As the Civil War continued in 1863, and the need for more troops grew, the United States Congress passed a law to establish the draft. As a part of this draft, new immigrants were expected to register for the draft, black were excluded from the draft and if you could afford it a man could pay for a substitute.
In New York City the first drawing on July 11th 1863 had occurred smoothly, even though there had been reports of riots in other cities. But on Monday July 13th 1863 when the second drawing started a crowd of about 500 led by one the fire companies attacked the assistant Ninth District Provost Marshal’s Office on the corner of Third Avenue and 47th Street, where the draft was being held. This mob threw paving stones through the windows, pushed down the doors, and finally set the building on fire. The riot moved on with its destruction, smashing vehicles and killing horses that pulling streetcars. To keep other parts of the city from coming the aid, the rioters cut telegraph lines.
When the Confederates invaded Pennsylvania, the New York State Militia had been sent to the Union assistance. The only force in the city to put down the riot was the New York Police Department. When the Police Superintendent John A Kennedy arrived, he was recognized by some the rioters. They attacked him, beating him to an unconscious bloody pulp. Other police in the area armed with clubs and guns charged the crowd, but they were outnumbered and unable to put down the riot. As the mob moved on they burned the Bull’s Head Hotel on 44th Street because they refused to serve alcohol. Then the mob moved onto the mayor’s home, and the eighth and fifth districts police stations, setting them on fire as well. When the rioters reached the New York Times building they were turned back by a Gatling gun fired by the “Times” founder Henry Jarvis Raymond. As the rioters continued their path of destruction, they turned their attention to the blacks of the city. Viewed as competition for jobs, the fear of more blacks coming to the city following emancipation and the view that the slaves were the cause of the war, thereby the need for the draft, the mob beat and killed a number of black people. Reaching the Colored Orphan Asylum on Fifth Avenue and 44th Street around 4pm, a mob made up mostly of women and children looted the building before sitting it on fire. Police were able to help the 233 black children living at Asylum escape just ahead of the fire.
The rioting on July 13th 1863 finally came to an end when a hard rain started and drove the people out of the streets. The rain helped put out the fires. It was only a short break as the mobs return the next day. It would take the presence of hardened Union fighting troops to put the riots down and calm the city. There isn’t a certain known number of deaths, but it’s thought that about 120 civilians were killed in the New York Draft Riots, and around 2,000 injured. There were fifty buildings burnt down including the Orphan Asylum and two churches.
To read more look at The New York City Draft Riots of 1863