Customers Also Bought
- ISBN-13: 9781451673289
- ISBN-10: 1451673280
- Publisher: Scribner Book Company
- Publish Date: September 2014
- Page Count: 672
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.95 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-07-21
- Reviewer: Staff
Journalist Gwynne follows his bestselling Empire of the Summer Moon with a stimulating study of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson. Jackson today remains a figure of almost mythical proportions and embodies the more heroic elements of the Southern cause. Gwynne, in a primarily chronological narrative, 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.” In 1861, Jackson was “part of that great undifferentiated mass of second-rate humanity who weren’t going anywhere in life.” But underneath his efflorescent eccentricities, he was “highly perceptive and exquisitely sensitive,” as well as an “incisive and articulate observer.” In the spring of 1862 those qualities shaped the brilliant Shenandoah Valley campaign that reinvigorated a stagnant Confederate war effort and established him as the “most famous military figure in the Western world.” Exhaustion limited Jackson’s contributions to the Peninsular Campaign, but from Second Bull Run through Antietam to his mortal wounding at Chancellorsville, his achievements and his legend grew. Gwynne tells Jackson’s story without editorializing and 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.” Maps and 16-page photo insert. (Oct.)
Behind the legendary stone wall
Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson is such an iconic military figure that he is legendary to Civil War scholars and schoolchildren alike. So it’s hard to imagine an author breaking new ground with another Jackson biography. But S.C. Gwynne does just that in Rebel Yell, which deserves comparisons to Shelby Foote’s three-volume The Civil War for its depth of knowledge and graceful narrative. Gwynne, a 2011 Pulitzer Prize finalist for Empire of the Summer Moon, casts Jackson as a human being, not as a bronze figure towering over a battlefield. Readers will come away from Rebel Yell with an understanding of the man that goes beyond his military exploits.
Gwynne is obligated to cover familiar territory, as when Thomas Jackson earned his nickname by standing his ground against superior Union forces at the First Battle of Manassas. A fellow Confederate general shouted, “Yonder stands Jackson like a stone wall,” and the rest, as they say, is history.
Jackson’s military prowess is impressive, but it is glimpses of Stonewall off the battlefield that are more fascinating. We learn that Jackson was a complex character with any number of quirks and tics. He was deeply religious and placed his fate in the hands of God. Thus, while he lived by the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” once the South declared war, he pledged his loyalty and felt that any death he caused was God’s will. Formerly a professor at the Virginia Military Institute, Jackson was introverted and soft-spoken, yet in the heat of battle, his eyes became fiery and his demeanor decisive as he barked out orders. He was consumed by his health, and a bad stomach propelled him to a diet of stale bread and buttermilk. Despite these peculiarities, Jackson rose to become one of the South’s fiercest and most beloved generals, so relied upon that his early death left Confederates wondering whether the war’s outcome might have been different if he had survived.
Gwynne’s masterful storytelling makes Rebel Yell an absorbing choice for general readers and Civil War buffs alike.