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Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  19,866 ratings  ·  1,663 reviews
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
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").

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Average rating 4.09  · 
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Start your review of Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
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 ...more
Jan 17, 2008 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
Jun 17, 2007 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
Jul 25, 2011 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
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: us-civil-war
In the late 1990’s author Tony Horowitz explored “the South” and its relationship with the Civil War. He starts with battle re-enactors and moves on to visit museums and historians. He covers contemporary issues, walks battlefields, reports on monuments and the feelings they evoke. He meets notables and everyday people, civil rights leaders and those active in keeping “southern culture” alive.

Horowitz holds your attention throughout. You come away with the feeling that mourning and saluting the
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 ...more
Yesenia Juarez
Nov 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This books was deep, if you’ve never really had interest in the civil war this one is for you! The author did such a great job on keeping this non biased and the way he wrote this was so good that it was never boring!!! This is the way we should teach our youth about American history!!! Honest and interesting!!!!
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 ...more
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 ...more
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
"The past is dead; let it bury its dead, its hopes and its aspirations; before you lies the future. Let me beseech you to lay aside all rancor, all bitter sectional feeling, and to take your places in the ranks of those who will bring about a consummation devoutly to be wished - a reunited country" - Jefferson Davis

"I don't do drugs, I do the Civil War." He laughed. "Problem is, the Civil War's most addictive than crack, and almost as expensive." (14)

"I asked King if there was any way for white
Jan 07, 2008 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
Jan 07, 2011 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
Jul 23, 2011 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 ...more
Oct 21, 2007 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
Theo Logos
Confederates in the Attic is simply outstanding. Entertaining and thought provoking, by turns disturbing and laugh out loud funny, it is by far the best book that I have read this year. Tony Horwitz has combined travel writing, a humorous look at an odd hobby, and an insightful examination of deep, sectional differences that still divide our nation nearly a century and a half after the end of our Civil War. Along the way, he shines light into some of the darker corners of our national psyche, ...more
Dec 23, 2011 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
John Hammontree
Mar 17, 2017 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
Patrick Gibson
Jan 19, 2009 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
May 19, 2009 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
Kristy Miller
As I try to think of how to write a review of this, I'm staring at the copy of the book that I checked out from the library. There are probably 30 post-its marking passages I wanted to discuss, or I found disturbing, thought provoking, and fascinating.

It is hard not to consider your own position and views on race and society when reading this book. I am southern born and raised midwestern. I spent most of my life living sheltered in the suburbs and now love living in an urban city. I am a
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I gave this book 5 stars when I first read it in 1999. I didn't think it would be possible but I liked it even more this time around. Despite the blurb on the back from "The Washington Post" describing the book as "hilariously funny," I found it to be both deeply moving and insightful. And, in a way, despite its historical theme, it also sheds a spotlight on the painful cultural divides that we are still living with in this country today.
Apr 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
This actually is rather enlightening. Makes a good book for teaching because of the use of viewpoint and history.
May 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
After waking up one morning at his Virginia home to the sounds of a Civil War reenactment, Tony Horwitz launches a search to find out how the Civil War is viewed and remembered in the American South. In his quest, he spent time with a band of really hard-core Confederate reenactors who went on crash diets to get the authentic look of starved soldiers who had been on lengthy campaigns. He also attended a Ku Klux Klan rally in Kentucky, an American history class in Selma, Alabama, and traveled ...more
'Aussie Rick'
Jul 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: civil-war

I don't know if I can offer much on this book after all that has been said below in the other reviews. Being from Austrlia which is some distance from the United States and with no background in the Civil War (other than reading great history books) I found this a very interesting book. At times I was amazed and saddened and I wondered was America really like this. I think the book offers you something about your country that you can be proud of but also maybe a bit scared of as well. A very
Mar 22, 2008 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 ...more
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've been wanting to read this book for years and I don't know why it took me so long. It was truly engaging and reminded me why studying history was my first love.
Sep 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was a re-read for me. Still 4 stars. Still very relevant 20 years after it was released.
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 ...more
Aug 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, culture
I grew up 3.5 hours from Gettysburg, well north of the Mason Dixon Line. Like the author, I, too, had an early fascination with the Civil War, and also like the author, I don't really know why, although, also like the author, I can venture a guess. My uncle and aunt were heavily into genealogy, and they learned that my great-great-grandfather's brother served in a Union regiment and died at Andersonville. A few years ago I spent a few months in Kennesaw, GA (including time on Kennesaw Mountain ...more
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Date of Birth: 1958

Tony Horwitz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author whose books include Blue Latitudes, Confederates In The Attic and Baghdad Without A Map. His most recent work, published in May 2019, is Spying on the South, which follows Frederick Law Olmsted's travels from the Potomac to the Rio Grande as an undercover correspondent in the 1850s.
Tony has also been president of
“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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