New York City Draft Riots Essay

1844 words - 7 pages

On July 11th eighteen sixty-three, America began the first nationwide military draft in order to fill the washed-out ranks of the Union Army. While many people in the country opposed the draft, it ran smooth, rebellion free in nearly every city; all except New York. The people of New York, in particularly Irish immigrants, felt the Conscription Act of 1863 was unconstitutional, and that a revolt was indeed necessary. The Conscription Act included a clause allowing a person to pay $300 to avoid service. This sum, about half the annual wage of working-class Americans, was beyond the means of most people. Workers resented the fact that wealthy people could buy their way out of the military while poor and middle-class people could not. The chance of a citizen finding a replacement was nearly impossible; therefore, the only people who could get out of joining the Army were the rich. As a result of the draft, the slogan that the Civil War was a "rich man's war, but a poor man's fight" became true, causing many draft riots to break out. (Parton pgs.44-45)
For the next week, angry and armed mobs interrupted the first ever federal draft because they considered it was unjust. Many Irish immigrants entered into America and within a half hour were instated into the Union Army. They had come to America to seek a new, aspiring life but were given nothing but a gun and helmet and told to go fight. This was clearly not fair, for this was not their battle to fight. The Civil War, which was arguably started due to the conflicting views of the wealthy Northern and Southern Americans, now turned into a poor immigrant's fight. These people were being forced into the war and had no way of getting out because they were poor and quite naïve about the whole situation. These immigrants along with other poor citizens felt that they were being abused because they weren't well off, and in effect rebelled. They believed the draft would be outlawed if they would just be persistent and fight long and hard enough; however, time, along with many experienced troops, would eventually bring an end to these riots. What started on this Monday morning in New York City as a "demonstration against the draft" soon grew into a widespread attack against Lincoln's Republican Party, local organizations, and also caused many gruesome racial uprisings.
On Monday, July 13 the rally against the draft began when hundreds of New York City middle class men protested by not showing up for their jobs in the morning. They fled the streets; closing down factories and shops, and gathered men at work to join them. They all met at Central Park, where they began carrying signs which said "No Draft". On their way to where the draft lottery would be held the real rebelling began. Many began stealing from shops, cutting down telephone poles and signs, and some even attacked police officers. By now people from all over town had heard of the events and many came quickly to join; the New York City...

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