BOOK REVIEW: Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz


Title: Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
Author: Tony Horwitz
Publication: February 22, 1999
Publisher: Vintage
Genre: History, Non-Fiction
Pages: 432

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SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

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.


Like most of my used books, I never remember where I got it. I don’t recognize the 2.00 sticker that was on the side.  Perhaps, it was a thrift store. All I knew was that it was a book that was right up my alley.  Civil War plus non-fiction what more could I want? I was even more excited when I found it for a fairly reasonable price on Audible.  Once again Audible to the rescue, and at a 7-hour listening time that was super easy listening compared to some of the other ones that I have to listen to that clock in at 42 hours. 

When the author returned home from Bosnia and covered the war as a journalist he wasn’t sure what to do.  He started to think about how much he loved the Civil War as a child and how the Civil War connected him to his grandfather who wasn’t born in the States. He decides through examining his youth that he is going to go to the South and find out why the Civil War is still such a big deal and why the Confederates are something that lives on in people’s lives to this day.  This book was excellent and with this day and age and now the removal of Confederate statues in the South this book is just as relevant now as it was during its publication in ’98.  

This book was rather eye-opening to say the least.  I am from Michigan.  I don’t think about the Civil War still in the way at the time of publication the South does.  To us “Northerners” the war is done and over.  To the South, it doesn’t seem that way.   The author interviews many people both Blacks and Whites.  They all have their opinion.   He also follows some die-hard Confederate reenactors, however, they don’t consider themselves reenactors. At the moment, I don’t remember what they call themselves, but they don’t allow anything that isn’t period correct, this includes everything including an extra shiny apple or beef jerky.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a  Civil War buff or honestly anyone for that matter to see how people still see the Civil War, I have already recommended this book to someone.  

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