Confederates in the Attic
The title CONFEDERATES IN THE ATTIC: DISPATCHES FROM THE UNFINISHED CIVIL WAR carries two meanings in Tony Horwitz’s thoughtful and entertaining exploration of the role of the American Civil War in the modern world of the South. The first meaning alludes to Horwitz’s personal interest in the war. As the grandson of a Russian Jew, Horwitz was raised in the North but early in his childhood developed a fascination with the South’s myth and history. He tells readers that as a child he wrote about the war and even constructed a mural of significant battles in the attic of his own home. One purpose of this book is to reexamine this connection, to question why a liberal Northerner, one who later became a student political worker and then a Pulitzer prize-winning foreign correspondent, should still find himself drawn to stories and figures that represent much that he has worked against in his own life.
The second meaning refers to regional memory, the importance or lack thereof yet attached to this momentous national event. As Horwitz visits the sites throughout the South, he encounters unreconstructed rebels who still hold to outdated beliefs. He also meets groups of “reenactors,” devotees who attempt to relive the experience of the soldier’s life and death. One of his most disheartening and yet unsurprising realizations is that attitudes towards the war divide along racial lines. Too many whites wrap the memory in nostalgia, refusing to look beneath...
(The entire section is 322 words.)
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