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18th century "civilized" warfare


abatis. Modern spelling of abattis. From The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000. See abattis

abattis. A defence constructed chiefly of rows of saplings and the tops and large boughs of trees. The ends of the branches are first lopped off, so as to leave stiff points. The trees are then piled with their tops turned from the fortification; and are secured by laying heavy timbers along the rows of trunks. The assailant, therefore, is both exposed to his enemy's fire and obliged to penetrate these innumerable bristling points, which are often made more impracticable by entwining them with thorns, cat-briars and the like. (Historical Magazine, September 1873, p.131.). Modern spelling: abatis. From The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

adjutant. In military affairs, an officer whose business is to assist the Major by receiving and communicating order. Each battalion of foot, and each regiment of horse has an adjutant, who receives orders from the adjutant, who receives orders from the Brigade Major, to communicate to the Colonel, and to subalterns. He places guards, receives and distributes ammunition, assigns places of rendezvous, &c. Websters 1828 Dictionary.

adjutant general. Adjutant-General, in an army, is the chief adjutant. Websters 1828 Dictionary.

agent. an official representing the British government in dealing with Native Americans during the war, and by the later federal government after the war.

aide-de-camp. a personal assistant, secretary, or adjutant to a person of high rank, usually a senior military officer or a head of state. The first aide-de-camp is the foremost personal aide. From Wikipedia, the free encylopedia.

approach. In fortification, not only the advances of an army are called approaches, but the works thrown up by the beseigers, to protect them in their advances towards a fortress. Websters 1828 Dictionary


apprentice. One who is bound by covenant to serve a mechanic, or other person, for a certain time, with a view to learn his art, mystery, or occupation, in which his master is bound to instruct him. Apprentices are regularly bound by indentures. Websters 1828 Dictionary.

assistant adjutant general. See adjutant and adjutant general

attrition. the military strategy of wearing down the enemy by continual losses in personnel and materiel. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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backcountry. A sparsely inhabited rural region. From The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000.

backwaters. ...a slang term in American English used to describe an area that is perceived to be culturally or economically stagnant. From Wikipedia, the free encylopedia. ... a place which is not influenced by new ideas or events that happen in other places, and which does not change. From the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. ... a place that does not seem knowledgeable of the world and its ways. From the Cambridge Dictionary of American English. See backcountry.

ball. A ball of iron or lead, called also shot, used to load guns for killing man or beast. Balls for cannon are made of iron; musket-balls are made of lead. From Websters 1828 Dictionary.

ball and buck


bastion A strongpoint in the curtain wall of a fortress, usually V-shaped, angled out beyond the main line of the walls of a fortress. From it, attackers along the curtain could be cross-fired upon. With a five pointed star fort, there would typically be five bastions. From "Glossary of Eighteenth-Century Military Terms"

battalion. A body of infantry, consisting of from 500 to 800 men; so called from being originally a body of men arrayed for battle. A battalion is generally a body of troops next below a regiment. Sometimes a battalion composed a regiment; more generally a regiment consists of two or more battalions. From Websters 1828 Dictionary.



belly-box. See cartridge box

blockhouse A thick-walled defensive building constructed of masonry or logs, with loopholes for muskets. From "Glossary of Eighteenth-Century Military Terms".


breaking ranks

breeches/britches. Menswear for the lower torso, with the legs ending just below the knee. The garment was later replaced in the army by trousers. From "Glossary of Eighteenth-Century Military Terms"

brigade. A party or division of troops, or soldiers,whether cavalry or infantry, regular or militia, commanded by a brigadier. It consists of an indeterminate number of regiments, squadrons, of battalions. A brigade of horse is a body of eight or ten squadrons; of infantry, four, five, or six battalions, or regiments. From Websters 1828 Dictionary. A military force consisting of two or more regiments. From "Glossary of Eighteenth-Century Military Terms"

brigade-major. An officer appointed by the brigadier, to assist him in the management and ordering of his brigade. From Websters 1828 Dictionary.

broad-sword. A sword with a broad blade, and a cutting edge. From Websters 1828 Dictionary. During the 17th through 19th centuries, the term referred to contemporary European straight double-edged basket-hilted swords, like the Italian schiavona and the Scots claymore (a troublesome term in itself). Surviving examples of such swords are around 105 cm long (90 cm of which is blade) with a base blade width of 3.5 cm and a weight of about one kilogram. From Wikipedia, the free encylopedia.

