How Do You Pronounce These Civil War Names and Places?

While listening to Volume 1 of Shelby Foote’s The Civil War, A Narrative, Volume 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville as an audiobook on my iPod during the drive to and from work, I’ve noticed a LOT of names and places being butchered by the narrator.  And then I got to thinking.  How do I *know* the narrator is butchering these names and places?    Have I heard Civil War “experts” use them on television, radio, podcasts, movies, etc?  Do I just “know” the correct way to pronounce many names and places associated with the Civil War?  I soon realized that for as many names I am 100% sure how to pronounce, there are many more I’ve only guessed at up until now.

The result of this questioning leads to the topic of today’s blog entry here at TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog.  I’m going to present a few names and places which are not exactly easy to pronounce, and several more names and places which I honestly do not know the correct pronunciation of.  That’s where you the readers come in.  If you know the correct pronunciations of any of the following Civil War people or places, feel free to set me straight in the comments below!

Names/Places (I Think?) I Know

  • Benjamin Huger (pronounced U-gee or HU-gee) – Confederate Division commander during the Seven Days
  • Cairo, Illinois (pronounced KEH-roh or CARE-oh) – A Union supply base and training center located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.
  • Henrico County, Virginia (hen-RYE-co) – Richmond, Virginia was the county seat of Henrico County, and many Civil War battles were fought here, including almost all of the Seven Days.
  • James Birdseye McPherson (BIRD-see) – The highest ranking Union officer killed in the Civil War (hat tip to Harry for the correction) only Union Army commander killed in the Civil War.  McPherson died at the Battle of Atlanta on July 22, 1864 while commander of the Union Army of the Tennessee.
  • William B. Taliaferro – (TAH-liver) – Confederate Division commander under Stonewall Jackson, among other things.
  • Marye’s Heights, Fredericksburg, Virginia (pronounced MAR-ee) – High ground from which Robert E. Lee’s men slaughtered waves of Union troops at the Battle of Fredericksburg.
  • Beaufort, North Carolina (BOfurt) & Beaufort, South Carolina (BYOO-furt)
  • Brigadier General Thomas F. Meagher (pronounced MARR) – Leader of the famous Irish Brigade at some of its most famous and bloody battles.
  • Antietam Creek (pronounced an-TEET-uhm) – The result of the Battle of Antietam allowed Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.  I had major trouble with this as a kid!
  • Henry Heth (pronounced HEETH) – Reputedly the only man in the Army of Northern Virginia Robert E. Lee spoke to and used his first name.

Names/Places Where I Need Your Help

Mattaponi River, Virginia  (and all of the resultant smaller rivers which make up its name)

Pocotaligo, South Carolina

Brigadier General Wladimir Krzyzanowski

Kanawha (the area of West Virginia and the Division)

Lastly, what are some Civil War names and places you’ve always wondered about?


Check out Brett’s list of the Top 10 Civil War Blogs!

Read many Civil War Book Reviews here at TOCWOC – A Civil War Blog!

Check out Brett’s Civil War Books!

Did you enjoy this blog entry?  Subscribe to TOCWOC’s RSS feed today!

Please consider using the ShareThis feature below to spread the word.


28 responses to “How Do You Pronounce These Civil War Names and Places?”

  1. Drew W. Avatar

    Another alternative for Huger I’ve come across is OO-zhay

    I’ve heard some wacky pronunciations for some of the French place names in Louisiana. I can’t think of any examples offhand, but these ‘Americanized’ ones can be pretty funny.

  2. Harry Avatar

    While McPherson was an Army commander, he was not the highest ranking Yankee killed in the war. That “honor” goes to MG John Sedgwick. Though only a Corps commander at Spotsylvania, he was the most senior officer killed in action. You can look it up.

  3. Harry Avatar

    OK, here are a couple of Bull Run names for you:

    Warrenton – pronounced Warrington.

    Catharpin Run – pronounced Cat Harpin.

    From the Valley:

    Shenandoah – Shendoh or Shendoor.

    Staunton – Stanton.

    Makes sense, since in the Valley up is down and down is up.

    Also Taliaferro – Toliver.

    I pronounce Krzyzanowski the proper way: K.

  4. Ken Avatar

    The Mattaponi River (named for the Indian tribe that lives alongside it) is pronounced “mat-a-po-NYE”. I think the tributaries’ names (Mat, Ta, Matta, Po, Poni) were simply back-formed from that. And ’round here (the Richmond area), the Kanawha Canal is pronounced “ka-GNAW-a”.

  5. Dave Avatar

    Neat post! A few thoughts:

    — Huger. Meagher, and “Birdseye” McPherson : Wow, I genuinely never knew that. Something new every day!

    — Cairo: As a born-and-bred Chicagoan I can’t speak for the downstaters, but ever person from Illinois that I know pronounces it Kay-Ro.

    — Mattaponi: Matta-Po-Nye. The individual rivers are pronounced the Mat, the Tah, the Matta, the Po, the Nye, the Po-Nye, and Matta-Po-Nye.

    — Kanawha: Ka-Naw-Ah is the modern pronunciation, but I think that’s evolved.

    — Krzyzanowski: If it’s anything like the Poles with the name on the South Side of Chicago, it’s pronounced Ker-Zuh-Now-Skee.

