The Real “Rebel Yell”
You’ve seen plenty of still photographs from Gettysburg and maybe even early motion pictures of Civil War veterans in a parade. But did you know that there is a video with audio of Gettysburg veterans talking? To hear the actual voices of Civil War veterans is a jaw-dropping experience and, if you’re like us, it will make the little hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
If nothing else, it serves to remind us that 146 years was not very long ago! The last veterans from both sides died in the 1950s. That is, for many of us, in our lifetime. And many of our parents or grandparents can recount vivid personal memories of their Civil War ancestors. When you put voices to those faces, you can’t help but pause to reevaluate your perception of “ancient history.”
During our Segway tours, our Licensed Battlefield Guides are frequently asked about the longest-surviving Civil War soldiers and the 50th (1913) and 75th (1938) reunions at Gettysburg so we thought that we’d post a link to this remarkable video. It was filmed during the 1938 reunion and depicts Johnny Rebs and Billy Yanks talking and shaking hands over the stone wall near The Angle.
Most remarkably, it includes the only known authentic recording of the Rebel Yell, the notorious confederate battle cry. Although weakly belted out here by a man near the age of 100, one can still imagine the fear that it must have struck into the northern army when they were being charged by hundreds of young men yelling it at once.
Fun fact: There is a statue of Albert Woolson (1850?-1956), the undisputed last surviving Union soldier, in Ziegler’s Grove on North Hancock Ave., in Gettysburg. Woolson did not fight at Gettysburg, however, having enlisted in the northern army more than a year after that battle.
We also came across some audio-only recordings at the National Archives of an interview with John Salling, one of several who claimed to be the last surviving Confederate veteran. The scratchy audio clips include Salling’s memories of that 1938 reunion at Gettysburg.
http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/civil-war-docs/#documents (then scroll down to document #7)