Draft Riot of 1863

Draft Riot of 1863
Four days of violence in New York City to protest the inequities of American Civil War conscription.

The law permitted draftees to buy their way out of army service for $300, a sum relatively few men could afford. When the drawing of names began on July 11, mobs of Irish and other foreign-born workers surged into the streets, burning draft headquarters and other buildings, and assaulting blacks, who they had feared would take their jobs. About 100 people (mostly rioters) died.

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▪ United States history
      major four-day eruption of violence in New York City resulting from deep worker discontent with the inequities of conscription during the U.S. Civil War (American Civil War). Although labouring people in general supported the Northern war effort, they had no voice in Republican policy and occasionally deserted from the army or refused reenlistment. Because of their low wages, often less than $500 a year, they were particularly antagonized by the federal provision allowing more affluent draftees to buy their way out of the Federal Army for $300. Minor riots occurred in several cities, and when the drawing of names began in New York on July 11, 1863, mobs (mostly of foreign-born, especially Irish, workers) surged onto the streets assaulting residents, defying police, attacking draft headquarters, and burning buildings. Property damage eventually totalled $1,500,000.

      The New York draft riot was also closely associated with racial competition for jobs. Northern labour feared that emancipation of slaves would cause an influx of African American workers from the South, and employers did in fact use black workers as strikebreakers during this period. Thus the white rioters eventually vented their wrath on the homes and businesses of innocent African Americans, and Civil War freedmen's associations were forced to send aid to their brethren in New York. (This racial ill feeling in the ranks of urban labour persisted into the second half of the 20th century.) The four-day draft riot was finally quelled by police cooperating with the 7th N.Y. Regiment, which had been hastily recalled from Gettysburg, and the drawing of names proceeded on August 19 without incident.

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Universalium. 2010.

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