Confederates in the Attic

It’s the best book I’ve read on popular conceptions of the US Civil War. It’s insightful, but I also laughed on more or less every page.

This review has the best summary:: Trekkies of the Confederacy. In addition, though, there’s a lot of insight about Southern culture.

I love Tony Horwitz. I always thought it’d be fun to take part in a historical battle reenactment… that was up until they start talking about spooning with each other. I think I will stick with watching a Ken Burns documentary :).

By the way, if you like that book then you might be interested in another of his called Blue Latitudes (I actually picked up Confederates in the Attic because I liked it so much):

"[B]In it, the Pulitzer prize winning journalist travels to different parts of the world, following in the footsteps of explorer James Cook. The book compares the current conditions of the places Cook visited to what Cook documented at the time, and describes the different legacies Cook has left behind.

Horowitz begins with his experience as a volunteer deckhand on the replica of the HMS Endeavour. Some of the places that Horowitz visits in following the footsteps of Cook, are Australia, the small island nation of Niue, the Society Islands, Tonga, New Zealand, the birth place and home of Cook in North Yorkshire England, Alaska and Hawaii.[/B]"

I thought the humor was even better than Confederates in the Attic and it’s just as insightful but of course just with a different subject matter.

I read his “A Voyage Long and Strange” as research for a game and greatly enjoyed it. It is staggering how much history between 1492 (though he covers a bit earlier as well) and 1620 is just glossed over. Thanks for the recommendation, I’ll seek out both this and “Blue Latitudes.”

I have a copy I have been meaning to read, you just bumped it on my list.

Horowitz is following it up this October with Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War and I honestly can’t wait. As a kid growing up in Kansas we had to take Kansas History classes and, of course, Bleeding Kansas* was a particularly important part of the class. After all, how better to get a bunch of kids interested in something as dull as the history of Kansas than by making its role in the lead up to the Civil War as lurid and sensational as possible. John Brown was a particularly notable part of this, made into a larger-than-life local legend. Everyone born and schooled in Kansas has probably seen John Curry’s† mural at the state capitol, featuring a twelve foot tall John Brown in his best Moses pose as he conjures tornados and fire to destroy pro-slavery terrorists at Pottowatomie. So obviously I’m excited!

*Linked to Wikipedia since the last few people I’ve mentioned Bleeding Kansas to had apparently never fucking heard of it.

†Most kids probably think Thomas Hart Benton painted it. They are wrong!

Isn’t that mural on a Kansas album cover too?

Baghdad With A Map was great too. I love all of his books.

I need to go back and re-read Confederates in the Attic. I did CW reenacting as a teen and early into my college years and the reenactor “types” Horwitz describes are absolutely true to form.

Growing up in Kansas (Overland Park, a suburb of Kansas City) in the 1960s and 70s, it is amazing thinking back on it now how alive the Civil War was in our imagination. Classmates invariably self-identified as being “northern” or “southern”, with the distinction defined by the Confederacy. And we had a lot who self-identified “southerners” even though they had been born and raised in Kansas. Even 100 years after the war, Kansas was still a border state.

Count me as one of the ignorant. Good to know.

It’s weird just how much the Kansas-oriented classes I took mentioned Thomas Hart Benton. It wasn’t until long after I left grade school that I realized that not only was Benton not from Kansas, he’s primarily associated with being a Missouri painter. I was lied to!