This is a book that speaks on the American civil war that took place between 1861-1865. The war was fought between the North and South over the issues of retention of slavery and states rights especially the declining power of the southern states. These issues had been there before but they were aggravated further by the re-election of Abraham Lincoln as president since he had been against slavery. The major issue that caused the war though was slavery since the southern states were mostly agriculturists while the North were industrialists. At that time whether to abolish slavery or not was a big issue since the Southerners needed slaves to work in their farms unlike the industrialists. The southerners saw the movement towards liberation of slaves as an attack on their culture. The Northern states though wanted democracy and equality. This is a war that is remembered a lot since so many people lost their lives. The total number of people who lost their lives are more than the people who lost their lives in all other wars of America. The book seeks to show that there are still attitudes, prejudices and perceptions about the war in the south that are affecting society. First of all these perceptions are not true and the people have myths over why the Civil war was fought. The blacks and whites seem to focus so much on the issue of states rights yet the central issue was slavery. I do agree with the book views and the evidence represented in the book supports the author’s argument highly.
Ignoring the causes of the American Civil war in totality is not right. Many people lost their lives in the war and it should be remembered and appreciated in exactly the way it happened. The author also proposes for people to move on from the war and not let any negative effects of the war continue. The country both the North, South white or black should remember the causes of the war correctly and what its victory meant. The book also shows that most of the whites in the south do not see the confederacy as defeated they still see that it is ongoing. The war is over and the state won. This is a view and truth that should be accepted so that people can move on. There are people in the south who still glorify and focus on that war too much such that they want to relive that time. There are people who dress and live like soldiers. Insisting that the south should have won or taking the defeat personally leads to segregation in the region. It causes the blacks and south to mistrust each other.
The author had a personal interest in the civil war. He saw a book on the conflict that was owned by his Jewish grandfather. His stay in the south, 100 miles from where the battles had taken place sparked again his interest so he started to interview Southern Americans in the area. He saw many of the Southerners re-enacting the civil war soldier scenes and got an idea to research on the topic. These interviews led to a long journey that saw him intimately interact with the people who still believed in the war.
There were people who had relatives who had fought in the war. It showed him a people who are still obsessed with the Civil war. This is expressed by national cemetery director saying even though in school it was taught the war ended a long time ago, people thought it was still in progress. His views are confirmed by the people he meets as he journeys in the south where the war took place. He uncovers issues of racism. People still weight the historical event highly. The quest is to find out how exactly the people remember the war. Further more how is the war remembered by the people in the south? Serious questions emerge even as he writes the book and interacts with the southerners. How is the war remembered? Is it the correct way to remember the war? He found there were differences between what actually took place and what people choose to remember. It was not a matter of people being ignorant. They knew the causes of the war they just chose to believe something that was not the truth.
Furthermore, how important was this memory or the lack of memory concerning the war. The whites remembered the war clearly. They cherished the memories. On the other hand the black people did no care at all about it. This was a bit strange. Since the war had mostly to do with slavery and its abolishment. This is a war that the blacks should care about to some level. He argues that in the south the whites still clung to the past. The attitude in the black people is different though. A black man suggests the whites should get over it while a black teenager insists that the war is the white man’s history and not his own. He should not be bothered. This is a wrong view as the Civil war is a big part of an African- American history. In the south the author also met southerners with certain beliefs.
There are whites who hold on to outdated beliefs. The southerners kept speaking of the way they do things or in other terms their way of life. They were boastful of who they are and their region. They were romantic in referring to farming and God. They were however not impressed with the central government. They are concentrating on the issue of state power and how the central government dealt with the south during the war. They hate being told what to do and what not to do. The war still has an impact today. The different ways of remembering the war in the south has had certain adverse effects. The book shows the black people complaining how the whites are causing segregation in the south.
The black people feel that the white people no longer care about the public schools and the city neighborhoods. The author confirms this is true when he visits locations such as Selma, Alabama and Virginia. The segregation was hampering progress in the south. There are whites refusing to see the effects of the war and there are blacks who deny the impact of the war on their present existence. There were whites who are proud and wanted the confederacy to continue no matter what. The author meets some of the whites who wear old costumes.
They want to relive those moments of the war and feel to some extent how it must have felt. They reenact the scenes and seek to live the lives of the soldiers. They walk barefoot in unwashed clothes. They insist on eating rancid salt pork. The author meets a re-enactor called Hodge who wears soldier uniforms and starves himself so as to look more like a soldier. There were still many people with deep-rooted racial opinions. There are whites who see that it was a matter for fighting for state rights and not just about slavery. The author spends time with many white people who are always honoring their ancestors who fought in the American civil war. There is still a fascination by the Americans about the civil war. There is even a murder case highlighted in the book where a black man is standing on trial for murder. He killed a man who was driving a car with the conferedency flag. The author meets two ladies Shelby Foote and Manning Williams who refuse that the south was defeated. The people though are not honest with themselves. In a black-American class the teenagers view the war as whites fighting against whites and not about slavery. Every person it seems wants to retain their memory of the history in a certain way that may not be the truth.
The book exposes in a clear manner the beliefs of the people in the south. By interviewing people and getting into their lives it causes one to understand why they would still cling to the past. The situation though should not continue since it makes people live in ignorance about the causes of the war. It gives a poignant analysis of the events occurring during the civil war and how they continue to impact on contemporary American society.
Horwitz Tony. Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War. Chicago: