For five days in July 1863, at the height of the Civil War, New York City was under siege. Angry rioters burned draft offices, closed factories, destroyed railroad tracks and telegraph lines, and hunted policemen and soldiers. Before long, the rioters also turned their murderous wrath against the black community. In the end, at least 105 people were killed, making the draft riots the most violent insurrection in American history.
Iver Bernstein tells the story of the New York City draft riots, detailing how what began as a demonstration against the first federal draft quickly expanded into a sweeping assault against local institutions and the personnel of Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party as well as a grotesque race riot. In a tour de force of historical detection, Bernstein shows that to evaluate the significance of the riots we must enter the minds and experiences of a cast of characters: Irish and German immigrant workers, Wall Street businessmen who frantically debated whether to declare martial law, nervous politicians in Washington and at City Hall. An in-depth study of one of the most troubling and least understood crises in American history, The New York City Draft Riots is the first book to reveal the complex social, cultural, and political relations that made the bloody events of July 1863 possible.
"Not since David Montgomery's Beyond Equality (1967) has the relationship between Civil War politics and the social history of the urban-industrial North been explored so successfully as in this study."