Saturday, May 11, 2019

Baffling Draft Riots Myths

Some blame Irish Catholics for the Draft Riots and then embellish the story by claiming soldiers from the Army of the Potomac had to be sent fresh from the battlefield of Gettysburg to quell the riots, allowing the Confederates to escape a crushing Union victory.

No Units Engaged at Gettysburg sent to NY to Quell Draft Riots

Any statement to the contrary is objectively false.   The police, militia and army units in the city at the time of the riots were primarily responsible for containing the rioters.

The Draft Riots took place in 1863 on July 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th.  [Lee's army had already crossed into Virginia when Meade was made aware of the riots on 7/15]

The evening of the 13th,  Mayor Opdyke notified Secretary of War Stanton that there was a draft riot in New York City and that help was needed to contain it.   At 2 p.m. on the 14th,  Union Army General-in-Chief Halleck messaged Major-General Couch at Chambersburg, PA, in command of the Department of the Susquehanna, telling Couch to detach two regiments of New York State militia and send them to New York City,  the New York State militia having been mobilized in June and sent to defend the Pennsylvania capital at Harrisburg.  At no time were New York State militia "engaged" or anywhere near the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place on July 1st, 2nd and 3rd.

Subsequently, the entire contingent of New York State militia was returned to New York State and demobilized, their thirty day mobilization being concluded.   But not before Halleck marked his turf, so to speak, and countermanded Couch's order to sent home the militia ... until political pressure reversed Halleck.

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 151863.
Major-General COUCH, Chambersburg, Pa.:
SIR: You will countermand the movement north of all New York regiments, excepting the two ordered from these headquarters
H. W. HALLECK, General-in-Chief.

WAR DEPARTMENT,  Washington, July 161863--4.40 p.m.
His Excellency Governor SEYMOUR New York:
SIR: Eleven New York regiments [militia] are relieved and are at Frederick, and will be forwarded to New York as fast as transportation can be furnished them.
Please signify to me anything you may desire to be done by the Department. Whatever means are at its disposal shall be at your command for the purpose of restoring order in New York
EDWIN M. STANTON, Secretary of War.

On July 15th,  Halleck notified General Meade, in command of the Army of the Potomac, that the 8th Regiment Regulars and a battery of artillery (Battery C, 5th Regular Artillery} were ordered to New York City.  At 8 p.m. on the 15th Meade notified Halleck that the 8th and the artillery battery (500 men, 100 horse and six 12-pound cannon) would be sent as soon as transportation arrangements could be made.  The commander of the Artillery reserved reported that Battery C had been sent to New York City on the 16th.   Battery C had been actively engaged on July 2nd and 3rd at the Battle of Gettysburg.  The 8th Regulars were not engaged, serving as provost guard.   The 8th and Battery C arrived in New York after the riots had been quelled.

On the 15th, Stanton ordered General Dix to New York to take command of the Eastern Department and relieve General Wool.  Dix takes over on July 18th.

Adrian Cook, Armies of the Streets, identifies the units arriving to assist New York as follows (corroborated by AOR):
July 15th 
65th NYSNG -- arriving at 5 p.m. -- sent from Harrisburg -- actively engaged in quelling riots, but with dubious results

July 16th
7th   NYSNG -- arriving early a.m. -- sent from Harrisburg -- actively engaged in quelling riots and effective in quieting infamous 18th ward on east side
74th NYSNG -- sent from Harrisburg 
26th Michigan Volunteers    -- sent from Washington, D.C. on 7/14 -- previously assigned to Siege of Suffolk, Department of Virginia
152nd New York Volunteers -- sent from Washington, D.C. on 7/14 -- previously assigned to Siege of Suffolk, Department of Virginia

Some based Dyer's Civil War Compendium identify the following as Gettysburg engaged units that helped quell the draft riots.   Per Army Official Records and NYS records, they were not.  Their actual assignments:

Battery C,  5th U.S. Artillery (6 cannon, ~100 men) -- ordered to New York and departed for NY on 7/16, arriving after the riots were over ... actively engaged at Gettysburg on the 7/2 and 7/3 
13th New York Cavalry -- A, B, C, D, E and F companies sent to Department of Washington, D.C.,  then to Alexandria, VA., 7/6, 7/13 participated in pursuit of Lee back to DC.  No Gettysburg, no riots. 
13th New York Cavalry -- G and H companies remained in New York "to fill up the regiment" when regiment recruited and helped quell the draft riots before being sent to Washington, D.C.
28th NYSNG (militia) -- 7/20 assigned to Dept of Susquehanna at Harrisburg.   Released by Halleck on 7/17 and returned to Brooklyn 7/19.  No Gettysburg.

"Irish Catholic, and many German workingmen and women looted Protestant Republican businesses, particularly merchants."

There's no disputing this is reckless.   It's a fallacy of composition.  Some rioters were Irish may weren't.  Moreover, if you brand the Irish-Catholics as looters,  why wouldn't you say that the police who were primarily responsible for containing the rioters were Irish-Catholics (although I doubt all of them were).  And why wouldn't you mention that the cabal (Wood, Belmont, Manton Marble, Samuel Morse and company) who incited the rioting were native-born Protestants, except for Belmont, who was neither Irish nor Catholic.   Or that the 26th Michigan and 152nd New York had been sent to New York from the division commanded by the famous "Figthing Irish" General Michael Corcoran, a Catholic... as was the commanding general of the Army of the Potomac, Irish-American George Gordon Meade.   Or that by far most New Yorkers  DID NOT RIOT, including the city's Irish Catholics.

Finally, you should note that one of Lincoln's most important allies in New York City was the Catholic Archbishop Hughes, a longtime friend of Secretary of State Seward.  

NEW YORK, July 181863.
 Hon. WM. H. SEWARD, 
Secretary of State:
MY DEAR GOVERNOR: We have had a week of trouble and apprehension in this city. I think the trouble is now over. The plea of the discontents is, on the surface, the draft. At its bottom, however, in my opinion, the discontent will be found in what the misguided people imagine to be a disposition on the part of a few here and elsewhere to make black labor equal to white labor, and put both on the same equality, with the difference that black labor shall have local patronage over the toil of the white man. I have no opinion of my own to express on the subject. The guilty parties are not those who have figured in our streets as agents in the destruction of life and property; but there is behind the scene a latent purpose to stimulate them, originating with men [cabal mentioned above] whose patriotism would signify the overthrow of the legitimate Government under which we live, instead of struggling for the salvation of the country.
Yesterday I gathered what they call the mob around me, and spoke to them. There were many things which I did not mention, because it was not the proper time or place. I had been authorized from very reputable sources to state that the draft was suspended in New York and Brooklyn. I did not make any such statement, because if the law on that score was just, the Executive is bound to carry it out. But I would say to you now, that if it can be, let the actual prosecution of the draft, I will not say be suspended, but baffled about at headquarters for fifteen or twenty days. One day yes, another day no, a third day not quite decided, until the people of this city, so numerous and so liable to excitement, shall have had time to reflect.
I should be glad, and I am not even without hope, that its rigid execution may not be necessary for the preservation of the Union. Matters in the South and Southwest have been going on so prosperously for the Administration that I think the civil war is virtually, though not actually, at an end. But any measures harsher than the dignity of our President's office requires, would be very untimely just now in our city. Let the draft not be given up, but let it be baffled for a couple of weeks, and I have no apprehensions as to the result.
I remain, as ever, my dear Governor, your devoted friend and servant,
 + JOHN,