Paid Advertisement
Historynet/feed historynet feedback facebook link World History Group RSS feed World History Group Subscriptions Historynet Home page

MHQ Reader Comments: Origin of the Word “Deadline”

Originally published on Published Online: August 28, 2009 
Print Friendly
3 comments FONT +  FONT -

MHQ Comments
Autumn 2009

Please send comments, which may be edited for length and clarity, with name and address to

First off, I want to say how much I enjoy the "Fighting Words" column in your magazine. Knowing the origins of words and phrases is fascinating and does provide much insight, understanding, and even humor when reading period works.

In the Summer 2009 issue's "Fighting Words," author Christine Ammer wrote that the "first written record of the word [deadline] appeared in an 1864 report by Col. D. T. Chandler." While Col. Chandler did describe the deadline in his August 5, 1864, inspection report concerning the Andersonville prison, an earlier inspection report by Confederate captain Walter Bowie to Brig. Gen. R. H. Chilton, inspector general, dated May 10, 1864, also used the term to describe the line over which prisoners were forbidden to go. In it, Bowie wrote: "On the inside of the stockade and twenty feet from it there is a dead-line established, over which no prisoner is allowed to go, day or night, under penalty of being shot." (The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 2, Volume 7, page 137.) This would predate Chandler's re­port by a few months.

As an aside, it may be very well true that the term "deadline" was coined at Andersonville, but I think there is sufficient proof that the term "deadline" was perhaps more universal. The term "deadline" was used at the Union prison at Rock Island, Ill., by at least October 1864. (Official Re­cords, Series 2, Vol. 7, page 1039). There is also evidence that Camp Oglethorpe, a Confederate prison camp in Macon, Georgia, may have used the term as early as June 1864 when Col. George C. Gibbs commanded the camp, before being assigned to Andersonville that October. (Official Records, Series 2, Vol. 8, page 765). I think there is no doubt, however, that the term "deadline" became a more known one because of its association with Andersonville.

—David A. Kelly Jr., Associate Professor, Naval War College

3 Responses to “MHQ Reader Comments: Origin of the Word “Deadline””

  1. 1

    [...] always has a firm actual end date when the work must be done. I call those real end dates the Andersonville Deadline. This is [...]

  2. 2

    [...] David A. Kelly Jr., an associate professor at the Naval War College, points to an even earlier writing of the term in an inspection report on Andersonville from Confederate Captain Walter Bowie on May 10, 1864: On the inside of the stockade and twenty feet from it there is a dead-line established, over which no prisoner is allowed to go, day or night, under penalty of being shot. [...]

  3. 3

    [...] Historian David A. Kelly, Jr. puts its earliest use in writing on 10 May 1864. In an inspection report for Andersonville, a [...]

Leave a Reply

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Related Articles

History Net Images Spacer
Paid Advertisement
Paid Advertisement
History Net Daily Activities
History net Spacer
History net Spacer
Historynet Spacer

Which of these wars resulted in the most surprising underdog upset?

View Results | See previous polls

Loading ... Loading ...
History net Spacer
RSS Feed Daily Email Update
History net Spacer
Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement
What is HistoryNet? is brought to you by World History Group, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.

If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.

From Our Magazines
World History Group

World History Group Network:  HistoryNet | Armchair General | Achtung Panzer!
Today in History | Ask Mr. History | Picture of the Day | Daily History Quiz | Contact Us

Copyright © 2015 World History Group. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Advertise With Us | Subscription Help | Privacy Policy