80 Southern and Civil War Names Inspired by History
Few periods of American history are as tumultuous, disputed, and studied as the American Civil War. From April 2, 1861, to May 9, 1865, Americans battled each other over states’ rights, slavery, and expansion to the west. Tensions began decades before the war began and still exist over 150 years later in some parts of the country. Nonetheless, the South has deep cultural roots that stem from African American and European traditions.
The confederate south is romanticized in many stories. The most popular is probably Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind making names like Scarlett and Rhett quite prevalent at one time. Other movies and books that have popularized names from the South include:
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The 1958 film version of Tennessee Williams' play included characters named Maggie, Brick, Mae, Sonny, Dixie, and Trixie.
- The Big Easy. Set in New Orleans, Louisiana, this 1987 flick starred Dennis Quaid as the Cajun cop Remy McSwain. Remy means “from Rheims,” a town in central France, and reflects the strong influence that the French settlers of Louisiana had on the names given to children here.
- The Help. Names like Minny, Hilly, Aibileen, and Charlotte have a distinct southern ring.
- Driving Miss Daisy. Based on Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, this 1989 movie contained some classic southern given and pet names, including Daisy, Hoke, Florine, Idella, and Beulah.
The South has long been a leader in unusual or uncommon names and is known for using name forms that are unique to this part of the country. For example, virtue names have always been popular here. Also favored are flowery, feminine names for girls, thanks to the early settlers of Louisiana, who brought with them the French variations of the harder-edged English names commonly used in the North.
Many southern names are derived from Civil War heroes or places where strategic battles took place. And, you'll find more Annabelles, Claudettes, Paulette's, and Claires here than anywhere else. Beaus and Fredericks also abound. Bible names are also frequently used, both common and unusual.
Many Nothern names popular from the Civil War era stem from famous politicians and heroes of the era, abolitionists, and traditional English names.
If you have family roots in the south, have a penchant for Civil War era history, or simply want to expand your baby name search to find something uniquely American, check out our extensive lists of southern and Civil War Names!
Historical Civil War Girl Names and Meanings
- Abigail - Hebrew. A bible name that means the cause of joy.
- Aibileen - This name has French roots and means optimistic, radiance, and cheerful. The name of the central character in the book and movie The Help.
- Adelaide - German. Of noble kin. A popular name used mainly in the southern states.
- Caroline - German. The feminine form of Charles means free man. Caroline is a way to pay homage to South or North Carolina ancestry.
- Cecelia - Latin. Blind. Not as popular today, but it was very common in the Civil War era.
- Clara - Latin. Illustrious. Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross. Originally from Massachusetts, she was a prominent nurse during the Civil War in Washington D.C. and the Union Army.
- Claire - French. Bright and clear.
- Colette French. The victory of the people. A traditional French name popular in places like Louisana.
- Dolly - Greek. A diminutive form of Dorothy; God’s gift. A popular name for women in the 19th century and the first name of the 4th FIst Lady. Plus, what could be more southern than Dolly Parton?
- Elizabeth - Hebrew. God is my oath. A classic name in America for girls then and now. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a feminist and abolitionist.
- Eloise - German. Healthy, wise warrior.
- Emily - Latin. Rival. A popular name for those from the north and south.
- Emma - German. Whole, universal. Emma Green was a civil war nurse. A southern belle from Virginia, her politics shifted to pro-union even as her fiance, Benjamin Stringfellow, worked as a spy for the confederacy.
- Evelyn - English. Beautiful bird.
- Fay - French. Fairy or elf.
- Georgia - English. Farmer. The feminine version of George and the name of one of the southern states.
- Grace - Latin. The grace of God.
- Harriet - English. Home ruler. Harriet Beecher Stowe was an author and Yankee activist. She wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
- Hazel - Old English. Refers to the brown plant and the greenish-brown color.
- Isabella - Italian. God is my oath. Isabella Baumfree renamed herself Sojourner Truth when she left slavery and became an abolitionist and speaker for women’s rights.
- Jane - English. God is gracious.
- Joanna - Latin. A form of John and Jane, it means God is gracious.
- Josephine - Hebrew. He shall increase—the feminine form of Joseph.
- Louise - French. Famous warrior. Feminine form of Louis.
- Lucy- English. Light. Lucy Higgs Nichols was an escaped enslaved person who became a Union nurse.
- Lydia - Greek. Beautiful or noble one.
- Mae - Greek. Pearl. A diminutive form of Margaret.
- Maggie - Greek. Pearl. A nickname for Margaret. Maggie N. Vaulx has been described as the Anne Frank of the American Civil War. She grew up during the war era and kept detailed journals that have since been published.
- Margaret - Greek. Pearl. Margaret or Meg is the eldest of the March sister’s in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.
- Mary - Hebrew/Latin. Bitter sea, beloved. Mary Chestnut was a famous diarist who lived during the civil war and described the south in great detail. Her husband was a confederate general and aide to Jefferson Davis.
- Millie - German/English. Gentle strength.
- Nora - Greek/Hebrew. Light. Nora Fontaine Davidson was born just after the civil war in Virginia and is credited with celebrating the first Memorial Day in Petersburg, Virginia.
- Paulette - Latin. A feminine version of Paul means humble. Paulette Jiles wrote a popular novel about the Civil War, Enemy Women, about a young woman from Missouri.
- Rose - Latin. A rose flower or the color red or pink.
- Sarah - Hebrew. Princess. A popular name then and now.
- Scarlett - English. Red. Scarlett O’Hara is the tragic protagonist of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind immortalized in a film by Vivien Leigh.
- Trixie - English. Bringer of joy.
- Truvy - Old German. This name has its roots in the name Gertrude. Truth, maiden, spear.
- Virginia - Latin. Virgin, fair maiden. Virginia state was named after Elizabeth I, known as the Virgin Queen.
- Winifred - Welsh. Blessed reconciliation.
Historical Civil War Boy Names and Meanings
- 41 Abraham - Arabic. Father of the multitude. Few names are more synonymous with the Civil War than the 16th President, Abraham Lincoln.
- Augustus - Latin. Great.
- Beauregard - English. Beautiful view. This is a distinctly southern name.
- Bedford - English. Bede’s ford. Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Civil War anti-hero, Confederate Army General, and the notorious first Grand Wizard of the KKK. Probably not someone you want to name your child after. But Bedford is a uniquely southern name.
- Benjamin - Hebrew. Son of the right hand. Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd president of the United States, born during the civil war. He was a Republican in office from 1889-1893.
- Conroy - English. Detachment of troops. A popular name during the Civil War era.
- Douglass - Scottish/Gaelic. Dark river. Frederick Douglass. An American orator, abolitionists, and statesmen.
- Eben - Hebrew. Stone of help.
- Flannery - Irish. Descendant of the Red Warrior.
- Frederick - English. Peaceful ruler. Frederick Douglass was a formerly enslaved person turned statesman and human rights activist.
- Grant - English/Scottish. Tall or large. Ulysses S. Grant is the most famous Union General and became the 18th president of the United States.
- Henson - English. Son of Henry. Philip Henson was a Union spy and scout.
- Huston - Irish/Gaelic. Hugh’s town; settlement.
- Jackson - English. Son of Jack. Stonewall Jackson was one of the most prominent confederate generals.
- Jedidiah - Hebrew. Beloved of the Lord.
- Jefferson - English. Son of Jeffery. Jefferson Davis Declared war on the Union Army by ordering the Confederate Army to attack Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Originally from Mississippi, he was elected president of the Confederate States of America on February 9, 1961.
- Jermain - French. From Germany.
- Josiah - Hebrew. God heals. Josiah Gorgas was born in Pennsylvania but became a Confederate general and later president of the University of Alabama.
- Lawrence - English. Bright one. A typical Civil War era name.
- Lyman - English. Someone who lives near a meadow. Joel H. Lyman won the Union Army Medal of Honor for his important role in the Civil War.
- Rhett - Latin. Speaker. Rhett Butler is the tumultuous love interest of Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind.
- Robert - German. Famed glory. Robert E. Lee was the most influential and well-known general of the Confederate Army.
- Sherman - Old English. Shear man. William Tecumseh Sherman was a Union general and pivotal to the North winning the war.
- Sylvanus - Latin. Of the forest. Sylvanus Thayer is called the Father of Westpoint and served during the American Revolution and the War of 1812. Many of his West Point graduates served in the Civil War.
- Tennessee - Tennessee is a Cherokee origin name.
- Thaddeus - Aramaic. Praised or heart. Thaddeus Stevens was a member of the Senate and fiercely opposed slavery.
- Truman - Male. English. Truman Seymour was a Union soldier and painter.
- Ulysses - Latin. To hate. Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th president of the United States and Union general.
- Vestal - Roman. Virgin.
- William - German. Resolute protector.
Gender-Neutral Southern Names and Meanings
- Finn - Irish. Fair. Huckleberry Finn is a literary character from the Mark Twain novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, set a few decades after the Civil War.
- Francis/Frances - Latin. Free.
- Jo - Short for Joseph or Josephine. Jo March is the heroine of the iconic novel Little Women.
- Lasalle - French. The hall.
- Lee -English. Clearing in the woods or meadow. Robert E. Lee was the leader of the Confederate Army.
- Lincoln - Welsh. Lake or pool A trendy name for boys or girls that pays tribute to the 16th president.
- Milo - English/German. Soldier. Merciful. Milo Smith Hascall was a Union army soldier turned businessman and banker who relocated to Goshen, Indiana, after the war.
- Shiloh - Hebrew. His gift.
- Shelby - English. Willow, from the ledge estate. Used as both a girl’s and boy’s name, Shelby is also the protagonist from Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling, played in the film by Julia Roberts.
- Spencer - English. Butler. Steward. Union soldiers used the Spencer repeating rifle.
Considering one of these names? Pin it to save it for later: