Soldiers profanity North and South

NH Civil War Gal

1st Lieutenant
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Thomas Lowry is an extremely frustrating figure in the historical community. His book "The Story the Soldiers Wouldn't Tell" is extremely enlightening. But he also got caught altering documents.....
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_P._Lowry#Lincoln_document_forgery_controversy

Anyways...he quotes another soldier as having written (WARNING EXTREMELY NSFW) that they had "some fun in Farmsville" with an "old wench":
“So they all began to pitch in keen. Tom Michael held the light and she received about 60 big schlorgers one after another. I nearly killed myself laughing. The darned old b**** could hardly stand.”
This is also starting to sound like old logging camps in the late 1800s and early 1900s. On the western banks of NH, along the Connecticut River, when they were floating down the logs, there was an older sex worker called “Old Colorado.” I’ve tried to search on her and find out more but I haven’t out anything. Our local PBS station did a thing on logging years ago and this is where I found out about all this.

Anyway the Driver came ashore and asked her for a group discount and she counted up how many men and they came to some sort of deal and she pitched her big white tent on the shores.

I guess as a different type of female, my brain literally turns circles thinking about this type of thing. Can’t comprehend it.
 

Zack

Corporal
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
Seconded on the list of slang terms!

I will flag - per Bell Wiley the term "Billy Yank" was more commonly used after the war than during. Though Johnny Reb was used during the war.

I wish they included sample sentences on the slang terms so we could get a sense of how they were used in a sentence / how frequently they would have been used.

Not a curse word but if we're discussing how soldiers talked the practice of attaching an "a" to verbs was still very common during the Civil War. For example - "going" becomes "agoing" or "agonter"
 

NH Civil War Gal

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For example - "going" becomes "agoing" or "agonter"
I haven't heard it in years, but I used to hear it in a lot of Down East accents and in the mountains of Vermont. I've heard many an old-timer talk about "agoing" somewhere and growing up, instead of saying horses with an "r" in it, I used to hear ALL the old-timers talk about my "hoss" or the "hosses" coming down the road.
 

Zack

Corporal
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
Some choice examples of cursing that Thomas Lowry found in court martial records, which made an effort to get down the words as accurately as possible. None of the men were charged for cursing, it was just included in the report. Gives you an idea of how they would have verbally used the curses in a sentence:

Pvt. G. W. Gribben, 32nd Ohio - "If the officers want to take my pay, they may take it and be God dam*ed, and shove it up their ar**s if they like it. I can stand it, and I'll be God da**ed if they make anything of it."

Sgt. R. P. Quinn 6th Regiment US Veteran Volunteers - I "would kill the dam*ed white-livered, red-headed, son of a b*tch." He struck the guard and called him "a da*n big mouth son of a b*tch."

Pvt. Elijah Johnson, 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry - "God da*n you, I meant to kill you." - this was after trying to shoot an officer and missing.

Pvt. James Tuttle, 152nd New York - "I will do as I d*mn please."

Pvt. James Ducy, 16th New York Cavalry - "Lieutenant, you are a d*mned son of a b*tch; you can suck my a**; I'll mash you and you shall pay for it."

Pvt. Charles Heath, 2nd New Hampshire - "If you arrest me, I will rip your God d*mned guts out and scatter them over the parade ground."

Lt. George Lacy, 2nd New York Heavy Artillery - "I'll be God da*ned if I will go to quarters for Hogg or any other man. Major Hogg sucks the a*se of Major Maguire. I'm a d*mn sight better than either one of them, and if they want to fight, I'm the man for them, God d*mn them."

Lt. Joseph Brown, 102nd Pennsylvania - "You are a d*mned son of a b*tch and you may go to h*ll."

Adolph Schramm, New York Volunteer Engineer - "I can take care of the colonel with my stick, the son of a b*tch, and if the stick fails, why his thing ain't very large and I can take it off with a jack knife."

