. S. Fellows, Fellows Letters MHI) Cerro Gordo County, IA 


lay in the woods, lie in the woods  verb phrase  To hide out in order to avoid arrest, conscription.

Nov. 12, 1862:  tha [= there] w[a]s 80 easte tenesse boys came to this town last night  tha was to of them in ower Campe this morning  tha moste of them has volenteerde in the union army  tha Sade thate tha hade to lay five weeks in the woods befor tha lefte thar State. (Isaac Liston, Liston Letters IHS) Vigo County, IN

Dec. 22, 1862:  Sam Harberson did belong to the army, but when fort Donelson fell he escaped and has been lying out in the woods to keep from going back. (Jesse Bates, Bates Letters TSLA) Hopkins County, TX

Feb. 25, 1863:  Do you want me to come home and lay in the woods or go to the Cherokee nation and make money, and stay untill the war is over, or do you want me to stay here. (Jackson Couch, Couch Letters Emory) Murray County, GA 

Nov. 1, 1863:  there has severl of our Regt diserted and I recon and I recon gon home but I think that is making a bald [= bad] matter worse for I never could ly in the woods. (Thomas Bigbie, Thomas Bigbie Papers FSA) Dale County, AL


North Carolina discharge  noun phrase  Desertion.

April 1862:  I Rote to you about the North Carolina Discharge & this is the tennessee dis charge [= execution]. (Henry Robinson, Robinson Letters Emory) Jackson County, GA


O-be-joyful  noun  Liquor. [DARE  scattered, but especially Northeast]

Nov. 12, 1862:  it turned cold and froze and we had rather A disagreeable time  but the wagoner was A democ[rat] and had some of the Obejoyful and we had A fine time. (Isaac Marsh, Marsh Papers Duke) Lucas County, IA


owls have caught him  idiomatic expression  To go missing at night; to desert while on picket.

July 9, 1864:  A compney out of the 54 verginia Regmant Belonging to ouer Bregad one nite whil on picket the liutenant in Command of the Companey he went over an mad airraingmet with the yankeys pickets and Cum Back and tuck the Companey over with him and sum has went sence and sevril has went out of the 58 N C Regmant  the Boys Calls this when on[e] Runs A way or is miss ing that the owls has Cout him or them. (J. W. Reese, Reese Papers Duke) Buncombe County, NC


pill  noun  Figuratively: a bullet. [OED pill, noun3, c. (earliest citation from 1618)]

March 7, 1862:  You dont know how it Cheered up our Regt when we got to nashville  we entend to give them Rebles Yankee Pills if they would Stand and take them. (Lewis Dunn, Dunn Letters FHS) Grayson County, KY

Feb. 17, 1863:  All I dred her[e] is Linkons pills for tha will pass thru a man in less than no time. (Lee Hendrix, Hendrix Corr. VPI) Forsyth County, NC

April 26, 1863:  we was a day or two late for the rebs  they got out the day before we got there or else they would have got some of unkle sam blue pills on there stomac. (James Lovering, CW Document Coll. MHI) Middlesex County, MA

May 10, 1863:  I gess we smelt a little gun powder that day and some lead pills. (Chauncey Kelsey,  Kelsey Letters MHI) Ostego County, NY

June 7, 1863:  the rebels dare not show thare heads over the wals or thay will get a lead pill. (W. C. Hacket, CW Doc. Coll. MHI) Wood County, OH

June 23, 1863:  I think the rebs is A little sick in vixburg so we have to give them A fiew pills to take but they are pretty hard to take. (Clark Whitten, Whitten Papers MHI) Lucas County, IA

Nov. 4, 1863:  Dear Sisters I hav nothing of interest to write to you this time only that I wont to see you very much  I also want to go home to talk to them fellows about my honey bees  I think I could make them eat something a little harder than honey and not quite so deliteful to there taste  a little pill smoked with sulphfer and salt peter. (J. M. Frank, Frank Papers Duke) Davidson County, NC

