JULY 1863 by Irving Werstein

JULY 1863

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As New York brooded over the National Conscription Act, in July, 1863, there were portents of imminent carnage. A draftee could forfeit $300 for exemption from service (and laborers made only $20). New York's unskilled immigrant Irish population viewed the freed Negro as an economic threat to the labor market; the Emancipation Proclamation sparked Irish fears, which were fanned to conflagration by rabble rousers. And the Copperheads, Northern business men whose financial interests made them Southern in sympathy, made tinder of dissension. Mutterings and threats became murder and disaster. Law and order disintegrated under mob rule. The militia, police and fire departments together could not control waves of violence and arson. Fire hoses and muskets were turned against the massed demonstrators. Archbishop Hughes ranged the Roman Catholic clergy on the side of reason and entreated the Catholic laity to take no further part in the persecution of Negroes. The New York Draft Riota erupted seven days after the battle of Chancellorsville. And when bitterness lessened there had been some minor and accidental justice. John Andrews, a major inflammatory orator weary of speechmaking and inciting the mobs to hound Negroes, turned his steps toward the Negro mistress he had long concealed. It was she who had summoned the waiting police to arrest him. This is anarchy skillfully dissected by a journalistic . A recapitulation of the Draft Act Riots which will be of particular interest to Civil War fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1957
Publisher: Messner