The term Moonshine comes from the fact that distilling illegal liquor is done underground or “in the moonlight”. The term bootlegger comes from early colonists who hid liquor in their boots in order to smuggle it to the Native Americans.
Corn whiskey was the first truly American whiskey, and the precursor to Bourbon. An unaged, clear spirit, it was the type of whiskey that Scotch-Irish farmers produced in their stills for family consumption or to trade for store goods. When state and federal excise taxes were permanently introduced during the Civil War, most of the production of Corn whiskey went underground to become moonshine, where it has remained ever since. A modest amount of commercial Corn whiskey is still produced and consumed in the South.
After the Civil War, a federal tax on home distilleries became law. During the chaos of southern reconstruction, the law was easily ignored. During the 1870s, the law began to be enforced. Many of those arrested in the early days were unaware of the fact that home-brewing was illegal and could not understand why they did not have the right to make a little liquor.