Stonewall Jackson has long been a figure of legend and romance. As much as any person in the Confederate pantheon—even Robert E. Lee—he embodies the romantic Southern notion of the virtuous lost cause. Jackson is also considered, without argument, one of our country’s greatest military figures. In April 1862, however, he was merely another Confederate general in an army fighting what seemed to be a losing cause. But by June he had engineered perhaps the greatest military campaign in American history and was one of the most famous men in the Western world. Jackson’s strategic innovations shattered the conventional wisdom of how war was waged; he was so far ahead of his time that his techniques would be studied generations into the future.
In his “magnificent Rebel Yell…S.C. Gwynne brings Jackson ferociously to life” (New York Newsday) in a swiftly vivid narrative that is rich with battle lore, biographical detail, and intense conflict among historical figures. Gwynne delves deep into Jackson’s private life and traces Jackson’s brilliant twenty-four-month career in the Civil War, the period that encompasses his rise from obscurity to fame and legend; his stunning effect on the course of the war itself; and his tragic death, which caused both North and South to grieve the loss of a remarkable American hero.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
Map of Jackson's Theater of Operations: April 21, 1861-May 10, 1863 xii
Prologue: Legends of Spring 1
Part 1 The Unimagined War
1 Away to Richmond 13
2 The Imperfect Logic of War 20
3 Fate Intervenes 32
4 Discipline and Other Novel Ideas 37
5 A Brilliant Retreat 47
6 Maneuvers, Large and Small 52
7 All Green Alike 65
Map of First Manassas: July 21, 1862 70
8 The Bullet's Song 73
9 Scream of the Furies 84
Part 2 The Man Within the Man
10 Glory and Darkness 97
11 A Very Small, Very Bitter Fight 110
12 A Highly Unusual Man 119
13 The Embattled Professor 127
14 Deliberately and Ingeniously Cloaked 135
15 An Upright Citizen 151
Part 3 Valley of the Shadow of Death
16 Where Is the Thunder of War? 161
17 A Preternatural Calm 170
18 A Season of Storms 176
19 A Looming Peril 193
20 The Realm of the Possible 204
Maps of Jackson's Valley Campaign 208
21 A Jagged Line of Blood 212
Map of the Battle of Kernstown: March 23, 1862 214
22 The Shooting War 229
23 A Fool's Paradise 234
24 Hazards of Command 257
25 Hunter as Prey 266
26 The Professor's Time/Speed/Distance Equation 274
Map of the Battles of Front Royal and Winchester: May 23-25, 1862 276
27 A Lethal Footrace 282
28 The Taking of Winchester 291
29 Lincoln's Perfect Trap 299
30 A Strange Fondness for Traps 312
Map of Port Republic: June 9, 1862 314
31 Slaughter in a Small Place 322
Part 4 Stirrings of a Legend
32 Acclaim, and a New Mission 331
33 'The Hilljack and the Society Boy 340
34 The Defense of Richmond 348
Map of the Seven Days Campaign: June 25-July 1, 1862 350
35 Victor)-by Any Other Name 363
36 In Which Everything Changes 383
37 No Backing Out This Day 394
38 The Hum of a Beehive 408
Map of Second Manassas: Jackson's Flank March: August 24-27, 1862 412
39 At Bay on His Baptismal Soil 423
Map of Second Manassas: August 28, 1862 425
Map of Second Manassas: August 29-30, 1862 426
40 The Mongrel, Barefooted Crew 447
41 The Blood-Washed Ground 461
Map of Antietam: September 17, 1862 463
42 Stonewall Jackson's Way 482
Map of Fredericksburg: December 11-15, 1862 495
Part 5 All That Is Ever Given to a Man
43 Winter of Dreams 507
44 Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man 519
Map of Chancellorsville: May 1-3, 1863 524
45 "An Iron Sabre Vowed to an Iron Lord" 539
46 Immortality 552
Appendix: Other Lives, Other Destinies 565
Insert Photograph Credits 635
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. Why does S.C. Gwynne consider Stonewall Jackson one of the most compelling characters of the Civil War
2. How did Jackson, an unpopular and highly eccentric college physics professor, become (in the space of fourteen months) the most famous military figure in the western world?
3. Why do you think Gwynne chose the title Rebel Yell
4. Jackson’s Valley Campaign shows how often victory or defeat hangs on the thread of chance. How did small decisions greatly impact the outcome?
5. Gwynne is not afraid to show the different sides of Jackson—a contradictory figure, a man who rode his troops almost as hard as his horse, Little Sorrel, and was responsible for the deaths of thousands of soldiers, but was in his private moments a loving husband and devoted Christian. Discuss Gwynne’s portrayal of the contradictions within his character.
6. How do Jackson’s personal views on slavery relate to his actions as a general?
7. Stonewall Jackson’s war-making strategies have merited generations of study. What in his strategies and leadership is significant today?
8. A review of Rebel Yell noted that “praying soldiers were often socially shunned and professionally unrewarded.” How did Jackson’s religious convictions imbue his leadership? How did his faith differentiate him?
9. What do you think attracted Gwynne to Jackson as a subject? He seems to occupy a much smaller place in the minds of Americans than other Civil War figures like Jefferson Davis or Robert E. Lee. Was Rebel Yell an attempt to correct that?
10. What surprised you most about Stonewall Jackson?
11. Do you consider Jackson an American hero? Why or why not? Did reading Rebel Yell change your opinion? How?