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City of Sedition
The History of New York City during the Civil War
Read by Mark Boyett
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No city was more of a help to Abraham Lincoln and the Union war effort, or more of a hindrance. No city raised more men, money, and materiel for the war, and no city raised more hell against it. It was a city of patriots, war heroes, and abolitionists, but simultaneously a city of antiwar protest, draft resistance, and sedition.
Without his New York supporters, it’s highly unlikely Lincoln would have made it to the White House. Yet, because of the city’s vital and intimate business ties to the Cotton South, the majority of New Yorkers never voted for him and were openly hostile to him and his politics. Throughout the war New York City was a nest of antiwar “Copperheads” and a haven for deserters and draft dodgers. New Yorkers would react to Lincoln’s wartime policies with the deadliest rioting in American history. The city’s political leaders would create a bureaucracy solely devoted to helping New Yorkers evade service in Lincoln’s army. Rampant war profiteering would create an entirely new class of New York millionaires, the “shoddy aristocracy.” New York newspapers would be among the most vilely racist and vehemently antiwar in the country. Some editors would call on their readers to revolt and commit treason; a few New Yorkers would answer that call. They would assist Confederate terrorists in an attempt to burn their own city down, and collude with Lincoln’s assassin.
Here in City of Sedition, a gallery of fascinating New Yorkers comes to life, the likes of Horace Greeley, Walt Whitman, Julia Ward Howe, Boss Tweed, Thomas Nast, Matthew Brady, and Herman Melville. This book follows the fortunes of these figures and chronicles how many New Yorkers seized the opportunities the conflict presented to amass capital, create new industries, and expand their markets, laying the foundation for the city’s-and the nation’s-growth. WINNER OF THE FLETCHER PRATT AWARD FOR BEST NON-FICTION BOOK
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City of Confusion
My God, We Are Ruined!
The Civil War started in darkness. At 4:30 a.m. on Friday, April 12, 1861, batteries of the newly formed Confederate States of America commenced shelling the federal installation of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.
Telegraphed news of the bombardment began reaching New York City's newspaper offices late Friday afternoon. That night, a little before midnight, Walt Whitman strolled out of the Academy of Music on 14th Street, where he'd enjoyed a performance of Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix. He was walking down Broadway, heading for Fulton Street where he would catch a ferry home to Brooklyn, "when I heard in the distance the loud cries of the newsboys, who came presently tearing and yelling up the street, rushing from side to side even more furiously than usual." They were hawking late editions. "WAR BEGUN!" the New York Tribune cried. "FORT SUMTER ATTACKED!" The Sun chimed in.
Nearby, a group of prominent businessmen were meeting. No one in the country feared a war between the states more than New York's business community. They did a tremendous amount of trade with the South. Since the previous December, when South Carolina was the first state to secede after Lincoln's election, they'd been "studying with intense solicitude the means of preserving the peace." They'd held numerous meetings and rallies, petitioned their politicians, pleaded with their Southern partners. War, they knew, would not only mean the end of their highly profitable trade with the Southern states. It would leave the business leaders holding more than $150 million in Southern debt. That's the equivalent of about $4.5 billion in today's currency.
A messenger burst into the meeting and breathlessly delivered the news from Fort Sumter. "The persons whom he thus addressed remained a while in dead silence, looking into each other's pale faces; then one of them, with uplifted hands, cried, in a voice of anguish, 'My God, we are ruined!'"
That account was written by Morgan Dix, rector of the elite Trinity Church at the foot of Wall Street and son of the powerful political figure John A. Dix. He doesn't identify his fretful gentlemen, but their names are unimportant. They were representative of a large sector of New York's business elite at the start of the Civil War. As dismayed as they were, they could not have been startled by the Fort Sumter news. Conflicts between the North and the South had been festering for most of the century. Gloomy forecasts of ultimate disunion and civil war went back as far as the 1810s. Members of Congress had spent the entire decade of the 1850s alternately trying to bridge the widening sectional gulf and beating each other up over it. The moment the Republican Party nominated Abraham Lincoln in the spring of 1860, angry Southern "fire-eaters" (as Northerners dubbed the most radical and vocal pro-slavers) had made it unmistakably clear that they would consider his election tantamount to an act of war. In January, five more states joined South Carolina in seceding (Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana); in February, the six formed their own separate nation. Five more would soon join. Overnight, federal installations like Fort Sumter had become foreign military bases. When Confederate troops surrounded and blockaded the fort, hoping to starve the garrison into a bloodless surrender, Lincoln had picked up the gauntlet and sent supply ships steaming out of New York harbor. Neither side had blinked, and now the Civil War had begun.
