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: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679439783
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/03/1998
Pages: 406
Product dimensions: 6.46(w) x 9.62(h) x 1.34(d)
Age Range: 10 Years

About the Author

Tony Horwitz is a native of Washington, D.C., and a graduate of Brown University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. As a newspaper reporter he spent a decade overseas, mainly covering conflicts in Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans for The Wall Street Journal. Returning to the U.S., he won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting and wrote for The New Yorker before becoming a full-time author. In addition to Confederates in the Attic, his books include the national and New York Times bestsellers, Blue LatitudesBaghdad Without a Map and A Voyage Long and Strange. His latest book, Midnight Rising, was named a New York Times Notable Book. Horwitz has also been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and a history columnist for Smithsonian magazine. He is currently the president of the Society of American Historians. Horwitz lives in West Tisbury, Massachusetts with his wife Geraldine Brooks, their sons, dogs and alpacas.


Waterford, Virginia

Date of Birth:


Place of Birth:

Washington, D.C.


B.A., Brown University; M.A., Columbia University School of Journalism

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Confederates in the Attic 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 76 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.
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A fun and interesting look at the civil war and the southern states it still affects to this day.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An awesome book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good so far would like to read the rest of the book.