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# 5.2: The New York City Draft Riots

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

The Union imposed a military draft, in which men between the ages of $18$ and $35$ were required to join the army. The penalty for disobeying the law was a $\300$ fine. Many wealthy people were willing to pay that fine rather than risk their lives in the army, so they essentially bought their way out of the draft. Poorer people had no such option, and considered the policy unfair. In 1863, Irishmen in New York City rioted in protest. As you read the following documents, think about how each one portrays the protesters. What parties do they describe most sympathetically? What parties do you find most sympathetic?

## The Reign of the Rabble – New York Times

Source: Excerpts from “The Reign of the Rabble," New York Times, Wednesday, July 15, 1863.

The colored boarding house on Vandewater Street, was attacked by the rioters about 6 1/2 o'clock P.M., the doors broken open and the windows entirely demolished; nine of the inmates were injured.

About the same time THOMAS JOHNSON, a colored man, had one of his arms broken by jumping from the third story window of a house No. 62 Roosevelt-street, while the house was on fire. He was rescued from the rioters by the police and was taken to the station-house.

MARY WILLIAMS, a colored woman, $24 \;\mathrm{years}$ old, while being pursued by the infuriated mob, jumped from a window of No. 74 Roosevelt-street to the pavement, and was terribly injured -- the building was then on fire. She was taken to Bellevue Hospital.

### Question:

1. According to this document, what did rioters do during the Draft Riots of 1863?

## Facts and Incidents of the Riot – New York Times

Source: Excerpt from “Facts and Incidents of the Riot," New York Times, July 16, 1863.

At a late hour on Tuesday night the mob, number $4,000$ or $5,000$, made an attack upon the clothing-store of BROOKS BROTHERS. Sergeant FINNEY was knocked down, beaten on the head and body with clubs, and afterward shot in the hand by a pistol by one of the rioters. He is very severely injured, and no hopes are entertained of his recovery….

Looting seems to have been the sole object with the rioters in their attack upon the store. The fine ready-made clothing was tempting. Fortunately, the Police and the employees of the establishment successfully stopped the invaders before much property had been stolen. Three or four persons, whose names could not be confirmed, lost their lives at this place, and many others were badly injured.

## “The Popular Tumult” – New York Herald

Source: Excerpt from “The Popular Tumult.” New York Herald, Wednesday, July 16, 1863.

THE POPULAR TUMULT

The crowd in one neighborhood turned their attention to the Chinese who live there. The Celestials [Chinese] had been found guilty of being united to white wives, and their headquarters were destroyed. The Chinamen escaped, but in some instances their wives have not followed them.

### Question:

1. According to this document, what did rioters do during the Draft Riots of 1863?

## The Riots at New York

Source: “The Riots at New York," Harper's Weekly, Aug. 1, 1863

SACKING OF A DRUG-STORE

Sated with blood, the rioters now turned their attention to looting. A drug-store close by was destroyed, the doors and windows being smashed in with clubs and stones. One fellow rushed out with a closely-packed suitcase, which he opened in the street. The clothes and other things contained in it were eagerly seized and contended for by boys and women standing around. There were a number of letters in it, and some documents, which were probably of value to the owner; but these were savagely torn and trampled under foot by the disappointed plunderers. A woman sat upon the steps nearby, and read out parts of one of the letters to the cheers of her lowly companions.

### Question:

1. According to this document, what did rioters do during the Draft Riots of 1863?

## The Riots at New York

Source: “The Riots at New York," Harper's Weekly, Aug. 1, 1863

[ BURNING OF THE COLORED ORPHAN ASYLUM ]

The Orphan Asylum for Colored Children was visited by the mob about four o'clock. Hundreds, and perhaps thousands of the rioters, the majority of whom were women and children, entered the premises, and in the most excited and violent manner they ransacked and plundered the building from cellar to attic. The building was located in the most pleasant and healthy portion of the city. It was purely a charitable institution. In it there are on an average $600$ or $800$ homeless colored orphans.

### Question:

1. According to this document, what did rioters do during the Draft Riots of 1863?

## Section Questions:

1. All of these documents appeared in New York’s major newspapers at the time. What types of people do you think read these newspapers? Do these newspapers seem sympathetic to the rioters? Explain.
2. Find $2$ quotes to support your claim that the newspaper were or were not sympathetic to the rioters.
3. Find $2$ quotes to support your claim that the newspaper were or were not sympathetic to the rioters.

Feb 23, 2012

Apr 23, 2015