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July 13: Draft Riots in New York

July 13, 2014
Lincoln+ElectedOn the first of three days of “draft riots” in New York City, a mob gathered on this date in 1863 in front of the home (on West 34th Street and Eighth Avenue), of Jewish Republican leader and abolitionist Abram J. Dittenhoefer (1836-1919), shouting “Down with the abolitionists” and “Death to Dittenhoefer.” A messenger was dispatched to the police, whose “active club work,” Dittenhoefer later wrote, “dispersed the crowd.” The rioters were primarily Irish, working-class men who resented the Union draft laws, which permitted men who could afford to pay a $300 to hire a substitute. Raging through the city, mobs killed 30 blacks, burned down the Colored Orphan Asylum at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue, killed or wounded 400 others, and destroyed about $5 million in property. President Abraham Lincoln ultimately had to divert several regiments following the Battle of Gettysburg to control the riots. Abram Dittenhoefer, a young South Carolinian, had moved to New York and helped to direct both of Lincoln’s presidential campaigns. He was the author of How We Elected Lincoln, and served as a magistrate of the City Court for New York. “He was a very awkward man, but after he began to talk, he was awkwardness deified.” —Abram Dittenhoefer about Abraham Lincoln