Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Irish and the Draft Riots-the Real Story

“If it were not hopeless to expect foresight from Governments, we should find good ground for complaint that this City should have been stripped of all its troops, first by the General Government and then by Gov. Seymour, and that then the draft should have been put in force when it was morally certain to meet with sharp resistance.”
- New York Times, July 17, 1863

“Over four hundred voted for a Catholic priest, one hundred and fifty-four, for any kind of a Protestant minister; eleven, for a Mormon elder; and three hundred and thirty-five said they could find their way to hell without the assistance of clergy.”
- Father Joseph O'Hagan on being elected chaplain of the 73rd Regiment, Excelsior Brigade

Recently Green Book writer Nick Vallelonga was forced to apologize for a false twitter post about Muslims.   Remarkably, many historians and journalists, including the NY Times, have never admitted or apologized for their egregious claims blaming Irish immigrants for the New York draft riots and Civil War "skulking."  This is an old blind spot, a hangover from old ethnic and sectarian prejudice that persists in some quarters even today, finding scapegoats for a war with too much bumbling and disasters before victory.

In this essay, I review the background for these collective guilt stories and canards to get at the real story behind their centerpiece: the 1863 New York City draft riots.   I approach this not as an historian, but as a data scientist and consultant who has helped some of the world’s largest organizations separate fact from fiction.  Someone whose family rattled around New York City for generations … the Five Points neighborhood to Park Avenue and Carnegie Hill ... iron and steel and the Croton Dam … Tammany Hall and Silk Stocking Republicans …  the 69th Fighting Irish’s Father Duffy and TV Soong … the Brooklyn Bridge, Harlem and, strangest of all, Samuel Morse.   When I was a boy, my relatives were still complaining about their father and the men having to arm themselves to defend churches during the Bible fight when “Dagger” John Archbishop Hughes told the mayor his flock would turn New York into a second Moscow if a single Catholic church were burned.   Who knew the Catholics were the first to demand that religious instruction (the King James Bible kind) be kicked out of the public schools.

Immigrants were proportionally under-represented in the Union’s armed services...Despite the fighting reputation of the Irish Brigade, the Irish were the most under-represented group in proportion to population, followed by German Catholics … this group furnished a large number of substitutes and bounty men during the final year of the war — thereby achieving an inglorious visibility — they also furnished a large number of deserters and bounty jumpers.   -- James McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 1988

My shirttail relative 69th New York chaplain Francis Duffy, of New York’s Duffy Square renown, sparked my interest in the Irish and the Civil War.   In his book Father Duffy’s Story, Duffy claims the 69th earned its name the “The Fighting Irish” at the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862.   When I ran across Princeton Professor James McPherson’s unfortunate remarks about Irish immigrants and the Civil War, I decided to use my consulting skills to figure out who was fibbing:   Duffy and his friend Joyce Kilmer or McPherson.

“They’ll see the Fighting Irish are the Fighting Irish yet.”
- Joyce Kilmer, Sergeant 69th New York, Editor NY Times, Columbia U, KIA France WW1, Trees and Other Poems

In the 19th century what passed for “progressive” thought on immigration was summed up by Edward Everett Hale and Lyman Beecher:  we need the dull brutes to free us [Anglo-Saxons] from manual labor for “higher duties.”  Immigrants are welcome – even if they are “a rush of a dark-minded  population from one country to another”—but only if they leave behind their priests and bishops and European allegiances.   The relationship between the Party of Lincoln and immigrants was clouded long before Donald Trump, even before the GOP was born.  The author of the wickedly anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic and widely read A Plea for the West, was Lyman Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s father.  Though Lincoln himself was not a Nativist or anti-Catholic, many of his supporters were.

When James McPherson called immigrants, especially the Irish Catholic kind,  skulkers” and “deserters” in his  Pulitzer- Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom and his For Cause and Comrades, he was echoing Hale and Beecher.   This bias also led McPherson to misrepresented his sources when he claimed Catholic immigrants were Civil War skulkers, saying only 140,000 Irish immigrants joined the army, most gaining “inglorious” visibility by late  war enlistments.  As his source the Sanitary Commission report noted, the Union army did not record place of birth for many of the soldiers (about 40 percent), and no one recorded the soldiers’ religions.   Moreover, the Sanitary Commission report only estimated the number of foreign-born soldiers in the Union’s volunteer units and did not estimate how many foreign-born served in the Union navy, marines, and regular army.  We know even less about the ethnicity of soldiers who deserted; some may not have existed at all. 

My research on Medal of Honor records tells the real story of the Irish and the Civil War. We know the place of birth for virtually all the 1523 Civil War soldiers and sailors who were awarded the Medal of Honor (the number of medals awarded has changed somewhat over time) .  These records as a group are highly correlated with enlistment sources and combat mortalities of the entire population of Union soldiers and sailors.   The records constitute what statisticians call a proxy for a study population and tell us that about 25 percent of the union soldiers and sailors were immigrants with about 10 percent being immigrants from Ireland.   Judging by shared names, perhaps as much as another 10 percent of the Union’s service members were ethnic Irish born in the US or immigrants from other countries (e.g., Scotland, Canada and England).   The immigrants had a significant presence throughout the war.  As many medals were awarded for valor in the period 1861-63 as the period 1864-65.  This is true for all soldiers and sailors, both US-born and immigrant, including the Irish.  While the Irish were the largest group, Germans, Scots and English immigrants also fought for the Union in large numbers. The Medal of Honor records tell us people from all over the world joined the fight (see Table 1 at end).  The North would not have won the war without its immigrants.
New York State unit records corroborate the Medal of Honor findings.  Heavily immigrant New York City units accounted for about 150,000 of approximately 345,000 New York State soldiers and 8,524 of the state’s 19,879 combat deaths.   The city accounted for 103 of the 239 medals awarded to New York State soldiers, the same proportion as enlistments and combat deaths.   More than half the city soldiers were immigrants with the Irish being the largest group. 

New York City’s Irish  and Excelsior brigades were two of the five Union army brigades with the highest killed in action totals, though the Irish Brigade enlisted so many, including Irish regiments from Boston and Philadelphia, that by the end of the war it might have been called a division.  The city’s Mozart Hall regiment was 16th among all Union army regiments on the dismal regimental list.  The city’s Tammany Hall and German regiments were also decimated.   At the top of the dismal regimental list, including its losses at Bull Run as militia unit, the city’s 69th New York, the original “Fighting Irish.”  

There is some substance to the conscription opposition’s battle cry:  “Rich man’s war, poor man fight.”   My research on Union army casualties, shows that 245 of the over 2000 Union army combat units (infantry regiments, artillery batteries, cavalry) did a disproportionate share of the heavy fighting, suffering nearly 40 percent of the combat deaths, with heavily immigrant Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New York making up half of the 40 percent.  Most Civil War soldiers did not bear the brunt of the fighting in repeated intense battles.   About 500,000 soldiers served in white volunteer units that averaged only one combat death.   Ohio, Indiana and Illinois had the most soldiers who experienced virtually no combat. 

