THE WILD EAST
◗ Ian Hernon
◗ Amberley Publishing (2022)
◗ 320 pages (softback)
As someone who’ll watch endless repeats of afternoon TV ‘Westerns’, my picture of America in the mid-late 19th Century is one of gunfights and sudden death out West. In fact, as the author shows, authenticated killings were low, towns quickly became civilised, and the most dominant factor was probably boredom – hence the need for legends.
The real ‘killing zone’ was the cities in the East, where successive large-scale waves of poor European immigrants led to major civil unrest, including significant armed conflict between police/militia and the mobs. The author chronicles the sickening lynchings (often accompanied by burning the victim to death), exacerbated by racist pronouncements by leading citizens and indeed lawyers. Fear of under-cutting of wage levels, combined with appalling housing and employment conditions, police corruption, and (in the later years) the protection rackets and other organised crime, raised the murder rates to extraordinary levels.
I can’t quite conceive how you’d create a wargame out of this, but this is a most compelling story of the darker side of the growth of the USA.