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Nicknames

Discussion in 'Battle of Gettysburg' started by Tom Elmore, Dec 1, 2017.

  1. Tom Elmore

    Tom Elmore First Sergeant

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    Nicknames were evidently in common use among the ranks. They might be complimentary, derogatory, descriptive, a play on a name, or reminiscent of a trait, peculiarity, or event uniquely linked to the owner. Some were acquired before the war.

    Soldiers visiting another unit might be addressed only by their regiment: “We never ask each other’s names, but call one another from the regiment they belong to, for instance they would call me '12th Virginia.' ” (Letters of the Grinnan Family, letter of 31 January 1863)

    It seems everyone in Company K of the 11th Pennsylvania Reserves was assigned a nickname: Plankhead, Cutting-Box, Chaff, Tick, Rush, American Tadpole, Union Jim, Copperhead, Bad Bill, Long Agony, White Eye, Innocence, Earnest, Sea Horse, Paste Bob, Bald-Headed Carpenter, Bummer, Flying Dutchman and Japanese. (Three Years in the Bloody Eleventh, the Campaigns of a Pennsylvania Reserves Regiment, by Joseph Gibbs)

    Most of the following nicknames were likely in use during the Gettysburg campaign.

    Complimentary:
    (CSA) Lt. Gen. James “Old Bulldog” Longstreet, overheard from a Floridian in Lang’s brigade as Longstreet rode past on the march to Gettysburg.
    (CSA) Brig. Gen. Jerome B. “Aunt Polly” Robertson, due to his abiding concern for the welfare of his men. (https://civilwartalk.com/threads/men-of-hoods-texas-brigade.92547/#post-760847; Confederate Veteran, v. 17, p. 269)
    (USA) Maj. Gen. John “Uncle John” Sedgwick. (Dedication of the Equestrian Statue of Major-General John Sedgwick)

    Derogatory:
    (USA) Brig. Gen. Joseph B. “Crazy” Carr, who was disliked by many soldiers and often taunted for having taught in dancing schools of low repute before the war. As he rode, some would cry out, “right and left,” or “all promenade to the bar.” (Henry N. Blake, Three Years in the Army of the Potomac, 11th Massachusetts)

    Descriptive:
    (CSA) Brig. Gen. William “Little Billy” Mahone, for his short stature and thin frame.
    (CSA) Amandus N. “Big Foot” Walker, courier, 11th Virginia, because of his long legs and big feet. (Capt. John Holmes Smith, 11th Virginia, Supplement to the Official Records)
    (CSA) Pvt. William Bayliss “Coperas Breeched” Tull, Company G, 9th Louisiana (not present at Gettysburg), nicknamed after arriving as a volunteer in homespun clothes made by his step-mother at home.
    (USA) Col. Samuel S. “Old Brick-Top” Carroll, on account of his red hair; eventually his brigade was called the “Brick-Top Brigade” after him. (A Complete Military History and Record of the 108th Regiment N.Y., by George H. Washburn, p. 55)
    (USA) Brig. Gen. Andrew A. “Old Goggle-Eyes” Humphreys. (Little Fifer’s War Diary, C. W. Bardeen, 1st Massachusetts.)
    (USA) “Jack,” a soldier in the 27th Indiana, because he resembled the Jack of Clubs in a card deck. (Edmund Randolph Brown, Twenty-Seventh Indiana Volunteer Infantry, p. 33)

    Name Play:
    (USA) Brig. Gen. Alexander “Old Aleck” Hays. (A Complete Military History and Record of the 108th Regiment N.Y., by George H. Washburn, p. 321)
    (USA) Lt. John “Shacks” Huidekoper, 150th Pennsylvania. Born in Holland, he went by Jack, but it sounded like Shacks when he said it. (Thomas Chamberlin, History of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Pennsylvania Volunteers)
    (USA) E. Norman “Enormous” Gunnison, 2nd New Hampshire (discharged early 1863). (Martin A. Haynes, 2 NH, A Minor War History)

    Business Trait:
    Brig. Gen. William “Extra Billy” Smith, received before the war for demanding extra fee payments from the government for additional spur lines added to a stage coach line that ran from Washington D.C. to Milledgeville, Georgia. (Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 117, no. 2, 2009)

    Event:
    (CSA) Lt. Valentine W. “Turkey” Southall, Company B, 23rd Virginia, acquired prior to the war after an unsuccessful turkey hunting expedition to provide victuals for a party thrown for family slaves prompted him to kill one of his mother’s tame turkeys. (Kent Masterson Brown, Lest We Forget)
    (USA) Pvt. George “Fish” McFetridge, Company K, 28th Pennsylvania, acquired at Gettysburg when he found some salt mackerel while foraging at the Abraham Spangler house. (William T. Simpson, The Drummer Boys of Gettysburg, H/28 PA)