New State unit records indicate that heavily immigrant New York City (its two largest groups German and Irish), had a disproportionate, heavier share of enlistments and deaths in 1861 and 1862.  This, in great part, was because of the recruitment efforts of the city’s Union Defense Committee.   New York City units suffered heavy casualties in the 1861, 1862 and 1863 battles: Bull Run, the Peninsula before Richmond, Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. 

To illustrate the divide between New York City’s early response to the war and the upstate response:  the ancestors, Luther Osborn and Jesse Beecher, to whom Professor McPherson dedicates For Cause and Comrades,  enlisted in upstate New York units later in 1862 and didn’t see any significant combat until 1864.  Upstate recruiting posters that promised garrison duty for enlistees in heavy artillery regiments added to the perception that the burden of war was not shared fairly – though Grant called on the heavy artillery regiments to help man his 1864-65 campaigns.

In addition to New York City’s soldiers, tens of thousands joined the Union navy at New York City.  Ironically, the city built by immigrants and subsidized by the cotton trade was America’s Civil War arsenal of democracy.   Just north of the city at the West Point Foundry, the Irish and other immigrants built America’s first locomotive, the Best Friend of Charleston, for hauling slave-produced goods in South Carolina.  Later the West Point Foundry cast Parrott canons and the gigantic Dahlgren guns that sank the CSS Alabama and armed the USS Monitor.  The Monitor was built at Greenpoint on the East River, using a turret and engines manufactured in Manhattan, before being commissioned at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.   One of the more puzzling aspects of the 1863 draft riots is that its fiercest battles were fought on the city’s east side in the 18th and 11th Wards near where the USS Monitor’s turret was manufactured in 1862.  Indeed, the whole New York waterfront became devoted to manufacturing maritime equipment for the Union navy with the 13th and 7th Wards relatively quiet during the riots, in contrast to the uptown wards.  Irishman John Roach, who owned the Etna Iron Works in the 7th Ward and is one of America’s greatest rags to riches stories, prospered from the wartime business and after the war would consolidate New York City and Philadelphia’s maritime manufacturing businesses into the largest shipbuilding firm in the United States.

When Bob Herbert wrote his egregious New Times draft riots column in 1997 and claimed the riots were about poor Irish immigrants refusing to fight to free poor blacks, he was mistaken.  In July of 1863, tens of thousands of New York City immigrants were already fighting in a war that New Yorkers knew was about slavery.  The city’s Irish Brigade virtually committed suicide on the eve of Emancipation while storming the stonewall at Fredericksburg,  12/13/1862.  Just days before the riots started, the city’s Tammany Hall infantry regiment played helped defeat the Confederacy’s last great grasp for victory at the Battle of Gettysburg.   The Irish Brigade would be twice resurrected to fight in the Wilderness and at Appomattox.  Fordham University’s James McMahon joined the Irish Brigade after Fort Sumter was attacked and later died atop the Confederate ramparts leading Corcoran’s Legion during the battle at Cold Harbor in 1864.  Of Fordham’s three McMahon brothers, only Martin survived the war.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor during the Battle of White Oak Swamp in 1862 and promoted to Major General in 1866.  For their valor at the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862 serving with the city’s 37th Irish Rifles regiment, Irish immigrants Thomas Fallon and Martin Conboy were awarded the Medal of Honor.

Irish-Americans General Thomas Devin and General William Gamble led Buford’s cavalry brigades in the first hours of the Gettysburg battle.  Patrick Henry O’Rorke led the charge that saved Little Round Top on the second day of the battle.  Irish-American generals Meade and Reynolds led the Union army to victory at Gettysburg.

"Gen. MEADE, the new leader of the Army of the Potomac, is the grandson of GEORGE MEADE, of Philadelphia, an eminent Irish-American merchant, whose firm (MEADE & FITZSIMMONS) contributed in 1781 $10,000 to a fund for the relief of the famishing army of Gen. WASHINGTON."  -- New York Times, July 2, 1863

Phil Sheridan, who cleared the Confederates from the Shenandoah Valley once and for all, was Irish.  William Tecumseh Sherman was raised by an Irish family and his in-law Mother Angela Gillespie is commemorated on Notre Dame University’s Wall of Honor.  After the war, Sherman became one of New York City’s most celebrated residents and most sought after speakers, especially by the German and Irish veterans he led early in the war and during his march from Atlanta to the Sea.

“At Blackburn Ford they think of us, Atlanta and Bull Run…” – Joyce Kilmer, “When the Sixty-ninth Comes Back”

Dan Sickles.  100 years ago I wouldn’t have to write another word, Sickles was so notorious, the most “flexible” individual in New York history, or maybe the most politically cynical.  Archbishop Hughes married Dan to the “natural” daughter of Lorenzo DaPonte who’d immigrated to New York City after writing librettos for Mozart.  Apropos, DaPonte had written the libretto for Mozart’s Don Giovanni (aka Don Juan).  How Sickles became Catholic enough for Hughes to perform the ceremony is anybody’s guess?  In 1859, while Sickles was cheating on his wife, his wife cheated on him.  Sickles shot the lover Barton Key and only an insanity defense engineered by his lawyers, including Irish exile Thomas Meagher, saved Dan.  When the slave states started seceding, Sickles tried to enlist Meagher in Mayor Fernando Wood’s harebrained scheme to have New York City secede with the South.  Meagher demurred, “I will not turn my back on the country that gave me refuge from tyranny and oppression.”  The secession idea was stillborn.   Meagher organized the Irish Brigade to fight for the Union.  Not to be outdone, Sickles changed his stripes and organized the even bigger Excelsior Brigade.  Fernando Wood got into the act, too, sponsoring the Mozart Hall regiment, first enlisting Irishmen who’d been turned away by Massachusetts recruiters.   Sickles literally played his cards right and commanded an army corps at Gettysburg where his impetuous decision to move his troops closer to the Confederates got his leg blown off.  He never bothered with a wooden leg, but looking like Long John Silver, would hop up and down 5th Avenue on crutches, his pants leg conspicuously empty.  He devoted most of his last years to creating the Gettysburg Battlefield Park, New York City’s grandest Civil War memorial.  Privately Dan called it the grandest memorial to Dan. Thousands showed up for his funeral at (the new) St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Avenue, nine blocks south of the statue of New York’s most popular general:  William Tecumseh Sherman.

What’s the real Draft Riots story?   It begins weeks before the riots broke out when Robert E. Lee invaded the North and the Lincoln administration called for the states to mobilize their militias to help defend Pennsylvania.  Except for a small contingent from New Jersey, New York was the only state to send help and most of New York’s militia regiments came from New York City.  With tens of thousands of New York volunteers already enlisted in the Union army, the state mobilized 27 militia regiments, totaling about 20,000 soldiers.  Under the supervision of George McClellan (yes, that George McClellan), the regiments were rushed by rail to Harrisburg, PA, and Maryland.  Of the city regiments, 15 came from New York City proper, 5 from Brooklyn, and 3 from the suburban counties.   New York City was left virtually defenseless on the eve of conscription.

