AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive
New York City Draft Riots of July 1863
Article from America's Civil War Magazine and TheHistoryNet
New York City Draft Riots
The wife of a bedridden Union surgeon was a horrified witness to the New York City Draft Riots of July 1863.
By J.D. Haines
Martha Derby Perry was stunned when she looked out her upper-floor window into the New York City street below. She was sitting at the bedside of her husband, assistant surgeon John Perry of the 20th Massachusetts Volunteers, as he recovered from a severely fractured leg. Below, she "saw rushing up Lexington Avenue, within a few paces of our house, a great mob of men, women, and children; the men, in red working shirts, looking fairly fiendish as they brandished clubs, threw stones, and fired pistols. Many of the women had babies in their arms, and all of them were completely lawless as they swept on."
For five days, from Monday, July 13, until Friday, July 17, 1863, terror reigned in the streets of New York. Armed mobs protesting the first Federal conscription threatened the nation's manufacturing and commercial center. What began as a demonstration against the draft and Abraham Lincoln's Republican administration rapidly degenerated into bloody race riots that left at least 105 people dead. The New York City Draft Riots were by far the most violent civil disorder in 19th-century America. The widespread destruction threatened the very foundations of the Union.
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