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The Last Rebel Yell

June 2024
1min read

Gettysburg: The Last Reunion
of the Blue & the Gray

Belle Grove Publishing Co., 55 mins., $29.95. CODE: BGV-1.

What gives this short film its power is its unlikely old stars: nearly two thousand Gettysburg veterans gathered under tents for the battle’s seventy-fifth anniversary in the summer of 1938. The men, with their government attendants and streaming white beards, are shown stepping down from the twenty-six special Pullman cars that brought them to the last of their twenty-five-year reunions. The grainy color newsreels and home movies strung together for this film report are largely silent, picturing the old soldiers smoking pipes in chairs and telling stories, posing with their medals, or standing in opposite lines for ceremonial handshakes. The radio program for the dedication of that year’s peace monument on Oak Ridge overlays the silent parts, including excerpts from the speeches of several veterans and the ringing young voice of President Franklin Roosevelt. At one point a dandy old gent does a jig for his pals; another highlight comes when a Confederate veteran whoops, then says behind his hand with a grin, “That’s a Rebel yell.” Although the veterans’ segment of The Last Reunion is about half the film, it’s worth it just to hear that eerie sound from 130 years ago.

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