Confederates in the Attic

By Tony Horwitz,

Book cover of Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War

Book description

NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent takes us on an explosive adventure into the soul of the unvanquished South, where Civil War reenactors, battlefield visitors, and fans of history resurrect the ghosts of the Lost Cause through ritual and remembrance.  

"The freshest book about divisiveness in America that…

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Why read it?

4 authors picked Confederates in the Attic as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

By turns funny, poignant, and incisive, the late author Tony Horwitz tours the South with a journalist’s eye and a sociologist’s heart.

He bravely takes on the memory of the Civil War through the eyes of reenactors, angry neo-Confederates in bars, and Black museum guides (among many others). I recently re-read this book through the lens of the Black Lives Matter movement and the killing of George Floyd, which touched off numerous protests against monuments to Confederate leaders.

When Horwitz wrote this book in the late 1990s, it seemed unlikely that Monument Avenue in Richmond would ever change. In the…

I read this book right around the time I was writing mine—it’s a great example of how evocative writing can paint a real picture of a community, and a real sense of ‘being there.’ Here, Horowitz shadows Confederate reenactors, and describes their quirky rituals, attitudes, and worldviewsas well as the sheer lengths they’ll go to to achieve historic ‘accuracy.’ Along the way he illustrates the tensions we still experience in the US around race and whose stories are valid.  

I’ve used this book countless times in the classroom and it always prompts a probing discussion. The late journalist Tony Horwitz takes his readers with him on his travels, mostly through the South and mainly to locations where the Civil War seems to be a pressing, present-day concern. We meet Civil War re-enactors, members and sponsors of the Lost Cause-themed “Children of the Confederacy”, Civil Rights activists, school teachers, and tourists, all of whom share with Horwitz their perspectives on what the War means to them. Although Horwitz wrote this account in the 1990s, much of it feels like a…

Over twenty years after it was published, Horowitz’s examination of how late twentieth century southerners, black and white, remembered the Civil War, is sadly relevant. Although much of the book is a kind of travelogue describing Civil War buffs, battlefield commemorations, and so-called “heritage” groups like the Sons, Daughters, and Children of the Confederacy, Horwitz’s pivot at the midway point to cover a murder trial in Kentucky leads to a serious discussion of race relations that turns this into a book that is not only an entertaining read, but also an important one.

From James' list on the common people of the Civil War.

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