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Confederates in the Attic : Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

by Tony Horwitz

Buy the book: Tony Horwitz. Confederates in the Attic : Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

Release Date: 22 February, 1999

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: Tony Horwitz. Confederates in the Attic : Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

Very informative and very amusing...

Millions of words have been written about the Civil War, but Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Tony Horwitz, provides some refreshing insights in Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War. Traveling through ten different states, Horwitz sets out to answer several ageold questions about The Civil War (or The Late Great Unpleasantness or The War of Northern Aggression-depending on which side you're on). But first and foremost, why can't Southerners put the Civil War behind them? Why do so many of them insist on living in the past? Each chapter is written from a different state and they are informative, disturbing, poignant, and often downright hysterical. Just the chapter names are amusing including "At the Foote of the Master" (about expert Shelby Foote), "Gone With the Window" (about Atlanta's continuing obsession with Gone With the Wind), and "The Oldest Confederate Widow Tells Some."

Horwitz traipses through battlefields, camps with re-enactors, seeks out little-known stories, and checks out dusty museums and personal collections. He also talks with dozens of people (both Civil War experts and simple folk) about such topics as slavery, The Daughters of the Confederacy, the Confederate flag controversy, Civil Rights, prisoner of war camps, The Ku Klux Klan, and various Civil War luminaries.

The most enjoyable parts of the book involve Horwitz tagging along with some hardcore re-enactors. His romantic vision of a cozy re-enactment weekend (complete with camp fire, hardy stew and good camaraderie) is quickly burst when he's made to remove or discard almost everything he has including his clothes, eyeglasses and food (they're not vintage 1860's). Also, Confederate re-enactors tend to constantly starve themselves to obtain the appearance of emaciated Southern soldiers. Some hardcores even go so far as to soak uniform buttons in urine to achieve the correct "patina." This sounds more like work than fun.

Horwitz definitely provides us with some new material, interesting observations, and refreshing insights. In fact, I enjoyed it enough after reading it that I purchased the unabridged book on tape so that my husband and I could listen to it while traveling. I can't think of too many nonfiction books that I've enjoyed more!


The Civil War lives on!

Confederates in the Attic is a book I just re-read, and it gave me a huge interest in the Civil War as a whole. Horowitz explores how the war and its issues continue to resonate with many people. By far the most interesting part of the book is the "Civil Wargasm", with the appropriately named Confederate "hardcore" re-enactor Robert Lee Hodge. The fascinating tales of the war are juxtaposed with the housing developments and fast food strips which have overrun many historical areas. Horowitz examines the attitudes of people who are still touched by the war, whether it be the debate over the Confederate flag or the current racial divisions in modern America. I pegged Horowitz as a typical northeastern liberal writer at the start, but he surprised me with his evenhanded portayals. In the hands of someone else this book could have been dogmatic and politically correct, but Horowitz lets the various characters in the book speak for themselves. Humorous at times, serious as well, Horowitz does a great job captivating the reader. It awakened my interest in the Civil War itself, and the volumes of Shelby Foote especially.


Nizhniy Novgorod

© FAB Russia, 2003-2005

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