The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

The Military Draft

What did Lincoln and Stanton do?

Secretary of War Stanton was convinced that the riots had to be stamped out, not only for New York City, but for the success of the draft in the nation. If New York managed to defy the conscription law and escape punishment, other cities might take heart. In fact, the mayor of Detroit telegraphed that his city had already seen a race riot—directed against the African Americans—and he feared much worse might soon occur. Boston, on the other hand, took a hard line; when the police office in the Old North End was attacked, the men there defended their position with pistols and rifles, and they beat the mob.

Stanton wanted to put New York City under martial law, but Lincoln demurred. He had never been at ease in New York, had lost the election in that city in 1860, and he wanted the Democrats—his political foes—to remain in control of the situation; otherwise he might be called a dictator. It was agreed to send regiments from Gettysburg, but that the local authorities should handle the crisis.


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