The city’s militia and their armories were part of the city’s elaborate social network of churches, VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANIES, German gymnasiums and libraries, beer halls, and political halls. The militias were social clubs as much as military units. The upper classes drilled and danced at the 7th Regiment armory, the Irish at the 69th.   In times of riot or emergency, the militia would be called out to restore order.   When the South seceded, the 7th and 69th were among the first state troops rushed to defend the capital and Lincoln.   Although never transformed into a Union army volunteer unit, many of the 7th’s young men became officers in other standing volunteer units.  Like several other New York City militias, the 69th recruited scores of new volunteers, so successfully that the 69th transformed itself into the Army of the Potomac’s Irish Brigade.  Many of the older men and married men who stayed behind were later mobilized with their militia unit for temporary service when needed.   The militia would have easily restored order when the draft rioting broke out, but they were out of town in July of 1863. The malcontents were left with a law and order vacuum in which they could run amok as they pleased… at first.  

There was plenty of discontent in New York City in 1863, but poor immigrants didn’t incite it.  Upper-class commercial interests wanted to preserve the Union, but they wanted it preserved the way it was, protecting New York’s interests in the cotton trade, and supplying manufactured products to a slave owning, cotton producing  South.  They also had interests in booze and sugar.  Many were stout old Anglo-Saxon stock with pedigrees from Princeton, Columbia, Harvard, Yale and Union colleges, but not all.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
-- Emma Lazarus, Statue of Liberty poem

If you’ve ever wondered how the door got to be golden, the legacy of Ms. Lazarus helps shed some light on the question. 

Before the Erie Canal was born, a group of Quaker entrepreneurs led by Jeremiah Thompson began planning a packet shipping system that would make it economical and highly profitable to ship cotton from the American South to England.  Their Black Ball Line of packet ships would run on a regular schedule to Liverpool carrying cotton shipped from Southerner ports to New York, bringing back to New York from England whatever was profitable.

Cotton wasn’t New York’s only Southern connection.   Ms. Lazarus was the daughter of Moses Lazarus, a wealthy merchant, who was the business partner of Bradish Johnson.  Johnson and Lazarus owned sugar refining interests and a large distillery and stables along the Hudson River in what’s now the Chelsea neighborhood.  Johnson was born in Louisiana and educated at Columbia.  Sugar for the refinery was imported from Louisiana plantations Johnson inherited from his Nova Scotia ship captain father.  In quasi-feudal New York, Johnson’s political vassal was Michael “Butcher Mike” Toumey, publican and Tammany politician, who’d been born and lived in the 14th Ward where the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral was located.   Johnson and Toumey represented Democratic “preserve the Union as it was” interests.   In 1858, Toumey’s political star fell when he became entangled in the swill milk scandal defending Johnson against reformers who wanted to shut down the Johnson cattle stables that were producing contaminated, baby-killing milk.  Toumey would reappear years later in an upper-west-side New York closer to Johnson’s interests.  Johnson would become notorious during the war for suing a Union army general who confiscated Johnson’s plantation property and for proposing that Lincoln let Louisiana reenter the Union as a slave state.  There is no direct connection known between the riots and Johnson and Toumey, but 16th, , 20th and 22nd wards neighborhoods near Johnson’s interests were among the parts of the city where the worst riot battles were fought.

Another examples of New York’s Southern connection was the relationship of August Belmont, a German immigrant, and John Slidell who graduated from Columbia in 1810 and moved to Louisiana in 1819 to make his fortune.  Financier Belmont married Slidell’s niece and became the political protégé of now senator and Southern Democrat Slidell.   Unionist Belmont would campaign throughout the war for “the Union as it was,” backing Douglas in 1860 and George McClellan against Lincoln in the 1864 election.

Shifty Mayor Fernando Wood, descended from Welsh Quakers and German immigrants, spent his “formative years in Kentucky, South Carolina, and Virginia.”  He split with Tammany Hall before the war, believing New York’s economy and his national political aspirations were tied to the South.  First, he proposed New York secede with the South, then he joined the Union Defense committee.  He sponsored a regiment.  Then he campaigned on propaganda claiming freed blacks would come North to take white jobs. 

To add to the city’s discontent, the city’s upper-classes were oblivious to the plight of the people who worked for them and who were doing the Union army’s fighting.   Wages weren’t keeping up with inflation and conscription was another burden for those who worked.   The bodies piled up, conscription loomed, and the Archbishop held a requiem mass for the Irish Brigade at the first St. Patrick’s cathedral for the many dead at Malvern Hill, Antietam and Fredericksburg.  As the Confederates marched towards Gettysburg, New York City’s elites planned a yachting regatta. 

Later in 1864, to underscore the oblivious wartime disposition of the elites, Harvard, Yale, Amherst, Williams and Brown held a rowing regatta and baseball games.  The dead from the battles in the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor were barely warm, some still unburied.  Fordham’s James P. McMahon was among the dead, his body riddled with 18 bullets as he stood atop the Confederate fortifications at Cold Harbor urging on his 164th Regiment volunteers.   Among the Yale crew at the 1864 summer regatta, E.D. Coffin, Jr., ancestor of Yale’s Vietnam War protester, William Sloane Coffin.   

Not all the governing were oblivious.  A strong Union man, New York’s Governor Seymour responded immediately when Lincoln asked him to call out the militia during the Gettysburg emergency.  But at the same time, Seymour was a Democrat who objected to the Lincoln administration’s arrest of dissenting civilians, conscription and its class privilege, and the Emancipation Proclamation.

He was not alone.  The Emancipation Proclamation was the last straw for some in the “loyal” opposition.   These upper-class commercial interests banded together to form the “Society for the Diffusion of Political Knowledge,” which started churning out anti-Lincoln and pro-Slavery propaganda.  Yale’s Samuel Morse, the telegraph inventor and the Society’s most rabid pro-slavery propagandist and Nativist, was president.  Manton Marble, editor of August Belmont’s New York World, was secretary.  Samuel Tilden and Seymour were members.   Its contributors included Robert Winthrop, Amasa Parker and George Comstock. 

When I was a small boy, my grandmother, who was old enough to remember the old pirate Dan Sickles of Excelsior Brigade fame hopping up and down 5th Avenue, would point to a building on the other side of the street and say:  “That’s where the forty thieves lived.”  
My father had to explain:  “Everyone loves firemen now.  Back in the old days they were trouble.  They’d put out fires … and then take home anything they liked that hadn’t burned with the house.” 
“You mean they stole?”
“Yes, and sometimes the fire companies would fight over who got to loot the buildings.”
“Daddy, what does loot mean?”

As Adrian Cook observed in his careful study of the draft riots and its casualties, The Armies of the Streets, the draft started quietly enough on July 11th and ended the day without trouble. Things might have remained that way when it restarted on Monday, July, 13th.  After great Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg earlier in July, it seemed that an end to the war might be near.  Since the names drawn on the first day didn’t appear to disfavor any ethnic group, perhaps no one group of New Yorkers had reason to complain.

