Join Date: May 2006
Location: in Dixie Home of the Brave and land of the Free
The Ominious Yell
The Rebel Yell is noted for its country origin. We still holler at ou nieghbors across the fence to greet them or ask a question. Moms still go out and call in thier kids at dark or when they need them to come home. Hope yopu enjoy a bit of Southern culture. HS
A distinctive feature of the Southern soldier was the rebel yell, a long, quavering sound that became legendary. One of the challenges of reenacting is to determine what this famous call actually sounded like.
After the war a number of veterans sought to describe the yell in print. One of the most detailed descriptions came from J. Harvie Drew, a soldier in the 9th Virginia Cavalry. He gave this transcription of the rebel yell:
"Woh--who--ey! Who--ey! Who--ey! Woh--who--ey! Who--ey! (The best illustration of this "true yell" which can be given the reader is by spelling it as above, with directions to sound the first syllable "woh" short and low, and the second "who" with a very high and prolonged note deflecting upon the third syllable "ey.")
Others rendered the yell as "yai, yai, yi, yai, yi" and "y-yo yo-wo-wo." From these examples, it would appear the yell was both multi-syllable and also composed of pattern that was repeated several times.
Many have traced the origins of the rebel yell to the rural life int he prewar south. Drew believed in this derivation, stating
Hollering, screaming, yelling for one person or another, to their dogs, or at some of the cattle on the plantation, with the accompanying reverberations from hilltops, over valleys and plains, were familiar sounds throughout the farming districts of the South in the days gone by.
Hunting, which was enjoyed and indulged in more or less by nearly every citizen of the South, was also conducive to this characteristic development.
The rebel yell stood in definite contrast to the more disciplined cheer of the Yankees. The latter was described by Drew in these terms:
The Federal or "Yankee" yell, compared with that of the Confederate, lacked in vocal breadth, pitch, and resonance. This was unquestionably attributable to the fact that the soldiery of the North was drawn and recruited chiefly from large cities and towns, from factory districts and from the more densely settled portions of the country.
* * *. . . their peculiar, characteristic yell [was] -- "Hoo-ray! Hoo-ray! Hoo-ray!" (This yell was called by the Federals a "cheer," and was intended for the word "hurrah," but that pronunciation I never heard in a charge. The sound was as though the first sylllable, if heard at all, was "hoo," uttered with an exceedingly short,low, and indistinct tone, and the second was "ray," yelled with a long and high tone slightly deflecting its termination. In many instances the yell seemed to be the simple interjection "heigh," rendered with the same tone which was given to "ray.")
Whatever the sound or the origins of the rebel yell, its use and effect on the battlefield was undeniable. Col. O. M. Roberts commanded the 11th Texas Infantry in several battles in Louisiana, and left this account of Texans and the rebel yell:
The Texas soldiers in line of battle, with their attention intensely alive to what they were doing and how they should act, were cool enough and intelligent enough to pass the word along the whole line of battle like an electric current; and when the command was given, "Forward, charge!" it, too, would be rapidly passed, and then simultaneously the Texas "rebel yell" burst out from the whole line, as all together they dashed at double quick toward the enemy. The effect of that yell was marvelous....Such yells exploded on the air in one combined sound have been heard distinctly three miles off across a prairie, above the din of musketry and artillery.
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