The Civil War ended nearly 150 years ago at Appomattox, but it still percolates through the surface of American society. The "Lost Cause", the tension between federal and local government, the legacy of slavery, and the nature of freedom in America are still intertwined in most people's memory of this war. Tony Horwitz's book, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War, travels throughout old Confederacy to examine these deep-seated effects of the Civil War in contemporary society. .
The title of the book is itself worth commenting on. The "attic" does not literally refers to the attic bedroom adorned with a dramatic collection Civil War paintings that Horwitz occupied as a youngster but also suggests that the Confederacy's consequences still burn brightly within American society. The sub-title of the book, "Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War" may come as a surprise to a number of readers who assume that the Civil War had come to an end in Appomattox 150 years ago. In fact, "Americans remained obsessed with the Civil War. Nor was this passion confined to books and movies. Fights kept erupting over displays of the rebel flag, over the relevancy of states' rights, over a statue of Arthur Ashe slated to go up beside Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in Richmond.It seemed as though the black-and-white photographs I'd studied as a child had blurred together, forming a Rorschach blot in which Americans now saw all sorts of unresolved strife: over race, sovereignty, the sanctity of historic landscapes and who should interpret the past.(p.6) Why did this war still obsess so many Americans 140 years after Appomattox?" (p.9) In this book, through the interactions with a number of various Southerners: from a group of "hardcore" re-enactors who live and breathe the Civil War in every way possible to entertainers who make their living from war nostalgia or tourists who seek out Civil War monuments, battlefields, and fireworks displays to complete their ultimate vacation, Horwitz seeks to answer this question.