Yesterday's Operations
Over 1,200 Names Drawn -- No Excitement
Everybody Quiet and Everything
as it Should be
The Drawings to be Resumed

Full Lists of the Drafted Men

New York Times, July 12, 1863

Unfortunately, Cook notes, the Ninth District draft office authorities had “the bad luck to draw the names of several members of Black Joke Engine 33, including John Masterson, brother of the company’s foreman.”  The firemen argued they should be exempt from the draft. The Masterson’s were neither immigrants nor poor, but solidly middle class contractors and small-time politicians.  Betraying their attitudes toward Lincoln and slavery, the nickname of their company celebrated a slave ship turned privateer during the war of 1812. Though two blacks allegedly worked for the Black Joke, they weren’t allowed to bunk with the white firemen.  

Over the weekend, the anti-Lincoln newspapers continued their drumbeat of anti-Lincoln, anti-draft propaganda, focusing on real and imagined conscription inequities, including the class privilege that allowed the wealthy to avoid service, if drafted, by paying $300.   In an editorial on July 16th, the New York Times, then the flagship newspaper of the Republican party, singled out for villainy Manton Marble and August Belmont’s New York World: “Who has day after day devoted time and talent and strength to denunciations of the law [conscription] …”
The New York Copperhead attacked conscription and the class-privileged $300 exemption with a parody of the James S. Gibbons poem “We’re Coming, Father Abraham.”
We are coming, Father Abraham, three hundred thousand more,
We leave our homes and firesides with bleeding hearts and sore,
Since poverty has been our crime, we bow to thy decree,
We are the poor who have no wealth to purchase liberty.

When rioters attacked the Gibbons house at Lamartine Place, in Bradish Johnson territory, thinking it belonged to Horace Greely, a sometime Gibbons visitor, it is one of the few draft riots connections to sectarian troubles.   Eight years later, almost to the day, the Lamartine Orange Hall’s decision to stage a Boyne Day march ended with scores of “rioters” gunned down by the New York militia guarding the Orange marchers.

On Monday the 13th when the draft resumed, the Black Joke firemen attacked the Ninth District office to destroy its records and liberate their drafted comrades.   A crowd gathered.  Police reinforcements arrived.  The firemen showed up with their wagon filled with rocks.   The police held them off for a while, but were soon overcome and the firemen burned down the draft office.   The fire spread to nearby buildings.  When police Superintendent Kennedy arrived on the scene, former policeman Francis Cusick knocked Kennedy and his driver Murphy unconscious.   Rioters cut the telegraph cables that connected the city police precincts.  Police telegraph superintendent Crowley reconnected the wires.  Police reinforcements started to arrive.  Unfortunately, they didn’t arrive at the same time, but showed up in small squads that were routed piecemeal by the rioters.  

Colonel Robert Nugent, an Irish Brigade commander who had been put in charge of the provost marshal’s bureau and the draft after being wounded at Fredericksburg, heard there was trouble.   It was at this point, Cook observes, a well-organized military force could have handily put down the riot and ended the trouble.  Even a rumor that the city’s 7th Regiment was on the way would have probably sent the rioters scurrying.  Unfortunately, the 7th and other city militia regiments who backed up the police during civil disturbances were in still in Pennsylvania and Maryland, thanks to Lincoln’s call for reinforcements and Governor’s Seymour’s response back in June.   Nugent had only 70 soldiers recovering from wounds who were assigned to light duty in the Invalid Corps.   He sent a squad of 30 to the Ninth District office.  Like the police, they were quickly routed.   Kennedy still unconscious, the police were leaderless.  Chaos ensued.

It was July.  It was hot.  It was muggy.  The streets of a crowded city were crowded.   At first curious, the crowds were drawn to the chaos, young boys and others joined the mob of rioters.   John Andrew, a Confederate sympathizer from Virginia, jumped on a shanty and harangued the mob:  Lincoln’s a despot, rich man’s war, poor man’s fight, down with conscription.  The mob set more fires and started looting along 40th street.

Irishman Patrick Merry led a mob one way, according to Cook’s narrative.   English immigrant Thomas Sutherland led a mob another, rallying workers from factories, including his own Allaire Iron Works and the Novelty Iron Works, which had manufactured the turret for the USS Monitor.   Francis Cusick headed downtown to cause trouble along 2nd Avenue where an armory and the Union Steam Works were located.  Later as my uncle put it, “The morons burned the colored children’s orphanage.”  But not before the police were able to evacuate all the children to a police station.   Mobs, often small bands of men and boys, began attacking the city’s African Americans, who at first are taken completely by surprise.  The rioters’ battle cry is class-privilege: down with the draft and the privilege that let the rich avoid serving by paying $300, a year’s wages for a laborer.   Anyone with dark skin, known-Republicans, anyone wearing a suit was at risk.  The rioting took a bizarre and even more savage turn when blacks were lynched for defending themselves.   “How dare you shoot back when all we were trying to do was beat you within an inch of your life, strip you naked, throw you in the river, and burn down your house if we could before the police arrived.”  If the shooter got away the rioters grabbed anyone with dark skin unlucky enough to be in the vicinity.

Police Commissioner Acton and Mayor Opdyke tried to take charge of the situation and began sending out appeals for help.   General Sanford of the state militia could only rally a few hundred of the remaining militia, most untrained recruits.   General Wool was in charge of the skeleton force of troops at the harbor forts, but there were only a few hundred of these, and most as unseasoned as the militia.  The Navy was able to mobilize a few hundred sailors and marines from the Brooklyn Navy Yard and ships in the harbor.

In one history’s interesting coincidences, Richard Worsam Meade, nephew of the Army of Potomac’s Gettysburg commander George Gordon Meade, took charge of the naval battalion of sailors and marines who helped secure New York below Chambers street during the rioting. Meade was an alumnus of Annapolis and Holy Cross College, which he attended along with the children of other prominent Catholic families.  He had been born in New York City and was posted home after being wounded while commanding the ironclad USS Louisville during the Mississippi River campaigns in 1862.

Mayor Okdyke telegraphed Washington.
July 13, 1863
Hon. E.M. Stanton,
Secretary of War:
Sir: The national draft has been resisted in this city to-day.   A riot has ensued.  It threatens to be serious.  A block of buildings has been burned, including a provost-marshal’s office.  We have but little military force to suppress it.
       --   Geo. Opdyke, Mayor

General Halleck replied on behalf of the War Department

Washington, July 14, 1863—2.37 p.m.

