Did CW-Era Southerners Speak With a 'Southern Accent'?

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Zella

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 23, 2018
I would say without a doubt most if not all the various Southern accents were around during the CW.

One note I'd like to caution people on, is the Scots-Irish connection. Its very small, I would say outside of Appalachia its very rare and that most Southerners are English decent, and that Deep South accents probably have more similarity with English ones.

Some may balk at such a notion, (I know a lot of people that hate me for saying it), but when you think about it makes sense. People tend to immigrate to regions similar to where they came from, you have that in Appalachia for Scots-Irish, and on top of that Scots-Irish were poorer peoples, and tickets to the South were more expensive, the voyage longer distance than say immigration to the North from the British Isles. Then there's the American Revolution to consider, during that conflict there were a lot of people for the King in the South, and as a rule they all tended to come from people of Scottish, and Scots-Irish settled areas that were in direct conflict with Patriot areas that were mostly English decent. A lot of those "Tories" were forced out after that conflict.

Then there's practical application. I speak with a pretty strong Southern, Texas drawl, and I will say with full confidence it has more in common with English accents than Scottish, because if I sit and watch British shows, (I've always like the Napoleonic shows), for an extended period, I've found I can replicate various accents to near perfection while hearing it. I've shocked some folks that way for fun I might add. I can't do that with Scottish, or Irish accents, plus I've seen folks from England who could replicate Southerner accents to near perfection, but I've personally not seen it done out of Scottish or Irish peoples. So while a bit circumstantial, I think that ought to be brought up.

Of course then there's surnames, which tend to either be complete English origin in the majority, surnames that'd become interchangeable with England and Scotland, and then Scottish surnames in dead last outside Appalachia. I'm by no means an expert, these are just things I've noticed. Also Southern newspapers at the time of the CW, and before like the Charleston Mercury, defined Southerners as Anglo-Saxon decent, little food for thought.
Oh I don't doubt that, but I'm from western north carolina (appalachia) and have lived most of my life in the Ozarks. Surnames here and back home and in my family tree are like roll call in Scotland. :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: The proportion I have found that are English are quite small, and that echoes my own research that takes almost all my ancestors on that side back to scotland via northern ireland. My mom's family, by contrast, is from out west, and the heavy proportion of English surnames and origins (minus the random Germans) is quite noticeable. Very few if any Scottish or Scotch-Irish names.

When my grandparents lived in Colorado briefly, everyone assumed their thick western carolina accents were Texan. My grandparents were confused and always told the Coloradans it was because people from where they were from taught texans how to talk right. :wink:

Some Texas accents really do sound like appalachian carolina accents, and I have no doubt that their ancestors were from there way back. If you follow the migration patterns the Scotch-Irish took out of the Carolinas, it makes complete sense.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Rusk County Avengers

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
Oh I don't doubt that, but I'm from western north carolina (appalachia) and have lived most of my life in the Ozarks. Surnames here and back home and in my family tree are like roll call in Scotland. :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: The proportion I have found that are English are quite small, and that echoes my own research that takes almost all my ancestors on that side back to scotland via northern ireland. My mom's family, by contrast, is from out west, and the heavy proportion of English surnames and origins (minus the random Germans) is quite noticeable. Very few if any Scottish or Scotch-Irish names.

When my grandparents lived in Colorado briefly, everyone assumed their thick western carolina accents were Texan. My grandparents were confused and always told the Coloradans it was because people from where they were from taught texans how to talk right. :wink:

Some Texas accents really do sound like appalachian carolina accents, and I have no doubt that their ancestors were from there way back. If you follow the migration patterns the Scotch-Irish took out of the Carolinas, it makes complete sense.
Oh yes, its just human nature. People as a whole like to be where the land is familiar.

Of course me, I like mountainous terrain, and here in Texas half my family thinks I'm bonkers to like mountains in the Ozarks, or the Rockies as they all prefer the flat terrain.

A few things I always bring up when in a discussion on these matters, and always riles people who are adamant that all Southerners are Scottish or Scot-Irish up into a rage is when I point out a few undeniables.

1. Architecture-Our architecture tends to resemble English trends more than anything, including great big Greek Revival Antebellum homes

2. Cuisine-Yeah we fry things, but as a rule Scottish foods like say haggis have never been a thing. Our tastes are closer to English tastes. Like venison, or deer for example. One branch of family, actually came to America, Virginia, because it was that or prison when they got caught poaching the King's deer. Or so that story goes...

