New York City Draft Riots


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New York Colony - Fear of Negro Insurrections - New York Riots of 1765 - The Fields of New York - The Eve of Revolution in New York - Capture of New York - Great New York Fire of 1776 - Evacuation of New York in 1783  New York in the Civil War - The New York Draft Riots (1862)

The Draft Riots. A draft of men for the National army was authorized in April, 1862. The President refrained from resorting to this extreme measure as long as possible, but, owing to the great discouragement to volunteering produced by the peace faction and the KNIGHTS OF THE GOLDEN CIRCLE, he issued a proclamation, May 8, 1863, for a draft, to begin in July, and caused the appointment in every congressional district of an enrolling board. This was made the occasion for inaugurating a counter-revolution in the free-labor States. Organized resistance to the measure instantly appeared. The leaders of the peace faction denounced the law and all acts under it as despotic and unconstitutional, and Judge McCunn, of New York, so decided. He was sustained by three judges of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania-Lowrie, Woodward, and Thompson-and, supported by these legal decisions, the politicians antagonistic to the administration opposed the draft with a high hand. The public mind was greatly excited by the harangues of public speakers and the utterance of the opposition newspapers when the draft was ordered. The national anniversary was made the special occasion for these utterances, and distinguished members of the peace faction exhorted the people to stand firmly in opposition to what they called the "usurpations of the government." Sneers were uttered on that day because Vicksburg had not been taken, and the President had made " a midnight cry for help " because of Lee's invasion in Maryland; when at that very moment Vicksburg, with 37,000 prisoners, was in the possession of General Grant, and Lee and his army, discomfited at Gettysburg, were preparing to retreat to Virginia. A leading opposition journal counselled its readers to provide themselves with a "good rifled musket, a few pounds of powder, and a hundred or so of shot," to resist the draft.

New York City Draft Riot

New York City Draft Riot

On the evening of July 3 an incendiary handbill, calculated to incite to insurrection, was scattered broadcast over the city; and it is believed that an organized outbreak had been planned, and would have been executed, but for the defeat of Lee at Gettysburg, and Grant's success at Vicksburg. When, on Monday, July 13, the draft began in a building on Third Avenue, at Forty - sixth Street, a large crowd (who had cut the telegraph wires leading out of the city) suddenly appeared, attacked the building, drove out the clerks, tore up the papers, poured a can of kerosene over the floor, and very soon that and an adjoining building were in flames. The firemen were not allowed to extinguish them, and the police who came were overpowered, and the superintendent (Kennedy) was severely beaten by the mob. So began a tumult in which thousands of disorderly persons were engaged -for full three days and nights, necessitating calling out the militia. The disorders broke out simultaneously at different points, evidently having a central head somewhere. The cry against the draft soon ceased, and those of " Down with the abolitionists!" " Down with the niggers!" " Hurrah for Jeff. Davis!" succeeded. The mob compelled hundreds of citizens-driven out of manufacturing establishments which they had closed, or in the streets-to join them ; and, under the influence of strong drink, arson and plunder became the business of the rioters. The special objects of their wrath were the innocent colored people. They laid in ashes the Colored Orphan Asylum, and the terrified inmates, who fled in every direction, were pursued and cruelly beaten. Men and women were beaten to death in the streets, and the colored people in the city were hunted as if they were noxious wild beasts. Finally, the police, aided by the military, suppressed the insurrection in the city, but not until 1,000 persons had been killed or wounded, and property to the amount of $2,000,000 destroyed. Over fifty buildings had been destroyed by the mob, and a large number of stores and dwellings, not burned, were sacked and plundered.



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