Governor Seymour,
New York

Sir: The Secretary of War requests that you will call out sufficient militia to quell the riot and enforce the laws in the city.  Please confer with General Wool, who will co-operate with you. 
If absolutely necessary, troops will be sent from Maryland, but this should be avoided as long as possible.  Please telegraph if you deem them necessary to assist in maintaining order.
       --    Henry Halleck, General-in-Chief 

Halleck was apparently unaware that he, Halleck, was then commander of virtually the entire New York State militia, which in July of 1863 was still stationed in Pennsylvania and Maryland.  Perhaps, understandably, Halleck was distracted.   General George Gordon Meade, commander of the Army of the Potomac, had pursued Lee after the Gettysburg battle and trapped Lee on the east side of the Potomac River on the 13th of July.  Meade planned to attack the heavily entrenched Confederates the next day – but before Meade could, the rain-swollen Potomac subsided and Lee escaped to the west bank during the night. 

With the meagre forces on hand Acton, Sanford and Wool tried to regain control of the city.  This was complicated since Wool was old and tired and ceded his authority to General Harvey Brown.   Sanford and Brown wouldn’t cooperate.   Sanford wanted to defend the armories and arsenals.   Brown wanted to go on the offensive and fight the mobs in the streets.  The militia and army went their separate ways.   Citizen groups started organizing vigilante committees to protect their neighborhoods.  Under Acton, the police began concentrating their forces.  Almost immediately Acton’s “SWAT” battalions, strike groups numbering 100 to 200 police officers, began defeating the mobs, an impressive feat since Acton refused to issue rifles to his men, expecting them to rely on their police clubs.  Late on the 13th the police defeated a mob of 200 headed downtown at Bleeker and Broadway a few blocks north of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral.   Later that the police drove off the mob led by James Whitten that invaded the Tribune building.

With police SWAT battalions taking on the role of the militia, the city’s African Americans were left vulnerable to small bands of men and boys who were attacking blacks on sight throughout the city, as Cook recounts.  Blacks fled to Brooklyn and New Jersey.  In some places, neighbors, churches and fellow workers defended the blacks.  A French navy ship gave sanctuary to 200 black sailors and the British consulate took in 100.   In the few neighborhoods where there was a large black presence, blacks successfully defended themselves, e.g, Minetta Lane, Greenwich Village.   The city’s blacks did not go down without a fight.  Where they lost the fight it led to two of the three lynchings that the riots are now infamous for.  The police held onto almost all of their precinct buildings and these became refuges for many of the city’s blacks.   Central headquarters took in 700 black refugees, another precinct took in 400.  The 20th precinct took in the 200 orphans from the burned orphanage, according to Cook.  At one precinct the police armed the black men to help hold off besieging rioters.  The police steamboat ferried many blacks to the safety of Governor’s Island.   The police were ineffective in protecting black property from arson and looting, and ineffective in preventing molestation of the black population, though often stopping incidents, but there is no question that the police were effective in saving many, many black lives,  limiting fatalities to less than a dozen in wave of violence that took the lives of 122 New Yorkers.

Cook’s carefully researched list of draft riots deaths and the New York Times list of major fires (July 18, 1863) helps follow how the chaos played out (see map of deaths and fires below).  Most of the arson occurred on July 13th while riot deaths peaked on July 14th during the uptown battles between rioters, the police and army.

July 13th, 21 killed 
The locations are known for all but one of the deaths:
·       Ninth Street draft office near 43rd Street and 3rd where the riot began (19th Ward) - three policemen attacked by rioters killed or missing.
·       Colored Children’s Asylum near 5th  Avenue and  42nd Street (19th Ward – 7 pm) – orphanage burned and bystander, 13-year-old Jane Barry killed by a piece of furniture thrown out the window while rioters sacked the orphanage.  
·       Armory fight and arson fire at 2nd Avenue and 21st Street (infamous 18th Ward – 5 pm) – Police shot two rioters and nine rioters and one firemen died when rioters set the armory on fire.
·       Downtown near Chambers and Oak streets (5th Ward) - rioters beat a Native American to death, believing he is an African American.
·       Clarkson Street near Greenwich (9th Ward) – rioters lynched William Jones, a black man, after another black man shoots rioter Nicholson in self-defense.
·       Madison and Catherine Street (4th Ward) – rioters beat black man Jeremiah Robinson to death.
·       A bystander falls to his death at West 29th Street (20th Ward)
·       Police SWAT battalion defeats mob led by Whitten at Tribune building (1st Ward) – no known fatalities.
·       Police SWAT battalion defeats mob of 200-300 headed south at Broadway and Bleeker (15th Ward), north of Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  Police return to headquarters chanting “Red, White and Blue.”  No known fatalities.  Acton refused to arm police with rifles and orders them to use their clubs.  Irish cops this time win Boyne Day battle.
·       677 3rd Avenue (19th Ward - 11 am). Provost-Marshal JENKINS' enrolling office. Three buildings burned. Loss $25k.  
·       Lexington Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets (19th Ward - 3 pm). Two brown stone buildings and their contents burned.  Loss $28k.
·       44th Street, between 4th and 5th Avenues  (19th Ward - 4:30 pm).  Bull's Head Hotel, owned by Mr. Allerton burned. Loss $20k.
·       429 Grand Street (7th/13th Ward- 8 pm).  Enrolling Office and dwelling of Prevost-Marshal John Duffy burned. Loss $10k.
·       62 Roosevelt Street (4th Ward – 9 pm). Frame dwelling, occupied by colored people.  Loss $100.
·       1100 Broadway (20th Ward – 5 pm).  Provost-Marshal B.F. Manniere’s  Enrolling Office and twelve other buildings destroyed by fire, from 28th to 29th Streets. Loss  $125k.
·       87th Street (12th Ward - 9:30 pm).  Residence of Postmaster Wakeman burned and 23rd Precinct Police Station-house, directly in rear at 86th Street, also destroyed. Total losses $40k.

July 14th, 51 killed
The locations are known for 35 of the deaths.  Commissioner Acton: “the 18th Ward is a plague.”
·       Near 1st Avenue and 18th Street (18th Ward)– one rioter shot by army and another by a bystander.
·       Along West 29th Street (20th Ward) – a policeman was shot by the army.
·       Armory and Union Steam Works near 2nd Avenue and 21st Street (18th Ward)  – army and police shot five rioters.  One bystander was shot by a rioter and another was beaten to death by a rioter.  Two rioters and a bystander were beaten to death by the police.
·       2nd Avenue and 34th Street (21st Ward) -  2-year-old Ellen Kirke was killed by army gunfire.  In retaliation, Colonel Henry O’Brien was brutally murdered by the child’s relatives and neighbors.
·       5th Avenue and 47th Street (22nd Ward) – a rioter was beaten to death by an unknown assailant.
·       Along 9th Avenue from 29th to 44th streets (20th and 22nd Wards) – A rioter shot a bystander.  Army shot two rioters and two rioters were shot by unknown assailants.
·       Near 10th Avenue and 41st Street (22nd Ward) – one rioter shot by army, another shot by unknown assailant.
·       At Burling Slip near Maiden Lane (2nd Ward) – a bystander was beaten to death by an unknown assailant.
·       Near Greenwich, Leroy and 12th Street (9th Ward) – rioter shot by civilian, African American beaten to death by rioter.
·       Pitt Street near Grand (11th Ward)—Eight rioters shot by army.
·       Worth Street (5Th Ward) – Ann Derrickson of a mixed race family is beaten and later dies.
·       129th Street and 3rd Avenue (12th Ward - 3:30 am).  Six frame buildings burned. Loss $22k.
·       11th Ave and 41st Street (22nd Ward  - 12:30 pm).  Allerton’s hotel burned.  Loss $15k.
·       Weehawken Ferry-house, foot of 42nd Street, North River (22nd Ward - 3 pm). Loss $6k.
·       73 and 75 Roosevelt Street (4th Ward – 5 pm). Two dwellings occupied by colored families burned down. Loss $3k.
·       163 East 22nd Street (18th Ward – 11 pm).  18th Precinct Station-house, fire alarm bell-tower and No. 51 engine house, all destroyed by fire. Loss $20k.
·       24 East 33rd Street (21st Ward - 11:45 pm). Dwelling and library of Mr. Jared Peck, Port Warden, burned.  Loss $5k.

