New York’s Governor Horatio Seymour, a Democrat, firmly believed that conscription was unconstitutional as the federal government was to depend upon the States to furnish needed troops. He charged Lincoln’s draft with bringing disgrace upon the American name and shamed his administration. Seymour further declared that neither the President nor the Congress had a right ‘to force men to take part in the ungodly conflict which is distracting the land.’ Seymour also charged – and proved – that Lincoln levied higher draft quotas upon New York’s Democratic voting districts as part of a ‘manifest design to reduce the Democratic majority of voters.’ In short, the draft was designed, it appeared to Seymour, ‘to take Democrats into the army and exempt Republicans.’
New York City’s bloody draft riot which began July 11, 1863, ended the lives of some 120 residents as blue-coated soldiers hurried from Gettysburg opened fire on them with muskets and cannon. At least five black men were hung as demonstrators denounced Lincoln’s emancipation war. Strong anti-draft riots occurred across the State to include Buffalo, and throughout the north.
In Boston, though the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Colored Regiment was available, Gov. John Andrew feared that the sight of colored soldiers might excite his white citizenry. This colored regiment contained nearly 400 men enticed mostly from Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania to count toward Massachusetts troop quota and leave white residents at home. Only 22 soldiers were Massachusetts residents; 3 were Canadians. The black soldiers were hurried away and replaced with white men.
The governor’s fears were realized on July 14, 1863, when nearly a thousand angry residents – many of them women and children – gathered in front of the city’s Cooper Street Armory. After they hurled paving bricks at the wooden doors, a nervous officer inside ordered a field cannon loaded with grapeshot wheeled to the door and opened fire on the crowd, killing at least 14 and maiming many more.
This senseless slaughter of civilians recalled the massacre just over 93 years earlier, when British soldiers fired into a crowd of three hundred jeering and rock-throwing Boston residents. Eight were killed and five wounded. The post-riot investigation featured future US president John Adams representing the British soldiers.
(Lincoln and the War Governors. William B. Hesseltine. Alfred A. Knopf. 1948, pg. 305)