« Stuff You Missed in History Class

SYMHC Classics: How the New York Draft Riots Worked

2018-07-07 | 🔗

We're revisiting an episode from 2011 featuring previous hosts Sarah and Deblina. To recruit troops for the U.S. Civil War, the Federal Congress passed the Union Conscription Act in 1863, which drafted able-bodied men between the ages of 20 and 45. Needless to say, this didn't go over well in New York. 

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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hey everybody. It is sad or day, which means it SAM to go back into the archive for one of our previous episodes and say it's our April. Twenty eleven episode on the New York draft riots from previous hosts, Sarah and Dublin, a working up on the hundred and fifty fifth anniversary of these rights. They started on July, thirteenth, eighteen sixty three, so it seemed like a good time to return to it, and while it is known as the draft riots, it was about a lot or the civil war draft immigration class struggle. And labour issues all played a part as well, and it remains a horrifying example of racist violence. Also, the New York Draft Riot will be making an appearance and our brand new sister podcast this day in history class, which launched on July first. So you can soon enter the end of today's episode to hear a trailer for the stay in history class, and you can hear a different take on the draft riots on that show. On July, thirteenth
welcome to stuff. You missed in history. Class from housetop works dot com. hello and welcome to the podcast, I'm going to charge reporting and I'm scared out, and all of you, history found out, there have probably heard a little bit about certain anniversary. That's coming up, it's the one hundred and fifty. If anniversary of the civil war, that's kicking off the seer actually this month, in fact, with the anniversary of the attack at Fort Sumter, and it's such a pivotal era in american history that were really still figuring out, how we should normally commemorate thus and podcast form we'd love your ideas, because we don't want to just do some massive multi year. Civil worthless
the Agora, something we're original than the right people are gonna, be talking about this for the next four years so neat. Now, if you have any ideas height of how you would like to hear about it, that maybe you aren't hearing about it in that way, other places- let us know, but the truth- is we often touch on topics round this particular era. We talked about the crafts escape a couple months ago and very recently, we talked about Victoria would hall, who is America's first female presidential candidate and that all took place during this era and the rights will discuss in this episode were also very much related to the war and even though they didn't constitute a battle per se, they did temporarily turn York City into a battleground. in what's often called the worst civil disturbance in american history. Here, if you ve seen the movie gangs of New York, you, you know how bloody and violent these rights really were yet. But what is it exactly that
them so bad. I mean there were smaller draft riots that took place in other areas of the country. So why did the eighteen sixty three New York draft riots get so out of control? There were really a few factors involved and, of course, we're gonna go into all of these in more detail, but to say you have them before we get going, There was the draft the issue around that there were union wartime policies, your issues with race relations, socio, economic, insecurities, an class struggle for life going on yeah, and so what we're gonna talk about here is how did these issues combined to fuel this kind of perfect storm of rage in New York's working Class and what exactly happened over those for full days at the riots lasted and, of course, finally, what did it take to put a stop all that I felt before we get into all that would set the scene a lot of New York's working class near cities working class in the MID eighteen, hundreds was made up
recent emigrants and a lot of them were from Germany in Ireland and it became a primary destination for the Irish in particular, especially after the potato famine of the eighteen. Forty, according to infect Peter Britannica from eighteen, forty one to eighteen. Fifty Irish made up forty nine percent of the total immigration to the United States, so huge group of people yeah. I think it's something like one in four New York residence was an irish immigrant and of these there mostly unskilled laborers, such as dockworkers, ditch Digger Street papers and mostly poor. So in general, over the first couple of years of the war working class, the immigrant community, they basically court at aunt in general and in fact they were encouraged to almost by Irish by leaders and the Irish Catholic community. So you know it to support it in some way, if not by it,
steam than finding another way to or the effort it at home, yet to support the union. Some some did participate, but by the time Eighteen, sixty three rolled around that sentiment in general that sentiment of support had changed somewhat. One, the irish brigade. If the union had lost a lot of men in battle, President Lincoln also issued the Emancipation proclamation on January. First, eighteen sixty three and what that did is. It basically gave the war and new purpose. Besides the original goal of preserving the union, which was free slaves, the new goal that is Irish Americans didn't like this, because they were afraid that african Americans we're gonna come up once they were free, they're gonna come up north and take their jobs, so that was with the slow, paying job market,
Wherein right so that was why that sort of decreased their attitude of support for the war. In its worth, mentioning the relations between Working class, African Americans and Working class irish immigrants were we pretty simple: are you know they re in similar, similar positions? They shared a lot in common. They were both poor, both face discrimination. They lived in close proximity to gather in the lower half of Manhattan and day
as we mention competing for these same low skilled labour jobs and that job competition we should mention it grew especially heated during the war. One memorable occasion, for example, was in spring of eighteen sixty three during a strike of irish dockworkers, african Americans, they had been called in a strike breakers in the situation, and so the strikers attacked and beat them until federal troops came around for protection. So this is what was in the air at the time he s a trouble was brewing already right and then the final straw was when Federal Congress pass the enrollment act.
