Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson
by S.C. Gwynne
Scribner (2014) Hardcover, 688 pages
S.C. Gwynne offers a biography of Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson that covers Jackson’s heroic battlefield performances during the Mexican-American and American Civil Wars, as well as the man’s inauspicious early upbringing, personality quirks, and pious religious beliefs. At close to 700 pages, Rebel Yell is filled with an abundance of information, paying close attention to his enigmatic nature, such as his belief that a ‘Black Flag” war of taking no prisoners would end the war early, juxtaposed against his hatred of violence and war in general, as he once stated that “people who are anxious to bring on war don’t know what they are bargaining for.”
Having been involved in bloody battles during the Mexican-American War, he was one of only a handful of officers who had any experience in battle, a reason why he most likely favored utilizing a more offensive approach, as opposed to employing a defensive strategy that most generals, as well as the Confederate leadership employed. Gwynne points out that a year later, Robert E. Lee would warm to the idea of the South invading the North, while towards the end of the war, The Union would take the idea of an all out war and lay waste to the South, as evidenced by General Sherman’s scorched earth policy in his March to the Sea Campaign (The Anaconda plan).
Gwynne has written an extensive account of the life of General Stonewall Jackson, it is extremely easy to follow, and never gets boring or repetitive. Jackson’s personal life is scrutinized throughout the book, and many of his war-time decisions are examined as they relate to his fervent Christian beliefs. His softer, more sensitive side is also displayed prominently (such as the tenderness shown to his family, as well as his soldiers), laid out next to his severe disciplinary style, and his strict adherence to military protocol.
The author gives the reader an in-depth view into the politics involved in the commissioning of Confederate officers, as most were from the Aristocracy, and had little to no experience with war. The South’s lack of manufacturing capabilities, and weaponry is discussed at length, as well as the quick thinking and foraging Jackson employed in order to lessen these major deficiencies within the Confederate Army. I have learned some new information concerning The Civil War, particularly where the Confederacy is concerned, and I highly recommend this excellent biography for anyone interested in The Civil War, American History, and the History of the Confederacy, as well a Military Strategy.
(4 out of 5)