Portrait of a Confederate Army infantryman (1861–1865)

Johnny Reb is the national personification of the common soldier of the Confederacy. During the American Civil War and afterwards, Johnny Reb and his Union counterpart Billy Yank were used in speech and literature to symbolize the common soldiers who fought in the Civil War in the 1860s.[1] The symbolic image of Johnny Reb in Southern culture has been represented in its novels, poems, art, public statuary, photography, and written history.[2] According to the historian Bell I. Wiley, who wrote about the common soldiers of the Northern and the Southern armies, the name appears to have its origins in the habit of Union soldiers calling out, "Hello, Johnny" or "Howdy, Reb" to Confederate soldiers on the other side of the picket line.[3]

Johnny Reb is often pictured as a Confederate soldier in gray wool uniform with the typical kepi-style forage cap[4] made of wool broadcloth or cotton jean cloth with a rounded, flat top, cotton lining, and leather visor.[5] He is often shown as well with his weapons or with the Confederate flag, sometimes both.

Johnny Reb has been used as a nickname for veteran Confederate soldiers,[6] as well as to refer to white natives of the states that formerly belonged to the Confederacy. The sobriquet is still commonly used in scholarly writing by Southern and Northern authors; for example, Robert N. Rosen, a Jewish native of South Carolina who has written extensively about the roles Southern Jews played in the Confederate States Army, refers to "Jewish Johnny Rebs".[7] The term Johnny Reb is still sometimes used in popular writing and in news media. In 2000, The Los Angeles Times published an article by the historian Eric Foner entitled, Chief Johnny Reb, in reference to Jefferson Davis, the Confederate president.[8] A 2018 book review by historian Drew Gilpin Faust appeared in The Wall Street Journal under the title Billy Yank and Johnny Reb.[9]

Use in media

See also


  1. ^ Charles Carleton Coffin (1888). Drum-beat of the Nation: The First Period of the War of the Rebellion from Its Outbreak to the Close of 1862. Harper & brothers. p. 463.
  2. ^ Charles Reagan Wilson, ed. (1 February 2014). "Johnny Reb". The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 4: Myth, Manners, and Memory. Vol. 4. University of North Carolina Press. p. 257. ISBN 978-1-4696-1670-4.
  3. ^ Bell Irvin Wiley (1 January 2008). The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy. LSU Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-8071-3325-5.
  4. ^ Confederate States of America. War Department (1952). Uniform and Dress of the Army and Navy of the Confederate States of America. Ray Riling and Robert Halter at the River House.
  5. ^ Don Troiani; Earl J. Coates (15 October 2017). Don Troiani's Civil War Soldiers. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-8117-6609-8.
  6. ^ David A. Gerber (2000). Disabled Veterans in History. University of Michigan Press. p. 213. ISBN 0-472-11033-0.
  7. ^ Robert N. Rosen (2000). The Jewish Confederates. Univ of South Carolina Press. p. 163. ISBN 978-1-57003-363-6.
  8. ^ Eric Foner (19 November 2000). "Chief Johnny Reb". The Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on September 15, 2019. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  9. ^ Drew Gilpin Faust (December 8, 2018). "'The War for the Common Soldier' and 'The Calculus of Violence' Review: Billy Yank and Johnny Reb". Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  10. ^ "R.E.M. – Swan Swan H". genius.com. 2015. Retrieved 13 December 2020.