What Did the Rebel Yell Really Sound Like?

by Jonah Begone

The Rebel Yell, a battle cry famous in American military history. But what did it really sound like?

Wikipedia - the fount of sometimes imperfect knowledge - has an article on the subject. Worth citing is the quote by Shelby Foote: "a foxhunt yip mixed up with sort of a banshee squall". Also enlightening is a quote by Colonel Harvey Dew of the 9th Virginia Cavalry, in Century Illustrated Magazine, from 1892: "In an instant every voice with one accord vigorously shouted the 'Rebel yell,' which was so often heard on the field of battle. 'Woh-who-ey! who-ey! who-ey! Woh-who-ey! who-ey!' etc. (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 'who' short and low, and the second 'who' with a very high and prolonged note deflecting upon the third syllable 'ey.')"

But there's nothing so good as hearing it - or a good approximation of it.

The Museum of the Confederacy has a good two video account: The Rebel Yell Lives: Part I - Rediscovering History and The Rebel Yell Lives: Part II - Reenactors Charge Forward. The Rebel Yell from recordings! This would seem to be definitive.

But wait! Here's a Smithsonian video of a 1930's newsreel showing actual Confederates performing it!

And, finally, I throw this in: The Rebel Yell as Guided by Douglas Southall Freeman.

So... which is correct? I'm guessing all of them. I would suppose that there were really Rebel Yells rather than one universally-agreed upon style, with commanders exerting configuration management or quality control as to its performance from battle to battle.

But this is just the opinion of a Yankee.

N.B. I am reasonably sure that the theme song from Herschell Gordon Lewis' 1964 gore-fest Two Thousand Maniacs! does NOT contain an actual Rebel Yell...