WTF Is A Tar Heel?
As our beloved University of South Carolina Gamecocks embark on their 2013 football season tonight against the North Carolina Tar Heels (#FITSpick here), there’s an important question hanging out there …
What, exactly, is a Tar Heel?
“The moniker is rooted in the state’s earliest history, derived from the production of naval stores-tar, pitch and turpentine-extracted from the vast pine forests of the state,” explains the website Mr. Tar Heel.
The site goes on to note that the term gained widespread use during the Civil War – including a reference made by Confederate General John S. Preston is response to an unexpectedly robust advance by the 60th North Carolina infantry regiment during the battle of Murfreesboro.
“You Tar Heels have done well,” Preston told the soldiers.
According to the University of North Carolina, there are two anecdotes which offer varying explanations for the origin of the term.
“One story hails back to the Revolutionary War and the troops of British General Cornwallis,” the school’s official website notes. “After fording a river in eastern North Carolina, the British troops discovered their feet covered with tar, a product of North Carolina’s abundant pine trees and one of the state’s most important exports at the time. Some say the clever North Carolinians dumped it in the river to slow down the invading army.”
The other anecdote cited by the school comes from the Civil War – specifically a method said to have been employed by Confederate soldiers from North Carolina aimed at preventing their brothers in arms from departing the field when things got rough.
“The soldiers threatened to stick tar on the heels of the retreating soldiers to help them stay in the battle,” the story goes. “General Robert E. Lee is said to have commented ‘God bless the Tar Heel boys!’”
For the purposes of tonight’s big game between the Gamecocks and Tar Heels, our founding editor has offered up his own definition for the term.
“Any of a number of football players who are totally incapable of blocking Jadeveon Clowney.”