Also known as this conscription act on March. Third, one thousand eight hundred and sixty three now this authorized a draft that required all able bodied men between the ages of twenty and forty five to serve unless you furnished an acceptable substitute or paid the government a three hundred dollars fee, and there was another aspect to this as well. According to Susanna Euro Bruce's article summer of irish rage in America, civil war, this acted also provided that any immigrant who had declared his intent to become a citizen could now be draft. unless he left the country within sixty five day. So totally changing a game here here in New York. Working class. Immigrant communities consequently enraged over this new act, and there are a few reasons behind that military service used to be
and all you mentioned earlier, that it was encouraged at least from the beginning of the war, but it was still optional. Now it's required so they felt like they were being forced to fight to free slaves, who they thought might just come to New York City, and take their low paying jobs. And then the other thing that enraged emigrants over this act was that it obviously favoured the wealthy who could get out of service by drop in that three hundred dollars and paying somebody else to do it right. So it made an already tense situation even worse, much worse and then another thing that kind of helped you know set the scene for this was the thousands of New York troops travelled south in late June to help out with the gettysburg campaign so left the city virtually and defended yeah. So that is the situation in New York City when, on Saturday Age, a lie eleventh. Eighteen sixty three, the first day of the city's first draft lottery begin.
since the new law, so the next night after after that very first draft working class, New Yorkers met up in streets and saloons and whenever the names of the men who had been drawn for the draft already in and started to make a plan started to talk about ways that they could fight back and stop this from getting any further out of control yeah than in the morning on Monday July, thirteenth, when more names were to be drawn, a bunch of them began working their way up, town headed toward the Provost Marshals Office on Mass, and they picked up some more workers from workshops and factories on their way. Now we should mention that at this point the group also included german speaking artisans and native born protestant journeymen. Many of them were even volunteer firemen, which was a really powerful political and organizational force in the city at the time- and this was in addition to
the working class irish laborers, and we just want to mention that, because a lot of times you seen sources that, oh it's it's the Irish, it's all the irish and there were other people involved, at least on this first day at well as well, and there were women and the group as well as men. That should be noted two, so in her article Bruce paints. This kind of scary picture I mean imagine this coming towards. You saw the people. Adam. She refers to New York attorney George Templeton strong description of the day in which he describes a growing crowd of quote gaunt, looking savage men and- women and even little children, armed with brickbats, stone, poker shovels and togs coal scuttles and even ten pans and a bit of iron. Ok, civic found a little ragtag mean kind of scary, but don't be fooled because either no they're, carrying we'll bits of iron, and they have kids hanging out with them. The crowd meant
