William T. Sherman And The American Term “Bum”- WAR SLANG
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").