North and South had disagreed over many issues, but Civil War historian James McPherson argues that only one was combustible enough to ignite a war between them: slavery. In the first half of the 1800s, as Northern states were ending slavery, it expanded mightily in the South. Although only a third of white Southerners owned slaves, many were convinced that slavery was the foundation not just of their economy but of their culture, pride, and identity. And they believed that President Lincoln wanted to force them to abolish it. He had insisted many times in many ways that he had no such intention. "Wrong as we think slavery is, we can yet afford to let it alone where it is," he said in his career-making speech to New York Republicans in 1860. Southerners did not believe him. Through the 1850s they had watched the movement to abolish slavery gain momentum in the North. The movement's bible, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, published in 1852, had sold an astounding two and a half million copies around the world in a single year, convincing Southerners that they were surrounded by enemies. The abolitionist John Brown's attempt in 1859 to incite an armed slave rebellion had deeply alarmed them. Though Lincoln and virtually all Northern political leaders had denounced Brown as a mad fool, Northern abolitionists embraced him as a sainted martyr. The more anxious Southerners saw this as a sign that an all-out Northern attack, even military invasion, was imminent.
The truth was that to the majority of Northern whites, Southern slavery was not a pressing issue. It was certainly not one over which they would fight and die. No matter how many tears they wept reading Uncle Tom's Cabin, the majority of white Americans held some version of what we'd now call a white supremacist view, on a scale from virulent to mild. They believed that blacks were at best an intellectually inferior race, or even an entirely separate species, closer to apes than to white people. This held true in the North as well as the South, among abolitionists as well as slave-owners. Stowe, whose novel did so much to stir up sympathy for the slave, nevertheless considered blacks fit only for brute labor, and she believed that if they were freed it would be best for them to "return" to Africa. Lincoln came to emancipation in slow and halting steps. He abhorred slavery on ethical and political grounds, but also favored blacks leaving the country, and doubted that blacks and whites could live as equals even as he issued his proclamation freeing them. Only a minority of New Yorkers expressed much interest in freeing slaves hundreds of miles away, and many, from those fretful businessmen to immigrant laborers, felt they had a personal stake in preserving Southern slavery. Even Whitman, whose vision of America was as all-embracing and democratic as any white man's of his time, considered it dangerous extremism when abolitionists pressed too hard for what he called "Settlement of the Nigger Question."
Lincoln, the majority of Northern whites, and certainly most New Yorkers did not and would not go to war to free a single slave in the South. Except for radical abolitionists, they were, as Lincoln said on many occasions, willing to let slavery remain there. The South was not. The United States went through a phase of astonishing growth in the first half of the nineteenth century, adding new territory and making new states at a ferocious clip. Ultimately, the war was not about Southern slavery but about whether or not to let slavery spread to all that new land.
The United States had begun the century an infant among the nations of the world, not yet twenty years old, still hugging the eastern coast of North America. The far frontier was the Ohio River; the Midwest was called the Northwest. Then the Louisiana Purchase in 1803—negotiated for Thomas Jefferson in part by a New Yorker, Robert Livingston—instantly doubled the country's territory, adding an immense swath of land from the Gulf of Mexico north to the Canadian border, and from the Mississippi west to the Rockies. It was an area that would become all or part of fifteen states. By 1850 the drive from sea to shining sea was complete and the country was four times larger than it had been in 1800.
To the South it was of vital political importance to spread slavery across that new land. From the very foundation of the republic, Southern states had been concerned with maintaining a balance of power with the richer, more populous North. To that end the South forced the three-fifths rule in Article I of the Constitution, which stated that for the apportioning of tax revenues and representation in the House each slave could be counted as three-fifths of a citizen. In 1800, there were nine slave states and eight free states. Since each state of any size was allotted two senators, the South actually dominated the Senate at this point.
