Why did the Rebel yell during the Civil War, instill so much mortal fear into the Union soldiers?

Why did the Rebel yell during the Civil War, instill so much mortal fear into the Union soldiers?

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0 thoughts on “Why did the Rebel yell during the Civil War, instill so much mortal fear into the Union soldiers?”

  1. One reason is that it was always accompanied by thousands of Confederate soldiers with bayonets fixed, charging directly at YOU.
    Union troops also shouted when they charged, though evidently it was more of a roar or a “hurrah.”
    It presumably had a similar effect. The “rebel yell” (and there was no “standard” one) gets the most press because it sounded wild, was noticeably novel, and was associated with the “Lost Cause.”
    By the way, there’s no contemporaneous evidence that the rebel yell was “Yeeeeeeeeehaaaah!” as people seem to think these days.
    When Confederate veterans were induced to recreate the yell for a newsreel in the 1930s, it sounded like shouts and shrieks of “Yow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Woo! Wow! Yow!,” etc.

  2. I’m not sure it really did.
    I am positive that the nature of battle, especially close, was horrifying to most. But as far as the actual rebel yell, I have really started to think that some of its hype is mixed up in the whole “lost cause” narrative. It amazes me how well the Confederacy has been able to be romanticized in popular Civil War understanding.
    I mean how its taught in high school, the Confederate generals were better, the Union commanders were a bunch of buffoons, the war was totally about states rights, the poor southerner was oppressed, the Confederate commanders loved their soldiers, the Union commanders (specifically Grant and Sherman) thought their soldiers were nothing more than expendable meat shields sacrificed on the alter of industry. Only goes to figure that the war cry of the south would be the more fear inspiring.
    Also notice that every time you run into an Indian name for a places in which the two armys would fight… The English translation is something akin to: “Valley of death, river of slaughter, etc…”
    Seriously…. Chickamauga means “Dwelling place by the water”, but not according to Civil War folklore. Highly doubt the men who fought in that place knew the name of it. But the name they gave it speaks quite clearly.

  3. Some sort of verbalization has been a common technique on the battlefield during attacks probably since such actions were begun. Certainly one use of the ‘yell’ was to make the attackers seem larger or more numerous than they actually were. Plus, yelling during a massed attack is designed to frighten the opposition. But I think the ‘Rebel Yell’ has been greatly exaggerated in its effect on the enemy. While some Union soldiers did remark about it, I think its major effect was to help reduce the fear and ensure cohesion of the confederate soldiers during a charge. As one soldier explained: “I always said if I ever went into a charge, I wouldn’t holler! But the very first time I fired off my gun I hollered as loud as I could and I hollered every breath till we stopped.”

  4. A battle yell is nothing new in warfare. Imagine you’re in your fighting position and you know you’re about to face off with an opposing force. There will be death and dismemberment and that’s all you have been thinking about for the last several hours. It’s now dawn, and the morning fog is still hovering over the fields. You can’t see the enemy. Then you hear the first of several volleys of cannon fire and soon the air smells of burnt gunpowder and the sounds of your fellow soldiers crying out. Maybe friendly cannons can position and return fire adding to the chaos around you. Eventually the morning fog is replaced with the smoke of spent powder. The adrenaline helps tone out the death cries of your compatriots and the field is dead silent for a moment. This is the moment you’ve feared all morning. The war cry of the enemy sounds. It surrounds you. It reverberates off the hills. It’s all you can here. The enemy is charging and in unison, yelling. It’s death making his presence known and he’s getting closer. This may be the last morning you ever see as hell on earth is coming for you.
    War cries are nothing new and are probably as old as war itself. It has several benefits. It gets blood flowing, opens the lungs up, gets the adrenaline to flood your system. As a unit with a singular mission, it helps eliminate fear. It will make your battle element more cohesive and act as one in that singular moment. The other benefit is to instill fear. If you can break his mental fortitude, you can more easily defeat him. Think of the berserker. One of the most feared warriors in history. They broke enemy lines without armor. They threw themselves into the enemy screaming and yelling, bare chested, with only axes and spears against an armored enemy. They were highly effective at causing fear among the enemy ranks. It’s psychological warfare in its earliest and most raw form. Show the enemy you have no fear and are willing to die for their cause and they will fear you.

  5. It was meant to imitate the “savage natives”, who most of those citified Northerners had never met, and thus remind them of all the lurid accounts they’d read in novels and newspapers.


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