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Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

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4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  17,093 Ratings  ·  1,394 Reviews
National Bestseller 

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 he
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Paperback, 406 pages
Published February 22nd 1999 by Vintage (first published March 3rd 1998)
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Jenn Estepp The cover image is one of Robert Lee Hodge (the hardcore reenactor that Horowitz spends so much time with, including the "wargasam").

Community Reviews

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Pattie
Jan 17, 2008 Pattie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Yankees who want to understand the South
Shelves: favorites, travel
OK, so I'm on a Civil War road trip with my Significant Other, following the official Virginia state "Lee's Retreat" tour and reading to him from "Confederates in the Attic" to pass the time. The section we were reading dealt with the bigger-than-life owner of an old general store that he had turned into a museum (of sorts).

I said "this is really over-the-top -- Horowitz maybe exaggerated this guy to make a better story." S.O. said: "we should try to find the place" and just then, we pass an ol
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Matt
When I was in first or second grade, I started creating books about American history: World War II, the Indian Wars and, of course, the Civil War. These books had no texts, only pictures (extremely graphic pictures that, today, would probably get me invited to the psychiatrist’s office). They were constructed (in a bit of genius, I might add) out of large, rectangular pads of Norwest Bank forms, supplied by my dad. I would take the pad and turn it upside down, using the cardboard back as a cover ...more
Brendan
Jun 17, 2007 Brendan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Confederates in the Attic, journalist Tony Horwitz explores the ways in which the Civil War is still present in Southern culture.

I was a Civil War re-enactor in junior high and high school, and I particularly appreciated his chapter on that very strange hobby: "A Farb of the Heart." (Farb, by the way, is re-enactor slang for all things inauthentic.)

I've not always been impressed with Horwitz's books (I thought Baghdad without a Map to be particularly slight), but here he really nails it. For
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Karen
Jul 25, 2011 Karen rated it it was amazing
An excellent exposé on the continuing history of the Civil War and the attitudes that persist. More importantly it (rightly) links the use of the rebel flag with the modern civil rights movement and discounts its Civil War usage. Horwitz also exposes the racist attitudes hidden within societies such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans who try to market themselves as legitimate and historical groups. For those who have not experienced first-hand the radical attitudes of these groups (such as the ...more
Maciek
Tony Horwitz's grandfather was an immigrant - like many before him he left his country and went to look for a new life in America. Although he could neither speak nor read English when he arrived from Russia, Horwitz the elder nonetheless purchased a book - a tome on the Civil War, which he continued to pore over until his death at 102. When young Tony was growing up, his father read him stories about the war instead of fairytales, which inspired him to paint a mural of the war in the attic of t ...more
Steve
I had to get this one back to the library, so I'm going on memory a bit. Generally, I really like this book, though I'm still mystified over the reenactment craze. And I'm saying this as a Virginian who grew up with the Civil War, could rattle off casualty figures for various battles (both North and South), called people north of the Potomac, "Yankees," and who even went to a Robert E. Lee High School (of which there must be dozens throughout the South). At some point, I just didn't care that mu ...more
Steve
Jan 07, 2008 Steve rated it really liked it
A good read, if one believes (or wants to believe) that Southern boogeymen, dressed in woolen uniforms, their archaic muskets gleaming in the sun, are waiting to launch a second "War for Southern Independence" against the sacred Union.

O.K., maybe that's a bit extreme. But I think Horowitz treats the South the way travel writer Horace Kephart once treated Southern Appalachian mountaineers -- as a peculiar race of people, consumed by some sort of divine madness that sets them at odds with "mainst
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April
Jan 07, 2011 April rated it really liked it
Shelves: nerd, 2011
Since I've spent most of my life in the South, and since I'm a fan of Gone with the Wind, I almost always find myself rooting for the Confederates. This is, of course, fully 150 years after the war, which I did not have to live through, and after the Emancipation Proclamation, which I also did not have to wrestle with. It's difficult to analyze my ancestors' ideals with my 21st century criteria.

This is the problem Horwitz runs into as well: how do you reconcile the "good old days" with the horro
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Eric_W
I stumbled across this book by accident. It’s fascinating, if often depressing. I’ve always maintained that if reenactors were really serious about authenticity, they’d issue live ammunition. Nevertheless, Horwitz, whose immigrant great-grandfather became obsessed with Civil War history, also caught the bug, and when they discovered a TV crew shooting a scene in the land next to their house in Maryland, decided to investigate what makes Confederate reenactors (they hate to be called that preferr ...more
Mary
Dec 23, 2011 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is sort of a travelogue in which the author visits lots of Civil War sites, participates in reenactments, talks to groups that memorialize the confederate cause, pokes through museums, and so on. Having read this at the same time as The Known World, there were points in the book where the juxtaposition of an intimate story of the horrors of slavery and a nonfiction book about a few people who downplay slavery's importance or even romanticize it was too awful to contemplate. Sometimes, when ...more
Jessica
Oct 21, 2007 Jessica rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: damn yankees
I read this while on vacation in Arkansas a few years ago. This is one of those books I finished and then went around for a month or two literally shaking people, while frothing at the mouth and screaming in their faces: "YOU HAVE TO @#$&ING READ THIS! HA HA HAH HAH!"

