The term “bummers” refers to General Sherman’s foragers during the March To The Sea and the Carolinas Campaign and is possibly deriving from the German Bummler, meaning “idler” or “wastrel.” Many soldiers, who believed it struck terror in the hearts of Southern people, embraced the name.
Bummer. (1) A deserter. See also hospi- tal bummer. (2) An individual more in- terested in the spoils of war than in good conduct; a predatory soldier. (3) A ge- neric name for the destructive horde of deserters, stragglers, runaway slaves, and marauders who helped make life miser- able in the war-torn South. Bummers robbed, pillaged, and burned along with General Sherman and his army in Geor- gia. These men were known far and wide as Sherman's bummers. The term was not shortened to "bum" until after the war (c. 1870). It is almost certainly a mod- ification of the German Bummler ("loafer").
The bummer foraging parties became bands of marauders answering to no authority. One conscientious bummer wrote to his sister about the depredations inflicted on South Carolina:
“How would you like it, what do you think, to have troops passing your house constantly … ransacking and plundering and carrying off everything that could be of any use to them? There is considerable excitement in foraging, but it is [a] disagreeable business in some respects to go into people’s houses and take their provisions and have the women begging and entreating you to leave a little when you are necessitated to take all. But I feel some degree of consolation in the knowledge I have that I never went beyond my duty to pillage.”
Source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2011/06/28/137450464/3-d-motion-pictures-from-the-civil-war Source:http://archive.org/stream/War_Slang/War_Slang_djvu.txtSource:http://civilwar150th.blogdrive.com/
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