A couple years ago, I read an excerpt from this book in the New Yorker and I was fascinated by the author's half-admiring, half-incredulous account of "super hardcore" Civil War re-enactors who are obsessed with recreating the experience of a common Confederate foot soldier. For the sake of authenticity, and in the hopes of attaining a peak experience during which they feel time melting away, these guys will endure anything, including meagre rations authentic to the period; sleeping all night in the open, unprotected from insects, or in the rain or in freezing temperatures; and especially obsessed with getting their handmade, homespun clothing right, down to the grease spots, authentically oxidized buttons, etc. These guys do reenactment like it's a religious experience or at least performance art. Well, the book spends a lot of time with these guys, but it's about much, much more than that. It's a complex, fascinating look at why the Lost Cause continues to appeal to the American imagination. In parts, this book is hilarious, but it's also genuinely sympathetic in its exploration of why people remain invested in these old stories. And it's far too smart and morally complex to settle for easy nostalgia. Everywhere he goes, the author also asks Black Southerners how they feel about the whole Civil War obsession. In part, also, the book is an elegy for the rural, 19th-century south, fast giving way to the New South, as battlefields are hidden under subdivisions and the parking lots of Piggly Wigglys. All this somehow adds up to one of the best nonfiction portraits of America that I've read in a long time.
This book is the perfect combination of pathos and humor. You will laugh out loud at some of the characters and situations, but Horwitz never belittles or laughs at the people he includes in the book. I think this is his greatest gift as a writer.
He takes you on a journey through history and makes it incredibly appealing. You will want to visit many of the places and meet the people just as Horwitz did, and you don't have to be a Civil War buff to enjoy it.
A great book to read on a road trip. I'm off to find more books by Tony Horwitz!
This was a tremendous read! Loved Horwitz' approach to meeting every-day people in all sorts of places around the American south. The war truly is not over for many of these folks. Horwitz touches on many aspects of our society and the divide between North and South, and between the races, and yet describes with warmth and humor the individual experiences that tie us to that time 150 years ago. Very highly recommended!!
I found this to be a very entertaining look at Civil War History. Hard to believe there could be such a fresh book on such an old (but importanat) topic. This would make good required reading for a HS or college civil war class.
I really got a lot out of this book. I hesitate to say 'enjoy' because some of the experiences the author endured were less than enjoyable, but the book remains relevant and is very interesting. As a living historian, I can attest to the fact that there *are* people who live the way these guys do. To walk in their shoes for a little while was enlightening, to say the least. I recommend this book.
The book might have been more relevant if I'd read it when first written, but it still helped me understand the Civil War history as seen from a Southerner's perspective. Traveling through the southern states as a Union soldier in this era, certainly put a spin on how he interacted with the people he met and the history he experienced. Well worth reading if you are interested in the whole picture of how the Civil War affected the country, even today.
The Civil War still rages across the South in ways both quirky and compelling. "Hardcore" reenactors crash-diet to resemble starved Confederates and spoon in ditches to stave off frostbite. A Scarlett O'Hara impersonator lifts her skirts for Japanese tourists. And Sons, Daughters and Children of the Confederacy gather to sing "Dixie" and salute the rebel flag.
Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Horwitz takes us on a ten-state adventure, from Gettysburg to Vicksburg, from Charleston graveyards to Tennessee taverns. Probing both the history of the Civil War and its potent echo in the present, Horwitz crafts an eloquent, fast-paced, and penetrating travelogue that shows us how the Lost Cause still resonates in the memory and rituals of the South.
I can't even begin to say how much I LOVED this book. It is amazing, sad, funny, and ironic.
From the cover...The Civil War still rages across the South in ways both quirky and compelling. "Hardcore" reenactors crash-diet to resemble starved Confederates and spoon in ditches to stave off frostbite. A Scarlett O'Hara impersonator lifts her skirts for Japanese tourists. And Sons, Daughters, and Children of the Confederacy gather to sing "Dixie" and salute the rebel flag. Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Horwitz takes us on a ten state adventure, from Gettysburg to Vickburg, from Charleston graveyards to Tennessee taverns. Probing both the history of the Civil Wary and its potent echo in the present, Horwitz crafts an eloquent, fast-paced and penetrating travelogue that shows us how the Lost Cause still resonates in the memory and rituals of the South.