As my book about a dozen fugitives slaves-turned-soldiers from northeastern Pennsylvania moves toward publication, I've continued to turn up new nuggets, including the following two unsavory expressions:"Mudsills." That was a Civil War era slur for low-born people. I came upon it while looking closer at how whites of the day viewed one another. It turns out high-born whites referred to "the lower breeds" as clay-eaters, poltroons, and midsills. As historian Nancy Isenberg writes in her new book White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, midsills were "a foul collection of urban roughs, prairie dirt farmers, greasy mechanics, unwashed immigrants, and by 1862, with the enlistment of Afro-American troops, insolent free blacks." (We humans love our insults, don't we?)
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