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Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from…

Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (edition 1999)

by Tony Horwitz

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2,277582,805 (4.1)228
Title:Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
Authors:Tony Horwitz
Info:Vintage (1999), Edition: Reprint, Paperback
Collections:Your library

Work details

Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz

  1. 20
    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (Leigh22)
    Leigh22: Different subject matter but it tells the story of the new South using anecdotes and speckled with Southern history trivia.
  2. 20
    Them: Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson (lquilter)
    lquilter: Jon Ronson's "Them" and Tony Horwitz's "Confederates in the Attic" both offer wry, personal observations of cultures, not their own, often derided by others.
  3. 10
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  5. 10
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» See also 228 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
Contemporary Southern reactions to the Civil War ( )
  JackSweeney | Jan 9, 2017 |
Very, very, very funny. You'll learn about "farbs" (a derogatory term for Civil War recreationist fakers or poseurs). You'll see men starve themselves, soak their brass buttons in urine (in order to obtain the properly oxidized patina of old buttons), and spoon each other for warmth out on battle fields that haven't seen battle for a good sesquicentennial. You will look crazy in the eye and you'll laugh. ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
I stumbled across this book by accident. It’s fascinating, if often depressing. I’ve always maintained that if reenactors were really serious about authenticity, they’d issue live ammunition. Nevertheless, Horwitz, whose immigrant great-grandfather became obsessed with Civil War history, also caught the bug, and when they discovered a TV crew shooting a scene in the land next to their house in Maryland, decided to investigate what makes Confederate reenactors (they hate to be called that preferring terms like “living historians”) tick.

Unfortunately, many of them can’t get over the fact they lost. Refusing to call it the Civil War (they prefer “War Between the States” which it wasn’t called at the time) they revel in southern mythology which they pass along to their children in organizations like the Children of the Confederacy’s catechism. “Yankees hate children,” the kids are taught; slaves revered their masters; and the war had nothing to do with slavery, they just didn’t want the government to tell them what to do (ironic in light of southern demands that northern states enforce the Fugitive Slave Laws.)

Just to get a few things straight: 1. Nowhere in the Constitution is the right to secede mentioned; it’s in the Declaration of Independence. 2. Southern states all said in their proclamations of secession that their reason was slavery; to argue otherwise is disingenuous. 3. We could refocus the debate over slavery by redefining the issue as one about "property." Slaves were considered property. The Constitution protected property. Supreme Court decisions through 1857 consistently considered slaves to be property. The Founders wrote in many compromises in the Constitution to protect the rights of southern plantation owners (of which they could include themselves, most of them.) David Blight (Race and Reunion) has noted that slaves by 1860 were worth about $3.5 billion, an enormous sum then and of course the southern plantation owners didn't want to give up their property. The cotton business was booming and had doubled in value every decade for four decades before 1860. Ironically, one might posit that the southern states needed a strong federal government to enforce the Fugitive Slave Acts and it was states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania who insisted on "states' rights by passing laws making enforcement of federal Fugitive Slave laws difficult. Southern states, in their declarations of secession documents, said the reason for secession was their desire to protect slavery (see South Carolina and Georgia esp., which also makes reference to slaves as property and their constitutional right thereto). Slavery and race have sullied this country for centuries; to whitewash it is rather sickening. As Bernard Malamud wrote in The Fixer: "There's something cursed, it seems to me, about a country where men have owned men as property. The stink of that corruption never escapes the soul, and it is the stink of future evil."

A constant theme is the power of symbols and nothing illustrates that more than his dispassionate recounting of the killing of Michael Westerman in Guthrie, Kentucky. Westerman was out driving in his red truck with a large rebel flag flying from the back. What the flag meant to those involved was far less important than what it meant to those who used Michael’s death as a rallying cry for their own particular agenda or hatred. Horwitz’s interviews reveal that Michael liked the battle flag simply because it matched his truck. To the kid who shot him, clearly unintentional through the side of his truck as they raced along the highway at 85 mph, it was only a symbol of the white bullies in town. Michael's glorification -- he has his own tribute website -- was not what Horwitz heard from others in town when he interviewed them. Much of the town’s reverence for the battle flag seemed to be exacerbated by the school board’s wish to change the mascot -- the Rebel, which served only to inflame teams they had to play. Ironically, Guthrie, in Todd County, Kentucky was on the Union side during the Civil War. In a further irony, Freddie Morrow who did the shooting, was sent to prison for life plus an extra four years for violating Westerman’s civil rights. More recently, the power of that symbol was demonstrated when that kid shot up the black church killing several people and calls have echoed throughout the south for and against removal of confederate symbols.