Brown Bess. a name given in tile British army to the flintlock musket with which the infantry were formerly armed. The term is applied generally to the weapon of the 18th and early i9th centuries, and became obsolete on the introduction of the rifle. The first part of the name derives from the color of the wooden stock, for the name is found much earlier than the introduction of browning the barrel of muskets; Bess may be either a humorous feminine equivalent of the brown-bill, the old weapon, of the British infantry, or a corruption of the buss, i.e. box, in. blunderbuss. From the Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1911. Also, see Wikipedia article on the Brown Bess.


butcher knife

butt-plate. The metal plate affixed to the end of the stock of a musket, in order to protect the wood, and possibly to enhance the butt itself as a weapon. Made of brass in the Brown Bess. From "Glossary of Eighteenth-Century Military Terms"

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camp fever. [Typhus] ... typhus has been a disease of war, famine or catastrophe, being spread by lice, ticks or fleas. From the "Online Medical Dictionary".

calibre/caliber: The actual diameter of the bore, such that a Brown Bess musket is .75 calibre (or 3/4"… or approximately 16bore). Cannon were usually referred to by the weight of a single shot, so that a 12-pounder cannon would be a field piece, and a 24-pounder would not be a mobile weapon (although used in sieges). From "Glossary of Eighteenth-Century Military Terms"

camp follower. A civilian, often a woman, who accompanies an army and performs various services for the troops. A much-maligned, but essential person. Many of the women were wives or daughters of soldiers. From "Glossary of Eighteenth-Century Military Terms"

cannister. [Case-shot] Case-shot is a projectile used in ordnance for fighting at close quarters. It consists of a thin metal case containing a large number of bullets - or other small projectiles. Case-shot was formerly called canister, though the term now used occurs as early as 1625. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. A canvas or cloth bag filled with small round lead or iron pellets and crammed into a cannon on top of a charge of gunpowder. It would not carry as far as solid shot, but it was deadly at close range. From "Glossary of Eighteenth-Century Military Terms"

carcass. An incendiary missile (as opposed to solid shot or an exploding type). A frame of metal bands held a canvas or paper container into which was poured a molten mixture of gunpowder, saltpeter and tallow which was allowed to harden. So that the flash from the propellant charge would ignite the filling, the walls of the container were pierced with a few holes into which priming composition and quickmatch were inserted. Alternately it was a metal can punched with holes and filled with oiled rags that set ablaze when the carcass was fired. Carcasses were fired from mortars and howitzers only. From "Glossary of Eighteenth-Century Military Terms"

captain. In military affairs, the soldiers united under the command of a captain; a subdivision of a regiment, consisting usually of a number from 60 to 100 men. But the number is indefinite. Websters 1828 Dictionary.

captain-lieutenant. an officer, who with the rank of captain and pay of lieutenant, commands a company or troop. Thus the colonel of a regiment being the captain of the first company, that company is commanded by a Captain-Lieutenant. Websters 1828 Dictionary.

cartridge. A case of pasteboard or parchment, holding the charge of powder or powder and balls, for a cannon, mortar, musket or pistol. The cartridges for small arms, prepared for battle, contain the powder and ball; those for cannon and mortars are made of paste-board, or tin. Cartridges, without balls, are called blank cartridges. Websters 1828 Dictionary. Musket: A prepared cylindrical paper package, that contained the bullet and gunpowder. The advantage here was that the charge was pre-measured and permitted rapid fire (rather than measuring from a powder-horn). For cannon: A pre-measured serge bag containing propellant and missile. From "Glossary of Eighteenth-Century Military Terms"

