The Language of the Civil War

By John D. Wright | Go to book overview

P

P.A.C.S. Provisional Army of the Confederate States. The Confederate Congress created it on February 28, 1861, in Montgomery, Alabama. It was designated as a volunteer force but all the South’s soldiers were officially provisional ones because a regular standing Confederate Army was only drawn up on paper.

“Paddy” The nickname for Union Captain James Graydon, an officer of the OLD ARMY who was allowed to form an independent spy company of men from New Mexico. When Confederate troops under General H.H.Sibley moved into his territory, Graydon made a night attack on their camp with “torpedo mules.” He tied boxes on the backs of two elderly mules and filled each box with a dozen 24-pound howitzer shells with their fuses cut. With a few men, Graydon led the mules through the night to within 150 yards of the Confederate picket line and lit the fuses. Unfortunately, the mules did not wander toward the enemy but immediately turned to follow their retreating owners. The torpedo mules exploded before they reached the horrified men, but the Confederate camp was alerted and stood ready to repel any attack.

Paddy-like Poor or poorly made, with a reference to supposedly low Irish standards. One officer writing about the quarters he had constructed in Virginia in the winter of 1862–63 explained, “It is Paddy-like, but much more comfortable than no house at all.”

Paddy or paddy An insulting nickname, still heard, for someone born in Ireland or of Irish descent. It was first used about a decade before the war. As “Paddy,” it was a provocative form of address.

Paff’s Cave A New York bar used during the war as a rendevous and gossip spot for that city’s war correspondents. It was located at 653 Broadway.

pair of stairs Another name for a flight of stairs.

pale-face 1. A nickname for a new recruit, especially one not used to toiling under the sun. 2. A witty nickname for whiskey.

paling A fence, especially one enclosing a yard or garden, made of “pales” (sharp stakes driven into the ground). When a Scotsman, David Macrae, visited a school for blacks in Philadelphia in 1868, he heard one student spell the word “pailing” and then watched the teacher provoke laughter by asking, “Then do you think the paling of the garden was made of buckets?” See also yard-paling.

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