The Civil War has left indelible marks on Alabama’s land, culture, economy, and people. Despite its lasting influence, this wrenching story has been too long neglected by historians preoccupied by events elsewhere. In These Rugged Days: Alabama in the Civil War, John S. Sledge provides a long overdue and riveting narrative of Alabama’s wartime saga.
Focused on the conflict’s turning points within the state’s borders, this book charts residents’ experiences from secession’s heady early days to its tumultuous end, when 75,000 blue-coated soldiers were on the move statewide. Sledge details this eventful history using an impressive array of primary and secondary materials, including official records, diaries, newspapers, memoirs, correspondence, sketches, and photographs. He also highlights such colorful personalities as Nathan Bedford Forrest, the “Wizard of the Saddle”; John Pelham, the youthful Jacksonville artillerist who was shipped home in an iron casket with a glass faceplate; Gus Askew, a nine-year-old Barbour County slave who vividly recalled the day the Yankees marched in; and Augusta Jane Evans, the young novelist who was given a gold pen by a daring blockade runner.
Sledge offers a refreshing take on Alabama’s contributions to the Civil War that will intrigue anyone who is interested in learning more about the state’s war efforts. His narrative is a dramatic account that will be enjoyed by lay readers as well as students and scholars of Alabama and the Civil War. These Rugged Days is an enthralling tale of action, courage, pride, and tragedy, making clear the relevance of many of the Civil War’s decisive moments for the way Alabamians live today.
"Sledge has effectively balanced the uniqueness of the conflict in Alabama with the broader context of the rest of the war. As a result, his work is useful to Civil War scholars, historians interested in nineteenth-century Alabama, or individuals curious about the career of Forrest and his enemies. While it does not unearth new materials, it does consolidate one state’s wartime experience into a single, accessible volume, and is thus a useful contribution to the Civil War literature."
—Journal of Military History
"The audience for which Sledge is writing—Southern-born general readers, buffs, and hobbyists, among others—in search of a good yarn or two will enjoy These Rugged Days immensely. It is truly the work of one of Alabama's master writers and will be savored."
"[ . . .] Sledge knows his topic well and has produced a highly engaging, comprehensive narrative of the state’s wartime experience. A general audience will enjoy the informative read and students researching specific events will appreciate the detailed bibliography pointing to a wealth of additional resources for more in-depth study."
"In his earlier books on Mobile cemeteries and ironworks, Sledge’s prose is clear and functional, but in These Rugged Days it is eloquent. This is narrative history at its best. One normally ignores blurbs, but on the back cover, filmmaker Ken Burns says of These Rugged Days, 'I couldn’t stop reading it.'I couldn’t either."
—Don Noble, The Tuscaloosa News
“As a writer, Sledge possesses an appealing gift for evocative prose, his picturesque writing style well suited to drawing in both casual readers and more serious students of Civil War Alabama. His narrative generally follows the top commanders, but it also generously incorporates pithy excerpts from the diaries and letters of common soldiers and civilians from all parts of the state. Sledge's engaging writing style also hearkens back to that of Foote and Catton, a quality that will undoubtedly broaden the volume's appeal.”
—Civil War Books and Authors
"Through [Sledge's] appreciation of the past of his home state and his smooth, engrossing prose, we finally have a riveting account of Alabama's Civil War that enlivens obscure figures we should better know, animates forgotten landscapes where war was waged with which we should be more familiar, and brings home the visceral emotion and profound spectacle of combat on Alabama soil and waters through which we should have understood these events all along. As a narrative history of Alabama's Civil war events, These Rugged Days is unsurpassed and will certainly we the standard on its subject for years to come."
—The Historians Manifesto
“If all politics is local then history is more so, and that holds true for the story John Sledge has told here. It is personal and intimate (and unusually moving), as well as enormously edifying, well written, and revealing; I couldn’t stop reading it! Bravo!”
—Ken Burns, Emmy Award-winning producer and director of The Civil War
“A fresh look at the Civil War in Alabama that thoroughly covers the topic in a way that only John Sledge can. Anyone who grew up in the South, who has an interest in the Civil War, will immediately relate.”
—Robert Bradley, former chief curator at the Alabama Department of Archives and History