Essay on New York City Draft Riots

Essay on New York City Draft Riots

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New York City at the time of the Civil War can be explained as a small roaming forest fire with the potential to cause an exponential amount of damage, not only to the city but the Union. The city, in a state of constant turmoil over a great many things; race, class, politics, and a constantly diminishing amount of available employment opportunities for it’s 800,000 citizens. The riots, which took place in New York between July 13 and July 17, 1863, are called by most, the “New York City Draft Riots.” When in all actuality the enactment of the draft was simply the catalyst to the already engulfing issues that had plagued and divided the city among lines of every distinction. The events over these five days are still widely viewed as the most destructive civil upheaval in terms of loss of life and the “official” number of those who gave their lives in those five days is estimated around 119.
The Conscription Act delivered the final straw in the long list of discrepancies, the catalyst that turned that small forest fire into a raging inferno of hate and fear. The white working class (mostly Irish immigrants) were infuriated, they couldn’t understand how they, white, hard-working voters were being punished. The government was forcing them to fight a war they didn’t support and the only way they could avoid it was to pay 300 dollars (a years wages for most), yet they would pay African Americans 1,000 dollars for volunteering. The new federal draft conditions also expanded to include a wider age range of men it would take. “The conscription law targeted men between the ages of 20 and 35, and all unmarried men up to age 45.” Adding to the already high tensions of laborers, since the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation they ...


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...Irene. “New York Draft Riots.” Virtual New York. accessed September 8, 2013. http://www.vny.cuny.edu/draftriots/Intro/draft_riot_intro_set.html.

Baldwin, Peter C. “The Fourth Ward: Life and Death in New York 1860-1870, The Draft Riots. Accessed November 11, 2013. http://vm.uconn.edu/~pbaldwin/ward4p8.html

Harris, Leslie M. “In The Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863. New York: University of Chicago Press, 2003. http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/317749.html

Kennedy, C. Robert. “How To Escape The Draft.” New York Times: On This Day. accessed September 12, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/harp/0801.html.

McGruder, Kevin. “Black New York and the Draft Riots.” The New York Times Opinion Page. Accessed November 11, 2013. http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/26/black-new-york-and-the-draft-riots/?_r=1

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