July 17, 1864:  just as i got it finish i had to start with three days rations and one hundred rounds of abes pills but when we got to hunts ville we found out nothing was the mater and the next morin they all went back. (W. L. Brown, W. L. Brown Papers ETSU) Knox County, TN

Oct. 19, 1864:  there was about 300 rebs on foot in townd they was in the houses fireing out of the window and the doors from behind trees and every thing that they Could get behind  there was a black Smith Shop withe a board ripped of[f] the whole length and I guess that the pills humed some there I reckon. (Edwin Manson, Edwin Manson Papers Duke) York County, ME


play off, play off sick, play up sick  verb phrase  To pretend to have an illness.  [see DARE play off, especially Midland, South]

Feb. 26, 1862:  Some of them i think ware Sick but Some of them i think plaid off  they thought we would hav a battle here. (Loyal Wort, Wort Papers BGSU) Defiance County, OH

June 25, 1862:  tell gorg to not Cum back here if he can help it atall tell him he can pley off if he tryes. (Joseph Diltz, Diltz Papers Duke) Champaign County, OH 

Oct. 26, 1862:  thare is a good many here that are playing off and trying to get their Discharge and as soon as they get Discharged they go and hire out to go as Subsitutes. (W. J. Helsley, Helsley Papers FHS) Trumbull County, OH

July 25, 1863:  I dont never want it said that I played off. (Norman Markham, Markham Papers FHS) Hillsdale County, MI

Aug. 22, 1864:  if one of us poor devels git sick we have to go as long as we can and when we cant go any longer they will say that fellow is playing off. (Henry Maley, Maley Letters Notre Dame) Henderson County, IL

Dec. 18, 1864:  we found a man that was crazy at first we took him for a Spy at first and trying to play off. (Charles Caley, Caley Corr. Notre Dame) Lake County, OH


pop off  verb  To kill with a firearm. [OED pop, verb1, 8. b.]

April 23, 1865:  our officers are getting  as saucy as the devil since the fighting is over  they darsent Be to Saucy befor for fear the Boys would Pop them off the first fight they would get in. (Harrison Nesbitt, CW Document Coll. MHI) Luzerne County, PA


pop (someone) over  verb phrase  To kill someone with a firearm. [see OED pop, verb1, 8. b.]

Feb. 16, 1864:  one of the guards at Camp Morton the reb prison discoverd a rebel prisoner emerging from a hole in the ground outside of the incloseure and quick as thought poped him over The bullet took effect in his head killing him instantly. (Franklin Marshall, Marshall Letter IHS) Summit County, OH


press a furlough  verb phrase  To go absent without leave. See run the blockade,take a highlow.

July 27, 1862:  I would a bin very happy to com with them men if I could of got the chanse: they found out that Pelham was going to Send Some one after them and get him to detail them to go with the officer that was Sent with them  I beleave I will press a furlow and come aney how  they cant but take my life from me if I doo. (C. M. Epperly, Epperly Letters GLC) Floyd County, VA


put on style  verb phrase  To keep one’s uniform and equipment clean; to conduct oneself in a strict military manner.

Dec. 10, 1863:  we are still at Bridgeport putting on style having dress parade. (James Giauque, Giauque Papers UIA) Van Buren County, IA

Jan. 31, 1864:  I wish you could See a negro regiment that is campt near us if they dont put on Stile then no Soldiers ever did  when they go on dress parade the regiment takes of their hats to Salute the Col. and for al the Stile I ever Saw they can beat it. (Charles Caley, Caley Corr. Notre Dame) Lake County, OH

April 29, 1864:  we muster for pay tomorrow tomorrow at two oclock and the seargents have to furnish blacking and brushes and then we have to black our boots, so you see we have to put on some style yet. (W. M. Eaegle, Eaegle Fam. Papers MHC) Clinton County, MI

Sept. 18, 1864:  we have to poot on lots of stile when we go on picket the orders is to walk a bout and not set down and carry our gun at a right sholdier shift. (Henry Maley, Maley Letters Notre Dame) Henderson County, IL

Nov. 15, 1864:  he wanted us to draw dress Coats and put on Stile but we cant see the Stile  we have soldierd to long to put on Stile now. (W. C. Hacket, CW Doc. Coll. MHI) Wood County, OH


raise the blockade  idiomatic expression  To go absent without leave. See also run the blockade.