Lots of interesting stories.Horwitz writes well, with compassion, and with humor. My wife thought the book (we listened to it together) was a bit reminiscent of Bill Bryson. I agree he has the same sense of irony that has you smile except that in the case of this book that smile is followed by a quick grimace rather than a broad grin. Note that his interview with Shelby Foote is worth the price of the book.

Favorite quote: “Charlestonian Baptists were so religious they wouldn’t fuck standing up for fear someone might think they were dancing.” ( )
  ecw0647 | Oct 2, 2015 |
I picked up the book on a whim from a little free library. It started off well but about halfway through the book I really started to lose interest and didn't finish it. The book takes us on the path of history through the American Civil War and spends a long time on a "Gasm", or trying to hit as many Civil War historical places as possible in a limited amount of time. This is where they lost me. Too much detail caused the book to bog down and I began to flip ahead looking for somewhere else to pick up the story. For the Civil War buff this is a perfect book but for the casual observer it borders on overload. ( )
  PropLady67 | May 4, 2015 |
This is my favorite book (so far) of the summer of 2008! Portrait of 90s America through the lens of the ever-troubled relationship between North and South, black and white, past and present. Funny, weird, wonderful, scary, sad--I was at times shocked, at other times just plain tickled by the relationships Horwitz describes in his work. Highly recommended for anyone who likes nonfiction and still has a memory of his/her own childhood fascination with Civil War history (Horwitz's remembrances of his own obsession with learning all he could about the Civil War reminded me of my own voluminous reading as a child and the eerie sense of presence I felt when I visited Gettysburg in 1983, right around the anniversary of the battle in early July). Good, good stuff here. ( )
  AlisonLea | Jan 10, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
Nostalgia tinges ''Confederates in the Attic'' but seldom. One of the ironies of this book is that Horwitz is clearly a deep-dyed peace seeker. His judiciously balanced sympathies make him uncomfortable at times, caught between two camps fighting over turf. He longs for roots in the land. What he has is roots in intellectual honesty.
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Roy Blount Jr (Jul 18, 1998)

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Tony Horwitzprimary authorall editionscalculated
Addison, ArthurNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Southerners are very strange about the war.

-- Shelby Foote
To my father
who gave me the passion,
and to my mother
who gave me the paint
First words
In 1965, a century after Appomattox, the Civil War began for me at a musty apartment in New Haven, Connecticut.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Tony Horwitz, a former war correspondent, tells of his journeys to Civil War battlefields and the colorful people he meets along the way.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 067975833X, Paperback)

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz returned from years of traipsing through war zones as a foreign correspondent only to find that his childhood obsession with the Civil War had caught up with him. Near his house in Virginia, he happened to encounter people who reenact the Civil War--men who dress up in period costumes and live as Johnny Rebs and Billy Yanks. Intrigued, he wound up having some odd adventures with the "hardcores," the fellows who try to immerse themselves in the war, hoping to get what they lovingly term a "period rush." Horwitz spent two years reporting on why Americans are still so obsessed with the war, and the ways in which it resonates today. In the course of his work, he made a sobering side trip to cover a murder that was provoked by the display of the Confederate flag, and he spoke to a number of people seeking to honor their ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. Horwitz has a flair for odd details that spark insights, and Confederates in the Attic is a thoughtful and entertaining book that does much to explain America's continuing obsession with the Civil War.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:42 -0400)

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"When prize-winning war correspondent Tony Horwitz leaves the battlefields of Bosnia and the Middle East for a peaceful corner of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he thinks he's put war zones behind him. But awakened one morning by the crackle of musket fire, Horwitz starts filing front-line dispatches again this time from a war close to home, and to his own heart. Propelled by his boyhood passion for the Civil War, Horwitz embarks on a search for places and people still held in thrall by America's greatest conflict. The result is an adventure into the soul of the unvanquished South, where the ghosts of the Lost Cause are resurrected through ritual and remembrance. In Virginia, Horwitz joins a band of 'hardcore reenactors who crash-diet to achieve the hollow-eyed look of starved Confederates; in Kentucky, he witnesses Klan rallies and calls for race war sparked by the killing of a white man who brandishes a rebel flag; at Andersonville, he finds that the prison's commander, executed as a war criminal, is now exalted as a martyr and hero; and in the book's climax, Horwitz takes a marathon trek from Antietam to Gettysburg to Appomattox in the company of Robert Lee Hodge, an eccentric pilgrim who dubs their odyssey the 'Civil Wargasm. Written with Horwitz's signature blend of humor, history, and hard-nosed journalism, Confederates in the Attic brings alive old battlefields and new ones; classrooms, courts, country bars where the past and the present collide, often in explosive ways. Poignant and picaresque, haunting and hilarious, it speaks to anyone who has ever felt drawn to the mythic South and to the dark romance of the Civil War." -- Publisher's description.… (more)

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