This image is of my father's commission as a "Brigadier in the Rebel Yell Brigade." It dates to the mid 1960's. (Click on the image and you will be able to read everything that's printed on it.) For those of you who don't know, Rebel Yell is a brand of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey. According to the commission my father's selection was due, in part, to his . . .
"Supreme Knowledge that the Very Finest of Southern Bourbon is REBEL YELL--named for the Cry that chilled the Hearts of the Intruders, brought Joy to the True Believers, and Echoes still in the Hallowed Valleys and Upland Reaches of the BELOVED LAND."
Some readers may have seen the distillery's ads in various Civil War publications. The ads ran a few times in the SCV's Confederate Veteran as well, but after a number of complaints regarding the appropriateness of advertising liquor in the SCV's magazine, the ads were discontinued. A good move in my opinion.
Now, before I go any further, allow me to make clear that I do not partake of anything stronger than hard cider - and that only during the Christmas season (Hiccup.) Though my father enjoyed fine bourbon, it is the primary reason he is no longer with us. When God warned against "strong drink" in Scripture, He did so with good reason. Thus, I want to make it clear that I'm not endorsing the drinking of whiskey, I'm discussing this purely in the historical context. That being said . . .
The following is taken from Rebel Yell's very interesting website and discusses the origin of the bourbon's name:
Passion, commitment, and honor were all infused into the “rebel yell” making it one of the most endearing legends in our country’s history. The “rebel yell” instilled fear in the hearts of many a Federal soldier. Some accounts say it was more intimidating than the sound of gun fire and cannons pounding in the distance.
The practice of a yell, or war cry, certainly predates the Civil War. Civilizations since the beginning of time have contrived similar tactics to intimidate their opponents and make their ranks seem larger than life. Sounds like this are so effective they even work to defend against attacking animals.
Confederate soldiers would scream the war cry as they engaged in battle, or whoop and holler in joyous victory. Other times it was used as a chant along the trail to boost moral and unify the ranks. Troops would hear it lofting in the breeze as other militiamen marched across the fields in the distance. One account states General “Stonewall” Jackson came out of his tent, leaned on a fence and said “that’s the most beautiful sound in the world”. (Read the rest of the commentary here.)
And, speaking of that "most beautiful sound in the world" if you, like me, would prefer the audio version of the Rebel Yell, you may actually purchase it exclusively from the Museum of the Confederacy:
"Nothing captures the imagination of the students of the Confederacy more than the famous Rebel Yell. Contemporary accounts are filled with references, and whole books have been devoted to it. Yet few people know how the famous shout actually sounded. This new cd, produced by the Museum of the Confederacy, presents the real sound—the yell that inspired Johnnie Reb and sent chills up the spine of Billy Yank." Interested? Click here. I think I'll be buying one.
I recall reading that a Union soldier, observing his comrades fleeing in wide-eyed panic from the "rebel yell" at Chancellorsville said his former unit resembled "close-packed ranks rushing like legions of the damned."
Why didn't the yankees have a "yell?"
**Update: Thanks to a reader for referring me to this very interesting YouTube clip.