business and there were enough of them to to accomplish so I'm so as the draft selection began around one thousand and thirty in the morning. Thousands of these protesters began to get around the building and they interrupted the lottery, and then they torch the buildings meaning that was the first really bag signal. This is something major. Unfortunately, though they didn't stop there. The protesters had several targets over the next few days, which were related to some of the tensions that we discussed in the intro to this podcast, for example, major target african Americans, perhaps the most visible target of the entire four days, we're gonna, discuss people and institutions related to their public republican party. That was another big target of theirs. The they chose this party as a target, because it was the party that started the war that had instituted the draft that wanted to abolish slavery, all of those things that they saw as a threat to their unum, their lives or security
Merchants and stores were also a target, particularly for looting, but also partially further associations with wealth. policemen and union soldiers who attempted to defended. Government property were also another big target: this episode of stuff. You missed in history classes brought to you by W W previously wait. Watchers did you know that most people have already given up on their resolutions thirteen days and of the new year? I'm really proud to say something does not have to be you either I for Joint W W, because I really wanted a plan that was going to encourage me to make healthier eating choices and W W format
They watch us has really done that great thing about the new. My deputy programme is that it really encourage you to stick with it. It is their most groundbreaking and customize proven weight loss plan when you join the my deputy programme, you'll take an assessment about your eating habits and you're behaviors, and that will find civilly match you up to a customize weight loss plan, one that can make it easier for you to stick to head on over to Debbie Debbie dot com, that's w w dot com to join Debbie Debbie today with a limited time offer We're gonna go through the day day by day destruction Tolley and cover some of the individual stories. But by the end of that first day, it's it's pretty crucial that some of the riders switch their allegiance, including the group of firefighters that we mention to begin to help the police. Instead, some people saw that this was not the fight they wanted.
and that it was getting out of hand. So the majority of the mob that kept on riding through the week was working class and they were mostly working class. Irish starting with some of the damage done on day, one after setting fire to the Provost Marshals office, riders seized and burned the armory at Second Avenue and twenty first, which contained rifle, and guns, and it was generally just a symbol of war, but the writers then moved on. They attacked homes of policemen and businessmen, they also attacked and torched the colored orphan asylum at Fifth avenue and thirty. Fourth, which is one that you hear about a lot, and sometimes you see accounts that describe two hundred thirty seven children barely escaping, though some other sources say that that's a little bit of an exaggeration. They were actually evacuated prior to the attack, but I mean regardless hundreds of kids
left homeless will an african Americans were increasingly targeted throughout the day too, and so was their property, and so were whites that helped them even prostitutes who catered interracial clientele were targeted really pretty far reaching with who they were going after and African Americans the white to help them word chased salted lynched in some cases and a lot of them just got out of the city. Has they didn't really have any other choices? faces thing to do and kind of last major point of day. One was the attack on the New York Daily Tribune, newspaper offices, the confrontation between the police and the riders had really escalated, and the newspaper editor Horace Greeley, with considered an ardent republican and protestors, thought that the paper not only represented republican ideals but was kind of a mouthpiece for them and decided to go after it.
