LINCOLN, Abraham. Partly printed document signed ("Abraham Lincoln") as President, the quota for the draft in the 29th District of New York, Washington, D.C., 3 July 1863. 1 page, 4to (9¾ x 7¾ in.), integral blank, fine.
LIGHTING THE FLAME OF HOMEFRONT DISCONTENT: LINCOLN'S DRAFT QUOTA AND THE DRAFT RIOTS
A fascinating document signed on the last day's battle at Gettysburg and ten days before the eruption of the violent New York City Draft Riots. By the second year of the war, enlistments had ebbed to a trickle. Volunteers, plentiful at the outset of the war, were increasingly difficult to find by 1863: "The men likely to enlist for patriotic reasons or adventure or peer-group were already in the army. War weariness and the grim realities of army life discouraged further volunteering" (McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 600). The Enrollment Act of 1863 was adopted to fill the depleted muster rolls of the army. Although the draft was meant to encourage voluntary enlistment, the President hoped that it would have far greater benefits: "Both Lincoln and his Secretary of War hoped that enforcing the draft would win back the loyalty of the soldiers already in the field--would demonstrate that the government intended to haul in reinforcements and stand behind its armies regardless of how unpopular the war became back home" (Oates, With Malice Toward None, p. 371).
Here, while the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg was still in doubt, Lincoln signs a draft requisition for the 29th District of New York: "I, Abraham Lincoln...do hereby assign [1,867] as the first proportional part of the quota of troops to be furnished by the 29th DISTRICT OF THE STATE OF New York under this, the first call made by me on the State of New York, under the act approved March 3, 1863, entitled 'An Act for Enrolling and Calling out the National Forces, and for other purposes'."
The draft created an immediate backlash in the North. Draftees could avoid service by hiring a substitute to take their place or by paying a commutation fee of three hundred dollars. Since these options were beyond the financial means of a substantial portion of the population, the war was cynically labeled a "rich man's war and a poor man's fight." Violence erupted in some localities when military officers arrived, draft quotas in hand. The greatest civil disorder took place in the City of New York, where Irish workinmen resisted being forced into the army while others replaced them in the workplace. They directed much of their anger at the black community. On July 13, two days after the draft began, mobs rioted in the streets, attacking federal property, stoning the homes of Republican politicians, and beating or killing many innocent black citizens. When the four days of riots were brought to an end (by troops rushed from the fields of Gettysburg), 105 people were dead. The President was disheartened by the riots "which sickened Lincoln to read about" (Oates, p. 387).
The draft ultimately failed to produce effective Union soldiers, but it did aid in encouraging men to volunteer--an option that entailed a cash bounty for their enlistment and did not carry the stigma of being labeled a draftee.