Aug. 14, 1862:  you had better Rais the blockaid & goe & see her & tel her to hold on if she can tel the war is over if she can. (John W. Waters, Neves Papers USC) Greenville District, SC


run the blockade  verb phrase  To go absent without leave; to desert. See flank, run away, take a French (leave), take (a) highlow.

Aug. 6, 1862:  we have got Discharged from the hospital & are going to run the blockade  all the rest is going home the same way.  I wrote to Capt & told him we was going. (John Neves, Neves Papers USC) Greenville District, SC

Dec. 21, 1862:  I cant see Enney chance to git off unless I run the blockade and I have a greate mine to do it let the consiquence be what tha may. (John Jefcoat, Jefcoat Papers Duke) Orangeburg District, SC

March 27, 1863:  I was their today offered him $1.50cts for hens  He had lost of them, but Wouldnt Sell one  The two or three of the boys run the blockade and get Some of the poltry. (J. A. Harris, Harris Letters Emory) Claiborne Parish, LA

March 29, 1863:  I would be very Glad to come and See you while you are Sick but no Chance without I Run the Blockade. (Henry Talley, Talley Papers VHS) Mecklenburg County, VA

May 29, 1863:  I am looking for letters by them from you  I can not tell the reson tha dont come nor nun of them them boys that run the Block ade & went home has not come in yet. (A. J. White, A. J. White Papers Duke) Campbell County, GA

Sept. 24, 1863:  I dont no but I think i will come home next fridy the 2 oct  i will try the lutenant  if he wont let me come i will run the blockkade thursdey the 1. (James Stewart, CW Soldiers’ Letters ADAH) Talladega County, AL

Jan. 22, 1864:  I could come to See you buy runing the Blockade on the cars to Lynchburg as a great many others do here. (Abner D. Ford, A. D. Ford Papers VHS) Charlotte Co. VA


run the guard  verb phrase  To leave camp without permission.

Feb. 24, 1862:  run the guard by makeing a rafte and crossing the swamp. (James Pusard, Pusard Diary FHS) Kankakee County, IL


scrumish, scrumage, scrimish, crumish  Earlier, variant forms from which present-day skirmish and scrimmage are descended; also variant forms without initial s. [see DARE skirmish, noun and verb; OED skirmish, noun and verb (from Middle English skarmuch, skarmushe); see also OED scrimish, noun and verb; scrimmage, scrummage, noun]

1. noun and adjective.

June 24, 1861:  they has not ben any fighting up her yet of acount  just a few little scrumigs round a bout here or not here either but about Harpers feary. (John Rogers, Confederate Miscellany Emory) DeKalb County, AL

March 20, 1862:  we have not been in a scrimage since the balls bluff affair. (John Morton, Morton Letters MHI) Bruce County, Ontario 

May 17, 1863:  the  Mounted infantry gos out Skouting Som tims and has a chirmish with the Rebls.  (Owen Ivins, Ivins Letter MHI) Elkhart County, IN

July 5, 1864:  I was on the scrumish line the first of July and the rebs thot tha wold drive us.  (Benjamin Cohee, Cohee Letters MHI) Bartholomew County, IN

July 25, 1864:  our company was throwd out last friday on scrumish and the  yankey advance on us and we had the hardis scrumish fighting that ever was. (L. R. Dalton, Dalton Family Papers USC) Greenville District, SC

2. verb and verbal noun.