After the Louisiana Purchase, Southern politicians, representing what came to be known as the Slave Power, expended a great deal of time and clout on maintaining a precise numerical balance of slave states and free. So, for example, when Indiana was admitted as a free state in 1816, Mississippi was added as a slave state the following year; when the free state Illinois was added in 1818, Alabama was added as a slave state. In 1820, Congress cobbled together the Missouri Compromise, admitting Missouri as a slave state and Maine as free, but thereafter prohibiting slavery north of a line extending from Missouri's southern border to the Pacific. The balance was maintained through the addition of Texas as a slave state in 1845 and Wisconsin as a free state in 1848. That brought the total to fifteen of each.
Winning its war with Mexico in 1848 earned the United States another vast parcel of territory that would eventually become California, New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of other states. Californians voted to be admitted as a free state in 1850. An enormous area of western territory was still up for grabs. Through the 1850s the fighting over this territory turned ugly. The Slave Power, feeling itself increasingly hemmed in by free states and losing its hold on Washington, desperately wanted to extend slavery's reach. That was something Northerners would not abide. Only the abolitionist minority among them opposed the extension of slavery on moral grounds. The rest resisted it not out of any sympathy for black slaves but because they believed that opening the West to slavery would ruin it for free labor. Congress passed the Compromise of 1850, a complex suite of laws meant to paste over the widening cracks by making concessions all around. It failed to please either side.
As the decade lurched on toward the precipice of war, decorum in the halls of Congress deteriorated shockingly. Fierce debate escalated into shouting matches and then physical violence. After a congressman pulled a pistol on an opponent, many came to work armed. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 turned the Kansas Territory into an actual battleground between free-state and slave forces. It came to be known as Bleeding Kansas. In 1856 a South Carolina representative took his cane to the venerable Massachusetts senator Charles Sumner over the Kansas issue, beating him so severely that he was permanently impaired. In the 1857 Dred Scott decision, a reactionary Supreme Court added fuel to the fire by declaring that, according to the Constitution, blacks were "so far inferior that they had no rights."
The following year, New York senator William Seward called the battle over slavery "an irrepressible conflict," which meant that "the United States must and will, sooner or later, become either entirely a slaveholding nation, or entirely a free-labor nation." When John Brown executed his raid on Harpers Ferry the year after that, hoping to inspire widespread slave insurrection in the South, it was almost the last straw. The last straw was Lincoln's election in November 1860.
The slave states immediately began seceding that December and formed their own confederacy. Lincoln resolutely believed that a United States from which individual states could withdraw at will was not united at all. They had to be brought back into the fold, by force if necessary. To preserve the Union, he reluctantly provoked a war.
Lincoln knew well that if he was going to win that war he needed the help of the biggest, wealthiest metropolis in the North. What he did not know was whether he could count on that help. In fact, he had good reason to doubt it.
New York City would play a huge role in the war, but it would be a hugely confused and conflicted one. No city would be more of a help to Lincoln and the Union war effort, or more of a hindrance. No city raised more men, money, and matériel for the war, and no city raised more hell against it. It would be a city of patriots, war heroes, and abolitionists, and simultaneously a city of antiwar protest, draft resistance, and sedition. As America fell into sectional conflict, New Yorkers fought their own civil war among themselves. It was even, in some ways, a localized clash between North and South.
From the South came cotton, far and away the city's most important commodity in the decades preceding the war. Cotton threads tied New York to the South and to plantation slavery in a long, intimate, and co-dependent relationship. From New England came Yankee émigrés who brought abolitionism with them, and were among Lincoln's most influential supporters.
The contest between these forces for the heart and soul of the city in the decades before the war helps explain why New York's actions and attitudes during the war can appear so schizophrenic. The same New York banks that funded the spread of plantation slavery across the Cotton South would provide the start-up capital for the Union war machine that ended slavery. New York merchants outfitted both. The port of New York, which was a hub of both the international cotton trade and the transatlantic slave trade up to the start of the war, became the chief port of the Union navy. New York City gave the Union army some of its bravest and most gallant officers, including the first one killed in the conflict; it also sent some of the most corrupt and insubordinate, including one who came within an ace of single-handedly losing the Battle of Gettysburg.
