Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

by Tony Horwitz


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Confederates in the Attic 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 105 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Easily one of the best books detailing contemporary views of both north and south black and white. This book details how the civil war polarizes even re-enactors who proclaim they are keeping history alive. There are parts in this book that will give you goose bumps and there are parts thst will leave you shaking your head im disbelief. Personally I would jump at an opportunity to follow the same route that the author did. Still however at the last page you will feel as though you have come to the end of a long journey that you are not just ready to have end. This is a must read for every civil war buff. It will change what you thought you knew about the civil war.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Yep, Horwitz is a good writer. This book is alternately funny and insightful in many places. Unfortunately, Horwitz takes too many disturbing tangets into racial stereotyping. Too many white southerners are painted as hick,racist rubes and he seems to do this for no other reason than to maintain an edge of cynical elitism (if you read his other books, he cops a similar attitude towards the Iraquis and the Australians). Especially disturbing is Horwitz's character asassination of a young white father of two who was gunned down by a black man for no other reason than having a rebel flag in the window of his truck. Horwitz comes dangerously close to declaring that flying the rebel flag is grounds for justifiable homicide. Scary. Sad too, for this agenda spoiled what otherwise was a great book.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
Confederates in the Attic is the second book by American journalist and author, Tony Horwitz. Whilst much Civil War literature is likely to have the eyes of anyone but the most enthusiastic fan glazing over before too long, anyone who has read Pulitzer Prizewinning Horwitz’s work may be interested enough to see what he can do with this much-written-about subject. Perhaps what he has created is not so much a book about the Civil War as a travelogue of places and people who are still affected by it. From a deep-seated childhood interest in the Civil War, Horwitz got the idea to tour the core Confederate Southern states, revisiting sites of interest and talking to people involved in commemorations and re-enactments. He meets hard-core (almost fundamentalist) enthusiasts who go to extremes for authenticity in re-enactment; he peruses collections of memorabilia and paraphernalia; he attends commemorative gatherings where he listens to Children of the Confederacy reciting the Confederate Catechism under the loving eye of Sons of Confederate Veterans and United Daughters of the Confederacy, one of whom even administers Cats of the Confederacy; he visits prison camps, cemeteries and tombs; he learns that his subject is often known as the War Between the States or the War of Northern Aggression; he talks to historians, collectors, students and everyday folk, both black and white, about what the Civil War means to them and the significance of the rebel flag; he goes on a week-long Civil Wargasm; he finds a truly integrated town; he talks to the last real Confederate widow; he dips into Gone With The Wind; and he uncovers a surprising depth of ongoing racial divide. As this book was written in the 1990s, it would be interesting to canvass these attitudes and opinions in the wake of a black president’s term.  This book is interesting, thought-provoking and occasionally hilarious. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Despite the fact that 13 years have passed since the first printing, this book is just as timely as our country recognizes the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. It makes one ponder the past and the role of its memories on the present.
Mayosister More than 1 year ago
So interesting and well-written!
Bookmeister More than 1 year ago
When I lived in South Carolina for nearly three years in the mid-60's, I was fascinated by the lingering hatred of the North, the racial justification of our peculiar United States form of apartheid, and the seemingly endless stream of legends-become-facts concerning the War Between the States, The Occupation, Emancipation and Reconstruction. This book more than any I've seen takes the reader inside the South, in all its glory and weakness. Using a simple door (Civil War Re-enactors and their gatherings) to enter this realm of historical fact and fiction, the author pulls the reader into an understanding of "why", without foisting judgment in a pedantic manner. While he leads you with his point of view, he leaves the doors open to at least understanding what the South was becoming in the 1980's, what it had been prior to that, and why all the monuments do, indeed, face North.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having lived in both the North and South in the 60's - 70's it's not surprising to see SOME of the same characters and attitudes as written. I found this book to be very interesting and at times, yes funny, but what I came away with is that in fact the attitudes have shifted to different targets so to speak. The most interesting part of the book towards the end is the author's discussion with a black educator. The reenactors are QUITE the characters and are themselves worth the read alone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tony's witty writing style and jovial observations made this book enjoyable. I especially like the fact that he actually visited various places in the South before passing judgement. At least he TRIED to be objective and unbiased! This is more than most outsiders afford our beloved homeland.
