previous next
Camp phrases.--An enterprising publisher might make money by getting up a camp dictionary for the benefit of those who visit the army, and are mystified by the extraordinary words and phrases used. The word “arms” has been distorted into “uum,” brought forcibly forth like the last groan of a dying cat, and in place of “march” we hear “utch.” A tent is jocularly termed “the canvas,” a sword is a “toad-sticker,” and any of the altered patterns of muskets are known as “howitzers.” Mess beef is “salt horse,” coffee is “boiled rye,” vegetables are “cow feed,” and butter “strong grease.” “Bully” is the highest term of commendation, while dissent is expressed in the remark “I don't see it.” Almost every regiment has its nickname, and few officers or privates receive their legal appellations or titles when spoken of in their absence.--Cincinnati Commercial, Nov. 20

The Boston Post has the following Mark Tapley species of letter from one of its correspondents:

Camp gunpowder, army of the Potomac, November, 1861.
dear Messrs. Editors: Billy Briggs and I still remain in the army. The other morning I was standing by him in our tent. “Hand me them scabbards, Jimmy,” said he. “Scabbards!” said I, looking round. “Yes, boots, I mean.” Billy arranged himself in his scabbards — a dilapidated pair of fashionable boots — and stood up in a very erect and dignified manner. “Those boots of mine, I don't think were any relation to that beef we had for dinner today, Jimmy,” said he. “No,” said I. “If they were only as tough as that beef, and vice versa, it would have been better.”

“I say, Cradle,” he called out, “where are you?”

Cradle was our contraband, a genuine darkey, with a foot of extraordinary length and extra heels to match, giving him a queer look about those extremities.--“What do you call him Cradle for, Billy?” said I, “that's a queer name.” “What would you call him, Jimmy? if he ain't a cradle, what's he put on rockers for?” Cradle appeared with a pair of perforated stockings. “It's no use,” said Billy, looking at them. “Them stockings will do to put on a sore throat, but they won't do for feet. It's a humiliation for a man like me to be without stockings; a man may be bald-headed, and it's genteel, but to be barefooted is ruination. The sleeves is good, too,” he added, thoughtfully, “but the feet are gone. There is something about the heels of stockings and the elbows of stovepipes in this world, that is all wrong, Jimmy.”

A supply of stockings had come that day, and were just being given out; a pair of very large ones fell to Billy's lot. Billy held them up before him. “Jimmy,” said he, “those are pretty bags to give a little fellow like me. Them stockings was knit for the President or a young gorilla, certain;” and he was about to bestow them upon Cradle when a soldier in the opposite predicament made an exchange. “Them stockings made me think of the Louisiana volunteer I scared so the other day,” said Billy. “How's that?” said I. “He was among our prisoners, and saw a big pair of red leggings, with feet, hanging up before a tent. He never said a word till he saw the leggings, and then he asked me what they were for. ‘Them,’ said I, ‘them is General Banks' stockings.’ He looked scared. ‘He's a big man, is General Banks,’ said I, ‘but then he ort to be, the way he lives.’ ‘How?’ said he. ‘Why,’ said I, ‘his regular diet is bricks buttered with mortar.’ ” The next day Billy got a present of a pair of stockings from a lady; a nice soft pair with his initials in red silk upon them.--He was very happy. “Jimmy,” said he , “just look at them,” and he smoothed them down with his hand--“marked with my initials, too; ‘B’ for my Christian and ‘W’ for my heathen name. How kind! They came just in the right time, too; I've got such a sore heel; for it's a fact, Jimmy, that if there's any thing in life worse than unrequited love, it's a sore heel.” Orders came to “fall in.” Billy was so overjoyed with his new stockings he didn't keep the line very well. “Steady, there,” growled the sergeant, “keep your place, and don't be travelling around like the Boston Post Office.” We were soon put upon double-quick. After a few minutes Billy gave a groan. “What is it, Billy,” said I. “It's all up with them,” said he. I didn't know what he meant, but his face showed something very bad had happened.

When we broke ranks Billy hurried to the tent, and when I got there, there he stood, the very picture of despair, with his shoes off, and his heels shining through his stockings like two crockery doorknobs. “Them new stockings of yours is breechloading, ain't they, Billy?” said an unfeeling volunteer. “Better get your name on both ends, so you can keep them together,” said another. “Shoddy stockings,” said a third. Billy was silent; I saw his heart was breaking, and I said nothing. We held a council on them, and Billy, not feeling strong-hearted enough for the task, gave them to Cradle with directions to sew up the small holes. I came into the tent soon after, and he was drawing a portrait, with a piece of charcoal, on a board. “That's a good portrait of Fremont,” said I, “he looks just like that; that's the way he parts his hair, in the middle.” “That isn't a portrait of Fremont,” said Billy, “it's a map of the United States; that line in the middle you thought was the upper part in his hair, is the Mississippi River.”

“Oh!,” said I. I saw him again before supper; he came to me, looking worse than ever, the stockings in his hand. “Jimmy,” said he, “you know I gave them to Cradle and told him to sew up the small holes, and what do you think he's done? He's gone and sewed up the heads.” “It's a hard case, Jimmy,” said I, “in such a case tears are almost justifiable.”

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
United States (United States) (1)
Mississippi (United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Johnnie Fremont (2)
Banks (2)
Tapley (1)
Nov (1)
Editors (1)
Billy Briggs (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
November, 1861 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: