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Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Nicknames

Posted June 8, 2009 9:31 a.m. EDT

What’s your nickname? I think it’s time to award a prize to the person who comes up with the best nickname and story behind the name. I’ll send a copy of Ed Southern’s book Voices of the American Revolution in the Carolinas to the winner.

War history is full of fascinating nicknames. In Ed’s book you will read about “Bloody Ban” Tarleton, a British officer who outraged Carolina settlers with his penchant for violence and revenge. “Light Horse” Harry Lee earned his nickname for some brilliant guerilla tactics during the Revolutionary War. Patriot fighter Frances Marion was known as the “Swamp Fox” for his elusive nature during battle. My favorite Revolutionary War figure was Daniel Morgan, a rugged frontiersman known as “The Old Wagoner.”

The Civil War also produced a number of interesting nicknames including “Stonewall” for General Thomas Jackson. General Ulysses Grant was nicknamed “useless Grant.”

Nicknames in the modern era can add a layer of celebrity to an individual’s persona. On this day in 1964, a young man from Hertford, NC gained a concocted nickname that stuck and stayed with him for life. Perquimans County pitching ace Jim Hunter signed a $75,000 bonus baby contract with the Kansas City A’s. The owner of the team thought Hunter needed a nickname. Charles Finley fabricated a tale about Hunter running away from home at age six to go fishing. Thus, “Catfish” Hunter was born.

I’d love to hear your stories about nicknames.