The Rebel Yell

The Rebel Yell

The rebel yell was a battle cry used by Confederate soldiers during the War for Southern Independence. It was utilized by Confederate soldiers during charges to intimidate the enemy and to boost their own morale and that surge of adrenaline.

The origin of the yell most likely came from the Scottish war cry tradition. Historian Grady McWhiney says it was derived from the screams traditionally made by Scottish Highlanders when they made a Highland charge during battle. At the Battle of Killiecrankie “Dundee and the Chiefs chose to employ perhaps the most effective pre-battle weapon in the traditional (highland) arsenal – the eerie and disconcerting howl,” also “The terror was heightened by their wild plaided appearance and the distinctive war-cry of the Gael – a high, savage whooping sound….”. Earlier documentation during the Roman conquests of Britain suggest the use of a particular yell uttered by the northern Celtic tribes of that region, in conjunction with wearing blue woad body paint and no clothing. There is another interesting reference in a book by Lord Frederick Spencer Hamilton: “By the way, Irish cheering is a thing sui generis. In place of the deep-throated, reverberating English cheer, it is a long, shrill, sustained note, usually, very usually, very high-pitched.”

The notion that the rebel yell was Celtic in origin is further supported by James Hill. “The first United States census in 1790 revealed a well defined ethnic division between the Northern and Southern states. In New England 75 percent of the people were Anglo-Saxons in origin, while Celts outnumbered Anglo-Saxons in the South two to one.” A decade before the American Civil War the South – from Virginia to Texas was about three-quarters Celtic. This evidence is also supported by McDonald & McWhiney’s research into the Celtic nature of the Southern States.

Love your Heritage, Tex Wood