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During the American Civil War(1861–1865), theUnionfeared the secededConfederate States of America(CSA) would plan a northerly attack from Canada, which was controlled by the British Empire and remained neutral in the war. The Union feared the CSA would cross the Detroit River to launch this attack. For that reason, Union forces regularly patrolled the Detroit River and the fortification at Fort Wayne improved, although it was far removed from any major combat. A Confederate plot to capture the U.S. Navy warship,USS Michigan, and liberate Confederate prisoners fromJohnson Island, in western Lake Erie, was narrowly averted only after the Confederates had captured two passenger steamships.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Detroit's industrialization took off on an unprecedented scale. The Detroit River became the world's busiest commercial river and in 1908 was dubbed "the Greatest Commercial Artery on Earth" by The Detroit News.In 1907, the Detroit River carried 67,292,504 tons (61 billion kg) of shipping commerce through Detroit to markets all over the world. By comparison, London shipped 18,727,230 tons (16 billion kg), and New York shipped 20,390,953 tons (18 billion kg).