Without his New York supporters, it's highly unlikely Lincoln would have made it to the White House. Yet the majority of New Yorkers never voted for him and were openly hostile to him and his politics. Throughout the war New York City was a nest of antiwar "Copperheads" and a haven for deserters and draft dodgers. New Yorkers would react to Lincoln's wartime policies with the deadliest rioting in American history. The city's political leaders would create a bureaucracy solely devoted to helping New Yorkers evade service in Lincoln's army. Rampant war profiteering would create an entirely new class of New York millionaires, the "shoddy aristocracy." New York newspapers would be among the most vilely racist and vehemently antiwar in the country. Some editors would call on their readers to revolt and commit treason. A few New Yorkers would answer that call. They would assist Confederate terrorists in an attempt to burn their own city down, and collude with Lincoln's assassin.
City of Slavery
The City of New York belongs almost as much to the South as to the North.
—William Cullen Bryant
In the first half of the nineteenth century, New York City had experienced its own surging growth at the same time as the rest of the nation, astonishing everyone who witnessed it. The metropolis owed much of its growth and success to its splendid geographical situation, nestled in one of the finest deepwater harbors in the world, with the East River on one side of Manhattan and the Hudson (or North) River on the other. The East River had year-round access to the Atlantic that, unlike the port's nearest rivals, Boston and Philadelphia, was very rarely blocked by winter ice. After the nearly disastrous War of 1812 ended, New York quickly made itself the primary American port trading with Britain and Europe, while its rivals fell far behind. The first four New York–built ships of the Black Ball Line, the first regularly scheduled "packet" ships carrying mail, news, cargo, and passengers between New York and Liverpool, started sailing in 1818. The crossing from New York, with prevailing westerly winds filling the sails, typically took three weeks; the trip back, against the winds, could take eight. Twenty years later, the first Atlantic steamships slashed the crossing to a miraculous twelve days.
Through the colonial period New England shipyards had dominated American shipbuilding. But by the 1830s shipyards on both sides of New York's East River were turning out more wooden vessels than any other port. They ran the gamut from large, world-crossing clippers to paddlewheel steamers to coastal schooners and sloops to canal boats and tugboats. Some of the largest and fastest wooden ships that ever sailed were launched on the East River. This industry provided work for "thousands of shipwrights, sailmakers, engine and boiler makers, carpenters, joiners, blacksmiths, riggers, chain and anchor makers," and other craftsmen. On the Brooklyn side of the river, the muddy Wallabout Bay, where hellish British prison ships had anchored during the Revolution, became the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1806. It would play a large role in the Civil War.
By the early 1850s sixty piers ran up the east side of Manhattan, and on any given day they were crowded with upwards of nine hundred ships of all different types, their masts a forest, their bowsprits lancing over South Street, which ran along the waterfront. Local fishermen's boats jostled to get their catch into the Fulton Market. Ferries beetled over to Brooklyn and back; there'd be no East River bridges until after the war. South Street was a daily pandemonium of heaving, shouting longshoremen and crowding carts and wagons, busily hauling crates, boxes, barrels, and bales on and off the ships. The west side of South Street was lined with merchants' offices and warehouses, shipping company offices, sail lofts, sailors' taverns, and, as a writer put it in 1857, "those indescribable stores, where old cables, junk, anchors, and all sorts of cast-off worldly things, that none but a seaman has a name for, find a refuge."
On the other side of Manhattan, more than fifty piers spiked out into the Hudson as well. The wide and deep river connected the city to the state capital of Albany. Robert Fulton launched his first steamboat on the river from the Christopher Street dock in Greenwich Village in 1807. His wealthy backer was Robert Livingston, who had met Fulton in Paris while negotiating the Louisiana Purchase for Jefferson. Soon the Hudson was crowded with steamboat lines, whose owners—like Cornelius Vanderbilt, known as "the Commodore"—made and lost fortunes in their cutthroat and sometimes deadly competition to monopolize the river. The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 linked the city by way of the Hudson to the frontier farms and forests of the Northwest. The farmers sent wheat, flour, whiskey, and lumber east to the city, which sent supplies—and more farmers—west.
In 1860 the port of New York was the nexus of a web of trade routes that stretched around the world; up to New England; down to the South and the Caribbean; and west to California. It handled a greater volume of imports and exports than all other American ports combined. That made the port of New York enormously important to Washington. The Custom House in New York was the single largest source of income for the government of the United States in the antebellum period. In the 1820s tariffs collected on imported goods in New York covered virtually all of the federal government's expenses. Of the roughly $65 million in annual federal revenues in 1860, $56 million came from tariffs on imported goods, and more than two-thirds of those imports came through New York. Small wonder the position of collector for the port of New York was one of the most prestigious of all presidential appointments, almost as much as a cabinet spot. Hiring for a bureaucratic fiefdom of some five hundred agents and clerks also made the collector a very popular man in the city, and some collectors were not above lining their own pockets through the odd graft and bribe.