Pvt. Walter Chisholm, 2nd Battalion of Veterans Reseve Corps - "I will be God d*mned to h*ll if I ever do any more duty, and by Jesus Christ you can't make me."

Capt. Harrison Herndon, 136th USCT - You are "a d*mned rascal and a son of a b*tch."

Lt. William H Justice, 11th Illinois Cavalry - You are a "son of a b*tch, God d*mned liar and d*mned dog." Then he asked someone if he, "would allow a n***** to sh*t on him."

Pvt. Oliver Lichty 12th Iowa Veteran - "You are a d*mned fool, a son of a b*tch, and the son of a wh*re."

Pvt. James Sullivan 13th Regiment Veteran Reserve - When ordered to fall in he replied, "Oh, sh*t, I cannot." He was also reported as saying: "You are a liar and can go to h*ll." "I don't want any of your lip and will put your head in that kettle."

Pvt. Jasper Burtnett, 89th Ohio - "I'll not fall in 'till I d*mned please, you d*mned black-headed thief."
Note - this is the second or third time hair color has been referenced in an insult

Pvt. Thomas Clossen 82nd Pennsylvania - I'll "be God dam*ed if I was afraid of any dam*ed officer in the regiment."

Pvt. John Kelly, Veteran Reserve Corps - "I will cut your dam*ed heart out."

Pvt. Thomas Ryan, 1st Connecticut Cavalry - You are "a dam*ed diarrhea son of a b*tch."

Pvt. George Carr - Veteran Reserve Corps - you are "a Dutch son of a b*tch, a wh*remaster, and a Dutch bas*ard."

Pvt. Mariman Gray, 116th Ohio - "Have you any sisters? If you have, I should like to f*ck them. That was my business before I came into the service, and now I am f*cking for Uncle Sam."

You get the idea.....
 
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Sgt. Tyree

Private
Joined
Apr 29, 2020
Location
Wyoming Territory
True about the f-word - pretty widespread as the verb synonym but its expansion as an adjective, pejorative, etc must have started evolving.......
"Word! The wording worder is wording well worded!" (replace "word" with you know what) - Heard coming from a range instructor in reference to an M60 machine gun that had malfunctioned to the extent that it required a replacement part and armorer level maintenance.
 

Belfoured

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
According to Dr Lowry, there were two versions: One written in 1863 by Bernard Covert described the Confederate president trembling at the thought of a Yankee noose around his neck, and criticised England and France for aiding the rebels. All the themes are political.

Utterly different is the second version, which appears in numerous hand-written editions - this will be the version that 'The Common soldier in the Civil War' was alluding to.

Not sure if I can get away with posting this on here, but I'll give it a go. No worse than any Rugby song, but I warn you, Shakespeare it ain't 😳


One night as Jeff lay fast asleep
With his wife huged to his heart.
A little closer she did creep,
And chanced to let a fart.

The fart it smelt so strong,
And sounded so much louder
He though that something wrong must be
For he smelt the Lincoln powder.

Hark, Hark says he yet unawake,
How will I show my spunkey?
And reaching down his gun to take
His fingers touched her monkey.

Twas then his courage did appear
He thought he had found a pistol,
He brought his arse up in the air
With his c*** as hard as crystal.

"Swab", he cried, "Swab out the gun,
And give old Lincoln thunder -
Oh, now my boys we'll have some fun
And show him his great blunder."

His c*** into his monkey went
His arse it went to bobbing -
He let a fart and then it spent -
Says Jeffrey's wife, "I'm co-co-coming."

"Fine, fine," cried Jeff, "the gun is clean,"
He strained enough to split -
And throwing his arms around his dear
He strained again and ****.

"Oh, oh," cried Jeff, "I'm shot, I'm shot,
"My leg is bleeding - bleeding.
"Help, help, come here to this spot,
"Oh, death is slowly feeding.

