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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.

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Works Cited

History >> Civil War

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