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  • Warriors into Workers: The Civil War and the Formation of Urban-Industrial Society in a Northern City
  • Marion Archer Truslow
Warriors into Workers: The Civil War and the Formation of Urban-Industrial Society in a Northern City. By Russell L. Johnson (New York, Fordham University Press, 2003) 388 pp. $55.00

"More graphically than anything else," wrote Marx and Engels in 1857, "The history of the army demonstrates the rightness of our views as to the connection between the productive forces and social relations. Altogether the army is of importance in economic development." ... You might work the thing out from that point of view" (145).1 Johnson took to heart what these other authors suggested in producing a work replete with sage observations and valuable conclusions about urban-industrial America during the Civil War era.

Johnson's study is divided into three parts and seven chapters. Part I deals with "Dubuque and Its Soldiers"; Part II covers "Military Service and Its Impact"; and a final section has a conclusion and two appendixes (with data on Dubuque society, politics, and its soldiers). Johnson codes the census returns for the United States in 1860 (hopefully more accurate than that for New York City) and the more reliable one of 1870 foranalysis of approximately 1,300 volunteers for the Union army fromDubuque.2 Local and national archives—together with soldiers' diaries, letters home, and pension files—are all useful in bringing out the history of these soldiers whose Civil War service resulted in either an occupational status quo after the war or, in many cases, decreased social mobility.

Johnson argues that "military service in the Civil War made a significant contribution to the creation of American industrial society" (2). Indeed, "Military service helped forge privates and noncommissioned officers into a working class. It also shaped officers into an entrepreneurial or managerial class" (12). "The argument here is not for a perfect correspondence between the two (the military and industry) but for an analogy. As a workplace, the army demonstrated in varying degrees many of the features that would become common in postwar industry," including "specialization or functional differentiation, standardization of tasks to ensure uniformity, hierarchical organization, and a spirit of formality and impersonality between officials and underlings" (147). Socialization processes started with military enlistment, training, and time-clock discipline (as artillery men, cavalry, or infantry), followed by combat. The nature, regimentation, and harshness of military life during the war primed these soldiers for industrial service after thewar.

The author clarifies the impact of the Civil War on urban-industrial society by focusing on time and place. By 1880, Dubuque had fallen from the country's eightieth-largest city in 1860 (population 13,000) to the eighty-eighth, but it improved from its ranking of ninety-third in manufacturing output to seventieth. A microcosm of many cities nationwide, [End Page 661] Dubuque "reached a particular stage of its development—the boundary between commercial and early-industrial capitalism—on the eve of the Civil War" (10). While considering the Panic of 1857 on theeve of the war, Johnson delves into what Chevalier called the "dangerous classes," the rough men and boys—immigrant and native alike—as well as those women who had done poor jobs as mothers and as wives.3 The male troublemakers were recruited mainly with monetary and psychological inducements (ethnic pride and improving the qualities of character necessary for citizenship), whereas women's service was predicated on the idea that they would "fill their social roles better after experiencing the privations incident to the war" (11).4 Rather than taking the uncritical tactic of "rich man's war and a poor man's fight," John- son compares the occupations of enlisted soldiers to the occupations of the city workforce as a whole, concluding that in the midst of a slumping economy in the region, Union army enlistment "seems to have been adopted as one more option in family strategies for survival" (12).5 The Civil War service of the soldiers sent many of the families to poor-relief agencies before their members were forced to join the mass of anonymous manufacturing workers in urban industrial America.

Can a social historian...


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