The Home Front: 1861 to 1865

The Military Draft

When did the trouble begin?

On Saturday, July 11, 1863, one week after the conclusion of the Battle of Gettysburg, the first draft wheels were employed. Twelve hundred and fifty names were drawn that day, and an equal number were scheduled for Monday, July 12. But on the morning of July 12, not hundreds but thousands of city people—many of them from the poorer ranks of society—turned out in protest. No one knows who fired the first shot, or who threw the first brick, but within two or three hours it was apparent that a genuine crisis was at hand.

The disaffected crowd attacked the homes of wealthy persons and threatened to burn the structures. The greatest anger was reserved for blacks, however. The idea that the war would be placed on the back of the poor white man in order to liberate the black man, who then might well take his place at the factory, was intolerable. Crowds chased black individuals, sometimes catching and killing them. But the nastiest and ugliest mob of all was that which attacked the Colored Orphan Asylum.


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