The uproar began as a protest of the new law, and by the end of the first day it was a full-fledge race riot: 11 black men were lynched, 120 African Americans were murdered, 2,000 were injured, and there was up to $5 million in property damage.
The riots lasted three days and largely consisted of white working-class men. Wealthier men were able to avoid the draft with an exemption payment of $300.
The Union League Club and the Committee of Merchants for the Relief of Colored People donated $40,000 to 2,500 victims of the riot. They also helped them find new homes and jobs.
In a letter from New York Governor Horatio Seymour Seymour asking President Lincoln to end the drafting in New York, he wrote: “Remember this—that the bloody and treasonable doctrine of public necessity can be proclaimed by a mob as well as by a government.”
Lincoln replied: “I can not consent to suspend the draft in New York as you request, because, among other reasons, time is too important.”
By August 10, 1863, 450,000 men were drafted into the service.
Words of Wisdom
Conscription is a necessity; the conscription is a law; the conscription is just. It is the justest mode of raising an army—just to the people of every class and condition, poor and rich, lack and white. No class of citizens is exempt from its operation-even poor clergymen, if drafted, being compelled to shoulder their musket.