On the morning of July 13, 1863, the New York Draft riots broke out as working class white New Yorkers protested being drafted into the Civil War. The Draft Riots also reflected a growing hostility toward African Americans, who were seen as the cause of the war.

In the month preceding the July 1863 lottery, newspapers published inflammatory attacks on the draft law aimed at inciting the white working class. They criticized the federal government's intrusion into local affairs on behalf of the "nigger war."

When the Emancipation Proclamation was enacted in January 1863, Irish New Yorkers, who were pro-slavery, felt they would face competition for scarce jobs from newly freed African-Americans who would flee from the South to the North. 

The only way to avoid the draft was to pay $300, which many poor New Yorkers, many of whom were Irish, could not afford. They compared their value unfavorably to that of southern slaves, stating that “[we] are sold for $300 [the price of exemption from war service] whilst they pay $1000 for negroes.”

Blacks were exempt from the draft because they were not considered citizens.

Mobs swept through the streets, murdered blacks and hung them from lamp posts. They attacked and burned buildings. Countless businesses, including many black businesses, were destroyed. A black orphanage was set on fire. Some black men were hung and their bodies were burnt. At least 11 black men were lynched over the five days of attacks. 

It took the arrival of federal troops from Gettysburg to finally restore order. Estimates of deaths range from 120 to 1200 with more than 2,000 injured. Thousands of blacks fled the city.