Yeah, so we could see day one pretty much reached out to all those socio economic, racial, all those issues that we talked about in the beginning that they had political everything came into play. Even on that first and day to a kind of more this, right. I mean writers continued to attack wealthy people, their homes, their businesses, they closed down factories. They took weapons from munitions plants, they burned bridges literally and figuratively. I assume they wrecked telegram. Often wrote railroad lines even other non rioting, Irish Catholic weren't, safe from them according to an hour
Go by Iver, Bernstein and civil war times an Derek send an Irishwoman with a black husband died of injury. She got while trying to protect her son from walk rioters. I mean they basically would have killed her son if she hadn't shielded him with her own body. Another example: that's what you hear a lot: Colonel Henry O Brien Commander of the Eleventh New York volunteers. He tried to support policemen by having his men fire can and over the raging crowds of rioters settling down about yeah, but rumours later circulated that at least one woman and child had died. Because of this, Iders ended up going to o home, destroying it and then, when he came back to check on the damage they captured him and men and women rioters alike, beat him with their fists and clubs, and they turn took turns pounding his face beyond recognition. So so be violence extends to the Irish as well. It also extends to retail a Brooks further store in the downtown
Seventh, ward is attacked through probably wondering why bricks brothers, the store, was a contractor for the. U S: government and author, still today, a retailer catering to wealthy people and they had some recent rate labour troubles of their own hundreds of tailors had gone strike for higher wages only four month earlier through the rioters, Roosten well bricks. Brothers We got our eyes on you, too yeah and by that afternoon rioters had also erected barricades, and this is an interesting point because they basically just who's. The debris resulting from the riots to put put it on their own waterfront neighborhoods in various locations around the city to to use a shields from police who were trying to kind of get at them and keep them down to make their own little city to write like a little forward. So were kind of em. I don't know I guess they were sort of a double edged sword. They were easy for police to find so they know knew exactly where to go. Look for
writers go where the barricades are, but they were also really tough for them to breach. So it just made battles, I think, a little more intense Russia Emily. First, we get into day three. We start to see the police and the politicians really taking more action. Finally, but throughout all of us, the violence on African Americans had continued day three was really no different. They were hanged. Oil poured into their wounds burned. One terrible example is that of Abraham Franklin, who is a disabled african american coachman. He was hanged, his body was pulled down by U S troops, and then it was strung up again by the rioters. Finally, he was cut down by a sixteen year old butcher, name, Patrick Butler and dragged through the streets. His corpse was dragged through the streets by the genitals, so really horrific things that the right
others are doing yeah, and I mean this wasn't just being ignored. Local authorities and politician they'd been trying new strategies, or at least debating, and thinking about what to do to get the situation under control kind of all week. Long since Monday and Andy the New York National Guard and the police. They finally decided to join forces and focus on a few key areas around the city, so cut out the biggest fire yeah put out the biggest fires, kind of keep the people in the wealthier, neighborhoods contained and safe and then target certain areas where these barricades were, and this made for more violent encounters between the rioters in the police. But it also helped, as we said, contain, that violence more around the barricaded areas and those working class neighborhoods where a lot of stuff is going on and the politicians for their part. They were basically at opposite ends of the spectrum. The reply
weakens they basically view this as a straight up violent uprising. They had been urging Mayor George Updike all week to declare martial law and just take care of it. Put a stop to it. Tat the Democrats thou both the state, an Tammany hall, saw the riots something that was somewhat Legion you know there was the there with the legitimate complaint behind at all, and it was the working class political protest, though they were looking for other solutions are they didn't want to go for martial law. So, on the third day they hoped that they might curb some of the rioters anger by proposing a relief act to help alleviate the quote: unequal operation of conscription by appropriating two point: five million dollars through the sale of conscription exemption by
that MRS Tammany Hall Democrats and they had been single all long, that the draft was unconstitutional and they hope that, just by coming out with this relief act may be, people would come down a little bed and realise that the politicians were trying to figure out a solution for them. Yeah. Unfortunately, though, it didn't have the desired result. Violence just spread to Staten Island into Brooklyn, and there were federal orders to delay implementation of the draft. There were published in the papers the next day, so I mean really looked kind of hopeless at this point that they were going to be able to settle it peacefully and then day, for we have a new and reduction of of players. In this whole thing, more than four thousand troops returned from Gettysburg, and they were called back specifically for this purpose to occupy the city, to face the rioters and working with the police and militia naval forces, and even worse,
point cadets, who are already involved, try to get things back under control and the increased military presence a dead. Let the city restore some of its normal activities. They could reopen the street car in the stage service, but there were still outburst of violence and soldiers were attacked and troops started, fighting back and even took some rioters prisoner. But finally, the battles were were dying down yet once the military presence was there and they started fight back out. These were kind of the last battles of the week, but I don't know if I'm just going back to the movie there if you have seen gangs of New York and, in the end, when they're fighting Against the rioters end, the troop show up and then all of a sudden the navy starts bombing. The city well Bruce actually says that Scorsese. He took some licence here where that happens, because that never happened. The Navy ships never bond to the city, so just a little fun fact.
