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Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War
by Tony Horwitz
Vintage Books, New York - ISBN 0-679-43978-1


Confederates in the AtticWhy is a nice Jewish boy of Russian heritage like Tony Horwitz sleeping in trenches soaked to the bone while "spooning" with a guy he doesn't even know. The answer is simple. Curiosity–that innate trait of all good writers who want to find out about the world around them.

And like many other writers, Horwitz's idea for this funny, offbeat, sort-of-travel book comes from within his own family, from his great-grandfather, Poppa Isaac., who treasured a book of Civil War sketches. From this book grew Horwitz's fascination with the Civil War, which eventually takes him to the South to join re-enacting groups fighting the battles all over again.

But this isn't just a well-told story of his Civil War re-enacting experience. This is Horwitz's personal quest to relive the Civil War on his own terms in the towns and villages and on the battlefields , up to his ears in mud and cold.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tony Horwitz traveled the length and breadth of Dixie looking for answers to why so many people have turned to Civil War re-enactments as a means of fulfilling their interests. He takes his readers on a 10-state adventure, from Fort Sumter to Shiloh, from Vicksburg to Gettysburg, from Confederate graveyards and the Confederate Museum in Charleston to a Tennessee tavern where the war is replayed nearly every day. Probing the history of the Civil War as it's revered in the present, Horwitz has crafted a face-paced travelogue that shows his readers how the Civil War still resonates in memory and rituals of the South.

Horwitz searches out the offbeat people and places in America's South who are still fighting the War in their own ways. He attends a birthday party for Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in Charleston, South Carolina and observes the initiation of children into the Children of the Confederacy Society in which they learn about the Confederacy. he engages conversation with Manning Williams–artist, professor, re-enactor and Charleston's leading secessionist. He relates the tale of how the statue of a Yankee soldier ended up in Kingston, South Carolina, while a Rebel soldier's statue stands watch over a New England town.

In a typical tongue-in-cheek attitude, Horwitz uncovered one of the most bizarre Civil War legends in Vicksburg. It seems that during the battle of Raymond, Mississippi in 1863, a miniť ball reportedly passed through the reproduction organs of a young Rebel soldier and a few seconds later penetrated a young lady standing on a nearby porch. Needless to say, she got pregnant. A truly immaculate conception–maybe so.

He and a hardcore re-enactor embark on a Wargasm, a fusion of a weird brew of road culture, rancid pork, and the quest for the elusive "period rush," a phrase hardcore re-enactors used to describe the drug-like high of traveling through time.

This book brings the Civil War back to life for those who have long forgotten its horrors and sustains those for whom the War will never be over.

 Buy this book...


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