Home History Where does the term ‘Tar Heel’ come from?

Where does the term ‘Tar Heel’ come from?

by Chris Butsch
Tar Heel

From 1720 to 1870, North Carolina led the world in the production of tar, pitch and turpentine – products used to paint and seal wooden ships. From there, historians debate how the term “Tar Heel” originated.

Some say it’s because revolutionary soldiers poured tar to slow the march of British soldiers, rendering them “tar heels.” Others say Confederate soldiers from North Carolina were so dependable, they’d stand their ground as if they had tar on their heels. “God bless the Tar Heel boys,” General Robert E. Lee supposedly said.

Regardless of its origin, today the term evokes steadfastness, dependability and pride.

Chris Butsch

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