    Undetermined:
    (CSA) Maj. Gen. Edward “Brute” Johnson, possibly because he always carried a formidable staff that suggested he would employ against the enemy. (Charles A. Rollins, Memoirs, 27th Virginia). He was better known as “Old Alleghany” from his exploits in that region.
    (CSA) Pvt. James M. “Black-Eyed” Williams. (Capt. John Holmes Smith, 11th Virginia, Supplement to the Official Records)
    (CSA) Pvt. Jasper Harrison “Jap” Brightwell, Company K, 8th Georgia, possibly a play on his name. (http://civilwartalk.com/threads/dr-jasper-h-brightwell-pvt-co-k-8th-georgia-infantry.128272/)
    (CSA) Pvts. J. J. “Scrapper John” Caldwell and Henry F. “Old Spike” Cornelius, both of Company E, 32nd North Carolina. (The Catawba Soldier of the Civil War)
    (CSA) David P. “Pink” Jarrett, Company E, 32nd North Carolina, perhaps because his middle name may have been Pinckney.
    (CSA) Pvt. Charles Wesley “Doc” Leonard, Company B, 45th North Carolina. (http://history-sites.net/mb/cw/nccwmb/index.cgi?read=89)
    (CSA) “Frog” Johnson, Company A, 12th Virginia, possibly because of his short stature. (Memoirs of James Eldred Phillips, Company G, 12th Virginia)
    (CSA) William A. “Billy Fat” McPheeters, Jeff Davis Legion Cavalry, described as a large, handsome man with a wonderful personality. (Horsemen of the Jeff Davis Legion, p. 12)
    (CSA) Brig. Gen. Cadmus “Old Billy Fixen” Wilcox. (George Clark, B/11 AL)
    (USA) Capt. “Jerkey” Ticknor, 6th Wisconsin. (James P. Sullivan, An Irishman in the Iron Brigade, 6th Wisconsin, p. 95)
    (USA) Surgeon John C. “Old Syntax” Hall, 6th Wisconsin. (James P. Sullivan, An Irishman in the Iron Brigade, 6th Wisconsin, p. 95)
    (USA) Col. “Old Butter and Cheese” Wheelock, 97th New York. (Three Years with Company K, 13th Massachusetts, p. 159)
    (USA) Sgt. “Old Bull” McBride, Battery B, 4th U.S. Artillery. (Augustus Buell, The Cannoneer, p. 72)
    (USA) Pvt. “Bucktown” Brown, 8th Ohio. (Lt. Thomas F. Galway, 8th Ohio, The Struggle for the Bliss Farm, by Elwood Crist, p. 52)
    (USA) Brig. Gen. Thomas Hewson “Bucky” Neill. (Dedication of the Equestrian Statue of Major-General John Sedgwick)
    (USA) Pvt. John “Woodpecker” Craddock, Company H, 28th Pennsylvania. (William T. Simpson, The Drummer Boys of Gettysburg, H/28 PA)
    (USA) Granville S. “Curley” Converse, 2nd New Hampshire. (Martin A. Haynes, 2 NH, A Minor War History)
    (USA) Orrin S. “Old Beauregard” Gardner, 2nd New Hampshire (deserted 30 May 1863). (Martin A. Haynes, 2 NH, A Minor War History)
    (USA) William T. “Fiddle” Woodward, Company K, 22nd Massachusetts. (Edwin C. Bennett, Musket and Sword, p. 142, 22nd Massachusetts)
    (USA) Capt. Malbone Francis “Peggy” Watson, battery commander. (Letter from Capt. Watson)
    (USA) “Bottle” Ross, 19th Massachusetts. (History of the Nineteenth Regiment Mass., comp. by Ernest L. Watt)
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2017
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  3. AUG351

    AUG351 Captain Forum Host

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    In the Army of Tennessee the Texans, Arkansans, and Missourians in the army all knew each other as Chubs, Joshes, and Jakes, respectively.

    Posted about it here: https://civilwartalk.com/threads/joshes-jakes-and-chubs.138482/

    No idea how it started. I've only heard of it being done in the AoT, never in Hood's Texas Brigade between the Texans and 3rd Arkansas or by units in the Trans-Mississippi theater.
     
  4. Billy Yank

    Billy Yank First Sergeant

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    This could be explored in much greater detail, ad infinitum.
     
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  5. diane

    diane Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

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    Even though he wasn't particularly old, most of Forrest's many nicknames included Ol' !
    Ol' Bedford
    Ol' Forrest
    Ol' Rebel
    and, of course, Wizard of the Saddle

    Bill Forrest's band of scouts were like a plague of locusts when they came through an area - either side, didn't matter - so they were known as The Forty Thieves!
     
  6. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    This also earned him the name Old Clubby.
     
  7. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    Another in this same vein is Alexander "Little Ellick" Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy
     
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  8. amweiner

    amweiner Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    Giving a shout out to Israel "Greasy Dick" Richardson, George "Little Mac" McClellan, Edwin "Bull" Sumner, George "Pap" Greene, Alpheus "Pops" Williams, William "Baldy" Smith, and Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker.
     
  9. mofederal

    mofederal 2nd Lieutenant

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    It seems most West Pointers had academy nicknames, some of which followed them all of their lives. JEB Stuart "Beauty" of course JEB was a nickname also for James Ewell Brown Stuart. Tardy George Sykes, Useless Grant, Henry "Slow Come" Slocom , Abner "Old 48 Hours" Doubleday, George "Slow Trot" Thomas, John "Old Wooden Head" Hood, and William Henry "Old Blinky" French. Of course not to forget Alexander "Smart Aleck" Stevens.
     
  10. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think anyone has yet mentioned the obvious: Thomas J. Stonewall Jackson!
     

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