Analysis of the Draft Riots in 1863
Opponents of the administration and opponents of President Abraham Lincoln vigorously attacked the bill (the Conscription Act), criticizing with particular emphasis a provision that enabled draftees to obtain exemption from service by supplying a substitute or by the payment of $300.
Pressed by the inflationary war economy, the city’s laborers, mostly Irish immigrants, were demanding higher wages from the owners of the docks and factories only to find their jobs threatened by the installation of new machinery and the hiring of blacks and new immigrants.
Conscription was the immediate cause for the significance disturbances in New York riots known as New York’s Bloodiest Week.On March 3, 1863, the United States Congress enacted the Enrollment (Conscription) Act.
It declared all able-bodied men between 20 and 45 liable to military service for three years.
These men were drafted into two classes; the first being all men between 20 and 35, and the second being married men over 35 (only to be called on the never to come date when the first class was depleted).
The purpose of this Act was to spur volunteerism (which worked, statistically speaking).
Each state was broken down into congressional districts and if enough volunteersFilled the quota, no draft took place in that district.
Unfortunately, this led to numerous instances of fraud and other abnormalities on all sides.
Many enrollees took inaccurate population counts, some officials padded the rolls with fictitious names to fill the quota, and many men just took off.
As exemptions were also granted for medical reasons, and that of being the sole family provider, doctors were bribed, affidavits were filed falsely, and many other abuses took place.The poor saw the draft as a heavy burden that the rich could escape the draft by hiring substitutes.
One of the evil loopholes of the Conscription Act was the option for those who could afford it to hire a substitute to take the drafted man’s spot.
In the South, at times the price for a substitute was over $1000.
And in the North, high prices paid for substitutes by states and local communities.
You even had “substitute brokers”; who would often find mentally and physically defective men to take the place of a drafted man, and then bribe individuals to have these men accepted.
Substitution was quite widespread, and legal.
The United States Enrollment Act provided for a commutation fee of $300, which would release one from service until the next draft.
This substitution loophole provides the working class with an exemption within reach and the poor were left at a disadvantage.
Meantime the riots had an economic basis also.
None were more resentful of the system’s inequities that the immigrant Irish of the northern city slums, who feared the blacks with whom they competed for the lowest-paying jobs, and for whose freedom they did not wish to fight.” (1:243) $300 was most of a year’s pay for a factory worker in New York.
Already troubled with a drop in employment and war-caused inflation, This fueled the Democrats, who made this Enrollment Act a class (and race) issue.
100% of congressional Republicans supported the Act, while 88% of Democrats opposed it.
(2:3) A spokesperson at a Midwest Democratic convention vowed, “We will not render support to the present Administration in its wicked Abolition crusade and we will resist to the death all attempts to draft any of our citizens into the army”.
(2:3) The resentment of the Irish was apparent, because as working men they were told that not only were they being drafted to fight for the black man’s freedom, but that these same black men will take their jobs at lower wages.As a result, conditions were right for trouble and anti-black violence took place in several cities, specifically New York on July 13, 1863.
Soon after the implementation of the Conscription Act, a mob attacked the draft headquarters and set it on fire and shortly flames spread to the entire block.
Attempts by the New York City police and a small detachment of U.S.
Marines to disperse the rioters provoked the mob to intensified violence.
The rioters, joined by additional thousands of sympathizers, roamed freely through the city, destroying property and committing other outrages.
These were directed especially against blacks, which the mob considered responsible for the Civil War.
Rioters beat any black person they could find a half-dozen caught by the crowd were lynched, a couple burned alive, and a few others beaten to death.
Businesses that employed blacks were burned to ground as well as the Colored Orphan Asylum, while children escaped out the back door.
Unrestrained rioting continued until July 15, 1963, when military detachments reached the city from Pennsylvania and from West Point, New York.
Temporary suspension of the draft was announced the same day.
By Thursday, 16 July 1863, law and order had been restored.
Estimated fatalities doing the three days of violence totaled more than 1000.
More than 50 large buildings were destroyed by fire, and property damage was about $2 million.The Conscription Law was the immediate cause of the disturbance in New York City, which led to the discrimination against Blacks.
The poor saw the draft as a heavy burden that the rich could escape.
The promise of sizable bounties to those who enlisted before the Conscription Act helped boost enlistment.
But resentment at the favored treatment the new law provided for the wealthy, combined with the ever-greater casualties spark riots and arson against Blacks in New York.
As an Equal Opportunity Advisor you must be aware of the impact of the Conscription Act on society to effectively deal with diverse situations to aid in the education of the unit on how discrimination can lead to hostility and rebellion.The Enrollment Act was passed in 1863 by the United States Congress to spur volunteerism of civilians to come into the military and fight in the Civil War.
The poor saw the daft as a heavy burden that the rich could escape by hiring substitutes.
Meantime, the riots had an economic basis also.
The immigrants Irish of the northern city feared blacks with which they competed for the lowest-paying jobs would take their jobs.
The Irish was also resentful because they were told that even though they were being drafted to fight for the Black man’s freedom, these Black men were seen as a threat in taking their jobs at lower wages.
Because of the Conscription Act being passed, violence took place in several cities.
The rioters directed their outrages against Blacks, whom the mob considered responsible for the Civil War.
Therefore, the temporary suspension of the draft was announced the same day.