Shelby Foote was wrong. In Ken Burns's Civil War documentary, he claimed that no one really knew what the rebel yell sounded like.
At the New York Civil War Roundtable meeting yesterday, we heard a recording of the yell. In the 1930's, recordings of it by different Confederate veterans were made. I and my dinner companions listened to the recordings of the individuals. It sounded like the high-pitched squawking of a mad chicken.
The Museum of the Confederacy then did something amazing. They combined the sounds of the individuals and duplicated them many times. First, the sound of a platoon was played, then a brigade and finally, a corps. The final recording sent chills up my spine. It was a cascade of high-pitched, never-ending squawks. They continued and crowded out all other sounds. Imagine having to repel that with only one or two combined shots with smoke billowing around you. One woman grimaced. I paused in eating my dessert. I could not digest. I now understand why the Union troops at Gaines Mill broke and ran. I would've on hearing those terrible sounds.
When the moderator offered a copy of a CD with the rebel yell, there were no takers. We needed no vicarious terror in our lives.
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