Question of the Week: 11/15-11/21/2021

No wonder he signed with just his first two initials: even HE probably couldn’t remember how to spell his first name.

Are there any Civil War names you just can’t, for the life of you, remember the correct spelling for, no matter how hard you’ve tried to hammer them into your brain?

I have three. I’ll list them alphabetically:

John C. Breckinridge—There was a branch of the family that stayed in Virginia and spelled their last name with two “e’s”: “Breckenridge.” A second branch emigrated to Kentucky and changed the spelling of their last name so it had two “i’s”: “Breckinridge.” This was the vice-president’s clan. But my wife descends from the Virginia side of the family, and so the name spelling always tangles me up unless I stop to consciously think about it really hard. And even then I have to remember which branch spelled it which way.

Thomas Greely Stevenson—You’d think this would be easy because I’m historian-in-residence at Stevenson Ridge. But it’s not his last name that gets me. I can never remember if his last name has three “e’s”–“Greeley”–or only two. (It’s two.)

Gouverneur Kemble Warren—What were his parents thinking, giving him a first name like that. And bonus points if you can remember, let alone spell, his middle name. As August as his first and middle names sound, they’re a pain in the gouvey. (Don’t go looking: I made it up. But I think you get the idea, if you know anything about Warren….)

What names befuddle you?

19 Responses to Question of the Week: 11/15-11/21/2021

    1. I read a (possibly apocryphal) account that said he was never nominated for brigadier general because no one in Congress could pronounce his name

    2. I have the biography by James Pula and it is entitled: “For Liberty and Justice: a Biography of Brigadier General Wlodzimierz B. Krzyzanowski, 1824-1887.

  1. Prince Camille Armand Jules Marie de Polignac — Confederate Major General and division commander in the Trans-Mississippi theater … not only a hard name to spell, but also hard to pronounce … his troops called him “Prince Polecat”

  2. Philippe Régis Denis de Keredern de Trobriand — I can only imagine what nicknames his English-speaking troops gave him …

  3. It’s sad to admit, but I still get hung up on “Beauregard” sometimes. I’ll type/write it, look at it, and sometimes it just doesn’t look right. Pierre Gustav Toutant is the easy part for me, believe it or not. Gouverneur gives me grief as well. I have to sound it out phonetically just to get close and then I STILL get it wrong.

  4. For some reason, I have no trouble with the Poles or the French. But I have the damnedest time with Franz Sigel, probably because he’s such a birdbrain.

  5. It’s not the names–it’s the dates. I find it infuriating that the “9” is so close to the “8.” Gettysburg was definitely NOT fought in 1983. Grammarly catches the spelling pretty well, but never the dates! Grrr!

    1. But Foot without the ‘e’ would’ve been the perfect last name if he had joined the infantry instead!

  6. We probably need a German … how about BG Alexander Schimmelfinneg, brigade commander in the Eleventh Corps.

  7. Eppa Hunton; I don’t know if it’s because of the two “p”s in his first name, but I keep wanting to change it to “Eppa Hutton”.

    I’d also vote to include geographical names in this list, such as the battle of Totopotomoy Creek. That’s one that gets me.

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