by Andy Mateja

This is a disgraceful chapter in the annals of the American Civil War

About one week after the Union victory fought at Gettysburg, a riot of major proportions broke out in New York City in an attempt to quell the recently enacted National Conscription Act of July 1863.

Nearly one thousand protestors (many drunk) gathered in front of NY City Hall….cursing and attacking with bats, crowbars  its’ affluent and well to do citizens, along with black free men and former slaves in addition to the Lincoln Administration as a result of this unpopular law.  The rioting lasted 4 days and resulted in almost 1200 dead and injured along with $$ millions of wanton destruction in a Northern city whose population at the time was nearly 814,000 men, women and children !!!

Many New Yorkers supported the Lincoln Administration and many were also “Copperheads” who were opposed to what they called “Mr Lincoln’s War”.  A provision of the new law allowed for a $300 FEE to be paid in order to “hire” a substitute a replacement for someone who was “drafted”.

Many of New York City’s “poor” Irish immigrants did not have $300 and also who feared recently freed Blacks slaves would come and take their jobs away. Buildings were set on fire and firemen prevented from dousing flames while telegraph wires cut downtown. The NY City police force (about 800) were assigned to protect downtown businesses from destruction along with the initial 300 Union troops assigned there (including a few invalid soldiers of which two were beaten to death)

New York Governor Seymour tried to break up the riot with the 11th NY Volunteers opening fire on NY civilian protestors (men AND women) and have Washington put an end to the new Draft…

Thousands of additional Federal troops that had just fought at Gettysburg finally arrived in NYC (13 regiments in all) to disband the rioting protestors which were now estimated at between 20, 000 to 50,000 participants. Ten thousand troops remained in NYC in order for the draft to proceed…..

There were some who believed that there was “fingerprints” of Richmond’s involvement in the New York City Draft Riots but that fact was never proven.

By late summer in 1863 a semblance of order returned to New York City. While most would prefer to reflect on the epic Union Victory at Gettysburg, some will NEVER forget the unspeakable tragedy of a “crowd gone wild” in America’s largest city at the ZENITH of the Civil War……..!!!!!

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