While the Civil War was raging, the Draft Riots in New York City erupted. For days, rioters, largely working-class Irish men, rampaged businesses and murdered mostly black civilians. The riots remain the largest civil insurrection in U.S. history.
In 1863, New York City has home to the worst, and one of ugliest, civil disturbance in American history. Even though a military draft had been instituted to recruit all Northern men for the Civil War, the rich were allowed to pay fines so that their family members were exempt. In New York City, this meant that a disproportionate amount of Irish immigrants were forced to head south in service of Lincoln’s army. That only exasperated tensions between poor Irish workers and the black people they saw as a threat to their jobs. In the summer of 1863, riots broke out in the city. The mob targeted just about anyone, including business owners. However, they clearly had blacks in mind, with lynch mobs executing any they found. An orphanage for black children was burnt to the ground as well. The violence only subsided when Union forces, straight for Gettysburg, marched on the city.