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Civil War Trust

Hear the Civil War

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Colonel Perry, 44th Alabama, describing the fighting at Devil's Den during the Battle of Gettysburg (Library of Congress)

Even though you may not have been around for a Civil War battle, it is still possible to re-create many of the sounds that a soldier would have experienced during battle and camp life, using this list.

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Rebel Yell 

Confederate re-enactors at Antietam. (Will Hart)

The Rebel Yell is undoubtedly one of the most storied sounds of the Civil War. The ear-piercing, spirited shriek was designed to intimidate Union forces while steeling the resolve of the attacking Confederate troops.

Hear it today: The Smithsonian features a video recording from the Library of Congress of Confederate veterans giving a rebel yell in the 1930s. After watching the video, try it out yourself - perhaps with a tour group on your next Civil War battlefield tour. 

Cavalry Charge

The thunderous, churning roar generated by the charge of hundreds or thousands of cavalrymen storming across an open plain, such as in the Battle of Third Winchester, would have been an soul-shattering sound. 

Hear it today: The modern military application of horses is all but obsolete due to the rapid evolution of military technology. However, one can still experience the sudden clamorous charge of hundreds of cavalrymen at Civil War reenactments.

Musket Fire 

Union re-enactors at Gettysburg demonstrating musket fire. (Carl Staub)

Perhaps the most iconic sound of the American Civil War was the sharp crack of an infantryman's rifle. The unforgettable shrill of a minie ball passing dangerously close over head and its shuddering thud against trees, earth, and bone characterize the inescapable brutality of the war.

Hear it today: Dedicated Civil War re-enactors put on dozens of demonstrations throughout the country each year, and there are even societies that hold live firing competitions, such as the North-South Skirmish Association.  Check them out next time a group gathers in your era for a truly unique Civil War experience, or, watch a video of the action here

Unidentified Union soldier with keyed bugle. (Library of Congress)

Bugle Call

Possessing the ability to rise above the deafening sounds of battle while also rousing exhausted soldiers from their sleep, the bugle call was an essential aspect of the Civil War. The bugle call determined when a solider woke up, went to bed, retreated, or charged.

Hear it today: Modern military reviews will undoubtedly feature a rendition of the hauntingly beautiful "Taps", which first originated during the American Civil War. To hear "Taps" and other bugle calls, visit a Civil War reenactment or check out the US Army's excellent online bugle call hub here

A March

The soldiers of the Civil War traversed thousands of miles of the American countryside, marching and countermarching in five separate theaters. The plodding thud of thousands of marching feet, the metallic pinging of coffee cups and utensils, and the low rumble of supply wagons could be heard for miles.

Hear it today: Today, a hiking expedition in nearly any area of the American countryside affords a chance to experience the land as the soldiers of the Civil War did - minus the pressure of looming battle, of course. As you walk, soak in the rustling leaves at Little Round Top, the softly rolling waters of Antietam Creek, and the mysterious noises of wilderness fauna.  For an even more realistic experience, tie a tin can or some spoons to your belt loop or backpack to re-create the clinking sounds that soldiers' supplies would have made as they walked. 


Because of the constant movement the war demanded, soldiers spent long stretches of the war living and cooking their meals outdoors. The campfire was the central hub and gathering place an army camp. The warm, crisp crackle of a fire afforded warmth, a sense of security, and a melodious lullaby for the weary, worn-out soldiers.   

Hear it today: Experience the comforting warmth and pleasing crackle of a campfire yourself!  If your home doesn't have a fireplace or fire pit, try constructing your own campfire in a designated spot at a nearby campsite. (Follow all federal, state, and local regulations regarding campfires.)


The Civil War was fought not only on the battlefield, but also in the realm of culture, as many timeless songs were written and adopted by both the Union and Confederacy. Soldiers' tunes elicited heartfelt sorrow, homesickness, and pride, with Dixie, Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, and Tenting Tonight remaining as American war classics.

Hear it today: Read the history and lyrics of popular soldier and civilian songs from the Civil War in "Music of the 1860's" by the Civil War Trust. The article also includes multiple links that allow you to listen to modern-day recordings of these popular tunes.

Evening music at General Alfred Pleasonton's headquarters, Auburn, VA, 1863. (Library of Congress)

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