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What Happened in L.A. During the Civil War?

The American Civil War and Los Angeles might seem worlds apart. The conflict, after all, was fought between North and South; Los Angeles was in the distant West. It was fought over the issue of slavery; California was (officially) a free state. Tensions between northern and southern states had been simmering for decades; Los Angeles had only been recently been wrested from Mexico.

Nevertheless, the horrors of war nearly came to Los Angeles as the rebellion inflamed passions in distant Southern California. For a time, it seemed that Southern sympathizers might capture Los Angeles for the Confederacy, or that California might secede from the Union, form an independent "Pacific Republic," and declare neutrality.

The story of Civil War Los Angeles has been told before, but never as vividly as in D. J. Waldie's recent triptych for "Lost L.A." – a series of three longform articles about the anxieties of a frontier town that was barely beginning to grow into a city.

Southern California flirted with secession.

Civil War L.A.

A terrific disaster in the San Pedro harbor left the town reeling.

San Pedro, 1867

Los Angeles took some of its first steps toward becoming a real city.

Operating room, 1908

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