July 15th, 27 killed
The locations are known for all but four of the dead
·       10th Avenue and 41st-42nd streets (22nd Ward) – three rioters and a bystander shot by unknown assailants.
·       1st and 2nd avenues 19th to 37th street (18th and 21st Wards)– two soldiers killed by unknown assailants, one bystander killed by fall, rioter killed by army, an African American killed by unknown assailant, rioter killed by unknown assailant.
·       East 32nd Street (21st Ward) – rioter shot by rioter.
·       West 33rd Street (20th Ward) – African American killed by army, sabre cut.
·       3rd Avenue 20th-32nd (18th and 20th Wards) Rioter shot by army, two African Americans killed by unknown assailants, bystander killed shot by unknown assailant.
·       West 41st and 42nd streets (22nd Ward) – two rioters shot by unknown assailants
·       7th Avenue 28th – 32nd streets – two African American lynched by rioters, rioter shot by army, rioter shot by civilian, rioter shot by unknown assailant.
·       Avenue C and 14th Street (18th Ward – 2 am).  Lumber yard of Ogden and Co. burned.  Loss $2k. 
·       91 W 32nd Street (20th Ward – 10:30 am).  Three brick buildings, occupied as tenement houses by colored people burned.  Loss $15k.

July 16th, 12 killed
The locations are unknown for three of the dead
·       1st Ave and 15th Street (18th Ward) – rioter shot by unknown assailant.
·       1st Ave and 34th Street (21st Ward) – African American drowns when rioters throw him in river.
·       2nd Avenue (18th Ward) – policeman beaten to death by rioter.
·       2nd and 3rd avenues and 21st and 22nd Streets (18th Ward) – bystander shot by army, rioter shot by army, soldier shot by rioter.
·       3rd Avenue and 42nd Street (19th Ward) – soldier beaten to death by rioter.
·       9th and 7th avenues and 32 Street (20th Ward) – two rioters shot by army.

Unknown July date,  11 dead
Only four locations known
·       2nd Ave and 24th Street (18th Ward) – bystander shot by unknown assailant.
·       6th Ave and 21st Street (16th Ward) – bystander shot by unknown assailant.
·       7th Ave and  37th Street (20th Ward) – rioter shot by army.
·       Broome Street (13th Ward) – Ill woman died of illness after being chased by rioters

Who died?   Most of the dead were the rioters according to Cook’s accounting with many killed by army gunfire.  Professor McPherson concurred with Cooks assessment of who killed whom:  “The Department of War rushed several regiments from Pennsylvania to New York, where on July 15 and 16 they poured volleys into the ranks of the rioters with the same deadly effect they had produced against the Rebels at Gettysburg two weeks earlier.”  This is good illustration of the Draft Riots mythology, great writing about something that never quite happened the way it’s portrayed.  Army troops did indeed do most of the shooting, but it was the small force already in the city, many ill-prepared troops from the harbor forts, who were responsible.   No Gettysburg troops were rushed to New York City.  The Gettysburg troops were on the Potomac pursuing Robert E. Lee when the riots started (by the time the War Department was alerted to the riots on the 14th, Lee had already escaped into Virginia).   Three New York State militia regiments that never got close to the Gettysburg fighting were sent back to New York along with two volunteer regiments from the large Washington defense army that never got near the Gettysburg fighting, either.  These soldiers arrived very late on the 15th and early on the 16th  and following days.   None of them arrived in time to do much, if any shooting.   Their presence was mostly a “mopping up” exercise that relieved the exhausted police, helped restore order, and let the government send the feckless artillerymen who had battled the rioters back to the harbor forts.  

While it is hard to question use of force by the army units in defending armories filled with rifles, complaints about civilian casualties began immediately on the 14th.   The allegations are hard to dismiss entirely.   There were simply too many woman and children among the dead “rioters” (probably 17 or more) for that.   Militia troops had no intention of harming anyone on the 14th when ordered to fire into the air, but somehow they shot two-year-old Ellen Kirke.  Kirke’s family and neighbors didn’t care if it was an accident.  They literally tore their neighbor militia Colonel Henry O’Brien apart when he returned to the neighborhood later in the day.  Cook claims that at most the biggest mobs were made up of 100-200 fighting men, but the streets were filled with people in the hot summer.  Was the army really justified in shooting 12-year-old Catherine Waters, who may have simply been an onlooker in the wrong place at the wrong time?   Patrick Garvey (14), William Stevens (13) and William Thompson (10) were killed on Pitt Street along with many others on the 14th when army troops fired on a crowd in an incident which might well be judged unjustified by today’s standards.  Justified or not, the deaths and injuries only further enraged the affected neighborhoods.

Rioting was still severe but on the wane by the 15th.   The army and police were winning all the big mob battles and the police were taking back control of the streets.  A thousand or more New York citizens volunteered to temporarily join the police force.  Many veterans rejoined militia and army units to help restore order.  Neighborhoods formed vigilante groups to combat rioters and looters.  Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of this is the firemen who started the riots joining the vigilantes who defended the neighborhoods.   “In the draft riots of 1863 Masterson organized his company [“Black Joke” No. 33] in the interests of law and order, and kept his apparatus ready for service.  His conduct won him thanks from a committee of citizens, and he was presented with a case of pistols, and the members of his command received a purse of money.”  (NY Times, Death List, October 3, 1900)

On the 15th, US Provost Marshal General Frye authorized Colonel Nugent to stop the draft in New York City and Brooklyn and Nugent announced this in the newspapers on the 16th.  Also on the 15th, the city’s Common Council voted to pay the $300 exemption fee for poor men who are drafted and chose not to serve.  Early on the 16th the 7th Regiment militia returned to the city.   Later on the 16th the largest Draft Riots crowd gathered at Archbishop Hughes’s residence.   The non-violent crowd estimated at 5,000 listened to a rambling speech that can be summed up as:  Are there any rioters here?  No!  If you don’t like what the government does, use your right to vote to oppose what you don’t like, not rebellion in the streets.  The riots had ended.

