Civil War Letters and Spelling

Literacy was not a requirement to be enlisted in the army during the Civil War. Not many were very literate, considering for the majority of Southern school children, most of the school year was sacrificed to helping their parents run the household and work the fields.

In his 1943 book The Life of Johnny Reb, Emory University historian Bell Wiley collects misspellings found in the letters of Confederate soldiers. As he says in his book, “The ordinary Reb was nearly always subject to greater defeat by a word like Chattanooga than by the Yankees.” Here’s a small list of some of the more creative attempts. You can click and drag your mouse in the blank field below to highlight the answers.

  1. agetent
  2. bregad
  3. cerce
  4. crawsed
  5. furteege
  6. orpital
  7. perperce
  8. porchun
  9. regislatury
  10. ridgement

Bonus: What does A brim ham lillkern mean?

  1. adjutant
  2. brigade
  3. scarce
  4. crossed
  5. fatigue
  6. hospital
  7. purpose
  8. portion
  9. legislature
  10. regiment

Bonus: Abraham Lincoln.

Also: accitment for excitement, ceep for keep, coummling for Cumberland, dyereaer for diarrhea, experdission for expedition, eyedear for idea, forchin for fortune, horspitibel for hospitable, mungunry for Montgomery, pestearred for pestered, physitian for physician, rumatis for rheumatism, saft for safe, sity for city, snode for snowed, tords for towards, unbenoing for unbeknown, and wonst for once.


(mostly taken from here)


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