"Oh, would that I were loyal now
"I hear old Abe coming,
"He'll hang me, he will, I vow,
"Yes, yes, I hear him drumming."

"You've ****, you fool," Jeff's wife says
As she held him on a level:
"I never saw such rebel strife
"You nasty stinking devel."

"Oh dear," says Jeff, now wide awake,
"What have I done indeed?
Oh, my wife please take my trembling hand
And we will both secede."

I don't think Walt Whitman would have felt threatened by the wordsmith who came up with that 🤪
I think we have a winner.
 

Jeff in Ohio

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 17, 2015
I found the sheet music with lyrics in the Library of Congress online archives - it is the tamer version - here is the cover only

jeff davis dream.png
 

Si Klegg

Corporal
Joined
Jul 13, 2018
Location
Bedford UK
I haven't heard it in years, but I used to hear it in a lot of Down East accents and in the mountains of Vermont. I've heard many an old-timer talk about "agoing" somewhere and growing up, instead of saying horses with an "r" in it, I used to hear ALL the old-timers talk about my "hoss" or the "hosses" coming down the road.
Oh you've reminded me of my favourite Soldier's letter phonetic spelling (think I first read it in Wiley's Billy Yank) ...

'Horse-spittle' for hospital. Still cracks me up every time I see it 😆
 

Fairfield

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
Some choice examples of cursing that Thomas Lowry found in court martial records, which made an effort to get down the words as accurately as possible. None of the men were charged for cursing, it was just included in the report.
While doing research on local soldiers, I found the court martial papers filed against one of "my" soldiers. When scolded by an officer for neglect of duty, Private Lawrence replied "You damned son of a *****, I will do as I please" (added the report: "or words to that effect" 😳). The private was charged with "Contempt and disrespect towards his commanding officer". Unfortunately, Private Lawrence went on to add the charge of "Striking his superior officer".
 

Biscoitos

Corporal
Joined
May 14, 2020
I’ve come across a number of diaries where they keep using “Jerusalem” for some sort of stand in, but wouldn’t use even that around the ladies.
I am currently transcribing the private journal of a Union sailor on the Western Waters. In January 1863 he writes: "A twelvemonth ago every man on board seemed eager for a fight and devoted body and soul to the Union cause, now all seemed to rush above all things to see the war come to an end, no matter how, and many stated openly enough that if they had thought the they had been coming to fight to free (African Americans) they would have seen the Navy in Jericho before they would not have joined it for any such purpose."
 

Crossroads

Private
Joined
Jan 2, 2021
One small point - you may underestimate Shakespeare and how things were actually acted out/adlibbed at the Globe Theater (and the "French" in Henry V gives a slight hint). The crowd seated at the foot of the stage was not necessarily constrained by "oaths" . .
During my many trips to the UK, I have been fortunate to attend several of Shakespeare's plays performed at the Globe. During one such performance, a tall young American male wearing a backpack, a "groundling" standing in front of the stage, must have locked his knees because he passed out and fell backwards, and hit the ground, seemingly stiff as a board. A cloud of dust rose from the scene, A collective gasp went up and people seated stood up to see. For a moment the played stopped, or rather paused. Then one of the actors spontaneously said "Well, we are knocking them dead today." The audience laughed and the play continued as if nothing had happened.
 

Lubliner

1st Lieutenant
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Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
This is also starting to sound like old logging camps in the late 1800s and early 1900s. On the western banks of NH, along the Connecticut River, when they were floating down the logs, there was an older sex worker called “Old Colorado.” I’ve tried to search on her and find out more but I haven’t out anything. Our local PBS station did a thing on logging years ago and this is where I found out about all this.

Anyway the Driver came ashore and asked her for a group discount and she counted up how many men and they came to some sort of deal and she pitched her big white tent on the shores.

I guess as a different type of female, my brain literally turns circles thinking about this type of thing. Can’t comprehend it.
It must be one of those, "Well, you just never know till you try it!:rolleyes:" type of acts.
Like an Ice Tea commercial...'are you ready to take the plunge'...:speechless:
Lubliner.
 

