American Names

Battles as Baby Names: American Revolution Edition

Today is July 4th! We celebrate today as the day that we officially declared our independence from an oppression force three-thousand miles across the sea. Today was the day we said enough is enough, taunted the Mad King with our John Hancock (literally), and set the theme for a Nicolas Cage movie in which Sean Bean doesn’t die!

Declaration of Independence copy.

For all the power of words, we must remember that ideas only stick when we’re willing to fight for them. The American Revolutionary War had already begun when the Declaration of Independence was drafted and signed. If we’d lost the war, would this treasured document hold any significance? Today, we don’t just remember the words. We remember that people died to ensure those words held meaning.

With this in mind, I decided to write a different sort of 4th of July post. Last year, I wrote about interesting names among the Signers and American virtues. For Independence Day 2017, I’ve looked to Revolutionary War battles for patriotic baby name inspiration!

You might be asking: are battle names even a thing? The answer: Yes!  Gettysburg and Manila (Spanish-American War) are two examples of battles that translated to people’s names in the U.S. Lorraine also counts as a battle name, though the name’s popularity jumped at the end of World War I (the Battle of Lorraine happened in 1914, before the U.S. entered that conflict).  Battle baby names are a rare and obscure topic in the 21st century, but 100+ years ago this was just another form of patriotic baby naming.

Here is a selection of Revolutionary War battle names and could-be names!

  • Lexington – Battles of Lexington and Concord (Massachusetts), April 19 1775. 77 girls and 46 boys were named Lexington in 2016.  Lexi and Lex are possible nicknames.
  • Ticonderoga – Capture of Fort Ticonderoga (New York), May 10 1775; Siege of Fort Ticonderoga (July 2-6 1777). With a nickname like Connie or Derry, Ticonderoga comes across as strong as Boudicca!
  • ChelseaThe Battle of Chelsea Creek (Massachusetts), May 27-May 28 1775. Chelsea ranks #353 out of 1000 in the U.S.; approximately 928 girls were given the name in 2016.  
  • Lindley – Battle of Lindley’s Fort (South Carolina), July 15 1776; Battle of Lindley’s Mill (North Carolina), Sep. 13 1781; 30 girls were named Lindley in 2016. 
  • Harlem – Battle of Harlem Heights (New York), Sept. 16 1776. A unisex place, battle, and dance name, this was given to 183 boys and 93 girls in 2016.  Harlem barely missed the cut for the top 1000 boys’ list in 2015 when it peaked at 201 uses.  Its popularity among baby girls continues to increase. 
  • Trenton – Battle of Trenton (New Jersey), Dec. 26 1776; 2nd Battle of Trenton, Jan. 2 1777. As a baby name, Trenton is falling fast.  He peaked at #178 in 2006, and now ranks at #389 (with approx. 815 boys). 
“Washington Crossing the Delaware,” Emanuel Leutze (1851)
  • Princeton – Battle of Princeton (New Jersey), Jan. 3 1777. The university predates the battle by a few decades, but the name’s only been popular since 2011!  769 boys were named Princeton in 2016, ranking him at #413.  This name is still rising, though his acceleration appears to dim. 
  • Ridgefield – Battle of Ridgefield (Connecticut), April 27 1777.  We lost this battle, but a history buff could make this work with the nickname “Ridge.”
  • Bennington – Battle of Bennington (New York), Aug. 16 1777. “Ben” for short?
  • Brandywine – Battle of Brandywine (Pennsylvania), Sep. 11 1777. Although this was a British victory, I’d like to suggest Brandywine as a name (I’ve always thought it sounded pretty). “Brandi” for short?
  • Saratoga – Battles of Saratoga (New York), Sept. 19 and Oct. 7 1777. Call her Sara for short! 
  • Beaufort – Battle of Beaufort (South Carolina), Feb. 3 1779. Funnily enough, the last time Beaufort made an appearance in the SSA birth data was 1976.  Beau makes for a strong nickname, but Biff might be problematic.
  • Paulus – Battle of Paulus Hook (New Jersey), Aug. 19 1779. According to Behind the Name, Paulus is the Latin form of Paul. Paul has always been the more common version by far; Paulus has only ever appeared three or four times in the SSA birth data. The last time was 1987.
  • Camden – Battle of Camden (South Carolina), Aug. 16 1780. Camden ranks #124 in the U.S., down from a peak of #99 in 2013.  Approximately 156 girls were named Camden in 2016 in addition to the 3,300-some boys who were, but don’t call it unisex just yet!  Hardly 5% of all Camden‘s born last year were girls.
  • King – Battle of Kings Mountain (South Carolina), Oct. 7 1780. King ranks #152 in the U.S. I have to say, this makes for the most ironically patriotic name on this list. We won that battle, though!
  • Augusta – Siege of Augusta (Georgia), May 22 – June 6 1781. 25 girls and 7 boys were named Augusta in 2016. 
  • York – Siege of Yorktown (Virginia), Sep. 28 – Oct. 19 1781. 12 boys were named York in 2016.

I also gave some thought to Bunker and Cowpens, but I think they’re bad ideas for baby names. Bunker Hill was an important battle, but the name Bunker makes me think of Archie Bunker (bigoted TV character from the 1970s) and Enver Hoxha (the Albanian dictator who littered his tiny country with thousands of bunkers). As for Cowpens…moo?

Do you like the idea of battle names, or do you prefer a different kind of patriotic baby naming (i.e., virtues)? If you like the battle names, which would you use? Are there any you think I should add to this list? Let me know in the comments!

Most importantly, happy birthday America!

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