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. His brilliance at the art of war tied Abraham Lincoln and the Union high command in knots and threatened the ultimate success of the Union armies. 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 April 1862 Jackson was merely another Confederate general in an army fighting what seemed to be a losing cause. 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. He had, moreover, given the Confederate cause what it had recently lacked—hope—and struck fear into the hearts of the Union.
The book is the result of a lifelong interest in the Civil War and particularly in Jackson, whom I consider one of its most compelling characters. The book is really about transformation: how an unpopular and highly eccentric college physics professor becomes, in the space of fourteen months, the most famous military figure in the western world. I have made a series of research trips to various archives and battlefields. Title comes from the fact that Jackson invented the Rebel Yell, a pretty impressive thing to put on your resume.