In 1860, the Democratic nature of the large immigrant community & the City’s mercantile interests were pro-Southern and even pro-slavery. Historian Leslie M. Harris, associate professor of history at Emory University, noted: “From the time of Lincoln’s election in 1860, the Democratic Party had warned New York’s Irish and German residents to prepare for the emancipation of slaves and the resultant labor competition when southern blacks would supposedly flee North.” New York seemed opposed to the war.
Despite the reservations of some elements of society New York served with zeal. After the first three months of the firing on Fort Sumter 30,000 volunteers rushed to join the war effort. Several famous New York regiments earned their stripes fighting for the union, the 69th “Fighting Irish” and the 11th “New York Fire Zouaves.” These soldiers joined nearly 400,000 men from the Empire State, 45,000 more than the next highest state, Pennsylvania. The military contribution in manpower was a key element in Union victory & New York was an instrumental player.
The 69th are still active today
New York was far from the front lines, but that did not mean it was far from action. The draft riots of 1863 have already been touched on as the largest civil uprising in our nation’s history, leading to scores of people dead and racial humiliation & looting. In addition confederate saboteurs were active in the city, planning to light a string of fires on election day in 1864. They were unsuccessful. The Brooklyn Navy Yard constructed the first Ironclad, the USS Monitor, and contributed greatly to wartime manufacturing.
Lincoln’s passing was felt by the city
Near the wars end New York honored Lincoln’s death, as New Yorkers flocked to see the President’s procession. The State has come to terms with the conflicted role it has played in the war, and in the end New York was changed as much as the rest of the nation.
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