Book Review – Confederates in the Attic

Rochester Reads 2012
Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
Tony Horwitz

Most of you have probably heard by now but, for those who haven’t, here’s a heads up:  The Rochester Reads Title Announcement event is this Monday, February 13th, at 7:00 pm in the Rochester Public Library Auditorium.  Mayor Ardell Brede, together with several local community members, will announce the adult, junior and picture book titles for Rochester Reads 2012.  The announcements will be followed by a special Civil War-era music presentation by The New Pearl Buttons music ensemble, performing music from the mid-to-late 19th century.  

In anticipation of this event, I thought I should get a head start to see what this year’s excitement was all about; so I picked up a copy of Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War, one of the two adult titles selected for this year’s Rochester Reads.

Written by Tony Horwitz, Confederates in the Attic is the true story of the author’s trek back through time as he visited old Southern battlefields and monuments, met with members of today’s chapters of Daughters of the Confederacy and Sons of Confederate Veterans, and participated in Civil War reenactments alongside “hard core” Civil War reenactors.  Through his travels, Horwitz is stunned to discover that the War between the States is still being fought in the South, both literally and figuratively.  He learns that the Confederacy still breathes in the hearts and minds of her descendants, as evidenced not only through the battlefield reenactments, but also through the culture of the Southern states where racism is still prevalent, and self-inflicted segregation between blacks and whites still exists in many Southern towns.
The colorful and eccentric
Robert Lee Hodge

Sometimes witty, and always fascinating, Horwitz recounts his travels alongside the colorful and slightly eccentric Robert Lee Hodge (born on the birthdate of Stonewall Jackson and named after Robert E. Lee), whose passion is to travel the South recreating authentic battlefield dramas.  Dressed in period attire, eating hardtack, and sleeping outdoors in the worst of conditions, Horwitz follows Hodge as they spend a marathon week together visiting as many Civil War sites as they can fit into a few short days.  

Confederates in the Attic is informative, entertaining and even a little bit disconcerting.  Though the evidence speaks for itself, it’s difficult to accept that the racial divide between Southern blacks and whites still exists nearly 150 years after the end of the Civil War.  

This title is available at the Rochester Public Library in a variety of formats including audio cassette and downloadable e-book format.  For more information about this book, come to the Rochester Reads Kickoff Event on Monday, or visit the author’s website page dedicated to this book by following this link.

~ Catherine H. Armstrong 


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