Bringing the past to life with colour

Ambrose Burnside

Ambrose Burnside, seen here around 1880, was, by his own frequent admission, an indifferent military commander, at best, and his successes in the American Civil War were matched by his defeats.
His main legacy is the name given to the spectacular whiskers he sported, burnsides, at first, then sideburns. The syllables were transposed, it is sometimes claimed, as a reference to his tactical ineptitude, as he supposedly didn’t know which way he was supposed to send his troops, but it is more likely that his name had been largely forgotten, and the word just evolved to make some kind of sense, as the “side” part clearly referred to the position of the whiskers on the head, especially when fashions changed and the moustache was dispensed with. The word evolved further, becoming sideboard, with “board” simply meaning “border” or “edge”.

Original B&W photo.



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