On this day July 13, 1863

In New York City, opponents of conscription begin three days of rioting which will be later regarded as the worst in United States history.

The riots known at the time as Draft Week, were 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.

The riots were the largest civil insurrection in American history apart from the Civil War itself. President Abraham Lincoln sent several regiments of militia and volunteer troops to control the city. Although not the majority, many of those arrested had Irish names, according to the lists compiled by Adrian Cook in his “Armies of the Streets.”

The protestors were overwhelmingly working class men, resentful because they believed the draft unfairly affected them while sparing wealthier men who could pay to exclude themselves from its reach.

Initially intended to express anger at the draft, the protests turned ugly and degraded into “a virtual racial pogrom, with uncounted numbers of blacks murdered on the streets”.

The conditions in the city were such that Major General John E. Wool stated on July 16, “Martial law ought to be proclaimed, but I have not a sufficient force to enforce it.” The military suppressed the mob using artillery and fixed bayonets, but not before numerous buildings were ransacked or destroyed, including many homes and an orphanage for black children.

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