Rediscover: Confederates in the Attic

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tony Horwitz's Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (1998) is a mix of travelogue, humor and history that alternates effortlessly between the absurd and deadly serious legacies of the American Civil War. Horwitz travels through the Southern United States to places where a 130-year-old war still impacts daily life. He participates in hardcore reenactments, in which starving and freezing are considered good form, tours controversial memorial sites, uncovers the real history behind Gone with the Wind, and follows along on a week-long "Civil Wargasm" tour of battlefields in Virginia and Maryland while in authentic uniform.

Horwitz's look at racial tension and Confederate symbols could be cribbed from modern headlines. The murder of Michael Westerman, shot while waving a Confederate flag from the back of his pickup truck, is just one extreme example of the open animosity Horwitz discovers in Southern states. That vexating vexillological issue, and problematic monuments to Confederate causes, are still enormous headaches. Confederates in the Attic became a major bestseller, and the paperback has been in print since 1999 (Vintage, $17, 9780679758334). Horwitz's latest book, Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War, came out in 2011. --Tobias Mutter

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