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Northern Draft Riots During the Civil War

Primary Source Set

In July of 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, Americans were fighting on battlefields across the country—Vicksburg, Gettysburg, and New York City. The latter battle, which became known as the New York Draft Riots, was not a fight between Union and Confederate troops, however. The three-day riot was the destructive resistance of the city’s immigrant poor against a Congressional mandate that made all men aged twenty to forty-five eligible for the draft—and had a provision that let the rich buy their way out. The fighting left over one hundred people dead and buildings, homes, and orphanages destroyed. In particular, the mob of lower-class workers and immigrant gangs attacked African Americans and the city’s rich before the draft was postponed and militias quelled the violence. This source set brings together illustrations and texts showing the riots and their aftermath.

Additional resources for research

  1. 150 years ago today, Civil War draft riots grip New York, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
  2. New York City Draft Riots 1863, Mapping the African American Past, Columbia University.
  3. The Boston Draft Riot, Massachusetts Sesquicentennial Commission of the American Civil War.
  4. On this day: 1863, The New York City Draft Riots, Tenement Museum.

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