The Language of the Civil War

By John D. Wright | Go to book overview

N

nag This slang name for a horse did not have such a negative connotation during the war. It often meant a small horse but seldom an old or broken-down one.

“the nailhead” A nickname for Vicksburg, Mississippi, used by President Jefferson Davis, because he said the city “held the South’s two halves together.” See also “Gibraltar of the West.”

nail keg A small barrel of nails. Nail kegs were common around camps and, when empty, were used by soldiers as tables and stools. When semi-permanent winter quarters were being built, soldiers finishing a chimney would sometimes crown it ceremoniously with a nail keg.

nanna A dialect form of “mother” (not “grandmother”) used by slaves. See also mother.

Napoleon The best and most common cannon used by both sides. The 12-pounder Napoleon, officially designated the Napoleon gun-howitzer Model 1857, was a powerful smoothbore gun cast of iron or bronze. It had been designed by Napoleon III of France and adopted by the U.S. army in 1857. It weighed 1,227 pounds, was 5’ 7” long and fired a 12.3-

A 12-pound Napoleon cannon. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-B8171–2582.

pound solid shot to a maximum range of 1,680 yards when the muzzle was elevated to 5 degrees. The Napoleon was also cast in a 6-pounder version.

“Napoleon” A nickname given by his own soldiers, especially those from the West, to Union Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, a former congressman who, they believed, had Napoleonic military pretensions but few battlefield skills. See also “Commissary”; Mr. Banks.

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