This month we are marking the 160th anniversary of one of the most dramatic moments in New York City history – the Civil War Draft Riots which stormed through the city from July 13 to July 16, 1863.
Thousands of people took to the streets of Manhattan in violent protest, fueled initially by anger over conscription to the Union Army which sent New Yorkers to the front lines of the Civil War. (Or, most specifically, those who couldn’t afford to pay the $300 commutation fee were sent to war.)
In many ways, our own city often seems to have forgotten these significant events.
There are very few memorials or plaques in existence at all to the Draft Riots, a very odd situation given the numerous markers to other tragic and unsettling moments in New York City history.
In particular, given the number of African-Americans who were murdered in the streets during these riots, and the numbers of Black families who fled New York in terror, we think this is a very significant oversight.
In this episode, a remastered, re-edited edition of our 2011 show, we take you through those hellish days of deplorable violence and appalling attacks on abolitionists, Republicans, wealthy citizens, and anybody standing in the way of blind anger. Mobs filled the streets, destroying businesses (from corner stores to Brooks Brothers) and threatening to throw the city into permanent chaos.
And did you see this performance from the musical Paradise Square, set during the Draft Riots?