«Он вызывал особое, непередаваемое при теперешних обстоятельствах скребущее душе ощущение, будто позвоночник проваливается вниз, — вспоминал после войны солдат-северянин. — Чтобы понять, надо это почувствовать, и, если вы утверждаете, что слышали клич и не испытали подобного ощущения, значит, вы лжете».
The sound of the yell has been the subject of much discussion. Civil War soldiers, upon hearing the yell from afar, would quip that it was either “Jackson, or a rabbit,” suggesting a similarity between the sound of the yell and a rabbit’s scream. The rebel yell has also been likened to the scream of a catamount. In media such as movies or video games, the yell is often portrayed as a simple “yee-haw” and in some parts of the United States, "yee-ha". The yell has also been described as similar to Native American cries. One description says it was a cross between an "Indian whoop and wolf-howl".
Several recordings of Civil War veterans performing the yell exist. One, from a newsreel documenting the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, documents several Confederate veterans performing the yell as a high-pitched "Wa-woo-woohoo, wa-woo woohoo." The Library of Congress has a video from the 1930s of a dozen or so veterans performing the yell individually and as a group. In 1935, a North Carolina veteran aged 90 performed it and was recorded.