Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide

Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide

by Tony Horwitz


View All Available Formats & Editions
Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details


The New York Times-bestselling final book by the beloved, Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Tony Horwitz.
With Spying on the South, the best-selling author of Confederates in the Attic returns to the South and the Civil War era for an epic adventure on the trail of America's greatest landscape architect. In the 1850s, the young Frederick Law Olmsted was adrift, a restless farmer and dreamer in search of a mission. He found it during an extraordinary journey, as an undercover correspondent in the South for the up-and-coming New York Times.

For the Connecticut Yankee, pen name "Yeoman," the South was alien, often hostile territory. Yet Olmsted traveled for 14 months, by horseback, steamboat, and stagecoach, seeking dialogue and common ground. His vivid dispatches about the lives and beliefs of Southerners were revelatory for readers of his day, and Yeoman's remarkable trek also reshaped the American landscape, as Olmsted sought to reform his own society by creating democratic spaces for the uplift of all. The result: Central Park and Olmsted's career as America's first and foremost landscape architect.

Tony Horwitz rediscovers Yeoman Olmsted amidst the discord and polarization of our own time. Is America still one country? In search of answers, and his own adventures, Horwitz follows Olmsted's tracks and often his mode of transport (including muleback): through Appalachia, down the Mississippi River, into bayou Louisiana, and across Texas to the contested Mexican borderland. Venturing far off beaten paths, Horwitz uncovers bracing vestiges and strange new mutations of the Cotton Kingdom. Horwitz's intrepid and often hilarious journey through an outsized American landscape is a masterpiece in the tradition of Great Plains, Bad Land, and the author's own classic, Confederates in the Attic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101980309
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/12/2020
Pages: 512
Sales rank: 26,097
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Tony Horwitz was 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 wars and conflict in the Middle East, Africa, 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. His books include the national and New York Times bestsellers, Confederates in the Attic, Blue Latitudes, Baghdad Without a Map, and A Voyage Long and Strange. Midnight Rising was named a New York Times Notable Book in 2011 and one of the year's ten best books by Library Journal. Tony was also a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and the president of the Society of American Historians. He died in May 2019, and is survived by his wife Geraldine Brooks and their two sons, Nathaniel and Bizu.


Waterford, Virginia

Date of Birth:


Date of Death:

May 27, 2019

Place of Birth:

Washington, D.C.

Place of Death:

Washington, D.C.


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

Table of Contents

Prologue: American Nomad 1

Chapter 1 Yeoman Olmsted: "An Enthusiast by Nature" 11

Chapter 2 Over the Alleghenies: Gateway to the Rust Belt 22

Chapter 3 Ohio River: Mutants Making Tow 39

Chapter 4 Kentucky: "A Balance Sheet of Good Against Evil" 62

Chapter 5 To Tennessee and Back: A Thorough Aristocrat 82

Chapter 6 Mississippi River: Steamboat Blues 101

Chapter 7 Lower Mississippi: The Absolute South 122

Chapter 8 New Orleans: The Gumbo City 138

Chapter 9 Into the Bayou: "Dat's How We Roll" 154

Chapter 10 Central Louisiana: The Unreconstructed South 168

Chapter 11 The Red River: Heart of Mudness 187

Chapter 12 Across the Sabine: "Gwine to Texas" 201

Chapter 13 Gulf Coast: Oil and Water 222

Chapter 14 Crockett, Texas: "The Drift of Things" in Ruby-Red America 234

Chapter 15 Austin and Beyond: The Loon Star Republic 250

Chapter 16 San Antonio: High Holy Days at the Alamo 269

Chapter 17 German Texas: Olmsted in Arcadia 290

Chapter 18 The Hill Country: True to the Union 303

Chapter 19 Upper Guadalupe: And Absalom Rode Upon a Mule 320

Chapter 20 To the Rio Grande: Border Disorder 354

Chapter 21 La Frontera: Days of the Dead 377

Chapter 22 Central Park Ramble 390

Acknowledgments 415

Postscript 419

Note on Sources 429

Notes 430

Bibliography 465

Index 473

Customer Reviews