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.
Horowitz, a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign war correspondent, returned to his native U.S. turf to tackle the subject of our own Civil War and how its history is actively replayed by scores of grown men. He spent time among the hard-core buffs, the groups who put on period clothes and "re-enact" battles. As part of a self-imposed year-long "scheme" to examine the war's contemporary meaning, he does such things as visit a birthday party for Gen. Stonewall Jackson given by the Sons of the Confederacy. He also mulls over his own theories about the lasting legacy of the war, arguing that it was as much a cultural battle between the mores of North and South as a military one. Horowitz's rambling first-person narrative takes constant sidetracks and is made human with its self-effacing descriptions of his own foibles. This is why it works effectively as audio: it comes across more as a personal adventure than a polemical historical analysis. Though the author tells of being a Civil War buff since childhood, he nonetheless retains the freshness of an outsider's perspective (acting as a sort of foreign correspondent at home). Seasoned audio narrator Beck tries to convey this sense of freshness and boyish enthusiasm in his