Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Battle of New York City--the week Manhattan burned





July is a big month for Civil War anniversaries. Gettysburg and Vicksburg coincided with Independence Day celebrations in a big way, marking the sesquicentennial of those turning point US victories. But a little known battle also shares its 150th anniversary this month, and that is the Battle of New York City, also known as the Civil War Draft Riots.




Shortly after Lee's defeat at Gettysburg and the end of the siege at Vicksburg dividing the Confederacy along the Mississippi River, Lincoln's Conscription Act was scheduled to take affect all over the North. An attempt to replenish the army after two years of heavy casualties, Congress passed the Enrollment Act on March 3. It would be drawn by lottery among all able bodied men from 20 to 45, including aliens intending on becoming citizens. Two particular exceptions to the draft were black men, since they were not yet considered citizens until the    Amendment, and also those able to secure a replacement by buying a $300 Commutation fee. A quota was set for each Congressional district, and on Saturday July 11 the first of these lotteries was drawn--peacefully.


Over the weekend in New York City, however, a growing resentment brewed among several factions: Copperheads who resented the Lincoln administration's executive overreach, the immigrant Irish, and other working class city dwellers competing with freed blacks for laboring jobs. They felt targeted by this law that gave exception to the rich and to black men but left them no way out but to serve. By Monday the 13th, large swarms of protesters converged on the draft office on Third Avenue and 47th Street,  and the biggest civil insurrection in American history had begun.

From July 13-16 1863, Manhattan blazed under mob rule culminating in businesses looted, widespread arson of homes and government buildings, and indiscriminate lynching of peaceful black men. Republican sympathizing papers were targeted, Brooks Brothers Clothiers was ransacked, and a black orphanage was razed. The Irish found themselves on both sides of this struggle--thousands of them protesting what they felt was a prejudicial and unjust law, taking to the streets or holding political, religious, and journalistic influence, while many others battled blazes as firefighters, restored order as police, and defended neighbors as concerned citizens.



Troops from Gettysburg were called up to finally put an end to the mayhem, many of them Irish New Yorkers themselves. In the end, over 100 black men had been killed in a tragic spate of misguided vigilantism and revenge for policies they had nothing to do with. Many black men longed to serve in the fight for their freedom, in fact, and would have answered the call to arms willingly given a chance. After the riots, thousands of the surviving black population fled Manhattan, haunted by four days when New York City burned.


My novella Bachelor Buttons is a slice of Irish life during this tumultuous event in New York's Civil War history. I am offering copies of this ebook romance to three random commenters, and will select winners on July 21 at 10 AM eastern. Please leave a comment below to enter.

Kathleen L. Maher’s novella Bachelor Buttons releases May 1 as part of a Civil War sesquicentennial collection by Helping Hands Press. She won the 2012 ACFW Genesis contest for unpublished writers. Represented by Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency, Kathleen blogs about New York State history.  She and her husband live in a 100-year-old farmhouse in upstate NY with their three children, two Newfoundland dogs and a tuxedo cat. 



18 comments:

  1. Kathleen, hubs was watching the Gangs of New York the other say and I was trying to explain the historical aspects of it. You have done a much better job. :)

    I love Bachelor Buttons.

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  2. This is fascinating information, Kathleen. I've never heard of the War of NY. I'm part Irish, and I can understand their frustrations, although I don't condone their actions. It was almost like taxation without representation all over again. You can't help feeling bad for all the people caught in between those riots.

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    1. It was a tragedy all around, Vickie. What is so fascinating is that the anniversary of the battle of Fort Wagner, where the famous all black 54th Massachusetts served, was just the other day, also.

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  3. I've read one of the other books in this Civil War collection. Would love to add Bachelor Buttons to my Kindle.

    pattymh2000(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Patty. Your odds are excellent at this point. :D Good luck!

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  4. This is wonderful history I did not know. I will have to tell my Mother. She says that I have some Irish heritage. Thank you for sharing this great information. Would love to read your book. Please enter me in your giveaway.
    Barbara Thompson
    barbmaci61(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Will do, Barbara. Thanks so much for coming by today.

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  5. What interesting information about NYC. I did not know about the fire and their involvement in the Civil war. Love to win and thanks for the giveaway. sharon, CA wileygreen1(at)yahoo(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Sharon. With so many other big battles from the Civil War, this one often gets overlooked. So glad you came by today!

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  6. Such an interesting part of the CW that we seldom hear about. I love your book, Bachelor Buttons and the way you brought this part of history alive for the readers! Great book!

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    1. Thank you so much, Debbie Lynne. So thankful for the opportunity to share it here.

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  7. I've never heard of this battle of NYC or of Manhattan burning and its part in the Civil War. Thanks for the great history lesson! Would love to win one of the copies of Bachelor Buttons to read your novella.
    kam110476 (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. Thanks, Kam. It is a rather infamous part of history, and doesn't fit into most pleasant parlor reading, but I found it fascinating. So glad you enjoyed the post. Good luck in the drawing!

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  8. This is something I didn't know - Thanks for enlightening me! Would love to win!
    truckredford(at)gmail(Dot)com

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    1. Thanks for coming by, Eliza. Good luck!

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  9. And the winners for today's drawing are: Eliza, Kam and Barbara! Thank you so much for coming by and leaving comments. I'll be contacting you later today.

    Blessings!
    Kathy

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