3. Economics-I guess that's the best term, a lot of the Southern is Scottish crowd love to claim we have always been herders just like Scots, THAT IS DEAD WRONG!!! Southerners have never been the biggest on herding, some would like to point out Texas and the cattle industry but that's an exception rather than the rule and that didn't start out till after the CW I might add. Southerners have always been farmers. Guess who else is known for farming historically. The English, mainly before industry was the big thing over there, but English immigration to this region was before all that.

4. Religion- The South has always been very Protestant, whereas up till the 1790's Scotland and even Scots-Irish had a big Catholic streak that the American South has never had.

5. And my favorite that always brings a raging response, Southerners didn't start this big "We're Scots!" thing until a certain very historically inaccurate and popular movie with Mel Gibson came out in the 90's. I've actually been assaulted over that point, it turning a debate into a fight, though I do love to point it out.

Now one point one astute fellow has fired off at me is some British officer's quote, that was the whole basis for some 1950's book saying the South was Scottish which is not a good basis for a whole book I would think, where this officer serving in the Carolinas during the Revolutionary War described the whole war as a mere "Highland uprising" by Scots. This could be interpreted in many ways, he could have been in the Appalachia's, or he could have been using the Jacobite Rebellions as a comparison because the people were against the Crown and so on. I personally think that professor whatever that kept on about that was twisting fact to suit opinions.

But yeah, there is a Scottish influence on the South, no denying it, but there is also Spanish, French, even German influences, but at the end of the day English influence has been the biggest and I think that alone is an indicator of the largest ethnic group we're descended from.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Zella

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 23, 2018
Oh yes, its just human nature. People as a whole like to be where the land is familiar.

Of course me, I like mountainous terrain, and here in Texas half my family thinks I'm bonkers to like mountains in the Ozarks, or the Rockies as they all prefer the flat terrain.

A few things I always bring up when in a discussion on these matters, and always riles people who are adamant that all Southerners are Scottish or Scot-Irish up into a rage is when I point out a few undeniables.

1. Architecture-Our architecture tends to resemble English trends more than anything, including great big Greek Revival Antebellum homes

2. Cuisine-Yeah we fry things, but as a rule Scottish foods like say haggis have never been a thing. Our tastes are closer to English tastes. Like venison, or deer for example. One branch of family, actually came to America, Virginia, because it was that or prison when they got caught poaching the King's deer. Or so that story goes...

3. Economics-I guess that's the best term, a lot of the Southern is Scottish crowd love to claim we have always been herders just like Scots, THAT IS DEAD WRONG!!! Southerners have never been the biggest on herding, some would like to point out Texas and the cattle industry but that's an exception rather than the rule and that didn't start out till after the CW I might add. Southerners have always been farmers. Guess who else is known for farming historically. The English, mainly before industry was the big thing over there, but English immigration to this region was before all that.

4. Religion- The South has always been very Protestant, whereas up till the 1790's Scotland and even Scots-Irish had a big Catholic streak that the American South has never had.

5. And my favorite that always brings a raging response, Southerners didn't start this big "We're Scots!" thing until a certain very historically inaccurate and popular movie with Mel Gibson came out in the 90's. I've actually been assaulted over that point, it turning a debate into a fight, though I do love to point it out.

Now one point one astute fellow has fired off at me is some British officer's quote, that was the whole basis for some 1950's book saying the South was Scottish which is not a good basis for a whole book I would think, where this officer serving in the Carolinas during the Revolutionary War described the whole war as a mere "Highland uprising" by Scots. This could be interpreted in many ways, he could have been in the Appalachia's, or he could have been using the Jacobite Rebellions as a comparison because the people were against the Crown and so on. I personally think that professor whatever that kept on about that was twisting fact to suit opinions.

But yeah, there is a Scottish influence on the South, no denying it, but there is also Spanish, French, even German influences, but at the end of the day English influence has been the biggest and I think that alone is an indicator of the largest ethnic group we're descended from.
There is a big difference between Scottish and Scotch-Irish, I would argue though, and the terms shouldn't be used interchangeably. The Scotch-Irish influence is much more prevalent than a Scottish influence in the South, and I would argue many of them have lost their identity as Scotch-Irish and just think of themselves as American. I have never personally come across Highlander Scots in my own family research.

