Civil War Wiki

Johnny Reb & Billy Yank is an epic novel first published in 1905 by Alexander Hunter, a soldier who served in Confederate General Robert E. Lee Army from 1861 to 1865. The novel is noted for encapsulating most of the major events of the American Civil War, due to Hunter's obvious involvement in them.

The "novel" is actually pulled from Hunter's own diaries during the war. He explains his reasons for publishing his accounts in the preface to the novel-

"There were thousands of soldiers on both sides during the Civil War, who, at the beginning, started to keep a diary of daily events, but those who kept a record from start to finish can be counted on the fingers of one hand. I was so fortunate as to save most of my notes made during the four years of conflict, and in 1865, having no fixed pursuit in life, I spent most of the time in arranging and writing up these incidents of camp life while fresh in my memory.

I have given in these pages veracious account of the life of a soldier in Lee's army.

The public have been surfeited with war literature. There is hardly a prominent officer North or South who has not rushed into print at every available opportunity; yet no officer high in rank dared write the exact truth, for the reason he has the feelings, the self-love and the reputations of those who served under him to consider.

A private in the ranks, who has learned something of the art of war through though experience in two branches of the service, should be able to write understandingly of that internecine conflict which rocked America like an earthquake.

At least he can afford to tell the truth as to what he saw, heard and thought without fear or favor. And above all, a private in the ranks, having no grievance, can be fair and just.

In those days "Johnny Reb" and Billy Yank" were good comrades when off duty. They had a profound respect for each other, and as Bulwer says, "It is astonishing how much we like a man after fighting him."

The novel is then divided into two parts, the first part chronicling Hunter's service in the infantry up until the Battle of Chancellorsville, and the second part depicting his service in the Cavalry until the end of the war.

Although Hunter is not credited with popularizing the term Johnny Reb he does dedicate the novel to "that tattered son of fortune and the nursling of many a dark and stormy hour, this book is affectionately dedicated by the AUTHOR"