Friday Aug 28, 2020

29 - The New York City Draft Riots


About this episode: 

Far too many see the Union war effort in the American Civil War as a monolith - patriotic men across the north from Maine to Minnesota, flocking en masse together under national colors - to fight to preserve the Union, and to rid the nation of the hateful institution of slavery. As will be evidenced in this episode, nothing could be farther from the truth. Within the federal union in the summer of 1863, there was war-weariness. Men of influence like New York politician Samuel J. Tilden, and artist/inventor Samuel F.B. Morse dared to call for peace at any price. And it wasn’t only men of power - there were some men and women representing several societal classes who professed pro-southern sentiments. Indeed, New York City had its share of these so-called copperheads. In February of 1863, a development added to their disaffection: the passage of the Enrollment and Conscription Act. A draft. So by the 4th of July that year, with word that R.E. Lee was at the head of a Confederate army in Pennsylvania, and U.S. Grant’s siege dragging on and on down at Vicksburg, Mississippi, not everyone felt like celebrating independence. Too many saw no end to the conflict, and now, men were going to be forced to fight in it. Taken altogether, a cauldron of simmering, seething fuel - all that was needed was a spark, and it came on a Monday, the 13th of July. What followed, still the largest civil and most racially charged urban disturbance in American history. And now, its story.


Some Characters Mentioned In This Episode: 

Samuel J. Tilden

Samuel F.B. Morse

Horatio Seymour

George Opdyke

Thomas C. Acton

Horace Greeley


Source For This Episode:


James McCague, The Second Rebellion: The Story of the New York City Draft Riots of 1863, 1968


For Additional Reading:


Iver Bernstein, The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War, 1990


Get The Guide:

Want to learn more about the Civil War? A great place to start is Fred's guide, The Civil War: A History of the War between the States from Workman Publishing. The guide is in its 9th printing.


Producer: Dan Irving

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