I am currently researching an item in the Historical Society known as the “Draft Wheel.” The Draft Wheel was used in the New York City draft lotteries during the Civil War. This draft is also infamous because it resulted in the worst urban riots in our nation’s history.
On July 13, 1863, New York City was in a state of anarchy. The working class Irish immigrant population was expressing their anger with prodigious amounts of fury. The idea that any civil order in the City lost after New York Mayor Updyke took refuge at the St. Nicolas Hotel on Spring Street. Even top Democratic leaders and notable allies of the interests of Irish Americans, Willy Marcy “Boss” Tweed and the anti- war Democratic New York governor Horatio Seymour were condemning the violence that had erupted on the streets of New York. When the United States Department of War heard of the terror that erupted on the streets of New York, the draft lotteries were immediately postponed. But relief would not come for the City of New York and its tired police officers until the 16th of July.
At 4 am of July 16th, fresh New York veterans from the Battle of Gettysburg arrived in New York City to quell the violence. With the threatening presence of the army, the violence began to settle. However, it was not until Archbishop Hughes spoke to his fellow Roman Catholic Irishmen that the violence ultimately subsided. So it was not the military, nor was it respected Tammany Hall politicians who quelled the anarchy in New York City. It was the powerful words of the City’s Archbishop who had the true authority amongst the Irish community.