The Civil War and the Draft Riots
The riots that occurred in New York in 1863 are usually termed as one of the most violent riots that have ever been witnessed in the city. Although riots were not uncommon in the city because it had already experienced two social explosions, the riot that occurred in 1863 was among the worst since it lasted for about five days and left behind trails of destruction. New York had the main ingredient for violence, the unattached males. They were responsible for the shootings and assaults that were being witnessed in the city. The reasons for violence were political, social, and racial resentments. This essay looks into the factors that led to the Draft Riots and the impacts that were brought forth by the riots.
What factors contributed to the draft riots?
Class warfare was one of the factors that led to the occurrence that was witnessed in New York. The poor class had been suffering for a while, and they saw the war as another way that was being used by the wealthy to benefit from their suffering. Their anger had to do with something more than the draft. It had to do with the wealthy class who were thriving and could easily have their way out of the 300 dollar draft. One of the rioters said that the war was between the poor and the rich, with the rich being seen as the enemy by this law (New York Times, 1863).
Racial and political differences also contributed to these riots. The city’s white working-class especially the Irish people were angry that they were being forced to fight a war in which the participants were left out (Peterson, 2005). The rioters felt that it was unfair that the political elites who were responsible for the war and the Black-Americans who were the cause of the war would be left out of the fighting mission. In Addition, the Irish attack was focused on Lyon’s house, the heart of the black community household. Most of the attacks were also aimed at African Americans and their property.
According to Peterson (2005), New York’s working-class who had initially supported the war backed down after they were frustrated by the rising prices and falling wages. The Irish working class who were residing in lower Manhattan were living in poverty and overcrowded conditions. When the Irish people went on a strike, they were being replaced by African-Americans, which meant that they lost their source of livelihood. This infuriated them further to wage war against the African-Americans. By the second day, only the workers from industries and common workers of the Irish origin were conducting the riots. The Irish people who were part of the group that withdrew their support for the war were also predominant during the riots (New-York Historical Society, n.d). This shows that the rioters were against the poor living conditions that they were being exposed to and loss of their jobs.
What are some of the impacts?
The Riots led to the suspension of the Conscription Act in July. The governments of New York City and Brooklyn offered to purchase drafts for citizens who needed to be exempted from the war using public money. This helped ease the pressure and allow Democratic leaders to strengthen their governance in the city. The Democrats were able to get the support of the Irish people and other immigrants who had highly contributed to the increasingly tense relationship that was being experienced in the United States.
Huge losses were witnessed in the city in terms of property. Buildings were burned, stores emptied, furniture was charred, and other millions of damages recorded. The total losses that were incurred are estimated to be about 2.5 million dollars, and the number of deaths is not clearly recorded since some of them were not reported.
It is clear that there are several reasons that fueled the anger and resentfulness among the rioters who took over the city of New York in 1863. Huge damages were witnessed in the city during that time, and many lives were lost as well. The Draft Riot is actually among the worst forms of violence that were witnessed in New York at that time.
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