After five years of rising before daybreak and consuming over 5,400 cups of Maxwell House, my historical novel, Revolutionaries & Rebels, has finally been birthed. I’ve decided to review it myself. After all, who knows more about it than I? I find book reviewers to be a persnickety bunch who sip expensive white wine and display intellectual-appearing books on their coffee table. Not me. I buy my wine on sale at Hometown and use my coffee table as a foot stool. You can trust me to tell you the truth about my novel. It’s good – real good. There you have it, straight from one who knows.
It’s a story about a real family and their struggle for liberty and a better life. It follows them through war and peace, hardship, struggle, love, hope and survival. It’s the story of all my family who lived it. I never intended to write a novel, but often life sends us in a different direction. After spending years researching the Barksdale family and accumulating boxes of documents and information, I sat down to pen the story. After writing 200 foot-noted pages, I decided it read like a legal brief. Dull. I put it aside and fretted. A story that isn’t working is a writer’s greatest frustration. It occurred to me that I could tell the story and hopefully make it interesting to readers. Thus, this historical novel. I dropped the footnotes, gave voice to actual characters and attempted to stick to the facts as they happened. All of the characters existed except for a slim few whose names have been changed.
The story begins in 1775 on the eve of the American Revolution. For sixteen-year-old Micajah McElroy, life in Wake County, North Carolina revolves around managing his inherited plantation and winning the hand of pretty Sarah Campbell, but when the notorious David Fanning and his gang of Tories begin burning, stealing and hanging Patriots, Micajah’s Scotch-Irish blood rises. There is no middle ground. He joins the conflict to fight for liberty, leaving his pregnant wife at home to birth their first child. At the Battle of Lindley’s Mill, Micajah gets his chance to even the score. The Revolutionary War is just the beginning of a journey that takes Micajah and his family over the Appalachian Mountain and into Lincoln County, Tennessee where they settle on 600 acres in Fayetteville. While constructing the first brick courthouse in Lincoln County, two of his sons join General Jackson and help defeat the British at New Orleans in the War of 1812. Micajah’s reputation spreads to newly-created Limestone County, Alabama where he moves in 1819 with his wife and two unmarried daughters to construct the first brick courthouse in Athens. Sallie, the oldest daughter marries Postmaster, Robert C. David. Nancy, the youngest daughter, returns to Fayetteville with her parents. Daniel Barksdale, looking for good land and a good woman, leaves Kentucky and goes to Fayetteville where he marries Nancy McElroy in 1827. They prosper for awhile and then a financial panic destroys the nation’s economy. Daniel, Nancy and their 7 children move into a log house three miles east of Athens on the Athens-Fayetteville Pike. The nation splits over the slavery issue. Northern abolitionists are bound and determined to end it. Southern planters who have grown wealthy raising cotton aren’t about to give up their slaves. War clouds gather. There is talk of secession. Daniel Barksdale and his good friend and neighbor, Emanuel Isom, founder of Isom’s Chapel Methodist Church, oppose secession. Following Lincoln’s election in 1860, Alabama secedes from the Union. Folks of Athens are upset and run up the stars and stripes over the courthouse where it remains for three months. Athens becomes known as a “Dammed Union hole.”
Daniel’s youngest son, Dudley, enlists in the Confederate Army to “cover himself with glory.” Everything changes on May 2, 1862, when Yankee Colonel Turchin sacks Athens. Three of Daniel’s sons and his son-in-law, James Newby, join the Confederate Army. They have no choice but to fight to protect their families. What would Micajah McElroy think of his grandsons firing on the flag he had defended? Emanuel Isom is a Union man and doesn’t care who knows it. James Greer Barksdale and his brother-in-law, James Newby, are captured at Missionary Ridge and confined to Rock Island Prison, where the temperature drops to 30 below zero and prisoners are shot by guards for sport.
The novel ends on July 4, 1865. The war is over. Limestone County is occupied by Union troops, homes and barns have been torched and people are hungry. Daniel and wife, Nancy have seen hard times before and are determined to not only survive, but build a better future.
After further thought I’m not giving the book two thumbs up but pitching in two big toes. That’s as good as it gets in literature. I’ve never seen a book rated this high ever in The New York Times. It’s a first.
Revolutionaries & Rebels, (500 Pages) is available at Pablo’s on the Square, Alabama Veterans’ Museum, Limestone Archives as well as Ingram, Amazon.com, and Barnes and Noble. It is also available directly from Jerry R. Barksdale and Rebekah Davis.
Jerry Barksdale will be available for signing and autographing the new books on Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. at Pablo’s Bookstore on Market Street.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner