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The New York City Draft Riots of 1863

The History of the Notorious Insurrection at the Height of the Civil War
Narrated by: Scott Clem
Length: 1 hr and 20 mins
Categories: History, American
4.5 out of 5 stars (3 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Most adults alive today either remember or have heard of the turbulent 1960s, but far fewer are familiar with the similarities those more recent protests had with the earlier unrest of a century earlier. Although the Civil War is remembered as the seminal event of American history, and it is often portrayed as the Lincoln administration and the North fighting bravely to preserve the Union and ultimately end slavery, the truth at the time was far more complicated. Perhaps most notably, as with Vietnam, the Civil War was very unpopular among many in the North, especially in large, manufacturing cities that were dependent on the South for raw materials. Also, as African Americans made their way north in the hopes of making new lives for themselves, they often encountered racism and outright violence. Native-born Americans and newly-arrived immigrants alike often resented black men taking jobs they felt were theirs by right, and in the wake of the Emancipation Proclamation, many men were hesitant to fight on behalf of a cause that they saw as being for the benefit of blacks.

With the Civil War still raging and no end in sight, the Lincoln administration instituted the first conscription laws in the North in 1863, and it led quickly to an outbreak of violence in New York City and other large cities. In fact, the New York City draft riots, which lasted several days in July of that year, still stand today as the bloodiest and deadliest in American history. More than 100 people died during the week of July 12-18 as mobs of thousands looted and burned buildings across the city in protest. However, in addition to targeting the draft, people also attacked African American men, women and children and anyone who might try to defend them. It's been estimated that over a dozen blacks were lynched across the city during the unrest, and thousands of people were injured.

Ultimately, the city's police department was forced to call in forces from all around, including a number of battle-weary soldiers who had just fought a few weeks earlier at Gettysburg, to put down what seemed to be moving toward a new insurrection. In the end, the authorities were able to stop the violence, but the heavy price paid by the city's newest black citizens would tarnish race relations in that area for another century.

©2016 Charles River Editors (P)2017 Charles River Editors

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