Book Review |Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

Tony Horwitz (1998)

Part travelogue, part social documentary, part Civil War history book. Subtitled “Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War,” the author traveled throughout the South, visiting every major sight of the war. Horwitz relates to the reader the people he met on his journey who each manage to keep the Civil War alive, often in unexpected ways. Included are the last surviving Confederate war widow; Horwitz’s personal hero, author Shelby Foote (who’s quite a bit different than you might remember him from the Civil War series on PBS); a Scarlet O’Hara look-a-like who makes her living entertaining Japanese tourists; and fanatical reenactors who go to extremes in their quest to be “super hardcore,” all the while cursing wussy reenactors as “farbs.” (“Leave that insect repellent at home, pal.”)

Horwitz spends time in a community caught in the aftermath of racial violence sparked by the rebel flag, a symbol that continues to instill intense feelings, and not always for the reasons one might expect. Often the author visits battlefields on the anniversary of battle, in period dress, marching long distances with his hardcore buddies, sleeping in ditches, eating stale food, and serving as a living Civil War tourist attraction. I enjoyed learning about the Civil War and the contemporary American South in this thoroughly engaging book.


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