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Before I even had a chance to open the book to delve into one of the darkest parts of America’s history, something already had me questioning my knowledge on the Civil War. The title had caught my eye; “Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War”. From all of my prior knowledge on the subject, I was almost certain that the Civil War concluded during the 1860’s, so, I decided to read the book thoroughly and find my answers within the pages.
After considering several possibilities for a meaning to the heading, I determined that the title had two different meanings for Tony Horwitz’s thoughtful and entertaining exploration of the role of the Civil War in the modern day South. The first meaning has to do with Horwitz’s personal interest in the War. He was raised in the industrial North. His grandfather had immersed himself in the history of the Civil War when he moved to America from Russia.
At a young age,
Tony Horwitz had developed a similar fascination to the American Civil War, but for some reason he found himself inexplicably drawn to the Confederate side. He tells his readers that as a child he wrote about the war and even painted a mural of important Civil War battles in the attic of his parents home. Although the book has several different meaning, one of its purposes is to reexamine Horwitz’s connection; to question why a liberal Northerner, a student political worker and a Pulitzer prize-winning foreign correspondent, should find himself drawn to stories and historical figures that represent what he has worked against in his own life.
Horwitz finds his obsession with the war, specifically the Confederacy, unexplainable. He is a liberal Northerner from a Jewish family whose ancestors came to the United States years after the war had ended. Nevertheless, he was drawn to its myth and history as a young boy, a fascination he shared with his father as a child and later rekindled as an adult after his father retired. A simple explanation for his obsession is that Horwitz associated the Civil War with long evenings spent with his workaholic, mostly absent father. But this still couldn’t fully explain his almost spiritual attachment to the war’s history. I suppose, to him, it was a definitive American event and identifying with it was an American phenomenon which some might call our nation’s unifying force.
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