Alex Ford's Reviews > Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz
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Nov 30, 10


In this novel, Confederates in the Attic, author Tony Horwitz demonstrates that the Civil War is far from over. After a Civil War reenactment takes place outside his Virginia home, Horwitz’s childhood fascination in the war is rekindled, and he takes off on a year-long, ten-state journey to find out how the war still affects the United States. His actions take him all throughout the South, from Mississippi to North Carolina, where he gets a firsthand look at how the Civil War is still alive today. Horwitz’s travels show him the polarized views of South – those who choose to remember and honor the war and those who’d rather forget it – and ultimately lead to him feeling connected to history in a way that he never had before.
As Horwitz discovers, many Southerners take pride in their heritage, some even taking part in groups such as The Sons of Confederate Veterans, or United Daughters of the Confederacy, if they have ancestors who were Confederates. Similarly, there is a Children of the Confederacy, where kids are introduced to the Civil War at very young ages. These groups center their lives around the civil war, quizzing each other on war trivia and celebrating the birthdays of generals, such as of Lee and Jackson. Southern pride goes so deep that a school’s mascot in Guthrie, Kentucky is a rebel. As he tours from state to state, he realizes that these people feel a connection to their land, to their ancestors who fought there – despite being known as The Lost Cause, southerners took pride in their forefather’s part in the Civil War.
For those who chose to live in the past, there were also those who wanted to forget it. There was a movement in Guthrie to drop the school’s rebel motif to ease racial tension, although nothing ever came of it. The rebel flag, associated into the mascot, is also a source of conflict – says one Guthrie resident for the change in mascot, “That flag opens up a racial door we’ve been keeping closed for so many years. It’s a way of saying what white people have kept bottled up.” Michael King, a preacher in North Carolina, says that worship of the confederacy offends him. “Your great-grandfather fought and died because he believed that my great-grandfather should stay a slave.” Despite this war having occurred over a century ago, mentions of it still cause disagreements.
By taking this journey through the South and seeing both sides of the story, Horwitz was able to make a connection to the history he found so interesting. Being Jewish, he didn’t have the correlation to a piece of American land like so many Southerners did, and delving into the Civil War gave him that association. He even made it a yearly thing to attend a conference on Civil War medicine with this father, who was the one who first got him interested in the war as a child.
Overall, I feel that Horwitz was successful in creating an informative, interesting book about the Civil War. He managed to hold your attention through his telling of his journey to discover how the war is alive today, and made you question what you had previously known about the Civil War.
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