Then I completely forgot it existed. But, that has more to do with me than with this book, which is great, and still highly recommended. It's about the meaning and legacy of the Civil War, and about the South today, and, of cour
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Patrick Gibson
Jan 19, 2009 Patrick Gibson rated it liked it
Recommends it for: people who like social commentary road trips
Robert Lee Hodge is the Marlon Brando of Confederate reenactors. He can swell his belly, fall to the ground, hand curled, cheeks puffed out, mouth contorted in a mask of pain and play dead. It’s what he does. And, he says, it’s a great ice-breaker. Interesting as this may be, I am not sure I would follow the author’s lead and spend nights ‘spooning’ with this guy.

Some people spend a year reading the Encyclopedia Britannica, or living Biblically. Tony Horwitz, a New England Jew spent a year trave
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David
May 19, 2009 David rated it liked it
If he weren't such a good writer I probably would have put this down because he's a bit off-base about how hung up people in the South are with the War.

After winning a Pulitzer for his journalism covering the wars in Bosnia and the Gulf, he returned home to seek out the stories of the war fought on this country's soil.

I think the problem he has is one of selection bias. If you only travel to places in the south where major battles happened, and you go to meetings of Sons of Confederate Veterans
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Joey
Mar 22, 2008 Joey rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel-essays
I wasn't sure about this book at first but ended up really enjoying it. The author travels the Southeast experiencing re-enactments of Civil War battles; sounds strange but the characters he comes in contact with are interesting to say the least. Tony's humor is nothing like Bill Bryson, where Bryson is condescending and mean-spirited, Tony allows you to see the humor in the situations and characters while still liking them and the author. Give this one a shot, chances are you'll end up liking i ...more
John Hammontree
Mar 17, 2017 John Hammontree rated it it was amazing
Tony Horwitz spent much of his career covering conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, so it's interesting to see him turn his eye to a country still defined by its Civil War more than 100 years after it ended.

The book is filled with colorful characters and interesting history but what struck me most was how relevant this book published in 1998 feels today. Horwitz outlines how the South's nostalgia for the Lost Cause shapes its people and its policies and the effects of having a country that r
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John
Jan 24, 2008 John rated it really liked it
This book was a fun, adventurous journey and I would recommend it but is also unnerved me in some respects. The Civil War still grips our interest but for many Horwitz encountered it certainly remains an unfinished war, one that continues and one desired to begin anew. I knew there were “re-enactors” but was ignorant that the hobby?? was practiced with such devotion and intensity and spread so far and wide across the South.
I did enjoy Horwitz’ dissection of the preponderance of several myths and
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Brandi
Jun 03, 2012 Brandi rated it liked it
Tony Horwitz has written a book that is very easy to read. His tone is casual and laidback, while still proving to be very informative. The book is a series of anecdotes related to his travels around the South where he describes his stint as a Confederate soldier during re-enactments as well as his dealings with those who are still deeply entrenched in a “Confederate” or “rebel” way of life. He looks at a court case where a black teenager shot and killed a white man because he was waving a Confe ...more
Harris
May 25, 2009 Harris rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, travel
This was a very interesting companion on my recent trip to North and South Carolina, my first time exploring a part of the American South. I always enjoy reading a travel account while traveling myself, as it provides a backdrop to my own experiences. As I followed Tony Horwitz's journeys around the South in 1998 searching for the remains of the Civil War in contemporary Southern culture, I compared and contrasted his experiences with my own as I visited historical museums and sites such as Fort ...more
Jim
Mar 16, 2012 Jim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-south
As a non-Southern children of Eastern European immigrants, I have always wondered about the peculiar passion that so many people in the former Confederate States of America feel about the Civil War. Except, they never call it that: It's either the War Between the States (never was no Federal gummint involved, nohow) or the War of the Southern Confederacy (who were they fighting, phantoms?). Whatever that passion it, is certainly has crossed over into our politics, where so many intransigent line ...more
Caroline
Dec 21, 2014 Caroline rated it really liked it
Shelves: tom-recommended
A couple of years ago, I became convinced of the fact that people who grew up on the East Coast and in the Deep South areas of the United States have knowledge of and an affinity for the Civil War that the rest of us just don't have. I didn't appreciate just how much the Civil War is woven into people's lives back here. There are memorials and plaques in seemingly every town commemorating a small skirmish that occurred nearby. Families visit major Civil War battlefields on the weekends.