mfmclaughlin More than 1 year ago
Tony Horowitz doesn't seem to grasp the enormity of the tragedy that was the War Between The States. This is most evident in my opinion by the racial divisions that haunt us to this day that are described in the book. It really struck me how divided people are on the causes and results of the conflict but at the same time it was reassuring that for the most part people with polar opposite views could coexist. He also doesn't seem to understand or make the point that it was all unnecessary. The romance of it all and the collective memory gloss over the horror of what actually happened. He clings to the idea that the northern cause was just and the elimination of slavery as an endeavor worth the destruction of constitutional limited government. I was hoping for some kind of epiphany at the end but was disappointed.
iluvvideo More than 1 year ago
The Civil War never ended for most of the people in this book. Even in 1998 (when the book was written) there exists a sub-culture of die hard supporters of the Confederate States of America (CSA). Now, we're not just talking about hardcore weirdos,although they populate a lot of the book. North Carolina brings us the Cats of the Confederacy (yes, cats!); South Carolina , where artist Manning Williams toils on a painting that he'll says he'll never complete. The title? "Lincoln in Hell". But there are also people for whom the war may have ended but they do their best to keep its ideals alive. Racial prejudice often going hand in hand with religious intolerance (blacks and Jews mainly) are an accepted cultural reality. A young white man is shot down in cold blood by a carload of black teenagers. Why? He drove his truck, proudly displaying the rebel flag flying in the rear, through a predominantly black neighborhood. Certainly not a reason for murder, but was it an intentional provocation? A favorite character in the book for me was hardcore re-enactor Robert Lee Hodge, who will do almost anything to experience life as a soldier during the Civil War. Rail thin, unkempt, eating only what the soldiers ate, wearing clothes as close as possibly authentic to reality, he travels the Civil War trails and battlefields experiencing the war, but also answering questions and even recruiting others to the re-enactor cause. The author accompanies him on a "Civil Wargasm", a week long warp speed trek of the war, from Gettysburg to Antietam to the Shenandoah Valley and dozens of battlefields in between ! I loved the book (although it deeply disturbed me as well), it's filled with Civil War trivia, the correction of many long held war myths, and for the most part a fairly unbiased look at the people who live in the places the war was fought in. It helps to have some idea of the historical context of the war, but the author makes it clear what's going on (now and then). If you are a history buff or just someone interested in southern culture and beliefs, this is just the book for you.
LMSmith More than 1 year ago
This is my favorite Tony Horwitz book. It explores the question of why the South remains so nostalgic about a war that it lost. A southerner by birth and inclination, Tony Horwitz provides an answer that is honest and entertaining--laugh out loud funny at times, but honest at others. Highly recommended to anyone who wants to learn more about the effect of the Civil War on modern times.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Written during the late 1990's, this book shows a side of the Southeastern United States that is not very often mentioned, the surviving memory of 'the war of northern aggression', or the Civil War. Tony Horwitz explores the often not so pretty distaste that many Southerners still have for the North. He travels across the South, visiting many of the old battle sites. His stories provide striking insights into just how unwilling some of the more rural areas of the South are to forget the Civil War. Specifically, his experiences with Civil War re-enactors are very interesting. This is a very well written book on a topic that very little is written about.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are a Civil War buff or a history buff this is a must read. I am reading it for the third time. It is one of those books you must have in your Civil War library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great read if you have an interest in the American South. However, parts of it are sort of disturbing. For interest the author has chosen some of the most colorful southerners he could find. Read, enjoy, take it for what it is. I found it hard to put down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a great book written at a time when most Americans assume (incorrectly, as it turns out) the Civil War was long settled. Horwitz takes a serious, though many times laugh-out-loud funny, look at how the American Civil War is viewed today in the states in which it was fought. A great read, and the readewr feels as if he is right alongside the author during this investigative journey.