American Civil War
Glossary and Terms
History >> Civil War
Abolitionist - A person who wanted to eliminate or "abolish" slavery.
Antebellum - A term meaning "before war". It was often used to describe the United States before the Civil War.
Artillery - Large caliber firearms like cannons and mortars.
Assassination - When a person is murdered for political reasons.
Bayonet - A long blade or knife attached to the end of a musket. Soldiers would use it like a spear in close combat.
Blockade - An attempt to stop people and supplies from going in or out of a port.
Border states - These states were slave states that did not leave the Union, but largely supported the cause of the Confederates. They included Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware.
Brogan - An ankle high shoe worn by soldiers during the Civil War.
Carpetbagger - A northerner who moved to the South during the reconstruction in order to become rich.
Casualty - A soldier that is wounded or killed during battle.
Commutation - A commutation was when a person could pay a fee rather than be drafted into the army. This angered poorer people who could not pay the fee and had no choice but to fight.
Confederacy - Another name for the Confederate States of America or the South. The Confederacy was a group of states that left the United States to form their own country.
Copperhead - A nickname for northerners who were against the Civil War.
Dixie - A nickname for the South.
Dred Scott decision - A decision made by the Supreme Court that said Congress could not outlaw slavery and that people of African descent were not necessarily U.S. citizens.
Eastern theater - The part of the war fought in the Eastern United States including Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
Emancipation Proclamation - An executive order from President Abraham Lincoln stating that the enslaved in the Confederate states were to be set free.
Federal - A term used to describe people who supported the Union.
Flank - The side of an army or military unit.
Fugitive Slave Law - A law passed by Congress in 1850 that said escaped enslaved people in free states had to be returned to their owners.
Greenback - A nickname for United States paper money that was first used in 1862. It got its name from the green ink used in printing.
Hardtack - Crackers eaten by Civil War soldiers made from flour, water, and salt.
Haversack - A canvas bag that many Civil War soldiers used to carry their food.
Infantry - Soldiers that fight and travel by foot.
Ironclad - A warship that is fully covered and protected by iron cladding.
Kepi - A cap worn by Civil War soldiers.
Mason-Dixon Line - A boundary or border that split the free states from the slave states. It went between Pennsylvania to the north and Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware to the south.
Militia - An army of citizens used during emergencies.
Musket - A long gun with a smooth bore that soldiers shot from the shoulder.
North - The northern states of the United States, also called the Union.
Plantation - A large farm in the southern United States. Before the Civil War many of the workers on plantations were enslaved.
Rebel - A nickname given to people in the South supporting the Confederate States.
Reconstruction - The rebuilding of war torn southern states so they could be readmitted into the Union after the Civil War.
Scalawag - A nickname for southern whites who supported the Republican Party.
Secede - When the southern states chose to leave the United States and to no longer be a part of the country.
Sectionalism - Putting the local interests and customs ahead of the entire country.
South - A nickname for the Confederate States of America or the Confederacy.
Union - The name given to the states that stayed loyal to the United States government. Also called the North.
Western theater - The fighting during the Civil War that took place west of the Appalachian Mountains. It eventually included the fighting in Georgia and the Carolinas as well.
Yankee - A nickname for people from the North as well as Union soldiers.
History >> Civil War