Oct. 17, 1861:  I am prepy [= pretty] well driled both from squad Company Battalion Scrumageing and Briggade Drills also in the Manuel of Arms. (Amzi Harris, Caldwell Collection ECU) Cabarrus County, NC

June 20, 1862:  their has bin hevey Crumishing all A Long the Line this week. (W. T. Martin, W. T. Martin Papers Emory) Pickens District, SC

Dec. 10, 1862:  they are scrumishing near nashvill every day But no gineral engagement has takeing Place as yet. (W. W. Bomer, A. J. White Papers Duke) Campbell County, GA

June 9, 1863:  they has bin some shelling an a little scrumishing going on  they may be a big fight here but I dont much belive it. (Daniel Gilley, Letters Home, the CW Letters of D. H. Gilley npn) Henry County, VA


see the elephant  verb phrase  To experience battle, extreme hardship. [Bartlett’s Americanisms (1848)]

Nov. 30, 1861:  there seems to be a general down the River movemet and more than probable we will go down with that expidition, if so we will get to see the Elaphant. (John Boucher, CW Document Coll. MHI) Washington County, IL

April 29, 1862:  I heard the cannon Belched a while a go about ½ an hour but all is still at this time but Looking out for the Elafant Evry hour and Expect to see him uncoverd. (Reuben Roddie, Crawford Papes ETSU) Washington County, TN

June 1862:  we have had a battle and I have seen the Elephant. (John Morton, Morton Letters MHI) Bruce County, Ontario 

Jan. 7, 1863:  ihave seen the elephent wonts [= once]  we had A p[r]etty hot time her  the ball opin on the thirty eth day of last munth and hell [= held] on untille the nex day. (A. B. Walker, A. B. Walker Letter TSLA) Greene County, TN

Feb. 19, 1863:  there was a good maney troops went  up the river yesterday to see the elafant. (Arthur Martin, Band-Martin Papers MHI) Delaware County, PA

May 5, 1863:  I would like to have you and all the childering be fore I went becaus we are Shore to see the Elephant this time I thi[n]k. (A. J. White, A. J. White Papers Duke) Campbell County, GA

June 16, 1863:  you should try and get him to come to war  I think that would take a little of the dandy out of him If he was down here in the rear of Vicksburg I think he would see the Elephant. (Thomas Murray, T. Murray Corr. WHM-R) Scott County, IA

Jan. 29, 1864:  I wouldent be surprised they see the elephat before they got back  the last I heard from them they wasent verry fur from memphis and I suppose the rebles is not verry fur off. (W. T. Hammontree, Carson Family Papers GDAH) Bradley County, TN


see the monkey (show), see the monkey dance  verb phrase   Same as see the elephant. [HDAS monkey, noun, In phrases, see the monkey show (or dance)]

Jan. 11, 1862:  I recived a leter from charles the other day which stated that he had bin in one fight an was taken prisener  I recon he thought that he was in the very den of -------  he hant seen the monkey yet  by the time he stays out 2 years he can hav more to talk of than he has now. (G. T. Beavers, Upchurch Papers Duke) Chatham County, NC

April 18, 1862:  I guess you hav herd before this time that I hav see the monkey dance I did not enjoy the 6 of April as well as I hav enjoyed some Sundays. (John Ingram, Thurman Papers IHS) Spencer County, IN

Jan. 11, 1863:  I Can inform you that I have seen the Monkey show at last and  I dont Waunt to see it no more  I am satisfide with [= had my fill of] Ware. (Thomas Warrick, Warrick Papers ADAH) Coosa County, AL

April 24, 1863:  Wee saw the monkey and my dear it wass a dradfull site to see the dead on this Battelfield  they lay in evry position inmaginabel  som boddies wer torn all to peaces while others had their heads shot off close to their shouldiers. (J. N. Levi, (J. N. Levi, Levi Letters TSLA) Hamilton County, TN 


settle the hash  verb phrase  To settle a matter. [HDAS hash, noun, In phrases, settle the hash, “To settle difficulties, esp. by decisive action.”]

