"Old Slow Town": Detroit during the Civil War

by Paul Taylor


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Though it was located far away from Southern battlefields, Detroit churned with unrest during the American Civil War. The city's population, including a large German and Irish immigrant community, mostly aligned with anti-war Democrats while the rest of the state stood with the pro-Lincoln Republicans. The virulently anti-Lincoln and anti-Black Detroit Free Press fanned the city's flames with provocative coverage of events. In "Old Slow Town": Detroit during the Civil War, award-winning author Paul Taylor contends that the anger within Detroit's diverse political and ethnic communities over questions about the war's purpose and its conduct nearly tore the city in two.

Taylor charts Civil War­­-era Detroit's evolution from a quiet but growing industrial city (derisively called "old slow town" by some visitors) to a center of political contention and controversy. In eight chapters, Taylor details topics including the pre-war ethnic and commercial development of the city; fear and suspicion of "secret societies"; issues of race, gender, and economic strife during the war; Detroit's response to its soldiers' needs; and celebration and remembrance at the conclusion of the conflict. Taylor's use of rarely seen military correspondence from the National Archives, soldier and civilian diaries and letters, period articles and editorials from Detroit's Civil War-era newspapers, and his fresh, judicious synthesis of secondary sources results in a captivating depiction of Detroit's Civil War history.

Until now, why events occurred as they did in Detroit during the Civil War and what life was like for its residents has only been touched upon in any number of general histories. Readers interested in American history, Civil War history, or the ethnic history of Detroit will appreciate the full picture of the time period Taylor presents in "Old Slow Town."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814336038
Publisher: Wayne State University Press
Publication date: 10/15/2013
Series: Great Lakes Books Series
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Paul Taylor is an insurance professional and award-winning author of five books pertaining to the American Civil War, including Orlando M. Poe: Civil War General and Great Lakes Engineer.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 "A pleasant Protestant, no smell of Irish about her but respectable German": The Ethnic and Commercial Development of Detroit, 1815-60 7

2 "Truly an old fashioned 4th of July scene": A City, State, and Nation Initially United for Union 40

3 "Every … day laborer … will find a rival in a negro": Fear and Suspicion of "Secret Societies" and Blacks 63

4 "One of the most melancholy spectacles it was ever our lot to witness": Anxiety over the Draft and Its Consequences in Detroit 78

5 "In all the shops … everything has become so expensive": Gender Issues, Labor Strife, and Economic Ills Confront Wartime Detroit 119

6 "There is no department of our work that has afforded more satisfaction": Detroit Responds to Its Soldiers' Needs 140

7 "Our people are now fully warned": The War Almost Hits Home 156

8 "Three cheers for the ladies!": Celebration and Remembrance 192

Notes 203

Bibliography 221

Index 239

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