Some may be wondering, "What is the deal with all the Irish rioters during the New York City draft riots of 1863?" Well, actually, I doubt if anyone was wondering that, but I find it extremely interesting and one of the main reasons the riots started in the first place.
Job Competition - Firstly, you must keep in mind that nine days before the riots began was the Battle of Gettysburg. And not long before that came the Emancipation Proclamation. This broadened the goal of the Union from just focusing on preserving the Union to also abolishing slavery. In New York City and other highly populated northern cities, numerous immigrants were present, many from Ireland. The free African-American population in New York City and the Irish immigrants were competing for jobs. So this thought was most likely in the mind of the average Irish worker: Why should I fight to end slavery when all they do is come and steal my work?
Class Resentment – The Irish laborer, along with many other recent immigrants from Europe, had been exposed to and impacted by the many social upheavals experienced in Europe in previous decades. They came with, or in some cases developed, a class consciousness and a simmering resentment of wealthy elite industrialists who were growing rich from war profiteering while they themselves lived in squalor. The Irish laborer also resented the Abolitionists and Republicans whom they accused of caring more about the conditions of African slaves than they did the poor working classes living in northern cities. Southern leaning politicians played on and stoked these feelings of resentment in the hopes of generating resistance to the Union cause.Image Homes of the Rioters:, Civil War Treasures from the New-York Historical Society.
Vulnerable to the Draft - Finally, to many working immigrants, the drafts seemed unfair. Sometimes, the only way for the immigrants to gain citizenship was to enlist for the Union. Irish immigrants were prone to the draft because others had connections to get out of it, not to mention, the wealthier draftees could simply pay his $300 and be done with it.