True Confederate History
Powhatan Troop, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Camp 1382
                                    The New York City Draft Riots of 1863

During the first two years of the War Between the States the City of New York provided 18 Regiments for two years of service by appealing to the patriotism of it citizens to preserve the union.  In addition, most New York business men were anxious to preserve the union since they enjoyed lucrative business arrangements with the south.  New York businesses financed and insured many of the southern business ventures, profited from the cotton trade, and shipping operations, and provided manufactured products for much of the south.  They certainly did not wish to see that business relation destroyed by dissolution of the union, or the destruction of the southern economy.

But by 1855 over half of the City of New York population came from outside of the United States and most of these were German and Irish immigrants.  Many of the Germans were skilled tradesmen, but the Irish were typically forced to take low paying jobs and lived in dire poverty around the Five Points section of the city. These Irish immigrants competed with native New Yorkers and African Americans for the few low paying jobs in the city and tensions grew when African Americans were brought in to replace striking workers at several New York operations.

President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became effective in January 1863 and shifted the emphasis from a “war to preserve the Union” to a “war of emancipation”.  Recruitments dropped and desertion soared in the Union army, including entire divisions.  To bolster the Union forces Congress passed the National Conscription Act on March 3, 1863 which impacted all able bodied men between 20 and 45 years of age, but provided an exclusion for individuals who would pay the sum of $300.00 for a replacement. 

The first draft on July 11, 1863 was peaceable, but when the draft resumed on Monday, July 13, 1863 a major riot resulted.  The protestors were primarily Irish who resented the fact that rich men could avoid the draft and they were not willing to fight a war of emancipation to create more competition for their jobs.  The protesters attacked and burned the office of the Provost Marshall at 43rd Street and Third Avenue and burned adjoining buildings and their number eventually grew to 50,000 - 70,000 people.  Initially the rioters attacked draft offices and police stations, but soon turned their attention to blacks and abolitionist newspapers, including that of Horace Greeley,   The office of Horace Greeley and the Colored Orphan Asylum were totally destroyed.  The riots lasted 4 days before the 7th New York Regiment arrived from the recent Gettysburg battle to restore order.  The riots resulted in 119 deaths, and several thousand injuries.  Most of the deaths were protestors, but dozens of blacks were beaten, tortured or killed. Property damage was estimated at $1-2 million in 1863 terms, but would probably exceed $30 million at present costs.  Many blacks fled the city and by 1865, blacks made up only 1.5% of the city population.  So while New Yorkers volunteered to form 18 Regiments to save the Union, they had little desire to fight for emancipation.


Any male descendant of a Confederate Veteran who wishes to join the Powhatan Troop, or anyone with questions or comments please respond to SCV, P.O. Box 441, Powhatan, Virginia 23139.
HOME
Articles I, II, & III
Article IV
Article V