Glossary Civil War Slang

abolitionist: someone who believed that slavery should be abolished. artillery: division of the army that handles large weapons.

bombproof: an underground shelter; also an officer or soldier who never went to the front bread basket: stomach.

Bummer: a loafer, a forager, or someone safe in the rear. Bummer's cap: regulation fatigue or forage cap.

California 100: a group of 100 men from California, originally from the East Coast, who joined a Massachusetts cavalry regiment but had their own uniform, flag, and equipment.

casualty: a soldier injured, killed, captured, or missing in action. cavalry: soldiers trained to fight on horseback. chicken guts: officer's gold braiding on his cuff.

Confederate: the government established by the southern states of the United States after they seceded from the Union in 1860 and 1861, called the Confederate States of America.

dragoons: heavily armed subdivisions of the cavalry. duds: clothing.

Federal: having to do with the northern United States and those loyal to the Union during the Civil War; also a member of the Union army.

fit as a fiddle: in good shape, healthy, feeling good.

fresh fish: new recruits.

front: the area where the military is fighting.

goobers: peanuts.

grab a root: have dinner of a potato. Graybacks: Southern soldiers.

hayfoot, strawfoot: command used to teach new soldiers the difference between left (hayfoot) and right (strawfoot).

here's your mule: a term the infantry used to insult the cavalry.

hornets: bullets.

hospital rat: person who fakes illness.

housewife: sewing kit.

infantry: soldiers trained to fight on foot.

jawings: talking.

long sweetening: molasses.

opening of the ball: units waiting to move into battle.

picket line: the line between Confederate and Union soldiers on the battlefield. picket: a guard or guard duty. possum: buddy. sawbones: surgeon.

siege fighting: long battles where troops hunker down in trenches and fortifications, for several days to several months, fighting only sporadically. snug as a bug: very comfortable or cozy.

somebody's darling: a dead soldier; also the name of a popular Civil War song. sutler: army camp follower who peddles provisions to the soldiers. top rail: first class, the best.

Union: the United States of America, especially the northern states during the American Civil War. vittles: food or rations.

web feet: a term the cavalry had for the infantry.

wig-wag: a letter-number code represented by certain positions and movements of a signal flag: Used to communicate on the battlefield.

Zouave: comes from an Algerian word for soldiers known for their fierce fighting style, flashy uniforms, and incredible bravery. Units devoted to the Zouave style fought in both the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Zuzu: Zouaves.

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