In response to numerous requests for information regarding the historic
origin of the print "Rebel Yell", Roberta Wesley talks about her print:
I drew the inspiration for this painting from the history of my Great Grandfather Littleton Berry Hooten who enlisted with the infantry of the Confederate States of America at Montgomery, Alabama.
Littleton Berry Hooten was one of the nameless soldiers who fought and somehow survived all the numerous bloody battles of the 22nd Infantry. He was paroled from a hospital in North Carolina at the end of the war, health permanently damaged by the hardships of the campaigns. He lived only a few years after returning home before leaving his wife and young sons alone to reconstruct their lives and farm the land.
In November, 1861 the 22nd Infantry completed its organization at Montgomery and moved to Mobile. Next the regiment was ordered to West Tennessee, Army of Mississippi, Bragg's Corps, Wither's Division. The unit suffered severe losses at Shiloh under Gen. Gladden, then saw action in Bragg's Kentucky campaign under Gen. Gardner. Later the 22nd was attached to Deas', G. G. Johnston's, and Brantley's Brigade, Army of Tennessee. It fought in many conflicts from Murfreesboro to Atlanta. It was part of Gen. Hood's winter operations in Tennessee, and ended the war at Durham Station, North Carolina (where Littleton entered the hospital) in April 1865, three weeks after Lee's surrender.
After the Battle of Shiloh the 22nd reported only 123 men fit for duty. It sustained 94 casualties at Murfreesboro and lost 53% of it's 371 engaged men at Chickamaouga during the attack against Gen. Rosecrans' Army.
A need to commemorate the common soldier rather than the great generals of the Civil War was born of my respect for my Great Grandfather's service, and was first expressed in my painting "Waiting for Orders". "Rebel Yell" continues the theme, and is especially meaningful to me as two of my sons, direct descendants of Littleton Berry Hooten, posed as two of the Confederate Soldiers( they are the 2nd and 4th of the large figures counting from the left). The other models were my husband, our nephew, and several friends of the family.
Although the subject matter of "Rebel Yell" was never intended to be an exact representation of a particular battle, care was taken to be as historically accurate as possible regarding uniforms and equipment. The battle flag has its roots in the the Cross of St. Andrew, a Celtic Christian symbol using the colors (red/white/blue) found in the Confederate National Flag. Most flags used in the infantry were square in shape, perhaps because of the symmetry of the Celtic cross. Artistically it was desirable to have the flag extend the width of the painting, but the rectangular form of the flag was primarily seen as, and is most often associated with, the Confederate Naval Jack.
I was delighted to discover that the rectangular version did find its way onto the battlefield, most notably with the Army of Tennessee. In early 1864 General Johnston's Army of Tennessee received rectangular battle flags from the Atlanta Depot although the square version had been requested. They apparently carried the rectangular version the rest of the war. And so the use of the rectangular flag in a battle scene, while not typical of the period, is certainly historically accurate.
Thank you for your interest.