Detroit and Civil War: The Limits of Patriotism
Willmarth, Mark D.
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This paper is a study of Detroit's reaction to the Civil War. Originally I had planned to write only on the riot of 1863 in Detroit. However, as I read more and more, I realized that that incident could only be understood in the context of war-time politics. At the beginning of the war, Detroiters of both parties formed a consensus of opinion to support the war only in so far as its aim was to preserve the Union. However, the measures taken by the Lincoln administration, especially emancipation and suspension of habeas corpus, and the course of the war itself weakened that consensus because the aim of the war was changed. To Democrats it gradually seemed that far from preserving the Union, the aim of the war was to destroy the South's political power and way of life. Furthermore, it seemed as if the Lincoln administration and the Republicans were working to destroy the Democratic party and even free government itself. Based on my study, I see the dominant force in the United States at that time as nationalism, not defeatism. The war showed the strength of that force. This study of Detroit serves as a case in point.