April 3, 1863:  sum privats have sworne vengance on sum of them that command them  that is the way thing go down hear if there sould bee anoher Battle they may bee mising then that will settle the hash. (Levi Rice, Levi Rice Letters SRNB) Kankakee County, IL 


shebang  noun  A crude shelter; a shanty (obscure origin). [OED shebang, noun, 1. a.  “N. Amer. slang” (earliest citations from 1862, 1863 by Walt Whitman)]

Jan. 18, 1865:  I made two hunder[d] whill at Thunder bolt a ceeping a cind of a sutlar shebang.  (Thomas LaRue,  LaRue Papers MHI) Benton County, IA


(the) shits  noun  Diarrhea. [OED shit, noun, II. 8.]

June 20, 1862:  I am well as common but I have got the lamen [= violent] shits. (William Watkins, Watkins Papers Emory) Franklin County, GA


shit up a pine tree  verb phrase  See citation.

Oct. 24, 1862:  as to Old cole let him shit up A pine tree  I will pay him when I can. (Isaac Marsh, Marsh Papers Duke) Lucas County, IA


shoulder straps, straps  noun plural  The embroidered cloth straps worn on the shoulders of an officer’s coat or jacket indicating rank. [OED shoulder-strap, noun, 2.]

Oct. 2, 1862:  it is a lonsome place but it is better than in the town for we do not have so mutch duty to do  we do not have to be saluting shoulder straps all of the while. (Alfred Holcomb, CW Document Coll. MHI) Hampden County, MA

Feb. 4, 1863:  Lieutenant Brass dont know beans  his shoulder straps make him swell so that his pants cant hardly hold him. (Norman Markham, Markham Papers FHS) Hillsdale County, MI

June 3, 1863:  there is five or six Ladies there and the Officers ar selebrating at a great rate  they have a band there every night and whiskey is as free as watter and by the time they break up the sholder straps make a great many crooked paths and there has been sick things happen as when the straps sit down beside the Ladies they loos their ballance and of course got a little lower than they calculated to rather a humble position laying in the dirt at a ladies feat. (Alvin Brackett, Harrisburg CW Roundtable Coll. MHI) Cumberland County, ME


sink  noun  A latrine; usually as plural sinks. [OED sink, noun1, I, 1.a. “A pool or pit formed in the ground for the receipt of waste water, sewage, etc.; a cesspool; a receptacle for filth or ordure. Now rare.”]

Oct. 20, 1862:  I have got the apointment of first corporal  that will exempt me from all fatigue duty such as cooking digging sinks and standing gard. (Isaac Marsh, Marsh Papers Duke) Lucas County, IA

Dec. 2, 1862:  If I was at home and could get some milk and butter and chicken and a little brandy I soon would fee[l] like a live person  there was a man died last night going to the sinks with the diarear  that is two that has died very sudden in a short time. (James Zimmerman, Zimmerman Papers Duke) Forsyth County, NC

June 3, 1863:  I dont feel very wel have to run to the Sink most to often but think I shal get beter in a fu days. (Charles Caley, Caley Corr. Notre Dame) Lake County, OH


skedaddle  verb  To run away, flee, make a hasty retreat; to desert (unknown origin, first used at the beginning of the Civil War). See Map. [earliest citation in the OED is from 1861]

June 1, 1862:  the rebels scadaddled and burn’d such thing they could not take with them. (James Mohr, Mohr Papers FHS) Marion County, OH

Aug. 1, 1862:  our boys is gettin so that they wont get up out of their beds for the scamps, they wait til mornin, than they gets up a[s] the yanks skedaddles under ther gun boats. (James Branscomb, Branscomb Family Letters ADAH) Macon County, AL           

Aug. 17, 1862:  the most of my boys has skiddadled & gone home. all on the account of our staff officers. (A. W. Bell, Bell Papers Duke) Macon County, NC

Aug. 17, 1862:  the infantry could not catch them  they sciddaddled out of our way. (Joseph Skipworth, Skipworth Papers SIU) Jackson County, IL

Aug. 29, 1862:  we could see the sesh skedadle over the hills in double quick. (Jonathan Herrold, Herrold Letters FHS) LaPorte County, IN 

