New York Draft Riots

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Image:New York Draft Riots - Project Gutenberg eText 16960.jpg
Federal troops firing at the oncoming mob.

The New York Draft Riots (July 13 to July 16, 1863; known at the time as Draft Week<ref>Barnes 5</ref>) were a series of violent disturbances in New York City that were the culmination of discontent with new laws passed by Congress to draft men to fight in the ongoing American Civil War. Lincoln sent several regiments of militia and volunteer troops to control the city. The rioters numbered in the thousands, and were predominantly Irish.<ref name="harpers1">Template:Cite web</ref> Smaller scale riots erupted in other cities about the same time.<ref name="wool">Template:Cite web</ref>

Initially intended to express anger at the draft, the protests degraded into civil disorder against the Republicans and especially African Americans. The conditions in the city were such that Major General John E. Wool stated on the 16th, "Martial law ought to be proclaimed, but I have not a sufficient force to enforce it." Using artillery and fixed bayonets the military suppressed the mob, but not before numerous buildings were ransacked or destroyed, including many homes, the Tribune office, an orphanage for blacks, and even P.T. Barnum's museum of oddities.


[edit] Pretext

An illustration of rioters attacking a building on Lexington Avenue.

A military manpower shortage occurred in the Union during the war. Congress passed the first conscription act in U.S. history on March 3, 1863, authorizing President Lincoln to draft citizens into military service who were between the ages of 18 and 35. Copperheads (Democrats opposed to the war) were dismayed by the news. Their main objection was to national service of any kind, but in terms of rhetoric, they attacked the provision allowing men drafted to pay either 300 US dollars or supply a substitute as a "commutation fee" to procure exemption from service, which led to the derisive term "300 dollar man". In actuality, the draft was designed to spur voluntary enlistment and relatively few men were formally drafted into service.<ref name="donald"> David Donald, Civil War and Reconstruction (2002) 229</ref>

However, in practice, men formed clubs whereby if one was drafted the others chipped in to pay the commutation fee. Regardless of the intent of the 300 dollar provision—as a means of securing some much-needed funding for the war effort or sparing the sons of the rich from serving similar to draft dodging—public perception among the middle and lower classes was that the war was now a "rich man's war". Such sentiment would later be embodied in a statement by one of the upper-class characters in the fictional film Gangs of New York (see below): "You can always hire one half of the poor to kill the other."

The draft coincided with the efforts of Tammany Hall (the base of Democratic power in the city) to enroll Irish immigrants as citizens so they could vote in local elections. Consequently, many such immigrants suddenly discovered they had to fight for their new country. Of the 184 rioters whose place of birth could be identified, 117 were born in Ireland, 40 in the United States and 27 in other European countries.[citation needed]

[edit] The riots

The second drawing of numbers was held on Monday July 13, 1863, but a furious mob soon attacked the assistant provost marshal's office. The rioters initially targeted draft offices and police stations but soon began to attack African Americans. The blacks became a scapegoat and the target of the rioters' anger; those who fell into the mob's hands were often beaten, tortured, and/or killed. Other targets included the office of the leading Republican newspaper, the New York Tribune.

Image:New York Draft Riots - fighting.jpg
Rioters attack federal troops

The New York police forces proved unable to quell the riots. The police were badly outnumbered and had to focus on minimizing losses and rescuing those whom they could. Control of the city was not re-established until the hasty arrival of federal troops, including the 152nd New York Volunteers, the 26th Michigan Volunteers, the 27th Indiana Volunteers and 7th Regiment New York State Militia from Frederick, Maryland after a forced march. In addition the governor sent in the 74th and 65th regiments of the New York state militia, which had not been in federal service, and a section of the 20th Independent Battery, New York Volunteer Artillery from Fort Schuyler in Throgs Neck.

By July 15th, the mob still controlled scattered portions of the city, but by the morning of the 16th, there were several thousand Federal troops in the city and the riot largely subsided.<ref name="wool" />

[edit] Aftermath

The exact death toll is unknown, but according to Cook (1974), at least 100 civilians were killed and at least 300 more injured; property damage was about 1.5 million US dollars.

On August 19, the draft was resumed. It was completed within 10 days without further incident, although far fewer men were actually drafted than had been feared: of the 750,000 selected for conscription nationwide only 6% actually went into service.<ref name="donald" />

[edit] Fictional portrayals

Image:Gangs of New York - ironclad.jpg
An ironclad fires on the city in the film Gangs of New York.

The Draft Riots are fictionally portrayed in the novels On Secret Service by John Jakes and Paradise Alley by Kevin Baker.

The 2002 Martin Scorsese film Gangs of New York, set in the years prior to and including the Draft Riots, attempts to depict "the birth of Manhattan and the way the different waves of immigrants have shaped [New York City's] evolution".<ref name="GONY">Template:Cite web</ref> The film includes an extended scene depicting the events. One notable scene shows Union Navy warships firing on the city. That is factually incorrect—no U.S. warships ever fired on the city.

[edit] References and further reading

  • Official Records of the American Civil War, volume xxvii, part ii (Washington, 1889)
  • David M. Barnes, The Draft Riots in New York, July, 1863: The Metropolitan Police, Their Services During Riot (1863) (available online)
  • Iver Bernstein, The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War (1991)
  • Adrian Cook, The Armies of the Streets: The New York City Draft Riots of 1863 (1874)
  • James Barnet Fry, New York and the Conscription of 1863, (New York, 1885)
  • James Dabney McCabe, The Life and Public Services of Horatio Seymour (1868) (available online)
  • John Nicolay and John Hay, Lincoln, volume vii, (1890)
  • Barnet Schecter, The Devil's Own Work: The Civil War Draft Riots and the Fight to Reconstruct America (2005)

[edit] Notes

<references />

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

ko:뉴욕 징병거부 폭동 ja:ニューヨーク徴兵暴動

New York Draft Riots

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