For those like Orestes Brownson who think Hughes didn’t opposed slavery strongly enough, invoking the Pope’s 1839 denunciation of slavery, In Supremo Apostolatus,  there are a number of things to bear in mind.   James McMaster was to blame for the most outrageous “Catholic” apologies for slavery.   While Hughes sold his newspaper, the Freeman’s Journal, to McMaster, a rabid states rights Democrat, in 1856, Hughes broke with McMaster and dissolved any association between McMaster and the church.    The intemperate McMaster was really MacMaster, by the way, and his heritage was Scots Presbyterian before he converted to Catholicism, merrily becoming the cafeteria kind and completely ignoring In Supremo.  He was educated at Union College, Columbia University and the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church. McMaster argued there was nothing wrong with slavery, rationalizing perhaps that In Supremo didn’t really prohibit slavery or prohibit endorsing it in any way.  Judge for yourself, In Supremo:
This is why, desiring to remove such a shame from all the Christian nations, having fully reflected over the whole question and having taken the advice of many of Our Venerable Brothers the Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, and walking in the footsteps of Our Predecessors, We warn and adjure earnestly in the Lord faithful Christians of every condition that no one in the future dare to vex anyone, despoil him of his possessions, reduce to servitude, or lend aid and favour to those who give themselves up to these practices, or exercise that inhuman traffic by which the Blacks, as if they were not men but rather animals, having been brought into servitude, in no matter what way, are, without any distinction, in contempt of the rights of justice and humanity, bought, sold, and devoted sometimes to the hardest labour. Further, in the hope of gain, propositions of purchase being made to the first owners of the Blacks, dissensions and almost perpetual conflicts are aroused in these regions.
We reprove, then, by virtue of Our Apostolic Authority, all the practices abovementioned as absolutely unworthy of the Christian name. By the same Authority We prohibit and strictly forbid any Ecclesiastic or lay person from presuming to defend as permissible this traffic in Blacks under no matter what pretext or excuse, or from publishing or teaching in any manner whatsoever, in public or privately, opinions contrary to what We have set forth in this Apostolic Letter.

In 1863 Hughes was gravely ill with kidney disease and would be dead by the beginning of the new year.  He had devoted most of his career to defending Catholic immigrants and telling Nativists that the Catholic Church in America would stay out of politics.   He stepped over that line to become a Lincoln ally and declare it a just war when Lincoln’s government used force to oppose secession:  secession is an illegal and unconstitutional act that the government has a right and obligation to oppose.  By 1863, Hughes, having celebrated one too many requiem masses, wanted the bloodshed to end and believed there needed to be an inclusive political solution to slavery.   He was right.  The North would not be able to successfully impose an end to slavery by military means alone.  The 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution were a start, but the solution didn’t truly begin to be realized until Martin Luther King and a southern president, Lyndon Johnson, gave us the 1964 Civil Rights Act.   Even today we still haven’t addressed all the problems created by America’s slavery past.

It is fascinating to read Irish-American James Connolly’s diary and letters written while Connolly helped General Sherman’s army march through Georgia and South Carolina in 1864-65.  Major Connolly was the officer who blew the whistle on the Union army general who left scores of freed slaves behind at Ebenezer Creek to drown or be re-enslaved by the Confederates.  Connolly was vocal about thrashing Southerners and ending slavery.   In the next breath, he’d tell his wife he’d be home as soon as the job was done … which would be very soon.   The naivete is hard to fathom today.   After all those Confederates fought so hard to retain their status quo, Connolly believed he’d go home and the slaves would remain free.  In fact, slavery would be over in name only once Connolly and Sherman went home.   Archbishop Hughes having lived in Maryland for a time was less naïve.

Who were the rioters? The easy answer long has been to blame the immigrants, i.e., the Irish.  No one ever checked the rioters birth certificates, passports or visas.   There isn’t a random sample of who they were.   Cook identifies many rioters as Irish, but others weren’t.  For example, Cook tells us that Irishman George Glass led the mob that lynched poor Abraham Franklin, for no other reason than Franklin’s skin was black.  Then Cook adds that Mark Silva an English Immigrant supplied the rope.

An examination of Cooks lists (521) of “rioters” and those arrested during the riots suggests about 45% had names or origins appear to be Irish.   That seems reasonable, although the name game can be tricky.   One of Cook’s rioters is Richard Sears McCulloh, a Columbia University chemistry professor.   His name could be Irish or Scots.   It turns out that the McCulloh’s ancestors were Scots and Pilgrims.  His father’s name is a very famous part of American history as McCulloch v. Maryland, the Supreme Court case that held that the U.S. Constitution and laws in accordance with the Constitution were supreme and could not be controlled by the states.  The younger McCulloh was a states’ rights Confederate sympathizer.   Ironic, isn’t it.   Underlining the sectarian divisions in those days McCulloh was Columbia’s second choice for the chemistry job.   The first choice was disqualified from consideration because he was a Unitarian and not an orthodox Presbyterian or Episcopalian.  It is purely speculation, but McCulloh might have been the riots’ chief arsonist.   He disappeared from New York during the riots and showed up in Richmond offering his services to Jefferson Davis to make weapons of mass destruction.  The war ended before McCulloh succeeded in weaponizing poison gas.  What we can be certain of is that not all Columbia University professors were arsonists... nor were all Columbia graduates slavery supporting Southern sympathizers.  Irish-American Phil Kearny, a Columbia alumnus, was one of the North’s most aggressive generals.  Had he not been killed in the front lines at Chantilly in 1862 he might have been asked to command the Army of the Potomac instead of Meade.  Before Columbia, McCulloh studied and taught at Princeton.   Princeton had lots of Confederates.

There’s plenty of blame to go around for the riots, rich and poor, FIREMEN, and especially the federal government, which created the problem in the first place by passing and enforcing a class-privileged conscription law.  The most important point to be made, though, is that most of the city including its 300,000 Irish immigrants, did not riot.  The city’s “bloody” 6th Ward and its infamous Five Points neighborhood featured in the movie Gangs of New York were relatively quiet. Most of the work to restore order was done by New Yorkers themselves.  If even as much as five percent of New York’s 800,000 citizens had rioted, a few soldiers and police battalions armed only with clubs would never have defeated the mobs.  According to Cook, “The New York Times estimated that the whole number of real rioters was only two to three thousand.  The crowds who filled the streets were mostly spectators, though numbers of them might have taken a marginal part in the rioting:  adolescent boys by throwing stones, women by shrieking obscenities and threats at the police and soldiers or, more rarely, by putting stones in their stocking to make slingshots.”
The aftermath… besides providing fodder for those inclined to vilify immigrants?   With the riots behind it, the city went back about its business and immense role in supporting the war.   In August, the draft was recommenced without trouble, a large federal military force in town just in case.   Lincoln and Seymour reached an accommodation lowering the city’s draft quota and the city government promised to “… pay $300 to exempt any drafted FIREMEN [my emphasis], policemen, members of the militia, or indigent New Yorker who could prove that his induction into the army would cause hardship to his family.”

