Friday, June 6, 2008

DISSED: The Best of the Worst in Civil War Nicknames

The generals of the American Civil War sure had their fair share of nicknames.

Most of the time they were complimentary and affectionate--i.e. "Stonewall" Jackson, "Uncle John" Sedgwick, "Uncle Billy" Sherman etc--but oftentimes they were not; indeed, some were downright insulting.

I thought I'd take a look today at some of the less than flattering nicknames of some of the war's Union and Confederate leaders.

Vote for your favorite in the comments section, or add your own to the list. I am sure there are scores I forgot. . .

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There were so many officers given derogatory sobriquets for their perceived caution and lethargy in bringing troops to the front. . .

Take George Sykes, for example. He was known as "Tardy George."
"Yeah, yeah. . .I'm getting there. Just let me finish the funnies."
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Or how about George Thomas? Sure, he had several, more famous, nicknames such as "Pap" or "The Rock of Chickamauga," but he was also known in some circles as "Slow Trot."

"I dare you to come over here and call me Slow Trot to my face."
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Henry Warner Slocum was a steady, reliable officer. . .it's too bad his last name could turn easily into "Slow Come."
"Oh yeah, REALLY funny, you guys. Did you think of that all by yourselves?"
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Poor old Abner Doubleday's surname gave fodder to his critics.
He was "Old Forty-Eight Hours."
"Wait, what do they call me? Old Forty-Eight Hours? I don't get it."
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Like George Thomas, even some of the more illustrious--and more brilliant--generals of the Civil War had their detractors and their own nasty nicknames.
While Robert E. Lee was known by many complimentary sobriquets, he was, at least early in the war, sometimes referred to as "The King of Spades," or "Granny Lee."
"Granny. . .? Well of all the nerve. Can you believe these young whippersnappers these days?"
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Thomas Jonathan Jackson had perhaps the most famous nickname of the Civil War: Stonewall. But in his younger days, he was sometimes called "Tom Fool" by his students at VMI, or by some of his soldiers as 'That Crazy Old Presbyterian Fool."

"If you put as much energy and effort into your schoolwork as you do in coming up with nicknames for me. . . Now go study the Bible and see what that has to say about making fun of people."
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Winfield Scott orchestrated one of greatest campaigns in American military history during the Mexican-American War. . .but by the Civil War, he was simply "Old Fuss-n-Feathers."
"Whatever. Whose the one who has all this bling? I rule, critics drool."
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Ulysses S. Grant. Well, of course there was "Unconditional Surrender" Grant and, more affectionately "Sam" Grant. But there was also "Useless" Grant and "Grant the Butcher."
"The name's Hiram, thank you very much."
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I'm not sure if George Gordon Meade had any nicknames, but one detractor famously labeled him as that "damned old, goggle-eyed, snapping turtle."
"Hey! Hey! You get over here! Come on, Brady, hurry up. I need to deliver an old school lesson in respect to that clown."
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There were many other nicknames worthy of honorable mention. . . .
John Bell Hood. . ."Old Wooden Head"
William Lowther Jackson. . .unlike his more famous cousin, William was known as "Mudwall."

Apparently, William E. Jones loved to gripe and moan and complain. Hence his nickname: "Grumble." Another Jones, David Rumph Jones, of no relation, was much more affectionately referred to as "Neighbor."

Hugh Judson Kilpatrick? More like Hugh Judson "Kill Cavalry."

Ben Butler was an ardent abolitionist and is thus alright by me in my books. But he was vilified throughout the South as "Spoons," for his penchant for stealing exquisite silverware and china from Southern homes, and the "Beast."

Poor Old William Henry French had a habit of incessantly batting his eyes when he spoke. He was known thus as "Old Blinky."

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These are just some of the less-than-flattering Civil War nicknames I can think of. If you have any for me to add. . .let me know.


Anonymous said...

JEB Stuart in his West Point days was known as "Beauty"; and that was meant as sarcasm. I can't believe you left out "Honest Abe", the "Railsplitter" (he hated both of those names) or "the Original Gorilla" to George McClellan. (I don't think he would have liked that one either!) My favorite is Edward "Allegheny" Johnson's other nickname-Old Clubby.

John C. Nicholas

Richard said...

here are just a few of the many
"Bad Old Man" — Jubal Early

and extra for William Tecumseh Sherman -- "Cump" you have to wonder where that came from!

Anonymous said...

Doubleday was also known as Doubleplay and Foul Ball--oh wait that's just a myth!

John C. Nicholas

Dan said...

It's not a nickname, but supposedly XVII Corps Commander Gen'l Francis P. Blair, Jr's men used to bleat out his name, "Blaaaaairrr!" like sheep, whenever he passed by; doesn't exactly sound complimentary...

Anonymous said...

I love Abner Doubleday "Old 48 Hours" and Useless Grant. (I think word play is more interesting than derogatory names

Anonymous said...

You left out "The Gray Ghost," John Singleton Mosby, although Gray Ghost may not be, technically speaking, a nickname.

Anonymous said...

George Armstrong Custer had a number of nicknames, dating from his days at West Point, but I do not remember some of them.

Unknown said...

William Smith (CSA) was known as "Extra Billy" Smith, as he got that nickname when his business was fulfilling a mail carrier contract for the US government, he created many spur lines along the route in order to increase his profits by generating "extra" charges.

Edward Johnson (CSA) was also known as "Allegheny Johnson" after commanding six whole brigades during a battle in the Allegheny Mountains for the CSA.

This is a nice article, I found great pleasure in reading it :D I've always enjoyed hearing about Civil War era nicknames!

Anonymous said...

"Cump" Sherman comes from his given name Tecumseh, the great American Indian chief. The minister baptizing young Sherman refused to use a heathen name and thus christened him William.