Gangs of New York and the draft riots

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Karl_O, Dec 18, 2002.

  1. Karl_O

    Karl_O Stunt Coordinator

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    In the upcoming movie, "The Gangs of New York," it mentions something that is called the "draft riots." What are these riots and how significant are they?
     
  2. Larry Schneider

    Larry Schneider Second Unit

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    During the Civil War the Union instituted a draft - but the well-off could buy their way out of service by paying $300 for a "substitute." New York City saw a major riot, many of the participants being Irish immigrants lasting several days. Many victims were blacks who were blamed for being the cause of the war.
     
  3. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    Or more specifically- Irish immigrants felt the influx of freed slaves were currently and would continue to cause hardship for them- as Blacks were willing to take the lowest end labor for less money than the Irish immigrants. Whether it was ever really verbalized directly or not, many felt that they shouldn't be requred to fight for a cause which, in the end, would hurt them and their livelyhood.

    The imbalance of the rich vs. the poor in the draft also sparked the resentment (it's often amazing to see how quickly tempers would flair in that era when some group felt their liberty and freedoms were being hampered).

    The whole draft riot thing is actually pretty important in NY history and certainly a rather complex and telling moment in our nation's history. A portion of Ken Burn's civil war documentary was dedicated to the Draft Riots.

    -vince
     
  4. LarryDavenport

    LarryDavenport Cinematographer

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    The Discovery Channel just did a tie-in documentary. It's being repeated New Years Day 4pm Eastern (but check your local listings).

    And if you type the words "draft riots" in any search engine you'll get the answers faster than asking HTFers.
     
  5. MikeAlletto

    MikeAlletto Cinematographer

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    I saw part of the discovery channel special. It was pretty good. I knew nothing about it. I'll have to setup to tape the repeat.
     
  6. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    The New York Draft Riots were far and away the worst riots in U.S. history, exceeding the number killed and injured in the Watts Riot, the post-Rodney King verdict riot, and any single riot of the long, hot summer of 1968, following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. In adjusted dollars the multi-day violence spree also exceeded the material cost of any single subsequent U.S. riot. I've always been astonished at how little known this event is, but given that American schools pretty much gave up on teaching American history a long time ago, so I suppose I shouldn't really be surprised.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  7. Charles J P

    Charles J P Cinematographer

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    Of course now that there is a movie about it, it will be common knowledge, however, we'll all be back here in a week bitching about how inaccurate the movie was. [​IMG]
     
  8. Karl_O

    Karl_O Stunt Coordinator

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    Somewhat off-topic, it is a surprise that opposition to the substitute provision of the Enrollment Act can create a major riot in New York City, while the events of September 11th did not start a riot; only random acts of violence. Thinking about it, the moral and emotional outrage that occurred on that day could had translated into days of violence against Muslims and the burning of mosques, but it never happened. The question is: why a recent event (September 11th) did not gave rise to riots, while a now-distant event (the Draft Riots) did?
     
  9. Bill Buklis

    Bill Buklis Supporting Actor

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    Perhaps because along with the terrible deeds on September 11th there were also many heartwarming and courageous acts to help offset people's emotions. After September 11, although we were angry, we also had a lot of sympathy.

    I think during the draft riots there was only a build-up of anger.
     
  10. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    It wasn't the substitute provision of the draft that was the major issue. People had been complaining, "Rich man's war, poor man's fight", both North and South, almost from the beginning. In the South (which introduced a draft first) a man who owned "x" number of slaves was exempt. No riots ensued.

    There were many contributing factors to the riots: Disgust with the seemingly endless war, the appalling casualty figures, the crippling nature of wounds (amputation was almost inevitable, given the ammunition and weapons being used, for what today would be a clean through-and-through wound), racial prejudice, etc. The Irish were the lowest rung of the social ladder in cities like New York. They liked having free blacks to look down on, but didn't like competing for jobs with them. They certainly didn't want to go off to fight and die to free all blacks and thus face even more competition as former slaves moved north in search of a better life. Then there were all the existing enmities between the immigrant Irish and the "nativist" gangs. It didn't take much to push things over into a major riot.

    Nothing like these conditions obtained on September 11th. That event happened in what was quite literally a different country, indeed a different world, than the New York of the 1860s. If Muslims and others in New York had already been engaging in street warfare for the better part of 20 years before September 11th, you might well have seen the kind of reaction you're talking about.

    Regards,

    Joe
     

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