34th North Carolina Civil War Reenactment Group

Civil War Slang and Terms

Absquatulate
to take leave, to disappear
Acknowledge the Corn
to admit the truth, to confess a lie, or acknowledge an obvious personal shortcoming
Arkansas Toothpick
a long, sharp knife
A.W.O.L.
Absent With Out Leave
Bad Egg
bad person, good for nothing
Balderdash
nonsense
Bark Juice, Red Eye, O Be Joyful
liquor
Beat the Dutch
if that don't beat all
Bluff
trick or deceive
Bragg's Body Guard
lice
Been Through the Mill
been through a lot, seen it all
Bellyache
complain
Big Bugs
big wigs, important people
Bivouac
to camp without formal shelter or in temporary circumstances
Blowhard
braggart, bully
Blue Mass
refers to men on sick call; named after blue pill.
Bread Bag
haversack
Bread Basket
stomach
Bully
exclamation meaning 'terrific!' or 'hurrah!'
Bully for You
good for you
Bummer
malingerer, someone who deliberately lags behind to forage or steal on his own shrift
Bummer's Cap
regulation army cap with a high/deep crown, so-called because it could be filled with gathered foodstuffs
Bust Head / Pop Skull
cheap whiskey
Camp canard
tall tale circulating around camp as gossip
Cashier
to dismiss from the army dishonorably
Chief Cook and Bottle Washer
person in charge, or someone who can do anything
Chicken Guts
gold braid used to denote officer ranks
Company Q
fictitious unit designation for the sick list
Conniption Fit
hysterics, temper tantrum
Contraband
escaped slaves who sought refuge behind Union lines
Copperhead
Northern person with Southern, anti-Union sympathies
Cracker Line
supply line for troops on the move
Deadbeat
useless person, malingerer
Desecrated Vegetables
Union, dehydrated (desiccated) vegetables formed into yellowish squares
Dog Robber
soldier detailed from the ranks to act as cook
Dog Collar
cravat issued with uniforms, usually discarded
Duds
clothing
Embalmed Beef
canned meat
Essence of Coffee
early instant coffee, found in paste form
Forage
to hunt for food, live off the land; also came to mean plundering enemy property for sustenance
Fit as a fiddle
in good shape
Fit to be tied
angry
Forty Dead Men
a full cartridge box, which usually held forty rounds
French Leave
to go absent without leave
Fresh Fish
new recruits
Go Boil Your Shirt
take a hike, get lost, bug off
Grab a Root
eat a meal, especially a potato
Greenbacks
money
Grey Backs
lice, also derogatory term for Confederate soldiers
Grit
courage, toughness
Goobers
peanuts
Hanker
a strong wish or want
Hard Case
tough guy
Hard Knocks
hard times, ill use
Hardtack
unleavened bread in the form of 1/4 inch thick crackers issued by the army
Haversack
canvas bag about one foot square, which was slung over the shoulder and used to carry a soldier's rations when on the march
High-falutin
highbrow, fancy
Horse Sense
common sense, good judgement
Hospital Rat
someone who fakes illness to get out of duty
Housewife
sewing kit
Huffy, In a Huff
angry, irritated
Humbug
nonsense, a sham, a hoax
Hunkey Dorey
very good, all is well
Jailbird
criminal
Jawing
talking
John Barleycorn
beer
Jonah
someone who is or brings bad luck
Knock into a Cocked Hat
to knock someone senseless or thoroughly shock him
Let 'er Rip
let it happen, bring it on
Let Drive
go ahead, do it
Likely
serviceable, able-bodied
Light Out
leave in haste
Long Sweetening
molasses
Lucifers
matches
Muggins
a scoundrel
Mule
meat, especially if of dubious quality
Mustered Out –
wry term meaning killed in action
No Account
worthless
Not By a Jug Full
not by any means, no way
On His Own Hook
on one's own shrift, without orders
Opening the Ball
starting the battle
Opine
be of the opinion
Peacock About
strut around
Peaked
pronounced peak-ed; weak or sickly
Pie Eater
country boy, a rustic
Pig Sticker
knife or bayonet
Picket
sentries posted around a camp or bivouac to guard approaches
Play Old Soldier
pretend sickness to avoid combat
Played Out
worn out, exhausted
Pumpkin Rinds
gold lieutenant's bars
Quartermaster Hunter
shot or shell that goes long over the lines and into the rear.
Quick Step, Flux
diarrhea
Robber's Row
the place where sutlers set up to do business
Row
a fight
Salt Horse
salted meat
Sardine Box
cap box
Sawbones
surgeon
Scarce as Hen's Teeth
exceedingly rare or hard to find
Secesh
derogatory term for Confederates and Southerners: secessionists
See The Elephant
experience combat or other worldly events
Shakes
malaria
Shanks Mare
on foot
Sheet Iron Crackers
hard tack
Shoddy
an inferior weave of wool used to make uniforms early in the war; later came to mean any clothing or equipment of substandard quality
Sing Out
call out, yell
Skedaddle
run away, escape
Slouch Hat
a wide-brimmed felt hat
Snug as a Bug
very comfortable
Somebody's Darling
comment when observing a dead soldier
Sparking
courting a girl
Spondulix
money
Sunday Soldiers / Parlor Soldiers
derogatory terms for unsuitable soldiers
Take an Image
have a photograph taken
Tennessee or Virginia Quick Step
diarrhea
Tight
drunk
Toe the Mark
do as told, follow orders
Top Rail
first class, top quality
Traps
equipment, belongings
Tuckered Out
exhausted
Uppity
arrogant
Vidette
a sentry same as Picket but usually on horseback
Wallpapered
drunk
Whipped
beaten
Wrathy
angry
Zu Zu
Zouaves, soldiers whose units wore colorful uniforms in a flamboyant French style with baggy trousers, known for bravery and valor