And the Scotch-Irish were not Catholic. The Highland Scots were, but the Scotch-Irish were not. Or at least not that I have come across. They were Presbyterians, largely. Their relatives who stayed behind form the Protestant Ulster Scots in Northern Ireland. The religious conflict that has rocked Northern Ireland wouldn't exist if those folks had a Catholic ancestry.

I would never say the South is Scottish in origin. I would say the culture and ancestry of the Upland South is most definitely shaped by their Scotch-Irish forebears. That doesn't rule out other folks settling there in the same way that not everyone who settled the Lowland South was of English descent. But the culture of the majority did shape these areas, and for the Upland South, there's really no denying that it was a heavy Scotch-Irish influence.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

diane

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
I always like to read Forrest's notes and letters that he wrote himself. He spelled phonetically, just as he spoke, and his rural Tennessee accent comes across very clearly - as if he was standing in front of you. Dropped back where he came from, he'd be understood just fine! All-abama instead of Al-abama, hedquahters instead of headquarters, fetch for bring, influance for influence. The few surviving letters and diaries that George Washington left cleared up the misunderstanding that he had a British-Gaelic accent - he, too, spelled phonetically and had Alexander Hamilton clean up things...he had the British-Gaelic accent. Washington sounded as Virginian as Robert E Lee ever did!
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

diane

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
Great to listen to! He says he's from Southeast Virginia.

Roy B.
Granny and uncle were from South Carolina - it was yar, not year, you lit a far not a fire. You got religious over dinner - y'all wanna pious the braid down hyehr? I could really relate to one of Jeb's Virginia cavalrymen when some recruits from the Deep South showed up. "They spoke a language I could not understand," he mused. It was English!
 

Zella

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 23, 2018
Granny and uncle were from South Carolina - it was yar, not year, you lit a far not a fire. You got religious over dinner - y'all wanna pious the braid down hyehr? I could really relate to one of Jeb's Virginia cavalrymen when some recruits from the Deep South showed up. "They spoke a language I could not understand," he mused. It was English!
Diane, were they from upstate SC? My relatives from Western North Carolina, one of their favorite profanities is "hellfar." :wink: I've never actually heard anyone say that in the Ozarks. :giggle:
 
Last edited:

diane

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
Diane, were they from upstate SC? My relatives from Western North Carolina, one of their favorite profanities is "hellfar." :wink:
Yes - around the old Rock Hill reservation in York Co. Pretty much on the border there. (The rez is sure a lot different these days! :D) Granny was hard shell Baptist and wouldn't even say gee whiz but uncle would sometimes look at us and mutter 'hellfar n brimstone!' He was a might old to have kids around - 'chil-un' as he said.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Zella

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 23, 2018
Yes - around the old Rock Hill reservation in York Co. Pretty much on the border there. (The rez is sure a lot different these days! :D) Granny was hard shell Baptist and wouldn't even say gee whiz but uncle would sometimes look at us and mutter 'hellfar n brimstone!' He was a might old to have kids around - 'chil-un' as he said.
That's very interesting! My folks from WNC have some of the quirkiest profanities I have ever heard. Sadly not fit for print on the website. But they are creative--and the pronunciations can get interesting. :giggle:
 

zburkett

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 21, 2015
Location
Orange County, Virginia
As an aside it is interesting to look at the reaction to different accents. Generally speaking Southerners don't like New York accents but find New England accents charming. Nasal accents aren't liked but the slow drawl is loved. English and Australian is cute and that is why so many TV spokesman have them, even if they aren't from England or Australia. When I was a film maker I always had to be careful where my films were going to be played and get someone with a acceptable voice. Of course there is the always good Johnny Carson accent that most professionals go for.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Location
Mississippi
For those that would like to hear a rebel yell plus some conversation.

Thanks wallylfish.
It's sound somewhat comical coming from individual old men near the end of their lives.

But . . . think about how that would have sounded coming from thirty thousand young men . . . yelping all at once . . . running toward you with fixed bayonets and loaded rifles.

It would have have made me worry about what was about to happen.

:bounce:
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top