Me? I'd
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Timothy Riley
If you read my reviews, by now you will see they frequently have an anti-southern tinge to them. This one won't disappoint either. This was a well researched book that takes readers through modern day civil war sites, cities, forts and battlegrounds. The title doesn't quite fit the book; however,mainly because the main theme is not so much these southerners who want to fight the war all over again but how the history of this time period is reinvented to fit people's philosophies. For the South i ...more
David Quinn
May 06, 2016 David Quinn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Full disclosure: I've spent my entire life in the northeast U.S. so I fall into the Yankee category.

On to my biased review:

What I liked: Everything. Horwitz is a very talented writer. His style is fluid, thoughtful and engaging. I wouldn't say he's funny so much as amusing and I was amused quite often. He has a great eye for interesting details and presents his material very well. (I would say the same about Peter Hessler except that Hessler is very funny.) We meet a wide variety of people in H
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Sweetwilliam
Jul 23, 2011 Sweetwilliam rated it really liked it
This was a good read and unlike the typical books I normally read (Military history and adventure). This book is about a war correspondent that returns to the USA after living 11 years abroad. During the years he traveled abroad, events such as the Ken Burns PBS series had rekindled an interest in the Civil War. Horwitz own interest lay dormant since high school (he used to draw murals of Rebels in his attic). Why would Horwitz, a self-confessed liberal Jew be a Rebel sympathizer? It seems afte ...more
Keith Akers
Oct 14, 2012 Keith Akers rated it really liked it
This is an old book and has gotten a lot of good reviews already, so I won't spend a lot of time on it. It's not about the Civil War, but about American attitudes towards the Civil War. Horwitz has done a great job. This is not just a random set of essays, but he really takes each topic and hangs on to it, investigating each one in some depth.

The book was funny, serious, and informative in different parts of the book. There were several times where I laughed out loud, especially at the descript
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Brooke
Feb 28, 2012 Brooke rated it really liked it
Horwitz does an excellent job approaching the subject of the South's memory of the Civil War. As someone whose ancestors weren't in America at the time (I'm in the same boat), Horwitz manages to present an unbiased survey of the conflict's cultural, social, and political implications. I'm glad he didn't attempt to argue an explanation or justification of why some groups in the South continue to cling to the Lost Cause and hijack it for their own agenda. One of my favorite things he points out is ...more
Mikel
This book was often frustrating for me because I live here in the South and I often felt like the rich culture you find was cheapened by the author. He too often tried to portray the rare Southern extremes instead of the true South and their relationship/feelings on the war. He also has some very obvious prejudice that cloud a lot of his 'research' and the way he writes the story. Example: He talks a lot about the old Charleston money that 'started' the war and still 'controls' a lot of Charlest ...more
Mary Miller
Mar 15, 2015 Mary Miller rated it it was amazing
I shelved this book for years when I worked at Borders and was not tempted to read it. I thought I had an idea of what it was about--crazy Southern rednecks who like to pretend the Civil War is still a thing. I chose it for my book group since it was the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.
The book is fascinating on many levels. Tony Horwitz lets his curiosity lead him across the South in search of the meaning and ramifications of the Civil War (a name not entirely accepted there, but
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Patrick Ross
Aug 15, 2016 Patrick Ross rated it it was amazing
This is a masterful work by Tony Horwitz, who brings a great combination of journalism, historical scholarship, and personal insights to his books. If you're drawn to this book because of a passion for Civil War history--which Horwitz admits he has had since childhood and is what drove him to write this book--you'll learn some things that go beyond Ken Burns. You'll even meet Shelby Foote, the scholar Burns made famous. But what you'll really get is a look at modern society and its divisions acr ...more
Rob
May 08, 2007 Rob rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Civil War History - Current events
Shelves: non-fiction
A fantastic book from a credentialed journalist. When I wanted to learn about racism in America I started to read about the Civil War. I got caught up in the battles and the tactics and the personalities and forgot about the issues of why it started. This book helped remind me. Some Americans still feel it was the "War of Northern Aggression." The Civil War affects our country and race every day. At one point in the book, the author attends a community meeting where children are taught Civil War ...more
Jonny Parshall
For every Civil War soldier dead there are two books about that war. That's well over 1 million books. I literally made that statistic up just now. But it seems a reasonable estimate (I ought never be invited to play The Price is Right). Most of those books portray events that end around 1865 or so. Horwitz proves that's a cop out. For many, the Civil War is very much still alive, whether it be in those obsessed with reenactment culture, or with a small town recovering from murder. If you haven' ...more
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Date of Birth: 1958

Tony Horwitz is an American journalist and writer. His works include Blue Latitudes, One for the Road, Confederates In The Attic and Baghdad Without A Map. His most recent work, published in April 2008, is A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World, a history and travelogue dealing with the early European exploration of North America.
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“There are people one knows and people one doesn't. One shouldn't cheapen the former by feigning intimacy with the latter.” 19 likes
“You asked how I'd define prejudice. That's it. Making assumptions about people you've never met.” 6 likes
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