Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson
S. C. Gywnne
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From the author of the prizewinning New York Times bestseller Empire of the Summer Moon comes a thrilling account of how Civil War general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson became a great and tragic American hero.
Stonewall Jackson has long been a figure of legend and romance. As much as any person in the Confederate pantheon, even Robert E. Lee, he embodies the romantic Southern notion of the virtuous lost cause. Jackson is also considered, without argument, one of our country’s greatest military figures. His brilliance at the art of war tied Abraham Lincoln and the Union high command in knots and threatened the ultimate success of the Union armies. Jackson’s strategic innovations shattered the conventional wisdom of how war was waged; he was so far ahead of his time that his techniques would be studied generations into the future.
In April 1862 Jackson was merely another Confederate general in an army fighting what seemed to be a losing cause. By June he had engineered perhaps the greatest military campaign in American history and was one of the most famous men in the Western world. He had, moreover, given the Confederate cause what it had recently lacked—hope—and struck fear into the hearts of the Union.
Rebel Yell is written with the swiftly vivid narrative that is Gwynne’s hallmark and is rich with battle lore, biographical detail, and intense conflict between historical figures. Gwynne delves deep into Jackson’s private life, including the loss of his young beloved first wife and his regimented personal habits. It traces Jackson’s brilliant twenty-four-month career in the Civil War, the period that encompasses his rise from obscurity to fame and legend; his stunning effect on the course of the war itself; and his tragic death, which caused both North and South to grieve the loss of a remarkable American hero.
especially, had panicked and fled at the sight of Confederate cavalry, leaving several dozen wagons in the ditch. At 11:15 Steuart’s courier caught up with Jackson with news of what they had seen. Banks was indeed marching north, wagon train and all. But just where was his main force? Determined to find out, Jackson split his army, leaving Ewell in place north of Nineveh—merely ten miles from Winchester—and backtracking with his own division through Cedarville and then onward to the valley pike
camps, wearing his faded blue VMI uniform and a beaten-up cadet cap that he pulled down so far over his nose that it obscured the upper part of his face. “The Old Dominion must be sadly deficient in military men, if this is the best she can do,” wrote one newspaper correspondent who spent some time with him. “He is nothing like a commanding officer.”3 Jackson, meanwhile, felt exactly like a commanding officer. This was what he had wanted, and he believed without any doubt that he was equal to
had seen, and expressed his surprise at “the ease with which [the enemy] had been driven back to Chancellorsville,” as Fitzhugh Lee remembered the conversation.20 Jackson believed that Hooker would withdraw by morning. Lee had a different idea. As he saw it, Hooker’s quick retreat simply meant that he wanted to fight a defensive battle. Instead of withdrawing, he was digging in, and daring Lee to attack. Lee was right, as it turned out, and he fully intended to oblige his adversary. The question
George B. McClellan, pp. 127–128. 13. McClellan to his wife, Mary Ellen McClellan, July 27, 1861, in ibid., p. 70. 14. McClellan to his wife, July 30, 1861, in ibid., p. 71. 15. McClellan letters to his wife, October 2, 7, 10; November 2, 17, 1861; selection of quotes comes from James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 364. 16. Letter from McClellan to his wife, November 2, 1861, in Sears, Civil War Papers. 17. Ethan Rafuse, McClellan’s War: The Failure of Moderation in the Struggle for
soon saw the flags wigwagging from the Van Pelt station, and focused his field glasses to receive the message. But as he did so something strange happened. Somewhere off in the lush, green distance several miles northwest of the Van Pelt house, he saw a “little flash of light . . . a faint gleam, indescribably quick.”9 Though the flash was gone in an instant, he knew immediately that he had seen something very specific, as he put it, “the reflection of the morning sun from a brass field piece.”