Civil War Slang

Author unknown

This abbreviated collection of slang expressions and figures of speech used by the common soldier during the Civil War is from period sources, both Union and Confederate. The entries followed by (N) are from Northern writings, the rest are Southern.

Attend to the Inner Man (N): eat

Bad Fix (N): unpleasant situation

Big Bugs: important people

Biled Shirt: white shirt

Blaze Away: shoot

Bomb: artillery shell

Brackish Water (N): water unfit for drinking

Bringing a Brick with him (N): drunk

Bust-Head: cheap whiskey

By-Play: trick, ruse

Caboodle: lot

Cast Up Accounts (N): vomit

Chaff: insignificant things, "stuff"

Chicken Guts: uniform braid

Coffee Coolers (N): worthless soldiers

Company Q: fictitious outfit for cowards and noncombatants Desecrated Vegetables (N): desiccated (dehydrated) vegetables Dog Fall: drawn fight or battle, a tie

Dose of Cold Lead (N): gunshot

Dose of Leaden Pills (N): gunshot

Drissely: rain

Flyblown Meat (N): meat infested by maggots

Fresh Fish (N): gullible or inexperienced person, a recruit Gobble (N): whip the enemy

Go Boil Your Shirt (N): "bug off"

Gone Fawn Skins: "dead ducks"

Gopher Hole: trench

Grabbling: the art of fishing with your hands

Grayback: a louse

Gun Stopper: a tompion, used to plug the muzzle of rifle

Gun Wiper: worm, used to run patches down rifle

Gutted (N): pillaged

Hacked: demoralized

Halloed: called

Hanker (N): desire

Hardlooking (N): mean-looking

Here's Your Mule: term of derision

Hospital Rat: one who feigns sickness in order to avoid battle

Hot Stuff (N): liquor

Indian Style: single file

Infernal Machines (N): land mines

Jaw: talk

Jim Jams (N): delirium

John Barleycorn: liquor (specifically beer)

Jolly Tar (N): sailor

Jug: capture

Leaden Pills: bullets

Light Out: leave

Like a Duck on a June Bug: very fast

Line his Pockets: swindle

Let Drive (N): shoot

Loophole: hole through which rifle is fired

Loose State (N): drunk

Mudsill (N): derogatory Southern term referring to poor white trash and applied by Southerners to Western U.S. Army troops, who perversely adapted it to their own use

Muggins: scoundrel

Mule: beef

Old Bird: veteran

Old Hand (N): veteran

On His Own Hook: of his own free will

Peacock About (N): strut

Peg Away (N): shoot

Peg Out (N): die

Picked Chicken: dead duck

Pie Eaters (N): country boys

Play Old Soldier: feign sickness in order to avoid battle

Play Outs: military noncombatants, such as staff officers

Play Smash: destroy

Sacred Soil of Virginia (N): dust

Salt Horse (N): preserved beef

Salt Junk (N): preserved pork

Set To (N): begin

Shank's Mare (N): on foot

Sharper: gambler

Shinplaster: currency used by state or bank

Shoulder Strap (N): officer

Showed His Teeth (n): showed his meanness

Sing Out (N): yell

Sink: "toilet"

Slapjacks (N): fried batter composed of flour, water and salt

Squeamish (N): sick

Stockings (N): socks

Sweets: candy

Thirsty for Tobacco: want some tobacco

Too Thin (N): unbelieveable

Torpedoe (N): land mine

Traps (N): belongings, baggage

Truck (N): things, stuff

Try Our Metal: see how strong we are

Under Canvas (N): in a tent

Videt Hole: entrenched picket post

Webfoot: infantryman

Yellow Dog: coward, or a staff officer