A Whig Account of the New York Draft Riots, 1863
". . .
Violence was a release, entertainment, a way of expression, an a form of
was an integral part of the activities of the slum gangs and a form of adaptive
behavior. The gangs, based on ethnic, communal, or local groups, were
characteristically made up of young men between sixteen and thirty. . . . and a famous gang might be able to turn out over a thousand members,
ready for battle. . . . An overwhelming percentage were
Irish. Out of the 184 (arrested) whose country of birth can be determined, 117
were born in
"Most of the roaming bands of rioters who looted stores, wrecked Negroes' homes, invaded brothels, and beat up Republicans were quite small, numbering from twenty to fifty people. . . . The Draft Riots were fundamentally an insurrection of anarchy, an outburst against any kind of governmental control by the people near the bottom of society. . . . As the hours went by, the riot itself created a devil-may-care mood of euphoria that led to more rioting. . . . One extremely strong and persistent motive was a deep-rooted hatred of Negroes. Many of those arrested for attacks on Negroes or their houses knew their victims before the riots or lived close to them. The implication is clear that they had long been envious of some Negroes' relative prosperity or resented having to dwell in the same neighborhood. . . . There was also a certain element of what can only be called sexual vigilantism present in the riots. Several of the Negroes who fell foul of the mobs were married to white women. . . ."
"The argument, sometimes heard, that the riots were sparked and fueled by white workers' (especially longshoremen's) fears of competition from cheap black labor will not stand up to examination. Only three longshoremen can be identified as rioters, and none of them in attacks on Negroes. . . . Nor is there any sign that any other type of worker was worried about the threat of former slaves flooding into the North. . . . In fact, it was the Negroes of New York City who were being undercut by competition from cheap labor. Employers preferred to hire immigrants, especially Germans, who worked long hours for low pay. In the 1850s and 1860s, Negroes were being forced out of the menial positions traditionally assigned to them, such as waiters' and barbers' jobs. . .