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Civil War Letters

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Private Voices, also known as the Corpus of American Civil War Letters, is an online archive of thousands of letters written by soldiers during the U.S. Civil War. Because the soldiers lacked formal education and wrote “by ear,” the collection is a treasure trove of pronunciation and dialect from that time and place. One phrase frequently appearing in these letters is go up the spout, meaning to die, be lost, or ruined. In fact, the transcript from the trial of John Wilkes Booth quotes a witness who testified that Booth told him Old Abe Lincoln must go up the spout. A similar idea is expressed by the phrase go up the flue. This is part of a complete episode.

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