Post New York City Riots
The Governor's Thoughts
Part One

     Following the remarkable rioting that occurred in mid July 1863 along the streets of New York City, Governor Horatio Seymour addressed the White House in early August of that year providing the federal government his thoughts on the incident and circumstances in the state New York that may have provoked its eruption.
Draft Riot
     The desperate campaign that lead Pennsylvania to leave her southern border unprotected drew the state militia and the federalized troops manning the fortifications around her largest city away, leaving it all roughly unprotected. Without the consultation of state officials, the provost marshal elected to commence the operation in drafting yet another quota of New Yorkers into her country's service.

     Typically throughout the state to show the utmost impartiality among the citizens, the names of those eligible were placed inside the wheels and drawn before men of different parties and of known integrity so that none would be suspicious of any wrong doing. These procedures however, were not followed in the district of New York and the excitement of this unexpected draft led to an unjustifiable attack on the election officers which steadily grew out of control into what amounted to the largest destructive riot to date.
March In
     Robbery and Arson ran rampant on July 13, 1863 as well as murderous outrage focused against a helpless race of people. The riots themselves grew to such proportionate volume that the officers and men of the central government became overwhelmed; it was only with the outpouring of law abiding citizens of the city who managed to put the attacks down, was the vast amount of national property endangered there personally protected and defended. None the less, city officials, civil, military as well as the local police precincts responded with the help of 1200 men composed of state and national forces, quelling the chaos that ran amuck that day.

     Governor Seymour considered that the situation could have been entirely avoided. The federal government had no business moving so many able bodied soldiers off from the city itself. The essence of this operation left all of New York's arsenals, navy yards and forts entirely without protection. Shipping had been burned off the coast and these mobs could have stormed the forts and turned the artillery on the town itself.
     Major General John Ellis Wool was placed in command of the unorganized body of militia and national troops then under the orders of Seymour himself, yet it was the general's belief that these troops would have been better served along the New York Harbor water front, and the orders were requested to be withdrawn. The snag occurred in that by law the United States would not permit the War Department to accept into service troops for special or qualified services.
     With the bulk of federal troops and militia withdrawn from the city, during this summer of rebel invasion, Wool only had 550 men to garrison eight fortifications about the city; fifty percent of which wouldn't understand which end of an artillery piece to point at their assailants. The USS Roanoke had been ordered to proceed from New York Harbor for Hampton Roads causing the harbor to be completely devoid of warships. If the Confederates had wind of the intelligence, the Alabama or an iron clad navy could sail in and raise the devil on the city.
     All of these concerns lead the governor to question the conscription act's constitutionality making Washington City aware that the state of New York had more than graciously supported the cause with their manpower filling the country's quotas with such patriotic fervor that they had managed a handsome surplus of men over the past two years in protection of their way of life. To avoid any further instances as the city had just experienced, it was requested that the central government consider New York's over abundance of numbers comparing them from the State Adjutant General's Office with that of Colonel James B. Fry, the Provost Marshal General. Certainly the conscription could be overlooked upon New York State until the other states in the north were to meet their share first.

     Governor Seymour predicted that as this kind of conscription continues to go on, the government shall take upon themselves a great lack of quality in the men as opposed to the patriotic character they had enjoyed during the voluntary enlistments of 1861-62. Satisfied in venting the frustrations of governing his state through this period of troubled lack of protection, his fingers could thus fold breathing a sigh of relief, listening at the ticking pendulum for the President's response, which was certain to follow.

Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2005

Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at