Rob Hodge discusses his notoriety. Dining on squirrel with Roger Daltrey, heh. - Jonah
My 15 Minutes out of the Attic
by Robert Lee Hodge
Ten years ago, after introducing Tony Horwitz to the world of "Civil Wargasms," I ended up on the cover of his bestseller. Life has never been the same.
Time is an odd thing. It is strange to think it has been 10
years since Confederates in the Attic
made its debut in
We all know you can't tell a book by its cover. The same goes for any reenactor who'd end up on a book cover. Each one of us who enters this peculiar world where you wear wool clothes in one-hundred-degree heat and shoot guns at each other has a different story to tell, starting with his or her own epiphany.
Mine occurred in 1976 on my first visit to
In 1978 at
In my mid-20s, Ken Burns' PBS mini-series The Civil War aired, and suddenly the Civil War was cool.
Disgruntled with college in 1991 I left
Between waiting tables, I started exploring the
The next year, tapped to help with episodes of Civil War Journal, I found myself in the preserved Quaker village of Waterford in Loudoun County, Va. Waterford is where Tony Horwitz lived, and when we started filming, reenactors caught, the veteran Wall Street Journal reporter's attention. Apparently, I did too.
Horwitz told us he was interested in joining a reenactment group and writing an article about us for his newspaper. His Wall Street Journal piece hit the streets in June 1994. Initially, I thought the article would be positive, but when I read the piece I was disappointed. I never wanted any popularity or notoriety for mimicking a bloated corpse or urinating on buttons. The article really upset reenactors, many from the Southern Guard. And because I was the main focus of the piece, they felt I'd had some real influence on the story. I felt very naïve.
Some time later, Horwitz, who had won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on labor issues, decided to write a book on the memory of the Civil War from a Southern perspective. I was apprehensive about getting involved, for obvious reasons, but I was also very supportive of Horwitz because he supported battlefield preservation. Oft and on, then, for more than two years, we would explore nooks and crannies of the South together.
Confederates in the Attic came out in 1998 and stirred up controversy the moment it hit the bookstores. Despite the fact that Horwitz walked a fine line between liberal and conservative, Southern and Northern views, many readers, including some of his friends, were mad at him for not making the standard attack on Confederate memory. Meanwhile, a lot of reenactors, including many in my own unit, were offended. He alluded to Confederates as disreputable, which bothered me. Named after Robert E. Lee and born on Stonewall Jackson's birthday, I guess it makes sense I have a leaning towards the South.
Although the book covered much more ground than the reenactments Horwitz and I attended, reenactment became the media focus — and I became its poster child. I always felt bad about that, because there are hundreds of reenactors who bring a lot to the table and haven't gotten the credit they deserve. But there I was, on the cover of the book.
I walked into all the attention blind and found it both humbling (a group of disabled children, for example, once asked for my autograph) and amusing (a number of strange women proposed marriage). One night Horwitz was on the "Late Late Show," then hosted by Tom Snyder. I was floored that Snyder said he found me fascinating — and Tony said I was his mentor! Soon after that, ABC News' Jay Shadier and a crew from "Primetime Live" followed us around at the 135th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Raymond in the Vicksburg Campaign.
When Horwitz hosted a book party at his home in
On another outing, I spoke to 400 students at the
Michael J. Fox, Conan O'Brien, Glenn Close, executives at HBO,
Demi Moore, Bill Paxton, and numerous businessmen and political figures have read
"the book." I have taken a Vogue
editor on a four-day "Civil Wargasm." Newt Gingrich got stood up for
lunch because I was giving a battlefield tour to the executive he was to meet.
I have had the honor of sharing the stage at
Although the ride from the book has slowed down, I continue to enjoy the residual impact. I am one-third owner of Wide Awake Films, and I have an Emmy Award with my name on it. Recently, our work aired on the National Geographic Channel.
My life and mind have been enriched by my friends and experiences in reenacting. The same goes for Tony Horwitz and Confederates in the Attic, which introduced millions to our rather odd but very rewarding world. I have been lucky. And I try to remind myself of that every day.