For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the Civil War, and I’m always on the lookout for books about that conflict, especially those that come highly recommended. A number of years ago, National Geographic magazine published a best-of list called “Around the World in 80 Books,” and that list included the Civil War book, “Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tony Horwitz. I’d already heard a lot about this book and had wanted to read it, so I officially added it to my “bucket list.”
For those of you unfamiliar with “Confederates in the Attic,” it was first released in March 1998 and tells of an around the south trip that Horwitz made in an effort to understand the ongoing fascination with the American Civil War. Horwitz’s extended Civil War trip took him to North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Alabama. Along the way, he throws in with a bunch of hardcore reenactors and visits a wide variety of Civil War sites.
I especially enjoyed the portions of the book set in Alabama, and I was surprised to read that Horwitz visited or passed through places not far from where I live, including Opp, Elba, Selma and Montgomery. Having an outsider like Horwitz give his views and observations about places I’m familiar with was not only enlightening, but also very entertaining. I also learned some things those places that I didn’t know, for example, that the oldest living Confederate widow was still alive and well in Elba on up into the 1990s.
I also enjoyed the portions of the book that talked about the behind-the-scenes world of Civil War reenactors and how there are some who are more hardcore than others. While some reenactors settle for just any old Civil War costume gear, others obsess over things like having infantry pants so authentic that they’re correct all the way down to the thread-count. These portions of the book will also leave you wanting to get your own reenacting gear and spend you weekends running around old battlefields.
This book also left me wanting to read Horwitz’s other books, which include “One for the Road: A Hitchhiker's Outback” (1987), “Baghdad Without A Map” (1991), “Blue Latitudes” (2002), “Into the Blue” (2003), “The Devil May Care: 50 Intrepid Americans and Their Quest for the Unknown” (2003), “A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World” (2008), “Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War” (2011) and “BOOM: Oil, Money, Cowboys, Strippers, and the Energy Rush That Could Change America Forever” (2014). I especially want to read “Midnight Rising,” and if these books are as entertaining as “Confederates in the Attic,” then I’ve got a lot to look forward to.
In the end, how many of you have read “Confederates in the Attic”? What did you think about it? What other Civil War books would you recommend? Let us know in the comments section below.