The New York City draft riots were violent disturbances in New York City that were the culmination of working-class discontent with new laws passed by Congress that year to draft men to fight in the ongoing American Civil War. The riots remain the largest civil and racial insurrection in American history, aside from the Civil War itself.
U.S. President Abraham Lincoln diverted several regiments of militia and volunteer troops from following up after the Battle of Gettysburg to control the city. The rioters were overwhelmingly working-class men, resenting particularly that wealthier men, who could afford to pay a $300 (equivalent to $5,766 in 2015) commutation fee to hire a substitute, were spared from the draft.
Initially intended to express anger at the draft, the protests turned into a race riot, with white rioters, predominantly Irish immigrants, attacking blacks throughout the city. The official death toll was listed at 119.
The military did not reach the city until after the first day of rioting, by which time the mobs, primarily ethnic Irish, had already ransacked or destroyed numerous public buildings, two Protestant churches, the homes of various abolitionists or sympathizers, many black homes, and the Colored Orphan Asylum at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue, which was burned to the ground.
The demographics of the city changed as a result of the riot. So many blacks left Manhattan permanently (many moving to Brooklyn), that by 1865 their population fell below 10,000, the number in 1820.