Historical Flavor: The Rebel Yell
#History #CivilWar #Writing
During the Civil War, the Confederates used a psychological and morale-boosting weapon that struck fear in the hearts of the enemy—the Rebel Yell.
There is no common agreement as to the source of the yell. Some say it has its roots in Native American war cries. Some say it comes from the Celtic influence in a South that was predominantly Scots-Irish in population. And there are other theories.
People disagree on how to sound it out and, of course, there is no recording of the sound made at the time. However, here’s an excerpt from the Thirteenth Regiment of New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1865: A Diary Covering Three Years and a Day by S. Millett Thompson that provides a bit of description.
“The ‘Rebel Yell’ is probably nothing new, but older than Anglo-Saxon history—as old as the word ‘Hur-rah.’ As near as can be made out, it is the first syllable in the word hurrah—hur—repeatedly and rapidly given explosively in the roof of the mouth, a high, sharp falsetto note; possibly the sharpest and loudest sound of which the human voice is capable. It is the rapid repetition of the rebel yell, by hundreds of thousands of rebel voices, that gives to it its vibratory, vicious, piercing character. Anyone can easily sound this famous yell after a little practice. As a distinguished Southern writer* says, ‘A man can holloa the rebel yell all day; it does not exhaust the voice.'”
*Referred to T. W. Dawson, a Confederate officer and an editor of the Charleston, South Carolina News and Courier.
Now listen to it as it was recorded in 1932. Keep in mind, these were elderly Confederate soldiers, probably most in their eighties and nineties. Just think how they would sound with strong, youthful voices.