| ||Book #23 War Through the Generations Reading Challenge|
Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
by Tony Horwitz
Like a lot of American males born in the Fifites, Horwitz’ interest in the ACW was stoked by the Centennial and went dormant until the Nineties when Ken Burns’ documentary revived it for him and the rest of the United States too. In this travel book, he tours the South to identify the roots and manifestations of abiding interest in the ACW.
The book opens with a mildly sardonic, mostly affectionate of account of his outings with re-enactors, led by the hardcore Robert Lee Hodge, whose incredible portrait adorns the cover. He then attends Lee-Jackson Day observances in NC; visits Charleston, SC, to see Fort Sumter National Monument, and investigates a possible mix-up of a statue of a Union soldier in Kingstree, SC.
The fifth and longest chapter, first published in The New Yorker, is long journalism about the local repercussions of the murder of Michael Westerman, a Kentucky man who was murdered by a gunshot fired from a car full of black teenagers. Some say Westerman was shot for having a Confederate flag on the back of his pickup truck while others deny it, but the story has serious things to say about race relations in our country.
Things gets lighter, mercifully, in the next chapter which covers a miserable but funny experience at a reenactment of the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia. Then, story-teller and sort of historian Shelby Foote, who was made more famous than he liked by Burns’ documentary, tells a story on himself. He was court-martialed out of the Army and dishonorably discharged. Horwitz says that by not fighting in WWII, Foote had "missed the great trauma of his own generation's adolescence." An amazing interview.
In other trips, he visits Shiloh National Military Park during the anniversary of the battle. He provides a description of the weirdness of going there at dawn, expecting to be alone but running into other enthusiasts and having curious conversations. In Georgia, he writes gently derisively about home truths about Gone with the Wind and visits Andersonville National Historic Site, the site of the massive POW camp that did a damn poor job of housing Yankees.
Another hilarious chapter is going on a whirlwind tour of battle sites in Virginia and Maryland with Robert Hodge. Calling it a "Civil Wargasm" the two take a week-long trip, sleeping rough at battlefields and in period uniform. It’s a hoot.
Talking about Confederate unreconstructedness, uniqueness, and schmaltz, Horwitz takes an even-handed and patient view. For my money, Jonathan Raban deftly sums up the book, “His version of the South is solidly credible throughout -- and seriously bad news for the rest of America.”
| ||Posted 11/17/2011 11:40 AM - 77 Views - 0 eProps - 1 Comment|
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