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Civil War Letters

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...

John Brown’s Slew Foot

“I’ll be John Brown’s slew foot,” a euphemism for “I’ll be damned,” makes reference to the abolitionist riot leader John Brown, who was said to be damned after he was hanged. Slew in this sense means...

I’ll be John Brown

The exclamations “I’ll be John Brown!” and “I’ll be John Browned!” have a sticky history, going back to view that the abolitionist John Brown was doing something damnable by arming a slave revolt. This is part of...

Sockdologizing

They were the last words Abraham Lincoln heard before John Wilkes Booth assassinated him: “Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside-out, old gal—you sockdologizing old man-trap!” Booth knew that this line from the play Our American...