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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Review: Rebel Yell by S. C. Gwynne

Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson by S.C. Gwynne
Unabridged CD, 24 hr. 57 min.
Simon & Schuster Audio
Cotter Smith (Narrator)
September 30, 2014
goodreads button

Genre: Biography, Non-Fiction
Source: Received from publisher for review
“From the author of the prizewinning 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.”
The Civil War has never been my strong point in history – but knowing that, I decided that it would be a good thing for me to make an effort to better understand this part of US history, especially from the side of the Confederacy. Stonewall Jackson is the only other Confederate General I could have named besides General Lee, and all I could have told you was his name. Well, now having read Rebel Yell I have come to admire this man in such a way that he has become one of my favorite figures is American history. It feel weird to make that previous remark – I have been born and raised in New England with all of the northern states history that comes with that. While I may not agree with the defense of slavery, I find him admirable for his passion, commitment to his cause, and the defense of his homeland and way of life. And while I think he might have been just a tiny bit crazy, there is no doubt that he was an amazing military commander.

It is clear that S.C. Gwynne has done his fair share of research on Jackson. The man comes to life from the pages and I felt like this was someone that I actually knew. I will admit to actually shedding a tear or two when I found out that he had actually died during the war and didn’t get to live out a long life. Gwynne does a fantastic job of getting into this man’s head. I have been expounding facts about Stonewall Jackson to pretty much anyone that would listen for the several months it took me to finish reading it. However, at no point did the book feel like I was being overwhelmed by facts put there for purely the purpose of the fact.

I learned so much about the actual battlefield war of the Civil War, whereas previously I knew mostly about the political battlefield. Sometimes reading about battles can get bogged down in technicalities, which is not so here. In Rebel Yell, Gwynne adequately describes battles enough for a layperson to understand, without simplifying it too much.

This was a great read that I can’t recommend enough.


I had an interesting experience reading/listening to this book. Apparently the tracks got jumbled on my i-pod and for a good 8 hours I was listening to chapters out of order. So then I re-started the book all over again, this time on the actual CDs that I had received. The narration was very well done and I could feel the narrator’s passion while reading the text. His pace and tone were well matched to the text. The only thing that I would have liked would be for the narrator to actually sing the song, Stonewall Jackson’s Way, instead of just reading the lyrics.

You can also watch this book talk segment from the LBJ Library:
Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

  Also by S.C. Gwynne:
Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

Find S.C. Gwynne: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Copyright © 2015 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I love the Civil War, in HS it was a big obsession of mine. This sounds great.
    How do I get the Goodreads direct-link button? I've looked everywhere on their site.

    1. The Goodreads "button" is an image I had received from a blog tour coordinator originally. I just add it as an image and hyperlink it to the Goodreads page I want each time. I don't know if it is an actual Goodreads button or something the tour coordinator made themselves.

  2. The Civil War is a part of history unknown to me. I enjoyed the review.


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