Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
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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.
trial in which inmates acted as lawyers and jurors, the Raiders were hanged and buried apart from their fellow prisoners. The actual prison site lay a quarter-mile from the graveyard, on what was now an undulating field. It was here, over the course of fourteen months in 1864 and 1865, that Confederate guards herded 41,000 Union prisoners into a log stockade unsheltered from Georgia’s harsh sun and heavy rains. The pen was designed for a third the number of men it eventually enclosed. This left
West also formed part of “knob knowledge,” the rote that first-year cadets—called “knobs” because of their shaved heads—were required to memorize and “pop off” whenever upperclassmen demanded it. Gordon walked me to the door. It was Friday, when cadets drilled in dress uniform across the parade ground. Clad in gray, they toted rifles and the same Palmetto flag displayed with such pride by South Carolinians during the War. With their close-cropped hair and crisp uniforms, the cadets didn’t much
soldier must have felt, with no clue who was winning the battle he was about to join, or what his part in it would be. Then I realized I had no role myself. “Prime muskets!” the captain barked. All around me the men of the 32nd bit open paper cartridges and poured black powder down their rifle barrels. Since I’d failed to hook up with Rob, I was the only man without a gun. I asked the captain what part I might play in the upcoming combat. “If one of our men should fall, pick up his musket and
behavior of blacks. They are fulfilling every dire prophecy the Ku Klux Klan made. It’s no longer safe to be on the streets in black neighborhoods. They are acting as if the utter lie about blacks being somewhere between ape and man were true.” Like the obscene ditty about Abraham Lincoln, this was a side of Shelby Foote that hadn’t come through in Burns’s documentary. Foote also displayed an intricate sympathy for the early KKK, which ex-Confederates formed immediately after the War to combat
Manassas. By the late summer of 1862, such slaughter had become almost routine. There was a later battle of Manassas that I’d witnessed myself. A few months after my return to the United States, the Walt Disney Company unveiled plans for “Disney’s America,” an historic theme park within cannon-shot of the battlefield. Disney’s “imagineers” concocted a fantasy Civil War fort, complete with pyrotechnic displays, “Disney’s circle-vision technology,” and daily reruns of the Monitor dueling the