Zella

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 23, 2018
This has been a fun thread.

It's definitely true that, in the 1800s, blasphemy was more shocking to their sensibilities than it is now. (And I don't think that is exclusive to English. That concept exists in other languages too. I've noticed from watching Danish TV shows that a lot of times even in the 21st century what is rendered in English subtitles as "godd*mn" or "f***" is just the character literally shouting "Satan!" This never fails to amuse me.)

I've actually read that on the show Deadwood (set about 20 or so years after the Civil War), the showrunners decided to abandon their original plan to rely on more period-appropriate swearing because it sounded goofy to modern ears. In fact, the showrunner said, "They'd all wind up sounding like Yosemite Sam."

On the subject of enemies swearing at each other, reaching much farther back than the Civil War, the French during the Hundred Years War called their English foe the "godd*mns" because that was the word they heard from them the most.
 

Zack

Corporal
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
After the publication of Wilbur Hinman's "Corporal Si Klegg and His Pard," Hinman's former editor, John McElroy (who served in the 16th Illinois Cavalry, was captured in 1864, and sent to Andersonville) published his own Si Klegg novel - "Si Klegg: His Transformation from a Raw Recruit to a Veteran." It featured the same characters - Si Klegg and Shorty. Unlike Hinman's version, John McElroy does name specific battles and events.

Anyways - there's a scene in the McElroy version where at Stone's River a terrified teamster comes racing past the regiment. The soldiers all shout insults at the man -

"Run, you egg-sucking hound."

"Run, you scald-headed dominie."

"Somebody busted a cap in your neighborhood, old white-liver."

"Seen the ghost of a dead rebel, Pilgarlic?"

"Pull back your eyes, you infernal mulewhacker. A limb'll brush 'em off."

"Look at his hair standin' up stiffer'n bristles on a boar's back."

"Your mules got more sand 'n you. They're standing where you left 'em."

"Of course, you're whipped and all cut to pieces. You was that when you heard the first gun crack."

"Get out of the way, and let him run himself to death. That's all he's fit for."

"You've no business in men's clothes. Put on petticoats."

"Go it, rabbit; go it, cotton-tail you've heard a dog bark."

"Chickee chickee skip for the barn. Hawk's in the air."

"Let him alone. He's in a hurry to get back and pay his sutler's bill."


A quick google search on the obscure words and terms -
Pilgarlic - a man looked upon with humorous contempt or mock pity. (also means bald-headed but I think they're using it this way)

Dominie - a pastor or clergyman

Scald head - any of several diseases of the scalp characterized by falling out of the hair and by pustules the dried discharge of which forms scales. (this might not be how he's using it)


In Hinman's book, there is a scene where fresh recruit Si Klegg is being insulted by a bunch of veterans as he marches past them trying to catch up to his own regiment. Some of their insults are real head-scratchers to me:

"Grab a root!"

"Hello, there, you! Change step an' ye'll march easier!"

"Here comes one o' the persimmon-knockers!"


If anyone has any idea what "grab a root" means or what a "persimmon-knocker" is I am all ears.

In keeping with the purpose of this thread, it's worth noting that in the entirety Hinman's book there is very little if any cursing. Though he recreated the slang and the vernacular, he did not include the cursing. McElroy included only very, very, very limited cursing from what I can tell in a brief scan.

I can only speculate as to why that is the case, but I have a sneaking suspicion it's not because the soldiers didn't curse in real life....

The different versions of Si Klegg
http://commonplace.online/article/innocents-war-si-kleggs-civil-war/

McElroy's Version
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/31772/31772-h/31772-h.htm#link2HCH0006

I will say though - in the above link Book 1 seems to be pretty much the same as Hinman's version. It isn't until Book 2 that it starts noticeably changing.
 
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