Rebel Yell

The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson

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About The Book

Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the epic New York Times bestselling account of how Civil War general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson became a great and tragic national 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. 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.

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?

About The Author

Photograph by Kenny Braun

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.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Scribner (September 30, 2014)
  • Length: 688 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451673302

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Raves and Reviews

"In Rebel Yell, Mr. Gwynne's easy, loping style wraps itself effortlessly around the particulars of Stonewall Jackson's life, from his back-of-the-mountain upbringing to the outburst of military genius in the Civil War. The result is a narrative vivid with detail and insight."

– Wall Street Journal

"In the magnificent Rebel Yell, one of the year's best biographies, writer S.C. Gwynne brings Jackson ferociously to life... His battle scenes are marvels of description and kinetic action. [He] brings a deep humanity to his portrayals of Jackson, his fellow Confederate generals and their Union adversaries... Gwynne's pages fly by, brimming with excitement and terror."

– Newsday

“Gwynne stirringly recreates the bloody, error-plagued battles of the early war and argues that Jackson’s legend galvanized the South, outmanned and outgunned, to keep fighting.”

– New Yorker

"An engaging narrative with a pace that never flags... Gwynne accomplishes a great deal in his clear and highly readable book... If you read everything about the Civil War -- or if you have read very little about the Civil War -- Rebel Yell is an excellent addition to your reading list."

– Huffington Post

"I've reviewed many books on the Civil War, and this is far and away the best biography of a Civil War general that I've read... If you're a Civil War buff -- as I am -- or if you're just interested in wonderful biographies -- as I am -- Rebel Yell is a must-read book. It reads like a novel, but it's based on extensive beyond belief research."

– Huntington News

"Gwynne’s portrait of Jackson is comprehensive, stirring, compelling....This well-researched portrait of a well-studied figure of the Civil War defies the odds and measurably adds to the scholarship surrounding Jackson and the conflict that defined him... The book is hard to put down."

– The Dallas Morning News

"Profoundly enlightening...The difference in Rebel Yell is...the historical sweep, the small touches, and the quality and clarity of the writing... Those sorts of little touches, page after page after page, set this book apart....Gwynne's Rebel Yell delivers what readers want and deserve — a brave, headlong charge into American history."

– Chicago Tribune

"A worthy book that does much to present the general in a realistic, critical and evenhanded manner.... Gwynne writes with style... he creates vivid word pictures and descriptions that keep the reader engaged. Rebel Yell is a worthy addition to the shelves of those who study and read about the American Civil War."

– Washington Independent Review of Books

"S.C. Gwynne provides a comprehensive portrait of a complex man who triumphed on the battlefield--but remained an enigma... a joy to read."

– Civil War Times

"[Gwynne's contribution] lies in capturing Jackson’s character, personality and historical significance. He interprets Jackson as a discipline- and God-obsessed social bore, yet one of the fiercest fighters and most brilliant minds in American military history... a 'living myth'...Jackson ascended rapidly from nerdy artillery and physics professor at Virginia Military Institute to Lee’s audacious and seemingly invincible lieutenant."

– The Raleigh News-Observer

"September’s most scintillating read may be a 640-page biography of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson... S.C. Gwynne’s riveting retelling of the canny Confederate whose strategies shaped the early years of the Civil War is just that good."

– Kirkus, feature

"A stimulating study of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson... Gwynne reveals him to have been an early master of modern mobile warfare and a clear-eyed interpreter of what modern 'pitiless war was all about'... Readers are likely to agree that, without Jackson, Lee 'would never again be quite so brilliant,' while even in the North Jackson was considered, rather than a rebel, a 'gentleman and... fundamentally an American.'"

– Publishers Weekly, STARRED review

"Spry prose and cogent insight....Showing Jackson’s exploitation of speed and deception, Gwynne’s vivid account of his Civil War run, which ended with his death in the 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville, is a riveting, cover-to-cover read for history buffs."

 

– Booklist, STARRED review

“It’s hard to imagine an author breaking newground with another Jackson biography. But S.C. Gwynne does just thatin Rebel Yell... Readers will come away from Rebel Yell withan understanding of the man that goes beyond his military exploits. Gwynne’s masterful storytelling makes Rebel Yell anabsorbing choice for general readersand Civil War buffs alike.”

– Bookpage

"VERDICT: This popular history is recommended for all readers interested in the Civil War."

– Library Journal

Rebel Yell breathes contemporary insight and fresh energy into the life of an authentic American legend. In this crackling narrative, S.C. Gwynne gives us the bold tactics, the eccentric thinking, and the wicked genius of one of history's most brilliant—and unconventional—military minds.”

– Hampton Sides, author of Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West and In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette

“Powerfully told, richly detailed, but also deeply human in timeless ways, Rebel Yell unmasks Gen. Stonewall Jackson, one of American history's most enduring legends (and yet most private of men). This is history at its best.”

– Michael Duffy, co-author of The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity

“With the reporter's eye for the revealing vignette and the story-teller’s ear for the rhythm of human striving, S. C. Gwynne gives us a beautifully penetrating account of the meteoric rise and tragic death of the most legendary of Civil War soldiers.”

– H. W. Brands, author of The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace

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.”

– Peter Cozzens, author of Shenandoah 1862: Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign

“The great tragedy of modern historiography is that more historians don’t write like S.C. Gwynne. In this book on Stonewall Jackson’s Civil War career, Gwynne has fashioned a fast-paced narrative of a man complex and enigmatic, awkward and exceptional. Gwynne has taken on a giant figure of quirks and brilliance who demands both restraint and a facile pen, and he delivers in vivid form.”

– John Hennessy, author of First Battle of Manassas: An End To Innocence and Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas

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