Awakening the next morning in a $27 room at Salisbury’s EconLodge, I recognized the appeal of dwelling on the South’s past rather than its present. Stepping from my room into the motel parking lot, I gazed out a low-slung horseshoe of ferroconcrete called Towne Mall, a metal-and-cement forest of humming electricity pylons, a Kmart, a garish yellow Waffle House, a pink-striped Dunkin’ Donuts, plus Taco Bell, Bojangles, Burger King, the Golden Arches of McDonald’s and the equally gaudy signs for Exxon, BP and Shell hoisted like battle flags above the melee of competing brands. A few exhaust-choked bushes poked up from the greasy asphalt.
I’d gone to bed reading about the Confederate general Albert Sidney Johnston, who urged his men into battle at Shiloh by declaring ‘Remember the fair, broad, abounding land, the happy homes and ties that would be desolated by your defeat!’. I wondered sleepily what Johnston would make of the view of the EconoLodge.
Over coffee at the Waffle House, I also began wondering about the crowd I’d met the night before. It had included not only the doctor and pastor, but also a textile worker, a rose grower, a gun-shop owner, a state bureaucrat, and several farmers in overalls. Apart from sports, I couldn’t think of many interests that comfortably bridged such a wide range of people. I was curious to know more of what drew them together.
p. 27, Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War Tony Horowitz.