Monday, February 6, 2012

It Helps to Have a Colorful Nickname

[caption id="attachment_1950" align="alignleft" width="202" caption="Unconditional Surrender Grant"][/caption]

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Today is the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Henry, which coupled with the Battle of Fort Donelson (the anniversary for this one is the next week), adds up to a slam dunk when it comes to great Civil War nicknames. On February 15th, after Confederate generals John Floyd and Gideon Pillow skedaddled and turned over their command of Fort Donelson to Simon Buckner (Grant's old pal, as it turned out), Buckner - the hapless fellow that he was - asked Grant for the terms of surrender. Grant's reply? “No terms except unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted. I propose to move immediately upon your works.”

Well now - isn't it interesting that Grant's initials were U. S. anyway? They weren't really...but that is a story for a different day. Still, the whole U. S. thing sure does make the "Unconditional Surrender" nickname sound all the more clever. It helps in terms of popular memory too. While it is hard to imagine Grant fading from the landscape of Civil War remembrance (although a lot of people tried to usher him out) what is for certain is that we will remember him as a resolute and determined fighter.

Nicknames tell us a lot about the subjects we study and about how individuals felt about their leaders both during and after the war. Folks in the Confederacy once called Robert E. Lee "Granny" and "King of Spades." Neither were complimentary - and these names were soon dropped after Lee proved to be an aggressive and audacious fighter in the Seven Days battles around Richmond in 1862.

Of course there is "Stonewall." Who will ever forget him? (No one in Virginia will any time soon). And there are lots of others too - William "Little Billy" Mahone, Richard "Old Bald Head" Ewell, Edward "Allegheny" Johnson, William "Grumble" Jones, John "Prince John" Magruder, George "Old Snapping Turtle" Meade, George "Slow Trot" Sykes, George "Rock of Chickamauga" Thomas, Henry "Old Brains" Halleck, Winfield "Old Fuss and Feathers" Scott, and the list goes on and on. Many of these names denote well-deserved accolades, many do not, and some just seem like good-natured ribbing. Either way, they give modern students a good insight into contemporary impressions of military leadership.

What are some of your favorites?




  1. Scott A. MacKenzieFebruary 6, 2012 at 2:22 AM

    In course of my research, I came across a list of names for the "U.S." in Grant's name. One was "Union Saver" Grant. I should try to find it again.

  2. My favorite is "Old Brains" for General Henry Halleck, although "Old Eyebags" seems more appropriate somehow.

  3. Yes...Old Eyebags seems about right.

  4. Hey Scott - should you find it again, please share it!

  5. I've always been partial to "Hancock the Superb".

  6. Thanks for commenting, Sara. I think he deserved that one!

  7. William Tecumseh Sherman was called 'Cump' by his friends. I also like "Jubilee' for Jubal Early.

  8. Yes indeed Caroline - thanks for the addition. I also like Lee's personal nickname for Early - "My Bad Old Man." Says a lot about Early...and about Lee, who didn't have many nicknames for his subordinates!

  9. Scott A. MacKenzieFebruary 7, 2012 at 2:47 AM

    Found it! New York Times, July 18, 1863 - right after Grant's armies captured Vicksburg. They printed several different versions of the "U. S." in his name.

    Uncle Sam Grant
    United States Grant
    Unparalleled Success Grant
    Union Saver Grant
    Undeniably Superior Grant
    Unflinching Surmounter Grant
    Undaunted Soldier Grant
    Utterly Solid Grant
    Undisputed Sagacity Grant
    Unabated Siege Grant

  10. Here are more, from the same source. Some may be insensitive.

    At a torchlight procession in Belleville, Illinois, last week, one of the transparencies contained the following:

    Major-Genernl U. S. Grant.
    Unconditional Surrender Grant.
    Uncle Sam Grant.
    United States Grant.
    Unparalleled Success Grant.
    Unabridged Seizure Grant.
    Union-Saver Grant.
    Uudenlably Superior Grant.
    Uuflinching Surmounter Grant.
    Undaunted Soldier Grant.
    Understanding Secession Grant.
    Use Sambo Grant.
    Unshackle Slave Grant.
    Ultimate Subjugation Grant.
    Uncommon Smart Grant.
    Unequaled Smasher Grant.
    Utterly Solid Grant.
    Utmost Safety Grant.
    Unrivaled System Grant.
    Unexceptionable Scientific Grant.
    Undertake Sure Grant.
    Unbounded Spunk Grant.
    Universal Sanative Grant.
    Unadulterated Saltpetre Grant.
    Uniform Succeeder Grant.
    Undisputed Sagacity Grant.
    Unabated Siege Grant.
    Unbending Superexcellence Grant.
    Unexampled Skill Grant.
    Undoubtedly Spunky Grant.
    Usually Sober Grant.
    Unprecedented Sardine Grant.

    Go in, U.S. -- I see it now !


  11. Thanks Scott - these are great!

  12. Most welcome, Keith. My favorites are "Union Saver" "Understanding Secession" and "Unshackle Slave", but "Usually Sober" deserves an honorable mention.

  13. "Little Napoleon" George McClellan and "Stonewall of the West" Patrick Cleburne are two that come to mind that I did not see mentioned.

    Didn't some of Lee's men call him "Bobby" but only where he wouldn't hear it?

  14. Lets not forget Israel "Greasy Dick" Richardson

  15. Marc - they called him "Fighting Dick" too. I wonder which one he liked better?