If your fan of the moving bombing cities always pretty bad politics would have been pretty bad. Your or Lincoln sources say if he had em if he had actually done that would have been bad for reelection, but just just real life with the introduction of the four thousand troops by Friday. There was this sort of uneasy peace, finally in New York City, but it was estimated that the city had suffered one point: five: five million to two million dollars in property damage and somewhere around one hundred and nineteen people are known for sure to have been killed. Sometimes, though, you see figures going up to a thousand people, although those might have been based on unsubstantiated words regardless, though thousands of people were injured, displace throughout this entire thing and according to Bruce for a lot of native born New Yorkers, the riots just confirmed their prejudices about irish immigrants. However, it's worth pointing Now that, although they initially blamed Lincoln and his
illustration for what had happened. The irish Catholic Community did express a lot of regret for the violence and in the aftermath of the right pretty much as soon as it was over. You know, leaders of the irish community and and people in it they were, they felt bad about what had happened. This episode of stuff, you missed in history, glasses, brought to you by Norton three sixty with lifelong. Let's just say, your shopping online
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history, that's Norton, DOT, com, slash history for twenty five percent off, also worth pointing out that there were irishman on both sides of the situation. There were many who were are fighting for the war and who condemned what had happened as soon as I heard about it and the eventual outcome of the draft council. Will you know that's what this whole thing started ever is pretty bizarre. It was eventually enforced that August and there was a heavy military presence there to oversee it and a county loan ornaments to pay the three hundred dollar waiver fee for poor conscripts. It went off without incident, it seemed like it was going: ok, but according to brood over the next couple of years, the Tammany Hall Democrats raised enough
money to buy the exemption of nearly every drafted man who didn't want to serve, though I am sure this is the major simplification, but it kind of seems pointless. It does. I guess me, make ie whole draft seem kind of active, but I think it may have gone at least a little ways and making the irish working class working in general, I feel a little less hopeless about the whole war situation and its worth pointing out also Many new Yorker still fought in the war, after that they still joined up with some local militia and immigrants included. So there are still people who took part in part in the war effort, even if the draft didn't necessarily get them there. When Bruce even even have a good about that, you know feeling less like rioting and more alike protesting politically and in trying to get political right.
Yes, she says that the working class became increasingly skilled at hunting their protests with ballots, rather than their fast, so positive developments. I think that's a positive note. and a kind of riotous some gory. Thank you so much for joining us for this Saturday classic, since this is out of the archive, if you an email address or facebook url or something similar during the course of the show that may be obsolete now. So here is our current contact information, we're at history podcast at how stuff works, dot com and then we're at missed in history all over social media. That is our name on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, pinterest and Instagram. Thanks again for this,
Furthermore, on this and thousands of other topics visit how stuff works, dot- com, hello, I'm Tracy V Wilson. I hope the podcast stuff you missed in history class, with my friend and colleague Holly for I over the past few years Every day on our social media. We ve been talking about what happened on this day in history, so buyer addressed in a pacifist, an activist who helped plan the March on Washington for jobs and freedom was born on this day in nineteen, twelve or honesty. One thousand seven hundred and eighty nine women marched on Versailles to demand a solution to an enormous food shortage. Those things did not happen on the same day, but you get the picture. So for years, we've been that- and it suddenly dawned on us what if this was its own podcast. So that's what we're doing starting July,
First, we are launching a kind of a little sister podcast stuff you missed in history class. It's called this day in history class, it's about five minutes a day every day and it gives- The highlights of something notable that happened on that day in history, so come and listen, you'll be able to find this day in history class on Apple podcast, Google play and wherever else in fine podcast. This episode is brought you bite, Norton, lifelong. When you shop Bank and browse with your smartphone. It feels like you.
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