Sept. 12, 1862:  but I hope that it will be but a few weeks tell the envaders will have to Skedadled.  (Lewis Dunn, Dunn Letters FHS) Grayson County, KY

Oct. 12, 1862:  the rebels hade persesion of this town be for wee gote hur bute tha skedadeld. (Isaac Liston, Liston Letters IHS) Vigo County, IN 

Nov. 13, 1862:  we have had a hard time for the las 8 days  we have bin skedadling for 8 days  we have fell back 125 miles. (John W. Waters, Neves Papers USC) Greenville District, SC 

Nov. 17, 1862:  we should have had one at larenceburg with morgans cavelry if he had not scadadled Just as we marched into the place. (W. J. Johnson, H. M. Johnson Papers Duke) Hillsdale County, MI

Jan. 11, 1863:  we whiped them here or at least they Skedadled as fast as they could after the battle.  (Gideon Viars, Viars Letters FHS) Gallia County, OH

Feb. 6, 1863:  Dan morehead has skidadelled. (Isaac Marsh, Marsh Papers Duke) Lucas County, IA

Sept. 9, 1863:  Heavey canonadinge was goinge on towardes manasas Junction whitch Turnde oute to Bea a caverley fighte and the Poneyes Hade to skedadel. (William Cline, Cline Diary Notre Dame) Ross County, OH

Sept. 27, 1864:  I think we will starte to the valley soon and if Hokes Division goes up there the yanks will have to Skedaddle. (Thomas Inglett, Inglett Letters UGA) Richmond County, GA


‘Skedaddle,’ one of the Civil War’s many neologisms, enjoyed widespread use North and South.

skedaddle  noun  A retreat, rout.

Feb. 2, 1863:  Tell me if you have heard from brother Thomas Warren or Arthur whear and how tha war. I have not seen nor eney thing of them sence the skeedadle out of Kentucky. (John Davenport, Davenport Letters LVA) Autauga County, AL

Sept. 16, 1863:  one of our batteries opened on them and then comenced a great Skedadle. (F. M. Emmons, Emmons Letters WHM-C) Macon County, MO

Dec. 19, 1864:  we have the rebels on a grand Skedadel  I will give you afew lines abou the fite at nashvill. (W. S. Carson, Carson Family Papers GDAH) Bradley County, TN 


skedaddler  noun  One who retreats, runs away.

June 20, 1862:  we marched two days in the rain slept on the wet ground in our pursuit after the scadadliers from Corinth. (John Boucher, CW Document Coll. MHI) Washington County, IL


skipper  noun  A kind of maggot that infests poorly-preserved meat. [OED skipper, noun1, 2.d; DARE  chiefly South, South Midland]

Feb. 27, 1862:  I got the letter you sent to frank Madan  you was a Telling him about the skippers carreng a Musket  i wish one would cary you home. (Mary Diltz, Diltz Papers Duke) Champaign County, OH 

June 3, 1862:  I examined your meet about two weaks ago and fond a planty bugs and skipers, I took it all out of the barrel and put alittle ashe over it to prevent them. (Rachel Jefcoat, Jefcoat Papers Duke) Orangeburg District, SC

March 16, 1863:  I must let you no what we git to eat and how mutch we git  a pound of flour thats a loud for us and some times we dont git more than three quarters of a lb a day and a quarter of a pound of rotten Baken and that old and rank and some of hit nairly eat up with the skippers. (Noah Wike, Setzer Papers Duke) Catawba County, NC


soft side of a board, soft side of a plank, soft side of the floor  noun phrase  See citations.

