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Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

by Tony Horwitz

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,007754,115 (4.11)309
National Bestseller  For all who remain intrigued by the legacy of the Civil War -- reenactors, battlefield visitors, Confederate descendants and other Southerners, history fans, students of current racial conflicts, and more -- this ten-state adventure is part travelogue, part social commentary and always good-humored.    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. Tony Horwitz's new book, Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide, is available now.… (more)
  1. 30
    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. 30
    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
    Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz (John_Vaughan)
  4. 10
    Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory by David W. Blight (Anonymous user)
  5. 10
    Have a Nice Doomsday: Why Millions of Americans Are Looking Forward to the End of the World by Nicholas Guyatt (infiniteletters)
  6. 00
    The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle over American History by Jill Lepore (Othemts)
  7. 00
    A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World by Tony Horwitz (John_Vaughan)
  8. 00
    Elvis Presley Boulevard: From Sea to Shining Sea, Almost (Traveler) by Mark Winegardner (amyblue)
  9. 00
    Ghost Riders by Sharyn McCrumb (myshelves)
    myshelves: Novel. The ghosts of those who fought the bitter neighbor-against-neighbor battles of the Civil War in isolated areas where loyalties were divided have not been laid to rest.
  10. 00
    Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before by Tony Horwitz (John_Vaughan)
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» See also 309 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
The book starts with the author's own childhood love of the civil war, which was sparked by older relatives, especially his father. Horwitz declares his love of the rebel army, a love forged by their very rebelliousness, mixed with a draw to the underdog. I followed the narrative of this interest willingly, but I noticed a decided lack of comment on the slavery aspect until much farther into the book. In fact, he doesn't seem to touch on the thorny issue of how people can continue to love the confederacy when it was defined by slavery until more than halfway through:

"Rob's comments raised a question I'd been chewing on since the start of my trip. Was there such a thing as politically correct remembrance of the Confederacy? Or was any attempt to honor the cause inevitably tainted by what Southerners once delicately referred to as their 'peculiar institution'?" (page 239 of 386)

It does become central to the ideas he's trying to present, but I felt it should have been present from, if not the start, at least a lot sooner, especially since he had obviously been thinking about it.

Regardless, this was an interesting attempt to portray the issues at the heart of a clash that's still on-going.
( )
  J.Flux | Aug 13, 2022 |
This book does not wear well in 2020, after 22 years, unfortunately. The author's admittedly Northern liberal perspective (the title says it all: if you don't get it, Google "Toys in the attic meaning") paints white Southerners as, at best eccentric and at worst, knuckle dragging redneck racists. Horwitz mocks their concerns for the nation's future, but in 2020, the summer of Burn, Loot and Murder proves that the white Southerners were right, and Horwitz was wrong.

But Horwitz is a great story teller and the battlefield visits and especially the reenactment stories are well worth the read. Horwitz passed away last year, but I imagine he would have made a public statement today against the complete insanity of demanding the removal of Confederate statues, not just from public spaces, but from the battlefields themselves. ( )
  MarkHarden | Jun 23, 2022 |
Certainly of its time. ( )
  MaryJeanPhillips | Jun 22, 2022 |
Hand-Me-Down the Lost Cause

Tony Horwitz, who died suddenly this past May, wrote a sort of humorous travelogue about touring the South and Civil War sites. At each stop, he met some colorful people and uncovered interesting facts about the Civil War, some that all but the most diehard students of the subject will find revealing. But even more important, in his conversations with people in towns across the South, he uncovered why the war continues to occupy such a prominent place in the lives of the people of the region.

To a large degree, this boils down to three things. First is that the war was fought almost exclusively on Southern soil. Pretty much anywhere you look in the deep South, you’ll find remnants of the war all these 150 plus years after its end. If you live in the South, the war is hard to escape.

Second, even today with more and more people migrating from the North, the South remains something of an insular place outside the boundaries of cities like Charlotte and Atlanta. If you have lived there for any length of time, you’ll find that people can trace their family histories back generations, some even back to the 1700s. Horwitz discovered this on numerous occasions when talking with people. People make it a practice to hand down family history, and as he found, that includes great-great-great grandads who found in the war. Reading Horwitz, it’s as if the war just ended.

Third is the continued belief in the Lost Cause. Lost Cause posits a romantic remembrance of the Antebellum South, embellished with the idea of gallant men fighting to preserve their rights to live free as they pleased, and the distorted viewpoint that slaves liked and benefited from their captivity. To appreciate the hold of this thinking, you have only to read Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 Gone with the Wind. In its pages, you see the essentials of Lost Cause: the benevolent slaveowners, the docile and even fiercely loyal slaves, the gallant gentlemen who take up the cause even after military defeat, and a grace of life long gone like blown-away dust. Lost Cause began immediately after the North defeated the South, originating with ladies memorial societies, and its ideas have permeated all aspects of American society, South and North.

Confederates in the Attic is one of those books that if you have not read it you should at your earliest convenience. It explains a lot about us as a people and some of our most deep-seated beliefs. ( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
Hand-Me-Down the Lost Cause

Tony Horwitz, who died suddenly this past May, wrote a sort of humorous travelogue about touring the South and Civil War sites. At each stop, he met some colorful people and uncovered interesting facts about the Civil War, some that all but the most diehard students of the subject will find revealing. But even more important, in his conversations with people in towns across the South, he uncovered why the war continues to occupy such a prominent place in the lives of the people of the region.

To a large degree, this boils down to three things. First is that the war was fought almost exclusively on Southern soil. Pretty much anywhere you look in the deep South, you’ll find remnants of the war all these 150 plus years after its end. If you live in the South, the war is hard to escape.

Second, even today with more and more people migrating from the North, the South remains something of an insular place outside the boundaries of cities like Charlotte and Atlanta. If you have lived there for any length of time, you’ll find that people can trace their family histories back generations, some even back to the 1700s. Horwitz discovered this on numerous occasions when talking with people. People make it a practice to hand down family history, and as he found, that includes great-great-great grandads who found in the war. Reading Horwitz, it’s as if the war just ended.

Third is the continued belief in the Lost Cause. Lost Cause posits a romantic remembrance of the Antebellum South, embellished with the idea of gallant men fighting to preserve their rights to live free as they pleased, and the distorted viewpoint that slaves liked and benefited from their captivity. To appreciate the hold of this thinking, you have only to read Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 Gone with the Wind. In its pages, you see the essentials of Lost Cause: the benevolent slaveowners, the docile and even fiercely loyal slaves, the gallant gentlemen who take up the cause even after military defeat, and a grace of life long gone like blown-away dust. Lost Cause began immediately after the North defeated the South, originating with ladies memorial societies, and its ideas have permeated all aspects of American society, South and North.

Confederates in the Attic is one of those books that if you have not read it you should at your earliest convenience. It explains a lot about us as a people and some of our most deep-seated beliefs. ( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 73 (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)

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Tony Horwitzprimary authorall editionscalculated
Addison, ArthurNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Southerners are very strange about the war.

-- Shelby Foote
Dedication
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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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National Bestseller  For all who remain intrigued by the legacy of the Civil War -- reenactors, battlefield visitors, Confederate descendants and other Southerners, history fans, students of current racial conflicts, and more -- this ten-state adventure is part travelogue, part social commentary and always good-humored.    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. Tony Horwitz's new book, Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide, is available now.

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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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