Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz

Confederates in the Attic by Tony HorwitzConfederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on 8/18/2010
Source: Purchased
Pages: 432
Buy from IndieBound


Five years ago, when I moved from my hometown just outside Detroit to Richmond, Virginia, I expected change. I knew I would have to stop saying “pop” and learn to accept “y’all”. I figured I’d learn all about Southern hospitality, Southern belles and maybe see a few unwanted Confederate flags; Richmond was the Capital of the Confederacy after all. But, other than its amazing food and the Avenue of Second Place Trophies*, I was surprised by how much Richmond felt like a Northern city. Where were the accents? Wasn’t this supposed to be the South? 
And then I began my teaching job about 30 minutes outside the city. It was like entering another world or, more accurately, going back in time at least 50 years. Not only was I going through a massive culture shock, but I was tasked with teaching history…including the Civil War. 
Experiencing “the unfinished Civil War” first hand, right here in our backyard, is part of what made Tony Horwitz’s book stand out as a choice for my real life book club. In Confederates in the Attic, Horwitz attempts to piece together what makes the Civil War such an embedded piece of Southern culture. He journeys with die-hard reenactors through battlefields, getting to the heart of their obsession. His trek then takes him to several key Civil War sites, where he meets with Daughters and Sons of Confederate Veterans to understand the depth of family ties. In one of the book’s more intriguing, socially relevant sections, Horwitz spends time in a town rocked by the murder of a man who had been waving a Confederate flag and the trial of the black teenagers that follows. 
At each point, Horwitz allows the people around him to talk honestly, collecting a shockingly raw portrait of the divisions still cutting through American society. The one drawback to Confederates in the Attic is its age; the book was published in 1999. I would be curious to see some of the interviews repeated today, almost fifteen years later, to see if similar sentiments are as widespread. I know here in Richmond, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has been dealing with a situation involving the refusal to fly a Confederate flag on their property for well over a year now. The comments on that blog post are from real, very serious people. I have a sense the Civil War is still just as unfinished, at least for some. 
Despite the fact that it could benefit from an update, Confederates in the Attic is incredibly interesting, shocking and well worth the read, no matter what part of the country you live in. 
*When I heard this “Yankee” joke about Monument Avenue and died laughing, I thought for sure someone was going to send me packing.