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The Rebel Yell

A Cultural History

Craig A. Warren

Publication Year: 2014

No aspect of Civil War military lore has received less scholarly attention than the battle cry of the Southern soldier. In TheRebel Yell, Craig A. Warren brings together soldiers' memoirs, little-known articles, and recordings to create a fascinating and exhaustive exploration of the facts and myths about the “ Southern screech.”
 
Through close readings of numerous accounts, Warren demonstrates that the Rebel yell was not a single, unchanging call, but rather it varied from place to place, evolved over time, and expressed nuanced shades of emotion. A multifunctional act, the flexible Rebel yell was immediately recognizable to friends and foes but acquired new forms and purposes as the epic struggle wore on. A Confederate regiment might deliver the yell in harrowing unison to taunt Union troops across the empty spaces of a battlefield. At other times, individual soldiers would call out solo or in call-and-response fashion to communicate with or secure the perimeters of their camps.
 
The Rebel yell could embody unity and valor, but could also become the voice of racism and hatred. Perhaps most surprising, The Rebel Yell reveals that from Reconstruction through the first half of the twentieth century, the Rebel yell— even more than the Confederate battle flag— served as the most prominent and potent symbol of white Southern defiance of Federal authority. With regard to the late-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Warren shows that the yell has served the needs of people the world over: soldiers and civilians, politicians and musicians, re-enactors and humorists, artists and businessmen. Warren dismantles popular assumptions about the Rebel yell as well as the notion that the yell was ever “ lost to history.”
 
Both scholarly and accessible, The Rebel Yell contributes to our knowledge of Civil War history and public memory. It shows the centrality of voice and sound to any reckoning of Southern culture.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

...The writing of this book spanned several years and a number of major life events. During that time, I benefited from the kindness and support of a great many people. The first and deepest thanks go to my wife, Sarah Whitney, with whom I have explored...

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Introduction

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pp. xiii-xxii

...Almost 150 years after Appomattox, the symbols of the Southern Confederacy continue to play a powerful and divisive role within American society. From street corners to the halls of Congress, Americans contend with Confederate imagery...

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1. “A Very Peculiar Sound”: 1861–1865

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pp. 1-17

...distinct national identity for the young Southern Confederacy. By doing so, Confederates could boost morale, find common ground, and articulate shared values and objectives. Just as important, they could show the Confederacy to be culturally...

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2. Yelling in Print: Veterans Remember

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pp. 18-37

...decades following Appomattox. Authoring accounts of camp and combat, these men sought to record, define, interpret, and celebrate their experiences in uniform. Veterans described the sights and sounds of battle with frequency, and through these narratives the Rebel yell became familiar to thousands of readers secondhand...

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3. The Birth of a Scream: The Contested Origins of the Rebel Yell

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pp. 38-67

...history, often associating it with particular regions or personalities. In time, civilians, journalists, and professional historians joined the conversation. As differences emerged over how to remember the Civil War and its meaning for the future, so...

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4. Culture Wars: The Rebel Yell in a Reunited Nation

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pp. 68-103

...divisions within a vast southern region populated by millions of people. Considering the South’s great diversity in terms of culture, geography, and climate, it is surprising that any one voice should have come to speak for the entire section. Yet within a short...

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5. The Civil Rights Era and the Myth of the Lost Rebel Yell

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pp. 104-123

...conflict, “newspapers reported a strange phenomenon. From only a few miles away a battle sometimes made no sound despite the flash and smoke of cannon and the fact that more distant observers could hear it clearly. These eerie silences were...

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6. “More, More, More”: The Rebel Yell in Popular Culture

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pp. 124-154

...the homogenization of the nation and the loss of a distinct southern culture, Smith turned the equation on its head. Comically noting that the melting Arctic ice cap would result in a warmer North, the Illinois native opined that it “is up to...

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Conclusion

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pp. 155-162

...at once intrigued and scandalized by Randall’s parallel narrative told from the perspective of Scarlett O’Hara’s supposed half sister: the illegitimate daughter of Scarlett’s father and Mammy. Randall, an African American writer, had constructed a...

Notes

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pp. 163-184

Bibliography

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pp. 185-202

Index

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pp. 203-214


E-ISBN-13: 9780817387808
E-ISBN-10: 0817387803
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817318482
Print-ISBN-10: 0817318488

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 8
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Miscellanea.
  • Confederate States of America. Army -- Miscellanea.
  • Southern States -- Civilization.
  • Battle-cries.
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