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Mahoney examines how members of the middle class from small cities across the great West were transformed by boom and bust, years of recession, and civil war. He argues that in their encounters with national economic forces, the national crisis in politics, and the Civil War, middle class people were cut adrift from the social identity that they had established in the 'face to face' communities of the 'hometowns' of the urban West. By grounding them in their hometown ethos, and understanding how the Panic of 1857 and the subsequent recession undermined their lives, the author provides important insights into how they encountered, responded to, and were changed by their experiences in the Civil War. Providing a rare view of social history through the framework of the Civil War, the author documents, in both breadth and depth, the dramatic change and development of modern life in nineteenth-century America.