New York City Draft Riots

A video from the BBC show Copper gives us a good summary of the New York City draft riots.  The draft law which went into effect in the summer of 1863 was immensely unpopular.  New York was not the only city to experience riots because of it, Buffalo and Boston for example also experiencing disturbances, but New York was by far the worst.  Ironically, the first drawing of numbers for the draft on July 11, 1863 went off peacefully.  The second day of drawing of numbers on July 13, 1863 set off the worst urban riots hitherto seen in American history.  For a week New York was in turmoil from anti-draft rioting that in the history of New York City is known as Draft Week.

Diarist George Templeton Strong, a rich lawyer living in New York City, left an eyewitness account of those days.  As can be seen from his account Strong hated the Irish.  The riots cemented but did not create his antipathy.  Here is a typical non-riot related mention of the Irish:

The earth had caved in a few minutes before and crushed the breath out of a pair of ill-starred Irish laborers. They had just been dug out, and lay white and stark on the ground. Around them were a few men and fifteen or twenty Irish women, wives, kinfolk or friends. The women were raising a wild, unearthly cry, half song, wailing as a score of daylight Banshees. Now and then one of them would throw herself down on one of the corpses, or wipe some trace of defilement from the face of the dead man with her apron, slowly and carefully, and then resume her lament. It was an uncanny sound to hear. Our Irish fellow citizens are almost as remote from us in temperament and constitution as the Chinese.

Even with such a strong prejudice, Strong is an important source for the riots, especially as they appeared to the non-Irish.   Here are his diary entries for those days: (more…)

Published in: on June 4, 2020 at 3:30 am  Comments Off on New York City Draft Riots  
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