New York City Draft Riots
(July 11-13, 1863)
"The nation is at this time in a state of Revolution, North, South, East, and West," wrote the Washington Times during the often violent protests that occurred after Abraham Lincoln issued the March 3, 1863, Enrollment Act of Conscription. Although demonstrations took place in many Northern cities, the riots that broke out in New York City were both the most violent and the most publicized.
With a large and powerful Democratic party operating in the city, a dramatic show of dissent had been long in the making. The state's popular governor, Democrat Horatio Seymour, openly despised Lincoln and his policies. In addition, the Enrollment Act shocked a population already tired of the two-year-old war.
By the time the names of the first draftees were drawn in New York City on July 11, reports about the carnage of Gettysburg had been published in city papers. Lincoln's call for 300,000 more young men to fight a seemingly endless war frightened even those who supported the Union cause. Moreover, the Enrollment Act contained several exemptions, including the payment of a "commutation fee" that allowed wealthier and more influential citizens to buy their way out of service.
Perhaps no group was more resentful of these inequities than the Irish immigrants populating the slums of northeastern cities. Poor and more than a little prejudiced against blacks-with whom they were both unfamiliar and forced to compete for the lowest-paying jobs-the Irish in New York objected to fighting on their behalf.
On Sunday, July 12, the names of the draftees drawn the day before by the Provost Marshall were published in newspapers. Within hours, groups of irate citizens, many of them Irish immigrants, banded together across the city. Eventually numbering some 50,000 people, the mob terrorized neighborhoods on the East Side of New York for three days looting scores of stores. Blacks were the targets of most attacks on citizens; several lynchings and beatings occurred. In addition, a black church and orphanage were burned to the ground.
All in all, the mob caused more than $1.5 million of damage. The number killed or wounded during the riot is unknown, but estimates range from two dozen to nearly 100. Eventually, Lincoln deployed combat troops from the Federal Army of the Potomac to restore order; they remained encamped around the city for several weeks. In the end, the draft raised only about 150,000 troops throughout the North, about three-quarters of them substitutes, amounting to just one-fifth of the total Union force.
Source: The Civil War Society's "Encyclopedia of the Civil War"
From The Official Records
The following are reports, taken from the "Official Records of the War of the Rebellion", of some of the individuals involved in the military operations during the riots.
Col. William F. Berens Sixty-fifth Regiment New York State National Guard Col. Marshall Lefferts Seventh Regiment New York State National Guard Col. Watson A. Fox Seventy-fourth Regiment New York State National Guard Maj. Gen. C. W. Sandford First Division New York State National Guard Maj. Gen. John Z. Wool Commanding Department of the East Col. James B. Fry Provost-Marshal-General, U. S. Army Mr. Edward S. Sanford U. S. Military Telegraph Service
This Page last updated 03/03/02
RETURN TO CIVIL WAR POTPOURRI PAGE
RETURN TO OFFICIAL RECORDS PAGE