By mid-July of 1863 all the signs were showing the potential for a violent reaction to the draft in New York City. Draft discontent grew until the draft began among the Irish New Yorkers on July 11. Within two days a mob burned the draft office and set off five days of violence. Targeted were included local newspapers, homes of the wealthy, and police officers, but before long, the crowd’s attention soon turned to African Americans.
A black orphanage was burned to the ground with the children narrowly escaping. Several black citizens were lynched, and businesses employing blacks were burned.
News of the riots spread and the Boston area prepared in case there were problems there was well as indicated by this excerpt from the History Of The Forty-Fifth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Militia: “The Cadet Regiment” by Albert W. Mann from Accessible Archive’s Northeast Regimental Histories collection.
The Draft Riot in Boston, July, 1863
Early in the month of July one of the most disgraceful and cruel riots that ever occurred in this country, broke out in the city of New York. It was represented to be instigated by persons who were opposed to the Union cause, and especially to the law of Congress to draft men to fill our depleted regiments at the seat of war, and that it was carried out by their disloyal followers.
The defection in New York spread to this city of Boston. Information was obtained on the 13th of July, that a riot was likely to take place in Boston. Preparation was immediately taken to prevent it. On the 14th of July, orders were given verbally to Captain Edward J. Jones, to notify his Company, the Eleventh Battery, to assemble at their Armory, in Cooper Street, and to hold them subject to orders. It became apparent in the afternoon of the 14th, that an outbreak would, at least, be attempted, and preparations were immediately made to nip it in the bud.
Alarm spread to Cambridge, Roxbury, Charlestown, Lowell, New Bedford, and other large places and applications were made by the municipal authorities of these places to Your Excellency, for military support, to aid them in maintaining the peace, which requests were granted to the full extent demanded. The following “Special Orders” for troops were immediately issued.
HEADQUARTERS, BOSTON, July 14th, 1863.
Colonel Codman commanding Forty-Fifth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Militia, is hereby ordered to report with his regiment forthwith, for duty at Readville.
By order of the Commander-in-Chief,