The Rebel Yell

One of the Civil War’s most enduring legends is the rebel yell, a high-pitched screech used by Confederate troops during battle. The war cry’s unique sound has been categorized as a yaaaw or a yee-haw, appearing in westerns, novels such as “Gone with the Wind,” and even current music, from artists like eminem and Billy Idol. Ultimately, the rebel yell was a myth, a sound conjured from imagination, and lost in the past. But with the arrival of physical recordings from Confederate veterans of the war, the cry has new significance in more modern times.

The clip, posted below, is from the 1930s and is shot in black and white. Now in the Library Congress, made available by the Smithsonian, the film depicts rebel soldiers in their seventies uniting once more for a performance of the war yell. The video helps make the sounds of the battlefield audible for those who did not experience it, and shows the progression of wartime strategies and procedures from early American history to the present.

Whether it was used to strike fear in the heart’s of the enemy, or relinquish any fears held by the Confederate army, the rebel yell proved to create a stunning and terrifying experience for Union and Confederate troops alike.

Though a seemingly obscure element of the war, the rebel yell, but more importantly the recording of the yell, helps connect us to a time that is often corrupted by myths. This recording provides a real human connection instead of an endless flow of documents that can be troublesome to make sense of. The rebel yell allows us to endure the time period like the Union and the Confederacy once did.



11 thoughts on “The Rebel Yell

  1. I really find it interesting how you brought such an unknown fact about the Civil War and presented its distinct personal connection to the era. It’s really fascinating that this yell is something that was so common and known at one time, and later distorted and lost in the passage of time. Nice find!

  2. The rebel yell has actually been quite an element of interest for me. When I read telling of the Battle of Gettysburg, there is almost always a point where the writer includes the silence shattering, terrifying, yet utterly passionate moment when the rebel cry first rings out. It’s something I imagine to be a moment of truth for the receiving team, a moment where they steel themselves and begin to feel slight fear which is semi-quashed with their determination. For the deliverer it’s like all of their riled up emotions and heat from the passion they have in doing what they feel is right, building up and bursting forth in a cry of arrival. “Here I am”, it calls, and it’s honestly an addition to a story that makes me feel the most interest, because of how much passion is behind it. Great post! 🙂

  3. Thats so awesome. I did not know that even existed. I thought that was a really cool way to see the customs of some of the soldiers and get an idea of what the soldiers were like. I also thought it was funny how high pitched the rebel yell is. Thats an awesome post.

  4. I liked the video of the rebel yell and how you connected it with books and music. I also think it’s cool how when the soldiers were older they could still do the rebel yell and how, like you said, this is one thing that we do not have to live through documents.

  5. The video of the rebel yell allowed me to see the conditions in the South and hear the rebel yell, and it’s not something you can experience through a textbook. Also, the video was hilarious because the rebel yell sounds like a bunch screaming Lambs. But, your blog post made me realize that in any culture or a tradition part of a country, there will always be an act, dance, song, music, or yell that distinctly proves their superiority. It’s just part of nature that we,humans, want to scare our opponents. GOOD JOB!

  6. This is really interesting to me because I had never heard of the rebel yell. It a cool little fact of the culture of the war that I never would’ve known about because it isn’t really important to the grand scheme of the war and therefore isn’t taught. I really liked the video, I thought it was a nice touch to show the rebel yell rather than just describe it. Great post!

  7. This was a great post, in my opinion. It’s extremely fascinating that you brought such an obscure topic that we did not learn about in class to our attention. I had no idea that the “yee-haw” scream actually came from the Confederates. Very cool, thank you for sharing.

  8. This is actually really cool. I had the term “rebel yell” before, but I didn’t know that it referred to the Confederates, or to the Civil War, so this cleared that up for me. I loved the video with the grown men screaming; it helped bring to life the Civil War. Because we normally think of the Civil War as happening long ago to some nameless, faceless people, this helped make a human connection, as you said, to the people that fought in it.

  9. This is really interesting topic. The “rebel yell” is fascinating, both in how it sounds and its use. I finally know where the “yee-haw” originated. I like how you used a video in your post. Sometimes, the best way to explain something and let someone experience it is to show it, not tell it.

  10. First and foremost, magnificent topic to come up with! Second, great idea to post a video instead of an image. The video most definitely puts your entire post to context with the actual Confederate veterans performing the mystical “rebel yell.” However, I am curious to why you say the rebel yell is a myth. I believe it probably was the low quality of the microphones or someone made it up or possibly a combination of the both. Good job on your post I really enjoyed reading it and watching the video.

  11. I am very, very pleased that you decided to investigate this. It’s such an interesting part of military history- like the war drums and brass and songs of conquer- that we don’t give much credence to in today’s war methods. Great job!

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