    BTW, Harry– Is your pronunciation for Warrenton archaic? I’ve lived in Virginia for 17 years and have always heard it pronounced Warren-tun.

  6. admin Avatar


    I had heard of that pronunciation as well of Huger, which is why I thought the narrator was butchering it when he first said “HU-ger” (he was) and then when he later changed to U-gee (obviously he wasn’t).


    In my intense desire not to mess up any pronunciations, I failed to vet what I said about the people and places adequately. Mea culpa. I’ll change that to reflect the truth of McP as the only Union Army commander to die during the Civil War.


    Thanks for confirming my suspicions on the Mattaponi. How about Totopotomy? Anyone?


    I think a northern Illinois pronunciation of Kay-ro and an Egyptian pronunciation of Care-O are basically the same and more attributable to accent. I live in southwestern Illinois near St. Louis and I’ve heard both.

    Thanks for the comments, answers, ad new suggestions everyone. I figured this would be an interesting post and that I’d learn a lot. I haven’t been disappointed!


  7. admin Avatar

    Jennifer Rosenberry (@jrosenberry1 mentioned via the Contact form and a tweet that Krzyzanowski is pronounced “k-zhish-a-now-ski”. Thanks Jen! That’s one I never had the slightest clue how to pronounce!

  8. James Durney Avatar
    James Durney

    Iuka as in battle of

    1. admin Avatar


      I believe Iuka is (correct me if I’m wrong): eye-OOH-kuh


  9. Mike Avatar

    I believe Taliaferro is pronounced Toliver in the south and Tal-a-farrow in the north. Can’t remember where I read that though.

  10. elektratig Avatar

    Fun post. The scary ones are the ones you don’t even know there’s an issue about.

    1. admin Avatar


      Very true. Especially for those like me who don’t have a lot of friends around who like to discuss the Civil War. Most of my discussions happen via text, either this blog, message boards, emails, or web sites.


  11. Brendan Avatar

    There is actually a Krzyzanowski family website (, complete with a guide that lists four very different common pronunciations:





  12. Russell Bonds Avatar

    Brett, great post. If I’m remembering correctly, seems like the great Bell Irvin Wiley (Life of Billy Yank, etc.) wrote an article in Civil War Times Illustrated in the early 60’s that was a pronunciation guide; I ran across it while reading an article in the same issue (not sure of the date/vol./no.) and meant to grab a copy. Maybe one of your readers will know; it was a great article. – I also note a book, Civil War Spoken Here: A Dictionary of Mispronounced People, Places and Things by Robert D. Quigley (1993). Anyone have this? Also—-On McPherson, you said ‘Bird-see’, but is it McFEARson or McFURson? (TomAYto, tomAHto, potAYto, potAHto . . .) –Finally, down in these parts (sorry to sound like Hee-Haw) Taliaferro is definitely “Toliver” (like the Georgia town). All the best, RSB

  13. admin Avatar


    Thanks! I’ll haave to take a look at my Civil War Times Illustrated index and try to track that issue down. I just ordered Quigley’s book as well. It looks interesting and might lead to some more of these posts. I believe McPherson is pronounced McFEARson, but I’m not 100% sure on that one.


  14. Donald Thompson Avatar

    Hate to disagree with Ken, but Mattaponi as in the tribe and Mattaponi River is pronounced:


  15. Abby Avatar


    Randomly stumbled upon this while reading what else, but Horwitz’s “Confederates in the Attic” (How Kevin Thornton will shudder at this hole in my knowledge!)

    I was seeking the pronounciation of “Appomattox” and the only source that seemed legitimate suggested “appa-mat-ticks” sort of cadencing similarly to “mathmatics”… correct?

    1. admin Avatar


      That’s pretty close, yes. I pronounce it appa-mat-tocks, but close enough.


  16. Bob Avatar

    How about the last syllable in
    How is it pronounced??

    1. admin Avatar


      It is pronounced Chick-uh-maw-guh. For some reason, I hear a lot of people say chick-uh-maw-gWuh, which is not only incorrect but also annoying.


      1. Billy Avatar

        OK that makes sense. Up until now I’ve been saying Chick-uh-muggah.

  17. Diane Avatar

    How do we pronounce Appotomax?

    1. admin Avatar


      Do you mean Appomattox, as in Appomattox Court House? If so, the App is pronounced like in apple. I usually hear it pronounced App-uh-mat-ox.


  18. Diane Avatar

    Yes, that is what I meant , Brett – Sorry about the transposition/misspelling. Thank you, Di

  19. Robert Stone Avatar
    Robert Stone

    Here is one related to Petersburg. How do you pronounce the last name of Union General John Frederick Hartranft?

  20. Andrew Avatar

    How about “Little Billy” Mahone (of Crater fame)? Is it Ma-HONE or Ma-HO-nee? I’ve heard mostly Ma-HONE, with the second variant usually spelled as Mahoney. I need to check with the locals along 460 in Windsor, Wakefield and Waverly to be certain.

    1. Brett Schulte Avatar


      I’ve only ever heard it pronounced ma-HONE. It never even occurred to me to pronounce it any other way.


  21. Karen waite Avatar
    Karen waite

    My dad always said Meagher was pronounced MA-HARR…. in the Irish way…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *