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More on name changes in the 19th century

Many cadets at West Point dropped first names. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick became Judson Kilpatrick. He later was promoted to brigadier general with the nickname of “Kill Cavalry”.  
 Cadet Arnold Jones didn’t like his surname. He used the name of his paternal grandmother and became Arnold Elzey. After the attack on Fort Sumter, he joined the Confederate army and later became Brigadier General Elzey.

Cadet Laurence Simmons Baker received a congressional appointment in 1847. When roll was called on his first day of classes, he learned his name had been altered from “Laurence” to “Lawrence”.

Other soldiers found changes made to their names after enlistment. Drummer boy Julian Scott ended up with a middle initial “A”, and was thus known as Julian A. Scott. At the age of 16, he received the Congressional Medal of Honor for gallantry under enemy fire.

John A. Drummond was 15 when he joined the Confederate army. Fearing his father would have him discharged for being underage, he enlisted as John Anderson. He fought much of the war with the Davis Guards.

Another underage enlistee was Frederick Henry Dyer. He joined as a musician under the name of Frederick H. Metzger with Company H of the Seventh Connecticut Infantry.

Other fighting men made modifications to their names so they would appear to have been descended from ancestors from the British Isles.

The ease with which people changed their name wouldn’t be possible today and makes me wonder if a lot of us go by the altered instead of the original names of our ancestors.

From the book More Civil War Curiosities by Webb Garrison.



  1. Caroline Clemmons says:

    Susan, I know my family has altered names. My Scottish Johnson maidenname was first Johnstone, then Johnston, then my great grandfather dropped the T to become Johnson. It was pronounded Johnson even when it was spelled Johnstone in Scotland.

    My English Aldridge family became Akridge through an error by both a parish clerk and a Presidential comnendation.

    Pfeiffer Swiss/German ancestors decided to “Americanize” their name to Phifer when they reached North Carolina.

  2. The name changes can be so confusing. As membership chair of an online group, I get confused not only with name changes but changes in spelling ,etc. My Danish grandmother changed the K to a C in Caroline. I guess we all like change every now and then.

  3. LOL, I hated my first name growing up, but now I like it. But those people had a lot of reasons for changing their names, plus quite a few were just clerical mistakes.

    My maiden name was Xander, pronounced (exander) to avoid confusion with Zander. But originally, my father’s ancestor’s name was Zander, but in the 17th century the spelling was changed to an ‘X’. Who knows why?

  4. Shelley says:

    This post made me wonder about all the slaves who created or changed names after the Civil War. I wonder when the first African American cadet was admitted to West Point?

  5. I don’t know for sure, but I’d be willling to bet it was a long time coming. They did have the colored regiments in the North, though, during the war.

    As for names, I don’t know if slave owners renamed their slaves or they were allowed to choose. But it would certainly have been easy in that time period to pick whatever name you liked.

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