Press Release from the York Civil War Round Table:
On March 21, 2018, please join the York Civil War Round Table as they welcome author Joe Mieczkowski as their featured guest speaker. Mr. Mieczkowski will present a PowerPoint talk on “The 1863 New York City Draft Riots.”
The monthly meeting is at 7 p.m. at the Historical Society Museum of the York County History Center, 250 E. Market Street in downtown York, PA. Admission and parking are both free, and the meeting is open to the public.
The New York City Draft Riots of July 13-16, 1863, were by some measures the most bloody and devastating riots in American history. In the midst of the American Civil War, Congress passed a conscription law making all men between 20 and 45 years of age liable for military service. On July 13, 1863, the government’s attempt to enforce the draft in New York City ignited the most destructive civil disturbance in the city’s history.
Rioters torched government buildings and on July 15, fought pitched battles with troops. Hundreds were killed or wounded. Many of the U.S. Army regiments that restored order to New York City arrived directly from Pennsylvania, where they had recently fought in the Gettysburg Campaign.
A majority of the rioters were Irish, living in misery. The spark that ignited their grievances and those of other working men and women was the provision in the law that conscription could be avoided by payment of three hundred dollars, an enormous sum only the rich could afford. In a context of wartime inflation, black competition for jobs, and race prejudice among working people, particularly the Irish, New York’s blacks were chosen as scapegoats for long-accumulated grievances. Many innocent blacks were slain and their homes sacked. A Colored Orphan Asylum was razed. In this intersection of ethnic diversity, class antagonism, and racism lay the origins of the draft riots.
Joe Mieczkowski is a retired Federal Executive and a Licensed Battlefield Guide for Gettysburg National Military Park. Joe is the Past President of both the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides and the Gettysburg Civil War Round Table. He has authored three books, “After Gettysburg: Lee Retreats and Meade Pursues,” “Lincoln and his Cabinet,” and “Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet.”