BlackFacts Details

New York Draft Riots

On the Monday morning of July 13, 1863, the "Enrollment

Act" (mandatory draft) takes effect, with exemption

for the wealthy, which led to summer draft riots in

New York and other major northern cities (Newark

& Jersey City, New Jersey; Toledo, Ohio;

Evansville, Illinois and Boston, Massachusetts). In

New York City, earlier in the month the Provost

Marshal for New York, Captain Joel B. Erhardt,

orders some able-bodied men that are erecting a

building to report for the draft. They attack him with

crow bars and force him to flee. Registration and

drafting had begun peaceably earlier in the month

at the Provost Marshal's Office, but on this date

thousands of workers do not report for work. Mobs

armed with clubs, knives and other weapons

converge on draft headquarters. As they converge,

they are joined by thousands of men and women

who leave work. Telegraph poles are knocked down

to disrupt communications. The police are swept

aside and the draft headquarters building is set on

fire. The mob goes wild, resulting in burning of a

Black orphanage, lynching, 3,000 Blacks

homeless, between 1,500 and 2,000 civilians dead

(many of them Black) and at least 8000 wounded or

maimed for life by a mob of at least 50,000. With

the police overwhelmed and the mayor's house

under guard, Colonel Fry brings over 100,000

regular troops to New York City, including the

entire 8th Indiana Infantry Regiment from

Gettysburg, to quell the riot in New York. One mob

assaults a platoon of soldiers and forces them to

take cover in a foundry. Reinforcements rescue

them by routing the mob with fixed bayonets. The

mobs begin smashing and looting stores. They are

pursued by soldiers who fall victim to musket fire

from the rooftops. Howitzers are rushed up and

fired into the mob. Eleven of the ringleaders are

killed. Troops battle in hand-to-hand combat in

stairwells and on rooftops. One out of every five

Black New Yorkers moves away after the riot.

Following the riot, not one Black worker showed up

for work on New York's docks. Of the hundreds

arrested, only 19 are convicted for their roles in the riot.

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