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Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from…
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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
2,486643,735 (4.11)257
Recently added byprivate library, e-zReader, GMcSo, bcarusella, polaris1265, rns1963_2, jnbc, Kylalala
  1. 20
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  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.
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    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.
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» See also 257 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
Subtitled "Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War". I picked this up thinking it was just about Civil War reenactors and tourists, but its so much more. Horwitz goes on a tour of the Southern states to see how the Civil War and its aftermath are still affecting people. A lot of it exposes deep seated resentments and institutional racism. It also shows that we are still having the same battles today that we were having 20 years ago when it was written; should the Confederate flag still fly, should statues of Confederate heroes still be on display, what revisionist history is still being taught - do today's (then or now) truly know why the war was fought? Oh and he does go on a crash tour of the war's battle fields with a reenactor who takes reenacting to an extreme bordering on insane. Its well worth your time. I'll let these quotes speak for themselves...

We were raised Methodists, but we converted to the Confederacy. There wasn't time for both.

Mostly, though, the fort attracted ordinary tourists, many of whom possessed a muddled grasp of American history. Visitors often asked McGill why he didn't mention the "Star-Spangled Banner". He had to explain that the national anthem was composed during the shelling of a different fort in a different conflict. Others asked whether it was true that John Brown fired the first shot at the fort. "One guy even asked me why so many Civil War battles were fought on national parks." McGill said.

Guthrie exhaled the depleted air of a thousand other towns across the back-country South, bypassed by the interstate and drained of vitality by decades of migration to the city.

Everywhere, it seemed, I had to explore two pasts and two presents; one white, one black, separate and unreconcilable. The past had poisoned the present and the present, in turn, now poisoned remembrance of things past.

I was born in 1921 and was raised up with segregation and separate water fountains. It was stupid now that I think of it. All these signs saying 'white' and 'colored' when most people couldn't even read.

9/10

S: 4/18/19 - 5/8/19 (21 Days) ( )
  mahsdad | May 18, 2019 |
In Confederates in the Attic, journalist Tony Horwitz tours many historic southern Civil War battle sites and towns, struck by how alive and important the Civil War remains for so many Southerners. I can't believe it took this long for me to read this one; I loved his Blue Latitudes, about the voyages of Captain Cook, and I'd thought about this one many times. It took my LT brother Mark singing its praises on the phone to get me in gear.

Among other things, Horwitz becomes involved in Civil War enactments, where "hardcore" participants will go to great lengths for authenticity:

“Look at these buttons,” one soldier said, fingering his gray wool jacket. “I soaked them overnight in a saucer filled with urine.” Chemicals in the urine oxidized the brass, giving it the patina of buttons from the 1860s. “My wife woke up this morning, sniffed the air and said, ‘Tim, you’ve been peeing on your buttons again.”

No surprise, issues of race remain important. "Vicksburg confirmed the dispiriting pattern I'd seen elsewhere in the South . . . Everywhere, it seemed, I had to explore two pasts and two presents, one white, one black, separate and unreconcilable. The past had poisoned the present and the present, in turn, now poisoned remembrance of things past." Horwitz's sense of humor helps make the sometimes difficult journey companionable, and there are insights galore:

“You asked how I'd define prejudice. That's it. Making assumptions about people you've never met.” (I love this one!)

“The way I see it," King said, "your great-grandfather fought and died because he believed my great-grandfather should stay a slave. I'm supposed to feel all warm inside about that?”

“For Robert Lee Hodge, {participating in Civil War reenactments} was also a way of life. As the Marlon Brando of battlefield bloating, he was often hired for Civil War movies.” (This specialist in battlefield bloating becomes an important traveling companion; I think that's a photo of him on the cover).

Anyway, I can't think of a reason not to give this five stars. It was written in 1998, but feels like he wrote it yesterday. It gave me more insights into how Trump supporters view the world than any other book I've read, including Hillbilly Elegy. A favored few can create page-turning nonfiction, and this guy is one of them. I want to read more of his; probably his A Voyage Long and Strange next. ( )
1 vote jnwelch | Apr 27, 2019 |
If Tony Horwitz’ study of modern echoes of the Civil War fails to meet its goals, it’s not for lack of trying. Horowitz spent more than a year traveling the modern South, talking to educators, historians, re-enactors, heritage groups, leaders in both black and white communities, and general good-ole-boys. But the book drags on without ever being able to point to one thing – or even several things – that would explain why so many Americans remain unable to let go of the heritage of the Civil War – or even precisely what that heritage is.

Battles over displays of the Confederate battle flag (the familiar “stars and bars”), maintenance of public memorials, states’ rights, and de facto segregation continue to fume in the American south, occasionally flaring into open conflagration. There’s both right and wrong on all sides, and it may be that this is what keeps the book from coming to a definitive statement about the issues.

For all of that, it’s an informative read. Horowitz clarifies many misunderstandings and outright falsehoods along the way and notes that neither Union nor Confederate supporters had a patent on mudslinging or exaggeration. Perhaps his very inability to take a stand on either side is what allows the reader to consider viewpoints in opposition to his or her own. And for that quality, if for no other, “Confederates in the Attic” is worth a read.
( )
  LyndaInOregon | Dec 14, 2018 |
From Amazon:

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. “Splendid.” –Roy Blount, Jr., The New York Times Book Review

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.
...

Amazon’s description is almost adequate as a review, with the exception of how intriguing it is to me that 20 years after its publication all the same issues of polarization, white supremacism, racism, pride, Southernness, and fascination with the war – even including what to call it – are still here. Sometimes I just shake my head in wonder at the impact of and fascination with the war, other times I want to cry.

And in looking up Tony Horwitz, I discovered that he’s been married to Geraldine Brooks for 34 years – how cool is that? ( )
2 vote karenmarie | Aug 4, 2018 |
One of the best books I ever read. It was fascinating about different views on the Civial War. ( )
  KamGeb | Dec 31, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (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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People/Characters
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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.
Quotations
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
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Canonical DDC/MDS
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.
Haiku summary

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)

(see all 7 descriptions)

"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)

» see all 4 descriptions

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