2. Tweed Tried to Stop the Civil War Draft Riots

The Draft Riots of 1863 are regarded as the deadliest racially incensed insurrection in American history, aside from the Civil War. Image from Library of Congress

The Civil War Draft Riots of June 1863 marked one of the ugliest chapter in the history of New York City. Working-class Irish who resented the laws that allowed wealthier men to circumvent the upcoming drafts for a war they perceived to be purely about another racial group took to the streets, setting fires, demolishing property, lynching people, and battling with the police. Tweed not only supported the Union war effort, but he knew violence was bad for business. He and his Tammany allies sought to quell the riots, even saving the mayor from an angry mob.

Tweed’s solution to the Draft Riots was classic Tweed. He proposed that the city secure a bond to pay the $300 exemption fee for anyone who would rather not fight, as well as the bounty fee for whoever took their place. This extraordinarily expensive remedy kept the peace, but also nearly bankrupted the city.

Now all New Yorkers supported the Union however. You can read about Benjamin Morris Whitlock who built an opulent mansion on the Bronx that is now lost.

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