catch–to understand the meaning of something. I was kind of surprised that this only goes back to 1881. “You catch what I’m saying, right?” Frustratingly for me, I see no references to “catching my drift” which doesn’t feel like a modern phrase to me, but it isn’t in the dictionary at all. There is, however, to “catch on” which is similar. Again, it’s not used until 1882. There are several references at that point, so I believe it might have been used verbally (as opposed to the written word) several years, perhaps even a decade, earlier.
On the other hand we do have:
catch-it–to punished or get into trouble. This goes back as far as 1821, and was used through the century. There are no references to “catch hell” at all, but I imagine it would have been used. Kind of blows my mind because that does seem modern to me. Just goes to show how wrong we can be, I guess.
A second meaning, is to be killed, 1821. The next reference for this definition isn’t until 1883, so I’m not quite sure if it would have been used in the Civil War time period, or even out West.