cartridge box. The leathern container for cartridges. In the British army, well-constructed with an inner flap to protect the contents from rain. ...the outer flap carried a cast regimental badge, the weight of which served to keep the flap closed. The cartridge box would be carried on the right hip, suspended from the left shoulder by a diagonal strap. In wars previous to the RevWar, the cartridge-box might have been worn in front as a belly-box. From "Glossary of Eighteenth-Century Military Terms"

case Shot. A container holding junk such as bits of scrap metal, old nails etc. Later improvements made the container of sheet iron or tin in cylindrical form that was filled with cast iron balls each varying in weight from 2 ounces to 8 ounces for the smaller guns, and from 8 ounces to a pound for the heavier. Case was useful in that it could be fired from any kind of gun against troops in the open, at ships' rigging and boats, Effective range was about 350 yards. On being fired the metal canister burst open at the muzzle, and the contents produced a shotgun effect. Case shot was first used at the siege of Constantinople in 1453. From "Glossary of Eighteenth-Century Military Terms"

charge, dragoon

Charleville. ... the primary musket used by the French during their participation in the American Revolutionary War. These smoothbore muskets were named after the armory in Ardenne, France. It was also distributed to the Americans, and later became the basis for the pattern of the Springfield musket of 1795. They are 60 1/2 inches, with a 45 inch barrel, and have "U.S." stamped on the butt stock. This was done to prevent soldiers from taking them when soldiers discharged. It fired a .69-caliber ball. It had a fire ratio of approximately 2-3 shots per minute, and a maximum range for 200 meters, although only fairly accurate for up to 50 meters. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

chirurgeon. Alternate spelling of 'Surgeon', pronounced as you would pronounce 'surgeon'. Etymologically speaking, it was a truer reflection of its ancient Greek onomastic origin. Although commonly used as a spelling in the RevWar period, it did not survive. From "Glossary of Eighteenth-Century Military Terms"

cock. The part of a flintlock musket that holds the flint. It is sprung so that the flint smartly strikes the hammer to create a shower of sparks. It was apparently named in imitation of the pecking motion of a rooster. From "Glossary of Eighteenth-Century Military Terms"

colonel. The chief commander of a regiment of troops, whether infantry or cavalry. He ranks next below a brigadier-general. In England, colonel-lieutenant is the commander of a regiment of guards, of which the king, prince or other person of eminence is colonel. Lieutenant-colonel is the second officer in a regiment, and commands it in the absence of the colonel. Websters 1828 Dictionary.

colours. British spelling of colours

colors, the. ... the official flag of a country, ship or military group. From the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary.

company. the soldiers united under the command of a captain; a subdivision of a regiment, consisting usually of a number from 60 to 100 men. But the number is indefinite. From the Websters 1828 Dictionary.

congress-men. A term sometimes used by Loyalist/Tories/Royalists/Kings-men to describe their opponents the Rebel/Whig/Patriots. [JR]

continental. Of or pertaining to the confederated colonies collectively, in the time of the Revolutionary War; as, Continental money. The army before Boston was designated as the Continental army, in contradistinction to that under General Gage, which was called the Ministerial army." W. Irving. A soldier in the Continental army, or a piece of the Continental currency. From Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, 1913

conventional war. a form of warfare conducted by using conventional military weapons and battlefield tactics between two or more states in open confrontation. The forces on each side are well-defined, and fight using weapons that primarily target the opposing army. From "Wikipedia". It normally does not involve destruction of the infrastructure nor the targeting of non-combatants [JR}. See total war.

cornet. an officer of cavalry, who bears the ensign or colors of a troop. He is the third officer in the company. Websters 1828 Dictionary.

corporal. The lowest [non-commissioned] officer of a company of infantry, next below a sergeant. He has charge over one of the divisions, places and relieves sentinels, &c. Websters 1828 Dictionary.

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"decorating trees"


draft, the. MAINLY US noun [S] (UK conscription) the system of ordering people by law to join the armed forces. From the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Compulsory enrollment in the armed forces; conscription. From the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition.

dragoon. A soldier or musketeer who serves on horseback or on foot, as occasion may require. Their arms are a sword, a musket and a bayonet. Websters 1828 Dictionary.