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is wonderful. It is a nonfiction written by Tony Horwitz. During this book, Horwitz travels to several cities in the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama. Horwitz spends most of the time talking to random people he meets about the Civil War and what they think about the events of the Civil War. Some of the time, however, Horwitz spends becoming familiar with Civil War reenacting. The thing that i did not like about the book was that he only talked to Southern people about the War. All in all this was a FANTASTIC book, and i give it 4 stars for exellence. I recommend it to anyone who wants to read a great book about the Civil War/The Civil War Aftermath.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was assigned in one of my history classes as a text book and although the writing was easy and descriptive, I stopped reading the book halfway through. Personally, I found it repetitive and not entirely representative of the South or southerners. It gives the impression that the auther was purposely seeking out strange and outrageous individuals and cicrumstances in order to sell an interesting book, (as opposed to showing different points of view in the south relating to the Civil War). For someone who claims to be a journalist, this book is definately lacking in objectivity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Every American should read this book. I never new how little I knew, not just about the Civil War, but about the reasons and realities of relations between northerners and southerners, blacks and whites, farbs and hardcores. I originally picked it up because I figured it'd be worth a laugh or two, but I, like the author, had no idea what I was getting into. It's just a terrific piece of work, and easily the most important thing I've read since Breakpoint and Beyond.
laytonwoman3rd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Smithsonian has been referred to as ¿America¿s attic¿, but down in the Old South in the mid-1990¿s, Tony Horwitz found some artifacts that a lot of people might wish had not been hauled out into the light. Prowling around the sites of Civil War battles, consorting with "hard core living historians", and interviewing ordinary folks from many walks of life, Horwitz discovered that much of what he thought he knew about the Civil War was mythic, that in many small towns and rural communities a sense of separatism is still very strong, and that the "lost cause" maintains a grip on the hearts of many citizens of the former Confederacy. Despite his northern liberal upbringing, Horwitz was able to mingle gently with conservative southerners, some of whom were openly racist or anti-Semitic, and get them talking. I do wonder what might have changed in the last couple decades since the book was written, given that it predates 9/11, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the election of an African American President, and such. I would be glad of an update, but nevertheless I give this book an unequivocal thumbs up.
egonzaba on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tony Horwitz fully embraces the search for the Southern historical memory of the Civil War in this funny and witty page turner. Loved it.
omniavanitas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite non-fiction books. You'll come away with an enhanced knowledge of Civil War history, and a variety of perspectives on southern culture. Well-written and touching.
lesadee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I LOVE this book, and not just because I lived in Virginia where people are still fighting this war. Tony Horwitz can flat out write. I felt like I was traveling with him as he made his way through the Civil War locales.
skinglist on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I started reading this when I flew out to CA in January, but somehow I've never managed to finish it. I think I know why. At the very beginning I enjoyed it for the memories of Manassas, Antietam, Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg, etc in SUmmer of 1996 but then with a current class project it tied into Gettysburg.Some thoughts:"There never will be anything more interesting in America than that Civil War never" - Gertrude SteinIt's how he opens the book and I don't think it could be more true. Between his encounters with those passionate about the issue and the huge interest in the Civil War, I don't think anything has surpassed it even 150+ years later. It's still fresh and while it might be more 'alive' in the South, there is still a large interest here in the north. In Gettysburg, this was reinforced when one of the guides referred to "Serious Season" as the Fall when the historians returned and the large family groups left."Like many returning expatriates, I found my native country new and strange"While I didn't resurrect a childhood interest in the civil war, I think this applied to my own return to the US as well. There was so much I wanted to learn more about, yet it was all *just* out of reach."The South is a place. East, west and north are nothing but directions" - Letter to the Editor..."Poke a pin in a map of the South and you're likely to prod loose some battle or skirmish or other tuft of Civil War history"This was an issue brought up by several guides when talking about the issues and circumstances surrounding Gettysburg. Until