Imported cotton cloth, lace, muslin, hats and umbrellas, fancy ladies' shoes, jewelry and jewels (brought in by Charles Tiffany from 1837 on), fine furniture, china, tea, wines and spirits, musical instruments, and an endless array of other luxury goods unloaded onto South Street went straight to New York merchants' warehouses and showrooms, which expanded in the antebellum years to take over more and more spaces in lower Manhattan.
New York became "the great commercial emporium of America," as its merchants bragged. Shopkeepers poured into the city from around the country to see and order their wares. Local shoppers perused the merchandise in retail stores, a new phenomenon, like the ones that lined Broadway. The fancier shops were on the west side of Broadway, the less expensive ones on the east; locals called them the "dollar side" and the "shilling side." (The silver shilling was a relic of colonial days that remained in diminishing circulation into the 1800s. Two shillings equaled a quarter.) In the late 1840s, A. T. Stewart, a Scots-Irish immigrant and importer of Irish linens, bucked tradition when he built the city's first department store, the magnificent "Marble Palace," on the shilling side at Broadway and Chambers Street.
With the spread of retail, shopping became a pastime. Hordes of promenading shoppers, mostly affluent women out to see and be seen, crowded the sidewalks of lower Broadway, while the cabs and carriages that brought them choked the street. Following Stewart's lead, stores began displaying their wares in large street-level windows for the first time, and the term "window shopping" was born.
As a natural corollary to New York's becoming dominant in shipping and commerce, the city also developed into the banking and stock market powerhouse of the nation—the "capital of capital," as it has been called. In 1815 there were five banks in the city, including the two rival institutions started by Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. Eighteen more were founded over the next two decades. The prodigious growth of the city's merchant class spurred them. Buyers from the rest of the country rarely paid up front; most merchants let them go home with their goods after signing promissory notes to send payment in, for instance, ninety days. The merchant could wait to be paid, or now he could take the note to a banker, who'd lend him the amount minus a commission. Early banks pooled their wealthy board members' resources for capital.
A new type, the savings bank, appeared in the 1810s to take deposits from the average citizen. Banks' investments in state bonds funded the completion of the Erie Canal, which flowed more commerce into the city. New York banks attracted the majority of the investment capital that came from Britain and Europe, which was crucial in financing, among other things, the westward expansion of railroads. From 1830 on, there were more banks with access to more capital in New York than in the next several largest cities combined, or in the entire Deep South. Meanwhile, Wall Street was organizing itself from loose gaggles of speculators meeting on the streets and in coffeehouses into the nation's preeminent stock exchange. New York had become, as one journalist wrote, "the banking-house of the continent," which "holds the lever that moves the American world."
Pulsing with money and commerce, jobs and opportunity, New York attracted newcomers (nicknamed "greenhorns") like iron filings to a magnet. They poured down from New England, in from the countryside, and from across the sea. In the single decade of the 1790s the city's population doubled to about 60,000 people; by 1820 it had doubled again. Starting in the mid-1840s, huge waves of European immigrants, mostly poor Irish and Germans fleeing starvation and political turmoil, swelled the city's ranks. In 1850 the population topped half a million, and by the 1860 census the city was bursting at the seams with 813,660 residents. Philadelphia, the next largest city in the country, had some 200,000 fewer. With another 267,000 living in Brooklyn, then still a separate city, the combined New York–Brooklyn metropolitan area dwarfed all other urban centers. (Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the other three boroughs wouldn't consolidate into the Greater City of New York until January 1, 1898.)
At first everyone lived crammed together in the southern tip of the island. When City Hall opened in 1811 it stood on the city's uptown frontier. Beyond that was all farm, pasture, bog, and wilderness, dotted with a few suburban hamlets like Greenwich Village. By 1830 the city had sent tendrils up as far as 14th Street, though most everyone still lived below Houston Street. Then came a thirty-year building spree that pushed development up the island a little beyond 42nd Street, though it was sporadic and patchy up that far, and three-fifths of the residents in 1860 were still crowded below 14th Street. Beyond 42nd Street, in what's now midtown, was still mostly a wasteland of rocky promontories and forlorn gullies in 1860. Central Park was under construction, and a few pioneering finer homes were sprinkled around it, but otherwise midtown would resist development until steam shovels flattened it in the 1870s. Those New Yorkers who could afford it followed the leading edge of development up the island in their ceaseless quest to put a little distance between themselves and the poor and working-class masses, who lived densely packed into miserable tenements in areas like the infamous Five Points, considered the most dismal and deadly slum in the Western world.