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earthworks. In military engineering, earthworks are more specifically types of fortifications constructed from soil. Although soil is not very strong, it is cheap enough that huge quantities can be used, generating formidable structures. Examples of older earthwork fortifications include moats, sod walls, motte-and-bailey castles and hill forts. Modern examples include trenches and berms. From Wikipedia, the Free Enclopedia.

enlistment. 1. The act or enlisting, or the state of being enlisted; voluntary enrollment to serve as a soldier or a sailor. 2. The writing by which an enlisted man is bound. From Websters Unabridged Dictionary (1913). For militia, enlistments were typically for 6 weeks. For American provincial or state troops, the enlistment was typically for one year. For Continentals, the enlistment was for 3 years or for the duration of the war.

ensign. The officer who carries the flag or colors, being the lowest commissioned officer in a company of infantry. Websters 1828 Dictionary.

exchang. The exchange of prisoners of war is regulated by documents called cartels (Med. Lat. carlellus, diminutive of carla, paper, bill), which specify a certain agreed-on value for each rank of prisoners. The practice superseded the older one of ransom at the end of a war. 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica.

express. A messenger sent on a particular errand or occasion; usually, a courier sent to communicate information of an important event, or to deliver; important dispatches. Websters 1828 Dictionary.

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fascine. A cylindrical bundle of sticks bound together for use in construction, as of fortresses, earthworks, sea walls, or dams. Very long fascines were also called saucissons.

fatigue. The labors of military men, distinct from the use of arms; as a party of men on fatigue. Websters 1828 Dictionary

ferry. The place or passage where boats pass over water to convey passengers. Websters 1828 Dictionary.

fever. A disease, characterized by an accelerated pulse, with increase of heat, impaired functions, diminished strength, and often with preternatural thirst. This order of diseases is called by Cullen pyrexy, Gr. Fevers are often or generally preceded by chills or rigors, called the cold stage of the disease. Fevers are of various kinds, but the principal division of fevers is into remitting fevers, which subside or abate at intervals; intermitting fevers, which intermit or entirely cease at intervals; and continued or continual fevers, which neither remit nor intermit. Websters 1828 Dictionary.


fire and sword. Letters of fire and sword: If a criminal resisted the law and refused to answer his citation, it was accounted treason in the Scottish courts; and "letters of fire and sword" were sent to the sheriff, authorising him to use either or both these instruments to apprehend the contumacious party. From E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898. Probably from Biblical origin, e.g., Isaiah 66:16.

flag (of truce). The white flag is an international sign of truce or ceasefire, and request for negotiation. ... A white flag signifies to all that an approaching negotiator is unarmed, with an intent to surrender or a desire to communicate. Persons carrying or waving a white flag are not to be fired upon, nor are they allowed to open fire. ... The first mention of the usage of white flags to surrender is made during from the Eastern Han dynasty (A.D 25-220). In the Roman Empire, the historian Cornelius Tacitus mentions a white flag of surrender in A.D. 109. Before that time, Roman armies would surrender by holding their shields above their heads. The usage of the white flag then spread worldwide. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

flank companies. Each battalion of the British Army included a light infantry company and a grenadier company; they were known as "flank companies" and were made up of the best soldiers of the battalion. During field operations they were normally pooled to form special corps of light infantry and grenadiers. ...The American Army never formed grenadier companies but did have light infantry. Boatner, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, 1994.


flux. In medicine, an extraordinary issue or evacuation from the bowels or other part; as the bloody flux or dysentery, hepatic flux, &c. Websters 1828 Dictionary.







fusilier. ...originally (in French about 1670, in English about 1680) the name of a~soldier armed with a light flintlock musket called the fusil; now a regimental designation....The general adoption of the flintlock musket and the suppression of the pike in the armies of Europe put an end to the original special duties of fusiliers, and they were subsequently employed to a large extent in light infantry work, perhaps on account of the greater individual aptitude for detached duties naturally shown by soldiers who had never been restricted to a fixed and unchangeable place in the line of battle. From the Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911.