The rich and their children continued to hold their summer regattas and baseball games while the city’s Irish Brigade, Excelsior Brigade, Corcoran’s Legion, Tammany Hall regiment and other soldiers fought on at Spotsylvania, the Wilderness and the siege of Petersburg.  The city’s Mozart Hall regiment returned to the fighting, too, long having renounced its sponsor Fernando Wood.  Otto Von Steuben joined the city’s German Rangers in February of 1864 and was killed at Spotsylvania along with his fellow Prussian officer Count Herman Von Haake.  Irish American Edward Patrick Doherty, who fought at Bull Run, was captured, escaped and joined Corcoran’s Legion, led the 16th New York Cavalry contingent that hunted down and killed John Wilkes Booth in 1865.  After many years residing in New York City, Doherty died in 1897 and was buried at Arlington Cemetery after his funeral at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Harlem.

Hundreds were arrested for rioting or looting in the July riots.  Only a few dozen were punished, some for riot, most for robbery, very few for murder, according to Cook’s accounting.  Virginian John Andrew was sentenced to three years hard labor for treason and inciting rebellion.  Egert Cox was sent to jail for sixty days for attacking a tenement where blacks lived.  William Cruise was sent to state prison for two years for his part in the attack on a mixed race family that resulted in the death of Ann Derrickson.  Michael Doyle was convicted of larceny and sentenced to fifteen years in state prison.  George Glass and Mark Silva, arrested for lynching Abraham Franklin, were never brought to trial.  Neither was Matthew Zweick who was arrested for the lynching of African American James Costello.  The grand jury refused to indict Franicis Cusick for attacking Superintendent Kennedy and his driver Murphy.

After rioting, the iron workers in the 18th Ward went back to their jobs, e.g., Franklin’s Forge, the Allaire Iron Works, and Novelty Iron Works, making machinery to support the Union war effort.  The city was a major center for iron work, shipbuilding and enlisting sailors to man the Union navy’s ships.  The records for men joining the Union navy after the riots are very different from those of the army units of all the states, which remained segregated throughout the war.   The “Return of the United States Naval Rendezvous at New York”  for the week ending December 5, 1863 shows Black, “Colored,” and Mulatto men enlisting one after another alongside men from Ireland, Germany, England and the United States.

It would be the powerful Union navy that would allow General Grant to swing his overland campaign around Richmond in 1864 and lay siege to Petersburg, much like McClellan had planned in 1862.   Supplied by sea, Grant was able to sustain a months long siege and eventually drive Robert E. Lee into the open and defeat at Appomattox.

Some, like the New York Times Sam Roberts, point to the 1865 New York State census report showing a decline in New York City’s African American population and blame the Draft Riots.  The 1870 U.S. Census, on the other hand, shows an increase in the African American population compared to 1860. Apparently, Roberts et al neglected to read the notes accompanying that 1865 census.  These acknowledge undercounting due to difficulties finding enumerators in 1865 and reluctance of many in the city to being recorded by a government that had subjected them to conscription.  Moreover, if the New York State 1855 Census decline is an indication for African Americans, the state censuses appear to have had a tendency to undercount the population relative the U.S. Censuses.   

US and New York State Censuses 1850 - 1870

New York City


Census Year
African American
African American
1850 (US)
1855 (state)
1860 (US)
1865 (state)
1870 (US)

Another factor in the 1865 enumeration, by June many of the city’s African American soldiers and sailors were still mobilized in the Union service.  One of the city’s three African-American regiments appears to have been part of the powerful African-American XXV Corps that helped trap Lee at Appomattox and was taken by General Sheridan to pacify Texas and liberate Mexico.   It is fascinating to speculate that some of General Sheridan’s “discharged” soldiers who helped Juarez evict the French may have been African Americans from New York City.

Simon Winchester in his The Professor and the Madman provides another counterpoint to the narrative of continued New York City and immigrant support for the war after the riots.  Winchester’s story is about an Oxford English Dictionary contributor who has been driven mad and to murder after being forced to brand an Irish deserter following the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864.  To embellish his story, Winchester observes that after Emancipation (announced in the fall of 1862), “Irish troops … began to run away, to desert.  And large numbers of them certainly deserted from the terrible flames and bloodshed of the Battle of the Wilderness.”

Consider the source, first.  Before his success with The Professor and the Madman, Winchester was a reporter for the Guardian on the Northern Ireland beat during The Troubles.  He was best known then for being denounced on the floor of Parliament by Bernadette Devlin McAliskey.  McAliskey objected to a Guardian story where Winchester justified British soldiers shooting bystander Berney Watt.

The story about a dictionary contributor haunted by an Irish deserter was probably just a “Twinkie Defense” dreamed up by lawyers to entertain an English judge and jury and save a defendant from the gallows.   During the Civil War, the Union army did not use whipping or branding to punish anyone.   It was unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment and would have discouraged volunteers from joining the army.   Even if it had happened, it is unlikely the dictionary contributor Dr. William Minor ever got close to the Battle of the Wilderness, or its aftermath.  Minor’s military record suggests that, after graduating from Yale, he was in transit to Washington at the time the battle occurred. 

Winchester’s allegations of Irish desertion are a fiction, too.   Desertion was a widespread problem for the Union army, not confined to one group, e.g., the Army of the Potomac, and the demographics of the deserters are not, in fact, well known.  There is quite a bit of missing data.  My own research on New York State unit records, based on a random sample, does indicate some difference between soldiers in the city units and soldiers in the upstate units.  This primarily reflects early war enlistment differences and chaotic early city recruiting that was too vulnerable to bounty jumping and soldiers switching units without authorization.  One subject in my sample deserted from the navy to join the army – maybe he suffered from sea sickness.   Upstate and city, the majority of desertions occurred within the first ninety days of a soldier’s enlistment, probably due to bounty jumping or failure to adapt to army life.  Overall the most desertions occurred during 1861, 62 and 63.   By 1864, desertions declined and there is no unusual desertion activity associated with 1864 and the Battle of the Wilderness.  If anything, spikes in desertion are associated with time periods when recruiting efforts were the heaviest.  The Emancipation Proclamation appears to have had no effect on desertion rates.

It is best to avoid what Aristotle called the Fallacy of Composition, judging a group by the appearance or behavior of some of its members.  It is better yet to avoid just making things up.  Blatant generalizations likely tell us more about the prejudices of an author than they do about the story the author is telling.  The New York Times conclusion, however, about responsibility for the New York City Draft Riots was spot on:

“If it were not hopeless to expect foresight from Governments, we should find good ground for complaint that this City should have been stripped of all its troops, first by the General Government and then by Gov. Seymour, and that then the draft should have been put in force when it was morally certain to meet with sharp resistance.”
- New York Times, July 17, 1863
Poets 1, Princeton 0.

Table 1
Individuals awarded
the Medal of Honor
Civil War
Total by Birth Country

Cape Verde Islands

Included in the total, 25 African American soldiers and sailors, 23 born in the US, 1 born in Mexico and 1 born in the Cape Verde Islands.