rebel yell and yeehaw

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Sun Jan 22 04:05:05 UTC 2012

A bunch of typical 19th C. descriptions of "the" rebel yell.

Obviously more than one sound is being described, and probably not
every yelling rebel was making the same sound in any given instance.

"Screams" and "shrieks" may be the most consistent with a "Yeehaw!"
Many of the sounds described seem to be a howling falsetto, however,
with yips ad lib.

But if "Yeehaw" was much used, nobody thought of spelling it out till
well into the 20th C.  That seems odd to me.

1862 _Bangor Daily Whig & Courier_  (Sept. 23) 1 [19th C. US Newsp.]:
We...joyfully listened to the three hearty cheers of the brave tars;
so different from the rebel yell.

1866 J. Chandler Gregg _Life in the Army_ (Phila.: Perkinpine &
Higgins) 80: I...[heard] their unearthly, fiendish yell, such as no
other troops or civilized beings ever uttered. It was not a hearty
cheer, or hurrah, or roar, but a kind of shriek as dissonant as the
"Indian war-whoop," and more terrible.

1872 _Georgia Weekly Telegraph and Georgia Weekly Journal & Messenger_
(May 28) 1 [19th C. U.S. Newsp.]: The Last Rebel Yell...But the old
yell comes/ Though silent are the drums:/ Whoo-hoop!

1877 _St. Louis Globe-Democrat_  (July 22) 11: [19th C. U.S. Newsp.]:
The difference between the regular "hurrah" of the Federal army and
the irregular, wild yell of the Confederates was as marked as the
difference in their uniforms. The rebel yell was a peculiar mixture of
sounds, a kind of weird shout.

1878 William Preston Johnston _The Life of Gen. Albert Sidney
Johnston_ (N.Y.: Appleton) 644: The "rebel yell" - that penetrating
scream of menace and resolve

1879 _Galveston Daily News_ (Oct. 22) 1 [19th C. U.S. Newsp.]: The
difference between a northern cheer and a rebel yell...One might as
well ask the difference between a northern cheer and an Indian yell.
The difference is felt, heard, and known to exist., but is simply
indescribable. I, for one, shall never forget the rebel yell.  Ibid.:
There was quite a difference, to my ears, between the unearthly shriek
of the gallant men who charged our lines at Gettysburg, for instance,
and the full-throated "hurrah" of the men who met them.

1880 Wilson J. Vance _Princes' Favors_ (N.Y.: American News Co.) 26:
The Rebel yell - that howling, tigerish shriek! It lives in my ears
still! There was something...savage and almost inhuman about it....

1884 _St. Louis Globe-Democrat_ (Nov. 23) 11: As to what the "rebel
yell" is, the boys in blue who faced the Confederates on many a
hard-fought field do not need to be told. They remember that sharp,
short yelp, a cross between a snarl and a bark, which filled the air
with its strident tones....It was in striking contrast to the clear,
ringing cheers that rolled along the lines of the armies of the Union
in defiant answer.

1885 _Milwaukee Daily Journal_ (Feb. 19) 1: The Old Rebel Yell...a
piercing sound which caused shivers to run down our spines....As for
reproducing it, even on paper,
we could not think of such a thing.

1888 S. Millett Thompson _Thirteenth Regiment of New Hampshire
Volunteer Infantry_  (Boston: Houghton Mifflin) 550: The "Rebel Yell"
is probably nothing new, old as the word "Hur-rah." As near
as can be made out, it is the first syllable of the word  hurrah - hur
- repeatedly and rapidly given in the roof of the mouth, a high,
sharp, falsetto note; probably the sharpest and loudest sound of which
the human voice is capable. It is the rapid repetition of the rebel
yell, by hundreds and thousands of rebel voices, that gives to it its
vibratory, vicious, piercing character. Anyone can easily sound this
famous yell with a little practice. As a distinguished Southern writer
says, "A man can holloa the rebel yell all day; it does not exhaust
the voice."

1888 _Sigma Chi Qly._ (Nov.) 37: It was a wild, oscillating,
indescribable sound, as if thousands of enraged animals were howling a
death-wail....It was the Rebel yell.

1888 C. B. Fairchild, ed. History of the 27th Regiment New York Vols.
(Binghamton, N.Y.: pvtly. ptd.) 248 : And so unlike that horrid,
shameful Rebel yell,/ More like the shrieking cry from the demons of

1889 Lippincott's Monthly Mag._(July) 21: A long-drawn eddying howl
which echoed and re-echoed among the trees in a peculiarly penetrating
cadence...a differentiation  of the old "rebel yell," still used among
the mountains as a signal.

1892 R. M. Collins _Chapters from the Unwritten History of the War
between the States_ (St. Louis: Nixon-Jones, 1898) 282: Once in a
great while...a woman would wave a white handkerchief at us, which
used to cause us boys to scream like wild cats and toss our gray caps
into the air.

1893 Lizzie Carey Daniel, ed. _Confederate Scrap-Book_ (Richmond: J.
L. Hill) 107:
Then arose that do-or-die expression, that maniacal maelstrom of
sound; that penetrating, rasping, shrieking, blood-curdling
noise...such an expression as never yet came from the throats of sane


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