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gabion. A cylindrical wicker basket filled with earth and stones, formerly used in building fortifications.

gaol. A prison; a place for the confinement of debtors and criminals. From Webster's 1828 Dictionary. ... and in the United States usually, written jail. From Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, 1913. Occasionally, it will be found with the vowel reversed, and spelled goal, although no authority could be found for this spelling. E.g., The Walnut Street Jail (Goal) was built 1773-76 from designs of Robert Smith and demolished about 1835 in which it is noted "goal" (a misspelling of "gaol," the archaic spelling of "jail").

goal. See gaol.

gorget. A piece of armor for defending the throat or neck; a kind of breast-plate like a half-moon; also, a small convex ornament worn by officers on the breast. From Websters 1828 Dictionary.


grasshopper. The 3-pounder brass cannon developed by Verbruggen from Holland who was brought to England to make them. They were the primary light artillery used in the backcountry during the southern campaign. They could be mounted conventionally on a wheeled carriage or they could be mounted on something akin to a sawhorse. It was this mount that resulted in its being nicknamed the "grasshopper". With the sawhorse mount, it could be transported on packhorses. Firing a ball at typical elevation, it would have a range of 600 yards ± 100 yards. If nothing opposed its path when it hit the ground, it would bounce and roll an additional 200 yards ± 100 yards.([JR]

grenadier. A foot soldier, wearing a high cap. Grenadiers are usually tall, active soldiers, distinguished from others chiefly by their dress and arms; a company of them is usually attached to each battalion. From Webster's 1828 Dictionary. originally a soldier whose special duty it was to throw hand-grenades. ... The grenadier companies were formed always of the most powerful men in the regiment and, when the grenade ceased to be used, they maintained their existence as the crack companies of their battalions, taking the right of the line on parade and wearing the distinctive grenadier headdress. This system was almost universal, and the typical infantry regiment of the 18th and early Igth century had a grenadier and a light company besides its line companies. In the British and other armies these elite companies were frequently taken from their regiments and combined in grenadier and light infantry battalions for special service. See article from 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica and from Wikipedia.

gruel. A kind of light food made by boiling meal in water. It is usually made of the meal of oats or maiz. Webster's 1828 Dictionary. Sometimes the distinction is made that gruel is made water and porridge is made with milk. See porridge.

guerilla warfare


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hunting shirt


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iron works

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jaeger, jäger, jager, yager. In the German army, one belonging to a body of light infantry armed with rifles, resembling the chasseur of the French army.


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light infantry. In the 18th and 19th centuries most infantry battalions had a light company. Its members were usually smaller, agile men capable of using their initiative, since they did not fight in disciplined ranks as did the ordinary infantry but often in widely dispersed groups. They were also often chosen for their shooting ability and sometimes carried lighter muskets than ordinary infantrymen. Unusually, their officers often carried muskets as well and their swords were lighter and curved, as opposed to the heavy, straighter swords of other infantry officers. From Wikipedia.


limited war




loyalist remaining

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Maham's tower




matross . A soldier of artillery, who ranked next below a gunner. The duty of a matross was to assist the gunners in loading, firing and sponging the guns.

meeting house


militia districts


minute men



mounted infantry

mounted militia


music, the


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Native American

Nova Scotia

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old fields

one-year men


orderly book





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palisade. A picket.A fence of pales (stakes or pointed sticks) forming a defense barrier or fortification. (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.

palmetto. a popular name for Sabal Palmetto, the Palmetto palm, a native of the southern United States, especially in Florida. It has an erect stem, 20 to 80 ft. high and deeply cut fan-shaped leaves, 5 to 8 ft. long; the fruit is a black drupe ~3/4 to ~ in. long. The trunks make good piles for wharves, &c., as the wood resists the attacks of borers; the leaves are used for thatching. The palm is grown as a pot-plant in greenhouses. 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica.


parole. (shortened from the Fr. parole d'honneur, word of honor), a military term signifying the engagement given by a prisoner of war that if released he will not again take up arms against his captors during the term of the engagement or the war, unless previously relieved of the obligation by exchange. " Parole " is also used in the same sense as " word " to imply a watchword or password. 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica.