that point, no battles had been fought in the north and it has been said that northerners were somewhat aloof to the war. It has been said that Lee had hoped for a quick win and a march on DC, which would have ended the war. I think this concentration of sites in the south is part of what keeps the war alive for so many southerners. It would be interesting to compare school classes of the same age in the north and south and see how CW knowledge ranges.At one point, the author is listening to a rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and comparing its meaning to Dixie. There's something about hearing it live, and in the midst of a study on the Civil War, that brings both to life. I'm not certain I've ever heard Dixie but it comes up in Horwitz' book like "Khe Sanh" comes up in Brian Thacker's-almost an anthem to the trip."Charleston--Tourist Industry Chatleston--preferred to forget the War altogether"This was probably what surprised me the most since if I think South Carolina and the Civil War, it's Charleston that comes to mind. Had I not done the trip in 1996 and the recent trip to Gettysburg, I think CW alone might bring up thoughts of Charleston.Hair.Bits of wood. Blood-stained clothing. The kindergarten was beginning to feel less like a museum than a saints' reliquaryRather than anything CW related, this brought to mind Hiroshima and the Peace Museum. It's done in a tasteful manner but you can't help but think of the poor children who'd been drafted into service or who were at school when the bomb hit and all that's left are hair, nails or a shadow.His discussion about the falseness of history in the context of Shiloh is an interesting one. While most would hope that the accounts passed on to future generations are accurate, it's impossible to ignore that they're most often told the loudest by the victors. A similar truth is in place in Gettysburg, where it was first decreed that only union soldiers were to be buried while many Confederate soldiers' bodies were sent south, unknown. It's sad, but it's something we can't judge today. It's the same issue as was discussed on the Battlefield tour where the guide mentioned people's fears that the large statues were glorifying the Confederacy. They're telling history, and history is comprised of both sides, or it should be.Later in his discussion on Shiloh, he mentioned how it was within the grasp of pilgrims, but not so much the accidental
TadAD on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an account of Tony Horwitz's year-long exploration through the places where the U.S. Civil War was fought, starting in North Carolina and working his way downward. The book is not a history of the Civil War so much as a look at what the Civil War means in the minds of Southerners today.Though he admits to having a fascination with the Civil War as a child, he brings to this an outsider's perspective: not well-informed about the events and, since his ancestors were post-war immigrants, with no familial ties to the conflict. Yet, this outsider status does not confer impartiality, nor does he attempt to conceal his personal views¿he examines the people he meets through eyes that are clearly those of a liberal Northerner, one shaped and informed by the Civil Rights Movement.The result works well. Though he rejects, even implicitly derides, some of the extreme Southern stances and revisionisms, you can sense that he comes to feel a certain sympathy for other aspects of the Southern cause, for the people who, as Shelby Foote said to him, put "one's people before one's principles."Other discussions have made much of the time he spent with the hardcore re-enactors, the individuals who attempt to replicate, in every detail (except killing), the experiences of the soldiers. These discussions have said such things as, "you cannot help but find them absurd." Actually, I didn't find them absurd. While admitting that they derive their enjoyment from an extremism that I find unthinkable, their desire to understand what their ancestors endured, to come to grips with this quintessentially American conflict that created the modern United States is easily understood.While there are many funny moments in the book, it is not one of unadulterated pleasure. We catch a glimpse of the fact that, despite the century from the Civil War to Civil Rights, the conflict is still being fought in many places, sometimes with guns. In fact, the book implies that it is getting worse and that, once again, the country is starting to consider whether it is really a single nation.Pleasant at times, funny at times, thought-provoking at times, I highly recommend this to anyone with an interest in the Civil War. Look at it as one piece of a jigsaw puzzle of opinions that are still very important to who we are.
Othemts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tony Horwitz travels through the South meeting with people who have a devotion to the Confederacy that borders on insanity at times ("Cats of the Confederacy" is the best). Yet, Horwitz patiently and sympathetically lets the people he meets speak their peace and really allows their humanity to shine through. This is a very insightful, funny, and sometimes frightening book about America today.