April 27, 1861:  whe hade to take the Soft Side of the flore for our beds. (Henry Schmidt, Schmidt Papers FHS) Auglaize County, OH

Aug. 12, 1861:  we laide down to get a nap in our station with our guns by our side  each one choose his bed  it being the soft side of a plank. (Amos Downing, CW Doc. Coll. MHI) Cumberland County, ME

Dec. 1, 1861:  the bed tick wants to be 4 or 5 foot long and just big enough for one to lie on so when we have to march that I can throw the straw out and put in my Knapsack and carry it with me  it will be a great deal better than lying on the ground or the soft side of a board. (W. H. Brooks, Brooks Papers Brown) Passaic County, NJ 

Nov. 29, 1862:  we have for a bed the soft side of a Board but we have got used to it and we dont know the difference after we get to sleep. (Orrin Brackett, James Coco Coll. MHI) Cumberland County, ME

April 25, 1865:  I rest quite well & found the Soft side of the board. (Lorenzo Gould, Gould Diary MHI) Cumberland County, NJ


take a French (leave)  verb phrase  To go absent without leave. See also flank, run away, run the blockade, take (a) highlow. [Bartlett’s Americanisms (1848); OED French leave, noun]

Oct. 2, 1861:  I was a free man once but it is not so now  we are all slaves and are oblige to get our passes or take a French  that is we will have to run off and you may guess wi will never do that  If I dont get home till my time is out. (John J. Hileman, Hileman Letters, Lewis Leigh Coll. MHI) Rockbridge County, VA

Dec. 31, 1861:  a grate meney of the Boys says thay will take french leefe if thay do not get ferlows soone. (William Band, Band-Martin Papers MHI) Delaware County, PA

July 11, 1863:  if I dont get a furlow again the fourth of July I wil come if I hav to take a french  James Viars, Viars Letters FHS) Gallia County, OH


take (a) highlow  verb phrase  To desert; perhaps formed on the model of  furlough. See flank, run the blockade, take a French (leave).

Sept. 7, 1863:  I will again try to get a pass or permit to go home and if they wont then give me one, I think I and several more will take a highlow. (C. A. Hege, Hege Papers MHI) Davidson County

Jan. 1, 1866:  i served a bout twelve months and then i taken highlow and went north and i was gon a bout too years before i got home. (Carmel Chapman, Chapman Family Papers TSLA) Russell County, VA


take in out of the wet  verb phrase  To take someone prisoner.

Aug. 17, 1864:  I think they dont want the rebs to git to far a round on our left they might take us in out of the wet. (Henry Maley, Maley Letters Notre Dame) Henderson County, IL


take in to dry  verb phrase  To capture, plunder.

Aug. 27, 1863:  The Sutlers Trains gows the Roade full a moste all the time and olde mosbey takes them in to Dry wonce ande a while. (William Cline, Cline Diary Notre Dame) Ross County, OH


veteran  verb  To reenlist in the Union Army as a veteran; to extend one’s period of service in exchange for a furlough and bonus.

Sept. 12, 1864:  I know you dont want me to vetern and would like to have me at home pretty soon.  (W. C. Hacket, CW Doc. Coll. MHI) Wood County, OH

Sept. 16, 1864:  we were offered a chance to Vetran and come home this month. (Israel Atkins, Atkins Papers MHC) Shiawassee County, MI 


what Paddy gave the drum  proverbial expression  A beating.

Jan. 20, 1862:  our officers has one object in view which is to surround old Buckner and then give him what patty gave the drum. (James Mohr, Mohr Papers FHS) Marion County, OH


whiskey and gunpowder, gunpowder and whiskey  noun phrase  A concoction supposedly issued to Confederate soldiers before battle. [Civil War historian James McPherson considers these stories to be “highly suspect” (For Cause and Comrades 53).]

Sept. 28, 1862:  the [dead] rebels that lay upon the field in 18 hours were in such a state of rotteness that they could hardly be moved which was attributed to quantity of whiskey and gunpowder they are said to have drunk before they come upon the field. (John Morton, Morton Letters MHI) Bruce County, Ontario    

April 12, 1863:  the prisoners that was taken said that their officers gave them gun pouder and whiskey to drink before they made the atact they was about half drunk any way. (Andrew Rose, Rose Papers Duke) Cuyahoga County, OH

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