patched ball


pension statement

pet tory

picket. A detached body of troops serving to guard an army from surprise, and to oppose reconnoitering parties of the enemy; -- called also outlying picket. Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, 1913.

picket boat. a vessel used to patrol a harbor. Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.

pilot. A guide; a director of the course of another person. Webster's 1828 Dictionary.

piquet. See picket

piquette. See picket

plantation. In the United States and the West Indies, a cultivated estate; a farm. In the United States, this word is applied to an estate, a tract of land occupied and cultivated, in those states only where the labor is performed by slaves,and where the land is more or less appropriated to the culture of tobacco, rice, indigo and cotton, that is, from Maryland to Georgia inclusive, on the Atlantic, and in the western states where the land is appropriated to the same articles or to the culture of the sugar cane. From Maryland, northward and eastward,estates in land are called farms. Websters 1828 Dictionary.

porridge. a mixture of meal or flour, boiled with water. Websters 1828 Dictionary. Sometimes the distinction is made that gruel is made water and porridge is made with milk. See gruel.



powder horn

powder measure


proclamation line




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Quaker cannon

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refuse the flank









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saucisson. In early military engineering, a saucisson (French for a large, dry-filled sausage) was a primitive type of fuse, consisting of a long tube or hose of cloth or leather, typically about an inch and half in diameter (37 mm), damp-proofed with pitch and filled with black powder. It was normally laid in a protective wooden trough, and ignited by use of a torch or slow match. Saucissons were used to fire fougasses, petards, mines and camouflets.












slave informant

slaves, runaway






Google strategy as defined in Encyclopædia Americana, authors: Francis Lieber, Edward Wigglesworth, Thomas G. Bradford, Carey, Lea & Carey, 1833.



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Google tactics as defined in Encyclopædia Americana, authors: Francis Lieber, Edward Wigglesworth, Thomas G. Bradford, Carey, Lea & Carey, 1833.

tarred and feathered. ... punishment used to enforce formal justice in feudal Europe and informal justice in European colonies in the early modern period, as well as the early American frontier. Both pine tar, used in early industry, and feathers from edible fowl sources (such as chickens) were plentiful. In a typical tar-and-feathers attack, the object of a crowd's anger would be stripped to the waist (if not below). Hot tar was either poured or painted onto the person while he (rarely she) was immobilized. Then the victim either had feathers thrown on him or was rolled around on a pile of feathers so that they stuck to the sticky tar. Often the victim was then paraded around town on a cart or a rail. The tar and feathers would stick to the tar for days, making the person's sentence clear to the public. The aim was to hurt and humiliate a person enough to leave town and cause no more mischief. From Wikipedia.

tomahawk. A Tomahawk was a type of Native American axe. Traditionally short and resembling a hatchet, with a wooden shaft and, initially, with a stone but later with an iron or brass head. A general purpose tool, it is often regarded as solely a hand or thrown weapon. The name came into the English language in the 17th century as a transliteration of the Virginian Algonquian word. From Wikipedia.

tory. a colonist who supported the British side during the American Revolution. — ORIGIN originally denoting Irish peasants dispossessed by English settlers and living as robbers, and extended to other marauders, especially in the Scottish Highlands: probably from Irish toraidhe ‘outlaw, highwayman’. From Compact Oxford English Dictionary of Current English

total war

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vidette. A mounted sentinel stationed in advance of an outpost. Variant of vedette American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.



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wall gun

West Indies


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yager. See jager

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Bartleby The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000
Boatner, Mark, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg PA, 1994.
Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary
Cambridge Dictionary of American English
Bartleby Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898
Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1911
OneLook OneLook®Dictionary Search. Most of the others may be searched from here, automatically.
AskOxford Compact Oxford English Dictionary of Current English
Infoplease Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997
Bibliomania Websters Unabridged Dictionary (1913)
Websters Unabridged Dictionary 1913
Websters 1828 Dictionary
Wiki Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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Other Glossaries

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