How many people can say they have heard an authentic Rebel Yell? To our knowledge this is the only surviving example of the Rebel Yell given by one of the 140,000 Tar Heels who defended the state of North Carolina. We encourage you to listen to this voice from the past, read the see information below to learn of the man behind the voice and how this audio treasure came to be recorded for posterity.
Click on a links below to hear the Rebel Yell from:
Pvt. Thomas N. Alexander of the 37th North Carolina Troops
Recorded by: WBT Radio of Charlotte, North Carolina
Records (in the North Carolina Soldiers book series tracing the history of Tar Heels in The War Between The States) are confusing on this old soldier because there appears to have been four different Thomas Alexanders with four different middle initials in four different companies of the 37th North Carolina Regiment. Based on family stories and newspaper accounts of the enlistment of this Thomas N. Alexander, it seems that the North Carolina series could have mixed the biographies because of the four men sharing the same name in one regiment.
This Thomas N. Alexander of Co. I was reported in newspapers to have joined in Charlotte in Feb. 1862 though the North Carolina Soldiers book shows him joining in 1864 at Liberty Mills, near Orange, Va. (perhaps rejoining after a furlough?). The book says Thomas N. of Co. I suffered an unspecified wound at Fusel's Mill in 1864, while Thomas R. of Co. C was wounded in the leg at Gettysburg. Thomas N.'s obituary reports that he was wounded in the leg in 1864. Thomas N. Alexander lived to be 95 years old and was quite active in the Sons of Confederate Veterans up until the time of his death in 1940, the last surviving Mecklenburg County veteran of the war.
The audio files accompanying this page were recorded by the general manager of WBT radio at a Sons of Confederate Veterans meeting in 1935 when Alexander was 90 years old. The interviewer spends several minutes with Alexander asking for the history of the Rebel Yell. Alexander, whose age makes it hard to understand him, replies that he first heard the yell at "Cold Harbor", apparently meaning the 1862 Seven Days Battle of Gaines Mill, which was sometimes called First Cold Harbor, which was his first battle. Alexander then says whenever the Yankees heard the Rebel Yell, "they would fly," meaning run away. The interviewer then asks all of the veterans in attendance to give the yell. They give several, controlled monosyllabic calls. Apparently, at some point later in the meeting, perhaps in a more private room as the sound quality seems to improve, the interviewer asks Alexander to give his own version of the yell.
We are grateful to Mr. J.B. Joye of Belmont, N.C. for providing us with a tape of his grandfather's voice and thanks to Pvt. Ken Curtis of Co. E of the 26th NCT Reactivated for recognizing the historical importance of the tape.