How can we help?

You can also find more resources in our Help Center.

Civil War Vocab

STUDY
PLAY
Abolitionist
a person who believed in the abolishment (ending) or abolition of slavery
Artillery
Large, powerful weapons such as cannon and mortars
Assasination
The murder of a prominent person, such as Abraham Lincoln
Battery
A unit of four to six cannons, or a fortified position on which they are placed
Battle
Large scale combat between two armed forces (skirmishes and engagements are smaller scaled and brief)
Blockade
The closing off, using naval forces, of a city or other area to traffic and communication
Border State
Slave-owning states that did not secede from the Union: (Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri)
Cartridge Box
A leather box in which the soldier carried his rounds or bullets
Casualty
A person killed, wounded, captured, or missing during the war
Cavalry
Soldiers mounted on horseback fighting as a unit
Chloroform
The liquid drug used to anesthetize (put to sleep) wounded soldiers in the war.
Confederate (CSA)
The alliance of 11 Southern states to form a new nation (Confederate States of America)
Contraband
Goods illegally traded during wartime; slaves were sometimes called contraband during the war
Copperhead
A Northern Democrat who agreed with Southern secession and clamored for peace during the war
Deploy
To spread out armies to create a battle line
Desertion
To leave one's military post, or run away from a battle; was often punishable by death
Dixie
Slang term for the Confederacy, also a popular southern song
Draft(conscription)
The selection of citizens for mandatory military service
Drill
The process of instructing recruits how to march and practice the military arts as a unit
Dysentery
An often fatal disease of the human intestines, usually caused by unsanitary conditions of military camps and ballet sites
Envelopment
An attack against the flanks of an enemy's army, in hopes of encircling it
Emancipation
The formal release of slaves from bondage, as it happened in January 1863
Flanks
The sides of an army's line in battle; a flanking movement is attacking from the sides
Forage
The search for food by soldiers, often at the expense of farmers in a battle area
Greenback
Paper money used during the Civil War in the North
Hardtack
A quarter-inch or half-inch thick hard cracker eaten by Civil War soldiers, also known as biscuits, crackers, or army bread
Haversack
Cloth bag used by soldiers to carry rations and food
Infantry
Foot soldiers marching and fighting together; the vast majority of Civil War soldiers were in it
Ironclad
A ship covered with iron plates and used in the Civil War, as in the famous Merrimac Vs. Monitor, the first ever naval battle between ironclads in 1862; they revolutionized naval warfare
Main Attack
The big, concentrated attack against the enemy's weak or critical point
Minie Ball
The standard rifle bullet used in war. From France, it made the rifle more accurate and led to staggering casualties
Picket
One or more soldiers responsible for guard duty, always watchful for enemy approach
Rank
Military leadership in order of importance and decision making responsibilities, usually prioritized from the Commander in Chief (president), General of the Army, Lt. General, Major General, Brigadier General, Colonel, Major, Captain, Lieutenant, 1st Sergeant, Sergeant, Corporal, Private
Rations
Military food term for food
Rebel (confederate, butternut, grayback, Johnny reb, reb)
slang term for a soldier fighting for the south
Recruit
A soldier who has just signed up to be a soldier and is without battle experience
Rifled Musket
The standard infantry weapon used in the war. Usually .58 or .577 caliber, the 'rifle' fired a minie ball through a spiral grooved barrel, spinning the bullet for more velocity and accuracy
...
...
Salt Pork
The most common meal ration during the war, along with hardtack and coffee; the pork was salted to preserve it.
Secede
To withdraw from the Union, as 11 southern states did in 1860-1861. During the war, southerners were frequently called "secesh" by Northerners
Strategy
The art of military command as to an overall plan of war. How and where to deploy troops are components of strategic planning
Sutler
Dry goods salesman who traveled with Northern armies; considered necessary for the provision of extra items for soldiers, sutlers often cheated and overcharged military customers
Tactics
The art of maneuvering (moving) troops on a battlefield
Torpedo
Civil War term for an underwater mine (bomb) that exploded; used on rivers to defend against enemy ships
Turning mvmt.
A military tactic of sending troops around the enemy's flank to attack his line of communications in the rear of the battle line
Union (United States)
The collection of 23 Northern states which fought the rebellious Confederacy during the Civil War
Yank (Blue, Federals, Billy Yank)
Term for soldiers who fought for the Union
Zouave
Soldiers in colorful uniforms patterned after French infantry soldiers; specialized in precision drilling