From around 1820 until the start of the Civil War, by far the most valuable product New York shipped out was Southern cotton. New York City's central role in the huge international cotton market goes a long way to explaining many New Yorkers' attitudes about Southern slavery. The city was more than just complicit in maintaining the institution. The plantation system and New York City spurred each other's exponential growth in the first half of the nineteenth century.
One of the ironies of New York's deep involvement and investment in Southern slavery was that it occurred at the same time that the city was ending slavery at home. Black slaves had come to Manhattan with the first European settlers in the 1600s. New Amsterdam actively imported slaves both for local use and for resale to other colonies. In the 1700s, although the Yankee ports of Boston and Newport, Rhode Island, carried on more of America's transatlantic slave trade, the practice was also a cornerstone of New York's shipping business. Some of colonial New York's most prominent families, whose names are still seen around the city—the Livingstons, Wattses, and Schuylers, for example—made their fortunes in the slave trade.
- "For anyone raised on the notion that, during the Civil War, the northern states stood strongly united against slavery and behind Abraham Lincoln, John Strausbaugh's insightful CITY OF SEDITION will offer a potent and engaging antidote. Training his focus on the vibrant, chaotic city of New York, Strausbaugh sheds valuable light on the ambivalence and complexity with which Civil War America responded to thorny problems of class, race, and disunion."—John Matteson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Eden's Outcasts and The Lives of Margaret Fuller
- "An engrossing account of a fascinating time and place in American history. Strausbaugh gives us some of the great figures of the republic, along with Confederate spies, Irish mobs, and some of the most shameless scoundrels in the city's history. A constant page-turner that also delves deep into a complex and surprising era."—Kevin Baker, author of The Big Crowd and Paradise Alley
- "What a terrific job! Strausbaugh paints New York in a vortex of treason and war, profit and chaos, idealism, energy, and murderous violence. CITY OF SEDITION is bright, urgent, and fast as a fire truck."—Richard Brookhiser, author of Founders' Son: A Life of Abraham Lincoln
- "For Abraham Lincoln, New York City was both a boon and a bane: a source of vital support and bitter recrimination. In this gripping, highly original book, John Strausbaugh guides us through a city at war with itself-a tale he tells with nuance, verve, and great discernment."—Kevin Peraino, author of Lincoln in the World: The Making of a Statesman and the Dawn of American Power
- "John Strausbaugh's new work opens the door . . . as no book has done before. Deeply researched and written with flair by an acknowledged authority on the history of the metropolis, CITY OF SEDITION leaves no doubt that 150 years ago New York was already 'a helluva town.'"—William C. Davis, author of Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee-The War they Fought, the Peace They Forged
- "CITY OF SEDITION is a rich feast of outrageous incidents, larger-than-life characters, and often astonishing revelations. John Strausbaugh expertly reveals how a deeply divided New York gave Abraham Lincoln 'more help and more trouble' during the Civil War than any other city in the Union."—Gary Krist, author of City of Scoundrels and Empire of Sin
- "This capstone urban study of superb scholarship is highly recommended for U.S. and regional historians, Civil War scholars, metropolitan specialists, and general readers alike."—Library Journal, Starred Review
- Strausbaugh - journalist and free-range historian, author of rousing books on Greenwich Village, racial appropriation, and geriatric rockers - reexamines a strange chapter in city history that's not exactly unknown...but rarely seen in full...Edifyingly fascinating.—Vulture.com
- Strausbaugh...flanks the era's familiar protagonists with a boisterous chorus of idiosyncratic New Yorkers...in this kaleidoscopic, detail-filled account.—The New York Times
- "...a richly layered and often surprising history, as crowded and fast-paced as a Manhattan sidewalk."—Shelf Awareness
- Populated by an epic cast of characters lurching through evocative tableaux at a breakneck pace, Mr. Strausbaugh's book stands alone, but never still.—The Wall Street Journal
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