From the author of the prize-winning New York Times bestseller Empire of the Summer Moon comes a thrilling account of how Civil War general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson became a great and tragic American hero.
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. His brilliance at the art of war tied Abraham Lincoln and the Union high command in knots and threatened the ultimate success of the Union armies. 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 April 1862 Jackson was merely another Confederate general in an army fighting what seemed to be a losing cause. 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. He had, moreover, given the Confederate cause what it had recently lacked—hope—and struck fear into the hearts of the Union.
Rebel Yell is written with the swiftly vivid narrative that is Gwynne’s hallmark and is rich with battle lore, biographical detail, and intense conflict between historical figures. Gwynne delves deep into Jackson’s private life, including the loss of his young beloved first wife and his regimented personal habits. It 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
S.C. Gwynne is the author of Hymns of the Republic and the New York Times bestsellers Rebel Yell and Empire of the Summer Moon, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He spent most of his career as a journalist, including stints with Time as bureau chief, national correspondent, and senior editor, and with Texas Monthly as executive editor. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife.
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?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
FIrst: Folks, we all know you hate slavery and you're "NOT A RACIST!" You don't need to prove it here. It is always an error to judge the ethics and morality of one historical era with the standards of another. For example- In Jackson's time, one saw one's State as we might see the entire nation today. In that light, a "traitor" would be one who, as Lee said, would "draw his sword against his family and neighbors." On to the book: I can do no better than Peter Cozzens: “Rebel Yell is the best biography of Stonewall Jackson I have ever read. The scholarship is exemplary, the narrative riveting and richly textured. With a rare combination of unflinching objectivity and genuine compassion, Rebel Yell unraveled for me the enigma of Stonewall Jackson. A magnificent achievement, Rebel Yell represents a milestone in Civil War literature.”
I received an ARC copy of this book, and my husband read it and absolutely loved it! Gwynne is an excellent descriptive storyteller. Jackson was a humble and idiosyncratic man, and this book tells how he found a real purpose in life as a battlefield General. Great gift idea for any history lover on your list.
This is a clearly written and insightful biography of one of the most fascinating figures in American history. In addition, Gwynne's detailed descriptions of the battles place each one in the larger context of the events taking place in the war, and explain the troops' movements and their commanders' decisions clearly and concisely. This is the first book that I have read that clearly explains the Valley Campaign and Seven Days Campaign in an accessible way. Highly recommended.
Presents a complex personality in a way that is easy to understand. The historical information is presented in a way that is both entertaining and educational. Book presents a challenging and controversial time in American history and shows not only how "Stonewall" fit in, but also how he had a large part in shaping the events. Presents many details, but does not bog down intermixes action and detail which keeps the readers interest till the last page. A good read; enjoy.
Excellent biography of Jackson. I could not put it down.
I really enjoyed this book, so much so that I did not want it to end. This is the second book that I have read by Gwynne,and both have had the same effect on me.
Amazing story of a man I knew nothing about. Well researched, detailed, and crafted in a readable compelling story.
It was a very interesting read about the first half of the Civil War and the battles of not just the South versus the North but of the generals. One will learn a lot about Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson and the generals on both sides.
A great read revealing the enigma that is Stonewall
Just finished S.C. Gwynne’s book, “REBEL YELL: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson”…it was a GREAT read! His book is highly informative and helps the reader understand a very difficult period in our nation’s history. He articulates very well how General Jackson was truly a gifted leader by explaining the context in which a military leader of men was expected to operate during the Civil War. Gwynne states, “Civil war tactics were invented on the fly by men trying desperately to see through the sulfurous smoke and fog of battle, to understand terrain, troop movement, supply trains, the effects of artillery bombardment on infantry, and a hundred other things that were not covered at West Point’s dry texts or in Napoleon’s maxims” (pg. 218). The book also provided insight into General Jackson’s strong faith in God. When questioned by a subordinate about how he could remain so calm in “a storm of shell and bullets,” Jackson responded, “Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. That is the way men should live, and then all would be equally brave” (pg. 103). In addition, Gwynne points out, “He encouraged his men to attend religious services, distributed Christian pamphlets, and arranged for preachers to give sermons in the regimental camps” (pg. 333). This book reveals information which allows the reader to visualize the difficulty faced by the average soldier, union or confederate, as they sought to fight for what they believed to be right. I highly recommend this book to all who enjoy history, biographies and just seeking to have more understanding of a very turbulent time in our nation’s past! Truly an exceptional book!!
Quick and easy read. Great story. Very insightful even for someone who knew a bit about Civil War history. Well done.
Brought Jackson to life in this book. Second book by this author that i gets high marks from me, very well done.